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Your child's social development 3-4 years

3 to 4 Years
Support and encourage your child to play with other children; developing relationships and learning about sharing, cooperation and empathy

Your child at a glance

Your child is calming down and enjoys being social and taking part in various activities. During this stage you are likely to see your child:
  • Becoming more patient and knowing that waiting sometimes is needed
  • Starting to be calmer and less stubborn
  • Starting to move from parallel play towards more interactive play with other children
  • Understanding sharing and taking turns, though may still find it difficult to share own toys
  • Enjoying pretend play alone and with others
  • Playing out own experiences using dolls and other toys
  • Starting to be able to feel more secure if away from you in a strange

Your child's story

During this stage, you may find that your child is becoming more contented, as he is gaining more self control and therefore able to express his feelings in a more controlled way.Language development is also helping him feel less frustrated as he is more able to express himself. You will probably notice that he is more patient, which means he is getting less frustrated when he has to wait, and he can listen to stories you read for longer.

Child swinging from tree branchYour child is increasingly enjoying being included in social activities, and she likes attention and being helpful. She may still engage in parallel play, but during this stage she is more likely to join and initiate play with other children. You will that sharing and taking turns is starting to happen, in particular with your encouragement

Pretend play provides great joy and learning, and your child will enjoy this both when playing alone (you will probably hear him talking to himself) and with you or other children. By using different objects symbolically (e.g. a stick becomes a snake and a block becomes a plane) your child is learning to think creatively and have fun imagining he is part of different settings. Pretend play allows him to play out everyday situations too, including sorting out conflicts or emotional reactions and experiences.

Your child is becoming more independent, and is gaining skills to help her achieve things without help. She will be able to follow several simple directions, use a dull knife to spread butter on her bread, and pour herself water from a small bottle or a pitcher. She will know when and how to wash her hands and blow her nose, though you may have to gently remind her as she will often be too busy to stop what she is doing.

What you can do to support and encourage your child's development

As your child increasingly enjoys taking part in what is going on, playing a role and being helpful, ask him to help you with some simple tasks around the house. He will love the attention he gets around being helpful, and it’s a great skill to encourage. During this stage, if he throws a tantrum or behaves defiantly, you can encourage him to find his own alternative behaviours that are more acceptable.

Child blowing bubblesFind opportunities for your child to be around other children and encourage her to play with them. Help her learn about sharing, cooperation, and following ‘rules’ such as waiting her turn. When she engages in pretend play with others she is learning about various everyday situations by role-playing what she has seen adults do. She will also talk to herself about what she is doing, and may start directing how others should play their part, and all of this is great for her language development as well as her social skills.

You can provide lots of different experiences for your child, helping him learn about everyday situations as well as travels or outings. Most importantly, engage in your child’s games, as this helps his learning and also nourishes your relationship. Pretend play drawing, or playing a ball game are all great fun as well as important for learning. Remember that your child imitates you, and when you see him playing out dramatic scenes he will most likely use knowledge and words he has picked up from being with you. Play also allows your child to act out his feelings, and you may be able to find ways to explain a situation or help him label his feelings. Though sometimes it’s valuable and fun for him to just play these things out without much interference.

Notice and praise your child for positive behaviours, and show that you value her creations, such as a drawing, by displaying it and talking about it.

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