Infant & Toddler Development

31–36 Months

Isn’t it amazing how fast children grow? Your child is almost three!

“Me do it!” is a common expression at this age as your child strongly demands the right to become his own person. Saying, “Let’s do it together” or “I will help too” usually works better than “You can’t do that” or “No, I’ll do it.”

Surprisingly, there are many things your child can do by himself at this age. He can water plants. He can put napkins on the table. It takes time and energy for you to show him how to do a new job, but it’s worth the effort. Letting your child help builds cooperation and confidence.

What it’s like to be 31–36 months old

How I grow…

  • I have more bowel and bladder control.
  • I like filling, dumping and rolling things
  • I stack blocks and build things.

How I talk…

  • I understand more words than I can say.
  • I ask a lot of questions. “Why” is my favorite word.
  • I am beginning to carry a tune.
  • I am speaking more clearly, and people can understand most of the things I try to say.
  • I talk in three-to four-word sentences using correct word order such as “Me go car.”

How I respond…

  • I can play well alone.
  • I play alongside other children.
  • I like to watch other children playing.
  • I often throw things when I am playing with other children. I also hit, and sometimes I may bite. I do this to get what I want.
  • I like to hear my name used in stories.
  • I like to hear about what I was like as a baby.
  • I still take toys away from other children.
  • I can act out a simple story or rhyme.
  • I like finger play and action songs.

How I understand…

  • I am more aware of the order in which events take place; first and last, before and after.
  • I can match colors and shapes.
  • I like to play make-believe.
  • I will notice if you skip a page when you read a favorite story. I may insist that you read it the “right” way.
  • I like the same story day after day.
  • I can hold up two fingers to tell you how old I am.

How you help me learn…

  • Include nursery rhymes along with my bedtime story. The rhythm is soothing and relaxing.
  • Have patience with me if I want to say “good night” to all my toys. Although if may seem endless to you, this routine comforts me and gets me ready to sleep.
  • Turn a cardboard box over and draw stove burners on the bottom. Get another box for me to use as a low table to serve the “food” I’ve “cooked”. I especially like it if you join in this play with me. I’ll take the orders and prepare the “food” to your taste.
  • Share your interests with me. If you enjoy fishing, include me. If you like cooking, I’d like to help.
  • Give me simple instructions, such as, “Please put the paper in the rubbish can.” After I do it, let me know how pleased you are by saying, “Thank you for helping.” I’ll learn to be polite if you are.
  • Let me use big color crayons to draw on paper sacks or other large pieces of paper. When I name my pictures, write what I say on the edge.
  • Get me a small backpack. I’ll wear it around the house and on walks. I will put my own special treasures in it. It makes me feel so grown-up.
  • Give me a dishpan of water. Add a funnel, sponge, measuring spoons and cups, a washcloth, or some plastic squeeze bottles. I’ll enjoy pouring and squeezing and washing. Part of the fun is getting myself and everything else wet.
  • Buy pairs of picture post cards. I will enjoy matching them. Tell me what the pictures are. Large flowers such as plumeria or hibiscus are easy to match. I’ll quickly learn to name them in real life too. Include some landmarks we know, such as King Kamehameha’s statue or the Iao Needle. Point these out to me when we see them.

Feeding Your Toddler

Healthy Eating Habits

Some parents may worry that their chubby child will become an overweight adult. Research has found that chubby babies tend to slim down as they grow.

Every child has a different appetite and a different body type. Let your child determine what and how much he eats from the nourishing foods you’ve picked for your family.

To help your child develop a healthy body, plan time for active play and exercise. Limit chips, fries, soda, candy and cookies.

Unless your doctor advises otherwise, don’t encourage your child to either lose or gain weight. Never tease or shame your child about his body size.



  • Keep guns unloaded and locked up at all times. Keep dangerous tools, craft supplies (needles, glue gun), and sporting equipment such as fish hooks and hunting knives in a safe place.
  • Be aware of anything your child could crawl into but not get out of, such as an unused refrigerator or ice chest. Remove doors from these items or tie or tape the doors closed.
  • Keep kitchen knives and scissors out of reach. Let your child use blunt scissors only and teach him how to sit and hold them safely.
  • Remember to lock up solvents, paints, fertilizers, gasoline, motor oil and swimming pool chemicals.
  • Check any home outside playground equipment regularly and supervise your child’s play closely.



