3 Year Old Check-Up

(Children 36 – 48 Months Old)

You are now the proud parent of a three year old! Your child should be able to put on a T-shirt, name 6 body parts, build a tower out of blocks, throw a ball, and they should be talking in full sentences well enough for strangers to understand most of what they are saying. Some children are potty trained by this age, others are not.

Your child is becoming more independent each day, but still needs a great deal of supervision and direction. Accidents are the biggest threat to your child’s health at this age. Car accidents, choking, drowning, burns, and poisonings cause more harm to children in this age group than infections and other medical problems. Children should ride in a forward facing car seat until they are around 40 lbs, then they should ride in a car booster seat. Many car seats convert to a booster; check your instructions to see if your car seat can be used as a booster. The risk of skin cancer increases with the number of sunburns, be careful to use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater on your child when you go out in the sun, and keep reapplying it if you are outside for extended periods of time. Make sure any object small enough to fit into your child’s mouth is out of their reach. Lock up cleaning solutions and medications to prevent poisoning. You should have the number for the nation wide poison center by your telephone in case of emergency. The number is 1-800-222-1222.

Three year olds are finicky eaters. Parents often worry that their child is not eating enough, and this can lead to mealtime conflicts. Although you can encourage your child to eat a healthy diet by providing three meals a day with a variety of foods, you can not force your child to eat. Try to avoid battles over food, just offer your child small portions of a variety of healthy foods three times a day at meals. If they don’t want to eat within a reasonable amount of time, don’t make them. Simply put away the food and they will eat at the next meal. If your child is otherwise healthy and growing well, your child’s diet is probably adequate. Snacks should be healthy and not too close to mealtime. Your child still needs a lot of calcium for healthy teeth and growing bones. Good sources of calcium are dairy products like 2% or skim milk, cheese, yogurt, leafy green vegetables like spinach and broccoli, and calcium fortified orange juice. Most dentists like to see children at age three.

Three year olds love to explore their environment and test their limits. This can result in conflicts and behavior problems when this exploration results in dangerous or unwanted behaviors.  There are some simple rules to remember when disciplining your 3-year-old. Be consistent; children are more likely to mind when rules are easy to understand and do not change from day to day or parent to parent. Do not make rules you are not willing to enforce every time they are broken. It is better to tolerate non-dangerous behaviors than to be inconsistent about enforcing rules. Don’t place your child in situations where they are likely to break rules (if you place your child in a room that has a lot of attractive toys that are not safe for three year olds, it is not reasonable to expect them not to try to play with them). Keep explanations about unacceptable behaviors short, and try to give an acceptable alternative to the unacceptable behavior (“look at your books while dad is on the phone please”).

Take some time every day to read with your children. Limit TV time to no more than one hour a day. Work on colors, letters, numbers, counting, saying the alphabet, and try to teach your child their full name.

Your next appointment will be at 4 years old