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NANKID MileStone 3 year old

Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is building a vocabulary foundation

36 Months Milestone

Joyful chatter is gaining momentum 

Your three-year-old’s language skills develop at a rapid pace.

Word usage: Children now use many nouns (names of things), verbs (action words) and adjectives (descriptive words). They also use plurals (where they add “-s” to describe “more than one”), the correct word order and grammatical agreement in sentences. For example, “The dog is wet” and “The boys are gone”. 

Size and classification: They can identify sizes and point out which of two objects is bigger or smaller. They can also categorise objects into groups, for example, if you show them pictures of a cat, apple, jacket, ball and tree, they can say which one is an animal, food, clothing, to­y or plant.

Language comprehension: They understand long and complex sentences and they can follow commands that have two parts, for example, “Please go to your room and fetch your shoes.”


Rhymes can shape your child’s mind 

Rhymes and songs give young children a sense of mastery
The words help increase vocabulary as children learn about animals (“See you later, alligator”), numbers (“One, two, three, four, five…once I caught a fish alive”), the names of body parts, (“Head, shoulders, knees and toes”), directions (“Put your left foot in”) and all kinds of day-to-day elements (“Mr sun…sun…Mr golden sun.”) 

Rhymes accentuate sounds and rhythms

Rhymes are also valuable from a developmental perspective because they accentuate the sounds and rhythms that are unique to a specific language. As children discover that certain words end on the same sound they slowly but surely start to pay attention to the specific sounds within words. Being able to do this is important. It lays the foundation for developing a skill that is called “phonological awareness”. 

This skill is a prerequisite for mastering any alphabetic system. Why? Because the basic premise of an alphabetic system is that symbols are used to represent speech sounds on paper. To be able to use these symbols, a reader has to be able to identify the individual speech sounds that we use to produce words. 

Rhymes and Songs add words to a child’s “sound library”

The goal is to expose children to as many rhymes as possible so that they learn to notice all the distinct sounds within words that they will need to identify one day when they learn to read.


Play with the rhymes and songs that your child already knows

This will introduce them to the concept of rhyming. Say the rhyme, or sing the song, but leave off the rhyme words for them to insert, for example,

Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you ___. (Your child says: “… are”)

Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the ___. (Your child says: “sky”)

Play rhyming games

  1. Teach your child to move rhythmically from side to side to the beat of a song.

With your child on your lap, sway rhythmically from side to side as you sing the classic song, “Row, Row, Row your Boat.” When your child is a bit older, the two of you can sit facing each other, holding hands. Most children learn to sway rhythmically, without support, when they reach their sixth birthday.

These swaying side-to-side movements help to develop a child’s sense of the opposite sides of their bodies.

  1. Teach your child to respond to “stop” and “start”.

Play a game where you walk around rhythmically while saying a rhyme, but whenever you get to a rhyming word at the end of a phrase, you freeze … silently wait a few seconds … and then resume. 

Stopping and starting helps develop the ability to respond to sudden commands. It also develops a sense of ending off and starting again that children need for learning to form phrases in speech and thinking. 

Tip: Fingerplay fun 

These are special rhymes that have corresponding hand movements. Many are passed down through generations because children love them! They sharpen memory skills through imitation and repetition and teach children to visualise the meaning of words.

Here’s one for 3-year-olds:

One little baby (one finger up), rocking in a tree (rock hands side-to-side). 

Two little babies (two fingers up), splashing in the sea (hands splashing).

Three little babies (three fingers up), crawling on the floor (crawl fingers up legs). 

Four little babies (four fingers up), banging on the door (knock on head).

Five little babies (five fingers up), playing hide and seek (cover face with hands). 

Keep your eyes closed tight now, until…I say…PEEK! (uncover on "peek!")


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is developing a sense of their body

37 Months Milestone 

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

Three-year-olds start to develop a sense of their body and what they can do with their body parts. They will soon start to add eyes to circles when they scribble. Lines extending out of a circle represent arms or legs. Children typically do not draw people with distinct heads and bodies before age four.


Identifying body parts: Typical three-year-olds can learn to show and name basic body parts: head, feet, hands, eyes, mouth, nose, ears, hair, tongue, tummy, arms, legs, back, shoulders, knees and fingers. Many can also show and name their thumb and forefinger.

Developing a sense of position in space: To do this, you can raise the bar by asking your child to place their hands above, below, in front, behind and beside certain body parts.


