How to Talk to a 3 Year Old

By Adrienne Davis
Eye-contact is important when talking with a 3-year-old.
Eye-contact is important when talking with a 3-year-old.

The world is a fascinating place to a 3-year-old because toddlers are naturally curious and want to know the answer to everything. Many preschoolers have the ability to wear adults out physically with their energy, and mentally with their unending questions. When speaking to youngsters, remember that even though they may test your patience, peppering you with constant questions, they seldom have enough patience of their own to sit still for lengthy answers. Having a two-sided conversation with a 3-year-old takes a certain amount of skill and a lot of practice.

How to Talk to a 3-Year-Old about Something Important

Sit, squat or bend down so that you are at the child's level. Look directly in the 3-year-old's eyes. You may want to hold the child's hand or put your hand gently on the child's shoulder or arm.

Keep sentences short. Young children don’t have the patience to listen to explanations that go on and on.

Keep words simple. Even though 3-year-olds understand more words than they know how to use, they still have a limited vocabulary.

Some times are better than others for discussing important topics.
Some times are better than others for discussing important topics.

Choose your time wisely before discussing something important with the child. A talk about starting preschool or a chat about the family pet’s illness will probably go better if the child’s had a chance to let off steam at the park or play in the backyard first.

How to Answer a 3-Year-Old’s Questions

Answer questions simply and honestly.

Don’t offer too much information unless he asks you elaborate. Even though 3-year-olds are naturally curious, they are generally happy with one-sentence answers. However, be prepared, as often one question will lead to another, and another and another.

Remain calm, even if your youngster's question shocks you. You want your 3-year-old to know that virtually no question is off-limits. If, for example, you are sitting in church when your child asks about where babies come from, you may quietly have to tell your toddler that you will discuss the matter as soon as you get home.

How to Engage in Effective Communication

Praise often and point out positive behavior. Your 3 year-old may be exercising willful determination. But your child also wants to please you, so if you praise toddlers for doing what you ask rather than scolding them when they don’t, they will probably be more agreeable to your suggestions.

Getting a 3-year-old dressed can be a struggle.
Getting a 3-year-old dressed can be a struggle.

Offer choices. If you anticipate your 3-year-old is likely to ignore your suggestion to wear appropriate clothing on a rainy day, give your child two or three outfits to choose from instead of dictating what to wear. By making their own choices, children feel they have some degree of control, and you’ll both be happy.

Encourage children to talk about their day. Ask them questions like what toys they played with, what foods they ate and what they would like to do the next day.

Warning

Some 3-year-olds talk nonstop and others don't talk much at all. If you are concerned that your 3-year-old doesn't understand simple requests or rarely speaks, schedule an appointment to discuss the matter with your child's doctor.

About the Author

Adrienne Davis lives in the Hudson Valley and has been a freelance writer and blogger since 2009. Her work regularly appears in various online publications and blogs. Davis' writing expertise comes from a real estate and professional home-staging background and includes design and decoration as well as social planning. She studied radiology at Fanshawe College.