How wild is it when Baby plays pretend? Does she fight dragons and construct entire castles in her mind? Chances are, the answer is no unless she watches a lot of Disney movies – or maybe you read her historical speculation about medieval sieges as bedtime stories. Instead, it’s much more likely that her play-pretend games are about the things she sees every day, whether that means putting a doll to bed following the bedtime routine you use to tuck her into bed, or acting out using the construction crane that you drive past every day on her way to preschool.
The familiarity of these scenes isn’t a sign of a failure of her imagination, though – there’s every chance she’ll imagine all kinds of strange things that will leave you wondering “Where did she get that from?” as she gets older. For now, she’s using these imaginative-but-familiar games as a way of making sense of the world as she understands it.
This means that these pretend games are an early window into her still-developing sense of empathy. By beginning to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, she is starting to think about what other people might think and how they might feel. You can help foster this growing empathy by talking to her about how you feel and about other people’s feelings.
You can also help foster this early tendency towards empathy by making a point to make reading a part of Baby’s regular routine. Reading is another great way to build this sense of what other people might be feeling because, unlike in her pretend play, she doesn’t have to guess or make up someone else’s feelings – she can actually see them play out on the pages of her storybook. Guessing and making up what someone could be feeling in a pretend game is a great way to practice using empathy, but books, and the chance for insight that they bring, give her even more tools to make those guesses.
Reading with Baby will also give her a boost in school a few years down the road – the more words a young child is exposed to before starting kindergarten, the better they tend to do there. You can also work on giving Baby’s vocabulary a little bit of pizzaz by speaking to her using some bigger and more complicated words. She might not understand what they mean right away, but by this point, she understands the rest of what you say, so she can use the context to work out what these new words mean.
Puts together five- or six-word sentences: Baby’s been speaking in sentences for a while now, and, slowly but steadily, those sentences have probably started to get longer and more complex. In the time leading up to her first five- or six-word sentence, you may notice her starting to use different verb forms and pronouns (and eventually you may even start to notice her using them correctly), and soon she may even start to be able to use adjectives – as she learns her colors and shapes and learns about opposites like big and little, hot and cold, and wet and dry.
Can count to three: Maybe you’ve told her how old she is, or how old she is going to be, or maybe she has a counting book. The how doesn’t really matter, what matters is that she has the memory capacity to store a sequence of three numbers and that she is even starting to get a sense for what those three numbers mean.
- Rebecca Parlakian and Claire Lerner. “From Baby to Big Kid: Month 34.” Zero to Three. Zero to Three, May 16 2016. Retrieved September 6 2017. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1275-from-baby-to-big-kid-month-34.
- Rebecca Parlakian and Claire Lerner. “From Baby to Big Kid: Month 33.” Zero to Three. Zero to Three, May 16 2016. Retrieved September 6 2017. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1274-from-baby-to-big-kid-month-33.
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- “Learning and Development: Young Children 24 to 36 Months.” Better Brains for Babies. University of Georgia. Retrieved September 7 2017. http://bbbgeorgia.org/childDev_24-36.php.
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- “Stages of Play from 24-36 Months: The World of Imagination.” Zero to Three. Zero to Three, February 26 2015. Retrieved September 6 2017. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/315-stages-of-play-from-24-36-months-the-world-of-imagination.
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