My 3-year-old now
Some call it the perfect toy. It doesn't require batteries, you can play just about anything with it, and chances are, you already have several at your house. What is it? A ball.
Three-year-olds don't know that playing catch and kicking a ball build hand-eye coordination and work out the fine-motor and gross-motor skills that will help them as they learn to do everything from hold a pencil to ride a bike. They just know that playing with a ball is a blast.
At 3, your child can probably kick and throw overhand pretty well. Doing it with good aim is another thing. And catching is a bit harder. Most children aren't truly coordinated catchers until they're 10 years old. For now, they may be able to catch a large ball with both arms out in front of them, particularly if the adult has good aim. The next step? Catching the ball with elbows bent. But it may take another year or two to get this down pat.
Catching skills vary greatly at this age. Some kids channel Golden Glovers from the start. Others need more practice or are much more timid. Playing catch with a large, soft, squishy ball or a partly inflated beach ball is a good idea for this age group — it's easier to grab and less scary when it hits your child.
Next time you say "no" to one of your child's requests, don't be surprised if she marches into the next room and asks your partner the very same thing. In their quest to define boundaries, preschoolers get to be clever about testing all the limits. They also start doing lots of negotiating: One more big bite or one more little bite? Does a lick count as a bite? If Mom said no, might Dad say yes? (You can best avoid that last scenario by having clear, consistent family rules; even so, be prepared for a wily and persistent little negotiator to get around you on smaller matters. If it happens, point out your disapproval to your child — and your partner — and explain why.)