Preparing for my new class, I carefully set up my room and made sure it was preschool friendly. I planned crafts and fabulous lessons that would enrich their lives. On paper it looked flawless…that was until the children arrived. Life of a 3 year old was quite different than what I remembered.

“Circle” time took on a shape that was anything but circular. Play time lacked sharing, and my adorable craft was cut into tiny pieces that I put into baggies and sent home. I decided that I needed to figure out if I was going to be the teacher or the survivor. The choice was clear…I wanted to be the teacher but to do that I would need to take a step back.

Here is what I learned about three year olds:

  • They love to be “all hands on deck” as this is how they are discovering the world around them. They learn through touching, feeling, and exploring daily.
  • They love to “do”-whether it is painting, climbing, throwing, running, singing, or dancing. It seems that their bodies are always in perpetual movement.
  • They love to “imitate”, so modeling is so important. Show them what it means to share and take turns.
  • They love to “create”, so instead of handing a pair of scissors to them, let them tear paper (i.e. magazines or newspaper), or cut play dough. This will also help build their fine motor skills.
  • They love to “imagine”, and this is a big part of their lives. Give them dress-up clothes and empty cardboard boxes to turn into anything they can dream up.
  • They love to “sort”, so ask them to separate different items. Ask them to choose various shapes, colors or designs.
  • They love to “please”, and can follow a three-part command, so give them simple jobs to do around the house. Not only are you giving them the ability to accomplish a task but you are also teaching them responsibility and follow through.
  • They love to “show affection”. If you are short on hugs, 3 year olds can fill any gaps.

I don’t know who grew more during that year, but my appreciation for this precious age was much greater, and the things they learned was more than I had imagined. In the end, even though children love the bells and whistles, I realized that it was the simple things that had the most impact.