What Does a Three Year-Old Know?

Tiny children are amazing. Their brains are so pliable. They soak up knowledge like a sponge. The knowledge isn’t in books, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. What we learn in the first three years are the most important things of all. When you want to help young children learn, you have to come right back to your roots. You must pick apart all that clever adult level conceptual understanding and figure out where it began. It’s great fun.

A typical three year-old knows:

* Who ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ are (or whoever their significant others might be).

* How to eat and drink (some will be toilet trained as well).

* How different foods taste, and that they like some flavours better than others.

* That a smile means someone is happy, and that tears mean they are not.

* That stories live in books, and that sharing a book is great fun.

* How to hold a book the right way up and even which way the pages turn.

* That they can use their senses to explore their world.

* That some things are hot, and that others are cold.

* That there’s a place called ‘home’, where it’s (hopefully) safe and warm and nurturing.

* How to sing and dance and jump and run.

* The words to several nursery rhymes.

* How to dig a hole and put a seed or plant in it to grow.

* Who their friends are and why friends are great.

* That water and soil make mud.

* How to make a giant tower of bricks.

* How to hold a brush, and paint, and all the different colours.

* How to wind mum and dad or brothers and sisters up.

* Loads and loads and loads of other things that we as adults take for granted. I could go on for hours …

* But most amazingly of all, a three year-old will know how to use around 500 to 1,000 words or perhaps more to express meaning.  (Some will come to spoken language slower, but still understand much of what they hear.)

This last fact is the truly incredible one, isn’t it? From being a tiny baby, just out of the womb, born into a strange world of lights and voices and sensory experiences, to figuring out what so many words mean and how to use them is an astonishing feat of learning. (It starts in the womb, they say.) A three year-old will be well on the way to internalising the grammar of their native language. Some will even have started to learn two languages at this age.

And all of this comes from experience, and imitation, and sharing, and experimenting, and talking, and loving, and modelling, and doing, and playing. All of it. So I think we can safely say (no scientific study required) that these approaches are a valuable way to learn.

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This entry was posted in Brain, Children, Communication, Early Years, Knowledge, Learning, Pedagogy. Bookmark the permalink.

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