Your 3-year-old timeline: Pitch perfect

Your 3-year-old now
Sometimes, when you watch your child playing, you might wonder whether he's headed for a future in the theater. Three-year-olds spend a great deal of time supplying dialogue to their dolls, imitating adults' conversations, and using different kinds of voices for different characters — high little voices for babies and deep and powerful ones for superheroes, for example.

These sophisticated variations in speech are evidence your child is internalizing the ways people use language. Listen closely and you may hear familiar phrases or pitches. Your child is catching on that grownups talk differently to one another than to children, for example, or that you sound one way when talking to your mom compared with your boss. Then he unconsciously practices these various modes of speech in hisplay. It's another reason preschoolers are such chatterboxes!

Your life now
You probably have scrapbooks full of photos of your child by now. (Or at least in your camera waiting to be uploaded ... hey, at least you snapped them!) How many are fantastic? How many are ho-hum? Hmm ... we thought so. Some tips on getting great shots of your moving target:
  • Turn off the flash. The light will be nicer and it's less distracting.

  • Go outside for better light, simpler backdrops, and a happier child.

  • Snap away. You need to take a lot to get that great expression — which is why the digital camera is God's gift to parents.

  • Resist posing. Capturing your child while he's concentrating on a toy, running, singing — anything active is liable to catch a truer moment.

  • Plan props. Bubbles are a great smile-producer and look terrific, too. Have a third person on hand to blow while you shoot.

  • Keep the camera ready. Stow it in your purse: You never know when that magic moment will appear.


Your 3-year-old timeline: Preschooler proof

Your 3-year-old now
As your child becomes more physically capable, this is a good time to insist on some basic safety goals.
Enforce a helmet habit. If your child gets used to wearing one on her trike, she likely won't think twice about putting one on when she hops on her two-wheeler someday.
Make sure knives and other sharp objects are still out of reach now that your child is taller and more adept at climbing and opening drawers.
Continue to use the car seat every time as required by law. If your child has figured out how to unlatch herself, make it clear this is nonnegotiable and check to be sure she's snapped in before you start the engine and also while you're en route.
All medicines need to be locked up, as "up and away" may be just the temptation your child is looking for.
Be sure all playgrounds have safe surfaces under the climbing equipment.

Your life now
Firmness is great when it comes to discipline. But if you're sending your charge to time-out multiple times a day, something's not working. Either your expectations are too high or your rules are too numerous. Jumping on your child's case for every small infraction only leads to more defiance and power struggles. Generally three big rules are enough at this age, so sort your priorities. Rule of thumb: Limit time-outs to major infractions like hitting or breaking big household rules. You probably shouldn't need to resort to this punishment more than once a day. If she's spending half her life in time-out, readjust the rules, catch her being good, or consider whether boredom is setting in — maybe she needs a walk around the block or some new ideas for playtime.