Raise a competent mover with “ABC” 

Play “ABC” games to scaffold your child – between the ages of three and five – on their way to becoming a competent mover. 

A-GAMES are aimed at developing a strong athlete
Think of a capital letter A and see a stick figure with its legs planted far apart, standing strong. 

This represents physical strength and endurance. In other words, you need to play games that aim to develop skills that you would associate with a gymnast (balancing) or a rugby player (scoring a try). Such an athlete is strong, agile and fast and has impressive co-ordination and balancing skills. 

B-GAMES help children to understand their bodies better
Young children are designed to learn, slowly but surely, from what their eyes, ears, skin and muscles tell them as they move and explore. They tune into their bodies and relate to their surroundings in four ways: 

  1. They develop a body scheme (“body awareness”) as they discover where different body parts are and what they can do. This leads to developing something called “midline crossing”, where they learn to feel comfortable with moving the right hand across the midline of the body and using it while it’s on the left side and vice versa. 


  1. They develop “spatial awareness” as they learn about position, distance and speed. They discover how much space their bodies occupy, how to use their bodies in the space that is available and how their bodies take on different shapes as they assume different positions. 


  1. Children also learn about the direction of movement by sensing the left and right sides of their own body, and then using that inner sense of direction to relate to all the other directions in which their bodies, and objects around them, can move (called “directional awareness”).


  1. They develop “temporal awareness” as they practice moving their bodies in relation to rhythm and time. This makes it possible for them to understand how sequences are put together and it prepares them for being able to follow and create patterns – a skill necessary for learning to read, write and do mathematics.

C-GAMES help children to develop movement vocabulary 
Children need to know different basic “moves” for them to learn specialised sports skills in primary school. This is the same as learning numbers in order to learn maths or the letters of the alphabet in order to read and write. 

Think of a C and turn it on its side to form a bowl. Now…think of the fundamental movement skills that pre-schoolers are introduced to: rolling, balancing, sliding, jogging, running, leaping, jumping, hopping, dodging, galloping, skipping, bouncing, throwing, catching, kicking and striking.

Imagine adding those movement skills to the bowl one by one. This represents you building your child’s movement vocabulary.


Tip: Develop your three-year-old’s sport skills  
You can provide enough skills by keeping the letters “ABC” in mind.

A-games point to games that build strength and stamina. Pulling up on monkey bars and running up and down a flight of stairs are A-games that build strength and develop balance and coordination.

B-games focus on developing body awareness. Pointing to body parts with eyes shut and doing an obstacle course develop body awareness.

C-games involve teaching fundamental movement skills. Things like teaching your child to kick or throw a ball, swing a bat, stand on one leg, or balance on a kerb as the two of you walk around the block fall into this category.


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is starting to understand feelings

38 Months Milestone

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands 

Three-year-olds can name their own feelings such as happy, sad, scared, angry and excited. They can also recognise and name these feelings in other people.

They no longer view children as interesting living toys, but as friends with whom they have relationships that may or may not last. They refer to another child as “my friend” and may announce, “He’s not my friend anymore.” They also like to have and be a “best friend” to someone.

A three-year-old understands rules, however, they use their prior social experiences with the important adults and children in their lives as a frame of reference, to know which behaviours are socially acceptable or not. It is therefore important for a child to be surrounded by good role models.


Tip: Positive attention 

Show your child that you are paying attention and are interested in their thoughts and feelings. 

Regard your children as if their actions are the result of their unique ideas and emotions, rather than view what children think, say and do as predictable and child-like in an inferior way.

Be genuinely interested in what your children are thinking and feeling, for example, “I see you’re looking at the lion. Do you remember the day when we saw the big lion at the zoo?”

Interestingly, children who are treated with positive attention tend not only to be smart, but also exceptionally kind.

Source: Dunn. J, et al. “Family Talk about Feeling States and Children’s later Understanding of Others’ Emotions.” Developmental Psychology. Volume 27, p 448-455. (1991)


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is learning to hold a pencil in a tripod grip


39 Months Milestone

Nip, flip, grip – I know how to hold my pencil

Children typically learn to hold a crayon in the tripod grip (like an adult) when they are three to four years old. It’s important that they learn to bring the tips of the thumb, index and middle fingers together in this way. This is a functional skill that enables them to do many other things such as fastening buttons.

