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Research shows that if children start school with a strong set of attitudes and skills that help them ‘learn how to learn’, they’ll be better able to take advantage of educational opportunities. Although some learning skills come naturally to children, others can be developed through a supportive environment.

What to expect

Three-year-olds increasingly know what they want and can express what that is. While playing, they’re better able to ignore distractions and focus on the task at hand – they’ll even persist in completing something that’s a bit difficult.

Your child’s learning still mainly happens through exploring, using all her senses. Her growing language skills allow for more complex questions and discussion. She can think more creatively and methodically when solving problems.

Initiative, engagement and persistence

Your child is becoming increasingly deliberate when choosing activities and companions. For example, ‘I want to play at Jeremy’s house today’.

He can focus his attention for longer periods of time, even with distractions or interruptions (as long as the activity is age-appropriate and interesting to him). For example, he can repeatedly solve and tip out a wooden puzzle, even with the TV on in the background.

She’ll persist with a wider variety of tasks, activities and experiences, and will keep working to complete a task even if it’s a bit tricky. For example, she might work on a hard puzzle until it’s finished.

Your child is learning to do a wider range of activities on his own, such as feeding, undressing and grooming himself. He might refuse your help as he becomes increasingly independent.

Curiosity and eagerness to learn

Your child is continuing to seek and engage in sensory and other experiences. She’ll enjoy listening to stories, playing with friends and going on trips to new places, such as the local fire station.

He’s continuing to ask lots of questions, which are becoming more verbally complex. For example, ‘How do we get to Nana’s house?’

She’ll continue seeking out new challenges. For example, she’ll try to dress a doll or put together a new construction toy.

Reasoning and problem-solving

Your child is becoming more flexible in problem-solving and thinking through alternative options. For example, he might talk to himself about what to do first when putting on his shoes. If the shoe won’t easily go on one foot, he might try the other one.

She’ll be increasingly able to ask for help on challenging tasks. For example, ‘Can you put Teddy’s pants on please?’

Invention and imagination

Your child is developing his ability to ‘play pretend’ with other children. For example, he’ll enjoy playing in a pretend kitchen with a friend as they serve pretend ‘biscuits’, or will take on familiar roles, such as ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’, in pretend play.

She’ll play creatively with both language and objects, expressing inventive ideas in lots of situations. For example, she might create interesting scenes with small plastic animals, or enjoy stringing nonsense words together – for example, ‘Mummy nummy summy tummy’.

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  • Last Updated 17-03-2011
  • Last Reviewed 29-03-2012
  • Early Learning and Development Standards for Children from 0-6 Years, Unicef, 2009.

    © 2002-2006 Public Broadcasting Service.  Reprinted from with permission of the Public Broadcasting Service.