In your child’s eagerness to talk to you, he may repeat words and phrases. Repeating words and phrases is normal for this age and is not true stuttering. Children between the ages of two and five do not talk smoothly and may repeat sounds and words as they begin to put sentences together.

Can you remember when your child was so eager to get somewhere that his body outran his legs, and he fell down? This is a similar situation. Your child’s eagerness to tell you something may be greater than his ability to coordinate his tongue and mouth.

Repeating words and phrases almost always disappears if you don’t draw attention to it. Avoid finishing your child’s sentence or making him repeat his words. Don’t scold, shame, or talk for him. Be patient and wait for him to finish. If your child’s speech continues to worry you, seek help from your doctor, or H-KISS.


Providing Choices

Offering choices will help your child learn to make decisions. It will also increase his self-confidence. When your child wants a story, he can choose between two books. When getting dressed, he could choose his blue or red shorts. At mealtime, he can choose between two salad dressings.

Making choices gives your child a feeling of control. It gives him a sense that his feelings and wishes are being respected. However, if you give him a choice if there is no real choice, it will only confuse him. Whether or not to go to bed, to preschool, or to the doctor’s office are not choices. Just say, “It’s time for bed” or “It’s time to leave.”

Sometimes your child may have difficulty making even simple choices. He may change back and forth and be unable to choose. At other times, he may be too tired or upset to make a choice. In these cases, calmly make the decision for him.

Basic Guidance Rules

  1. Recognize your child’s good behavior.
  2. Tell your child what to do rather than what not to do.
  3. Give your child reasonable, limited choices.
  4. Prepare your child for new situations.
  5. Save “No’s” for those times when your child is in personal danger, or is in danger of hurting other people or damaging property.
  6. Whenever possible, try changing the situation or activity instead of your child’s behavior.

Take Care of Yourself

Eating Out

While eating out with your child, it’s important to have a fun, relaxing time. Worrying about his behavior in public can upset both of you.
Children copy the table manners used by adults around them. The best way to help your child learn good table manners in public is for you to use them at home. Don’t expect him to learn too rapidly. The muscles necessary to eat gracefully take a long time to develop. Table manners take even longer to learn.

Encourage him when he behaves in a way you like. Saying, “You are using your spoon so carefully” will increase his confidence. Saying, “You did a good job of using your napkin to wipe your mouth” can help him remember what is expected. Avoid constantly correcting his behavior.

When you do eat out, choose family-type restaurants where you all will feel comfortable and relaxed. Before going, help your child be more prepared for the restaurant experience. Play with him ahead of time and pretend to be the person who will take his order and bring his food. Let him pretend to be the server also. Take along some books or small toys to help him wait more patiently.

Continue to plan time for yourself and your own interests. Just as your child has grown these past three years, so have you. There is more growth to come. Keep up the good work and take care of yourself.

A Parent Asks

Q – My 2 1/2 year old son likes to watch TV. Is this harmful?

A – Research shows that:

  • Children who are aggressive tend to watch violence on television.
  • Children are likely to be attracted to and influenced by TV commercials. They may pressure parents to buy toys and food. Many of the toys may be inappropriate for your child. The foods advertised are generally high in sugar, fat, or salt.
  • Children who are heavy television viewers tend to use less creativity in their play and have less tolerance for the “give and take” of playing with other children.
  • Children may become insensitive to the pain and suffering of real people.
  • Children can become “couch potatoes”, leading to weight gain and muscle loss.

Turn off the T.V. Go to the beach or park. Read to him and talk about the pictures in a book. Play some story tapes.

Think about these questions when deciding how much television to allow your child to watch:

  • Do you know what programs he watches? Do you know what he is learning from them?
  • Do you watch television with your child and discuss what you are seeing?
  • Do you want your child to see violence on television? Violent situations are shown even in cartoons and music videos.
  • Does television keep you from reading, talking, and playing with your child? Does it keep him from creative and active play of his own ?

Television can be a very powerful force in people’s lives. It can provide entertainment and education. It can also take them away from other learning activities.

Pediatricians recommend:

  • No more than 2 hours of T.V. per day.
  • No T.V. sets in children’s bedrooms.
  • No background T.V. during meals and other activities.