Translated by Alexandra CLIER
At this stage of their life, children discover and explore their motor abilities and it brings them great pleasure.
They start by walking up and down the stairs. At the age of 2, they need to hold on to the rail and don’t alternate feet; then, at the age of 3, they can walk up and down stairs like adults, alternating feet.
At 2 years of age, children like to run, hop, jump and even dance. They can jump on the spot with their feet together. They enjoy kicking a ball or even climbing a chair. In their desire to get new motor experiences, children are not always aware of potential dangers. That is why, at this age, it is paramount to keep a good eye on them.
At 3 years old, children can ride a tricycle. They can jump on one foot, stand on tiptoes, balance on one foot for a few seconds. They develop more and more physical skills and agility. The period around 3 years of age is also a time of motor restlessness for children, who feel a great need to move around.
Children will also grow more and more independent. At the age of 2, they help getting themselves dressed and eat without much spilling. They achieve daytime dryness. At the age of 3, they can button and put on shoes without laces. They also learn to wash their hands. They achieve night-time dryness.
Children display increasingly fine and precise movements.
Regarding praxis, at the age of 2, children can unscrew, which incidentally can be a source of danger. They can also throw a ball while standing. They can build a tower of 3 blocks, and at 3 years old, they can build a tower of 10 blocks and bridge with 3 blocks. At 3 years old, they can open a door.
When it comes to graphic skills, at 2 years old, children begin to have a digital pronate grasp and make circular scribbles. At 3 years old, there is an improvement in hand rotation around the wrist. Children master a pincer grip (thumb/index finger) allowing them to draw lines, loops, circles and crosses. The development of eye-hand coordination will enable handwriting at a later stage. At 3 years old, children start drawing “tadpole figure people”. They do not have hand dominance yet. They will alternate, using one hand or the other. This first exploration stage is normal and shouldn’t be a source of concern for the parents. As a matter of fact, until the age of 6, the hand holding the pen may vary. It’s only from 6 years on that a hand preference is established.
Children between 2 and 3 years have already a good knowledge of their body: they know their hands, feet, head, arms, legs, back, stomach, nose, hair, eyes, ears, mouth.
On a spatial level, they start putting in place physical reference points in space. At 2 years old, they are familiar with concepts of “on, under”, “there, here”, “up there, over there”, “in(side), out(side)”. At 3 years old, they know: “up, down”, “front, back”, “beside”, “upside down”, “big, small”.
When it comes to time references, at the age of 2, they distinguish between “fast, slow”, “right now, now”, “it is your turn”. At 3 years old, they define temporal markers throughout the day: “before, after, later”. They also know the concepts of “today, tomorrow, yesterday”.
Concerning language acquisition, at this period their vocabulary becomes quickly and increasingly diversified. At 2 years old, the first “real sentences” emerge, built with a subject, verb and complement. It’s the age of vocabulary explosion. At 3 years old, they ask their parents numerous questions “why”, which shows their urge to discover their environment. At 3 years old, they can say “I”: it’s a period of self-assertion.
At this time, children use imitation and symbolic play a lot (play tea party, doctor, mum and dad, teacher) in order to communicate with adults as well as with peers. At school, they learn to accept rules, constraints and frustrations.
On a cognitive level, between 2 and 3 years, children can fit (peg) a circle, square and triangle. It’s the beginning of mental representation and symbolic thinking, i.e. children can mentally depict what they are evoking.
At 2 years old, children understand 2/3 simple orders, and at 3 years old, they can count to 10. They know 3 colors.
It is worth noting that it is recommended, during this period, to check up the integrity of the child’s hearing and vision. At this age, a possible deficiency can be easily corrected.