Your child’s social development at 3–4 years old. Follow your child’s milestones step-by-step.
Social development allows children to build harmonious, positive relationships with others. As kids develop socially, they learn how to communicate and manage their emotions, consider other points of view before acting, resolve conflicts, cooperate, and participate in society. A child’s temperament, primarily determined by genetics, influences how they interact with others from an early age. However, they continue to develop social skills as they grow, learning from personal experiences and the people around them—namely, their parents and family members.
Social development: 3–4 years old
At this age:
Remember that not all children develop the same skills at the same speed. The material on this website is for general information purposes only. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, speak with a doctor.
Your child likes to play with other kids and socialize, but their relationships are still self-centred.
They may act jealous and aggressive towards other children.
They gradually learn to share and cooperate with others.
They greet adults they know and say “please” and “thank you.”
They enjoy playing make-believe and come up with more and more complex scenarios. For example, they might pretend to be in a fight with their parents to externalize their emotions.
They like to talk and have conversations as their language skills become more developed. They even want to answer the phone.
Over the next few months, your child will begin to:
Become more involved in interactions with other children and take part in group games such as London Bridge is Falling Down and musical chairs.
Obey their parents more often.
Seek approval from adults.
Find out how to support your child’s social development through books. (In French)
How can you help your child progress?
Each child is different and develops at their own pace. That said, you can help foster your child’s development by adopting the Comfort, Play, and Teach parenting approach, which can easily be integrated into your daily routine. The table below outlines small, age-specific actions you can take that will benefit your child’s social development depending on their age.
When you give them a certain responsibility, such as watering the garden, | |your child feels that they play a special and important role in the family.
When you show your child that you’re available to talk and listen to them whenever they need, | |they know that you’re interested in their activities and they feel safe.
When you point out their good deeds, | |your child is encouraged to do more things without being asked.
When you give your child a chance to play with other preschoolers, | |your little one develops their ability to share and
wait their turn.
When you spend time playing simple games that require waiting your turn, like certain card games, | |your child enjoys playing with you and gets used to following rules during playtime.
When you praise your child every time they wait their turn during daily activities, such as bath time, | |they get to practise
waiting their turn.
When you ask about their day by saying things such as "Tell me about a special thing you did,” | |your child gets used to talking to you about their day-to-day experiences.
When you explain why you’re asking them to do certain things, | |your little one learns about
routines, rules, and boundaries.
When you use words like “please” and “thank you” to set an example, | |your child learns how to interact with others politely.
Scientific review: Annie Goulet, psychologist
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: March 2020
Please note that hyperlinks to other websites are not updated regularly, and some may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, use search engines to find the relevant information.
Ferland, Francine. Et si on jouait? : Le jeu au coeur du développement de l’enfant. 3rd ed., Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2018, 240 pp.
- Ferland, Francine. Le développement de l’enfant au quotidien : de 0 à 6 ans. 2nd ed., Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2018, 264 pp.
- Passeport Santé. “L’enfant de 3 ans : toutes les évolutions de votre enfant.” 2017. www.passeportsante.net
- Canadian Paediatric Society. Caring for Kids. “Your child’s development: What to expect” www.caringforkids.cps.ca
- Université de Montréal. “Portail enfance et familles: Les étapes de développement de l’enfant de la naissance à l’adolescence.” www.portailenfance.ca