Your Child from 31 to 33 Months: Getting Creative and Assertive

A Changing Worldview

Each day, your child will demonstrate a better working knowledge of the world. One of the clearest signs of this is increased spatial awareness. Ask your 2-year-old to get the toy car he rolled under the table, for instance, and he'll crouch low instead of trying to walk straight under the table and hitting his head.

At age 2, children start learning the most fundamental spatial concepts first, like "on" and "in." They get a lot of practice with these ideas, putting objects "in" containers and watching Mom put dinner "on" the table. At this age, your child will describe an object in relation to a single landmark -- like "the ball is under the tree." It may be another year before she can describe more landmarks around an object: "The ball is under the tree next to the fence." However, soon she'll be able to use a simple map to locate objects. In a recent study, University of Chicago researchers found that most 3-year-olds using a piece of paper with a dot on it to represent a toy buried in a sandbox could locate the toy. The children used proportions on the "map" to calculate the toy's location; for instance, if the dot was halfway from the bottom edge of the paper, the children concluded the toy must be halfway from the bottom edge of the sandbox.

Researchers theorize that 2-year-olds understand "support relations" like "in" and "on" before "proximity relations" like "next to" because support relations convey important meanings in the physical world. For instance, if you put your purse on the hall table and then move the table, the purse will go with it. But if the purse is on the floor next to the table and you move the table, nothing happens to the purse.

Naturally, what children learn about space and the position of objects by 33 months depends on what caregivers teach them. For instance, saying, "Let's put the plates on the table," or, "Now let's put the crayons in the container," helps a child grasp the language and the concepts involved.

What Your Child's Doing

Month 31

  • Recognizes and draws a circle or a simple cross
  • Runs smoothly
  • Jumps off one step

Month 32

  • Recognizes everyday sounds
  • Kicks a ball forward
  • Can match shapes and colors

Month 33

  • Can answer the question: "Are you a boy or a girl?"
  • Pedals a small tricycle
  • Is able to dress and feed himself with help

Holly Robinson lives with her five children outside of Boston.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, August 2006.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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