Three-year-olds can turn a large key in a door and they typically thread six large beads onto a lace, before losing interest. 

If you prepare coils of playdough, your child can now practice using a pair of scissors to cut them into shorter pieces. They can also practice opening and closing the scissors by snipping into the edge of a sheet of paper. Encourage your child to hold their elbow close to their body and hold the scissors with their thumb facing up.


Tip: Pencils and Pegs 

Introduce your child to the feeling of holding a pencil with the tips of three fingers. You can play games where each player gets to place a peg in a pegboard whenever they get something right. The first player that completes a row wins. 

Doing this practices the skill of bringing the thumb, index and middle finger together. It also helps develop in-hand-manipulation skills when your child uses the fingers and palm of one hand to turn a peg to face the right way before placing it into the hole.

If you don’t have a pegboard set, use a toothpick to punch holes into a box and cut earbuds into short “pegs”.


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] needs to feel safe and loved

40 Months Milestone 

The greatest gift is to let your child know they are loved

Children are totally dependent on their parents for survival. This explains why children become anxious on a deep survival level when parents are stressed and too busy to spend time with them.

Children express their fears in various ways
Most become whiny and clingy. Some become uncharacteristically naughty and some act like babies to try and force their parents to devote more attention to them. Others withdraw and become overly picky about things. Some even show unexpected bouts of aggression.

This is when many parents ignore their children or send them into time-out.
This sounds perfectly reasonable, until one stops to consider what the child needs.

Anxious children need the exact opposite of being ignored or sent into time-out. They need attention and reassurance. Why? The reason they are acting out is that they feel unwanted. 


Touch Therapy 

Imagine a circle around every child called “the circle of resilience” which makes them resilient to stress. Now, see this circle shrink as everyday frustrations and feelings of being disconnected from parents eat away at it. 

This is a good way of explaining the impact of stress on children.
The problem is that some frustrations are inevitable: parents experience conflict, siblings grab and adults refuse to hand over cookies for dinner.

What’s more, children feel disconnected when parents are busy and emotionally distant.
When parents are not truly 100 % present, but quick to attend to other things, little ones feel as if they are a burden and that their relationship with their parents is hanging by a thread. 

When a child’s circle of resilience gets uncomfortably small, everything becomes too much.
They become whiny and clingy and easily upset by the most unlikely things. 

Parents have circles too.
Parents’ circles also erode when typical everyday frustrations eat away at them and when they feel disconnected from the people that they love. 

And so, before you know it, everyone in the family is edgy and caught up in a negative cycle. 

Fortunately, circles can be nurtured to grow bigger again.
Touch therapy can be used to enlarge our circle of resilience. 

Deep pressure touch on a child’s muscles triggers their brain to release a valuable hormone called oxytocin, which has a dual function. First, it works to counteract the negative effects of stress hormones in the body. Second, it’s a ‘bonding hormone’ that fosters trust between people.

Touch therapy is called “therapy” because it is healing and it works.
Doing touch therapy for five minutes in the morning and five minutes before bedtime typically makes a very noticeable difference. Within two to three days, children become more resilient to frustration and are less whiny and clingy.

Now that you know that it works, here’s how to do it:
Sit with your child on your lap with their back facing you. Cup the palms of your hands over their shoulders. Then squeeze …. and release. 

Repeat these “squeeze and release” movements slowly and move your hands a little farther down towards their wrists every time you do it. 

When you reach their hands, squeeze them together in front of their body. 

Repeat, but now move your hands from their hips down towards their feet.

Next, place your hands on either side of their head to cover their ears and give their head a long and loving hug. 

Do this, moving repeatedly from their arms to their legs and head for at least five minutes at specific times twice a day to get the desired impact.

One last comment
Be careful not to do touch therapy directly after an emotional outburst to ensure your child doesn’t start seeing it as a reward. 

The best times for spreading your love with touch therapy are early in the morning, when you get back from work, and/or just before bedtime.


Tip: Positive Parenting: The 5-step plan for dealing with meltdowns 

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Use a loving tone.
  3. Stand your ground. When your child doesn’t have a choice, state the facts. For example: “Honey, it’s cold out and you need to put that jacket on. Those are the facts.”
  4. “Staylisten” if they explode. “Staylistening” is when you let your child cry and get it all out. Focus on being warm and reassuring, without offering explanations or trying to fix the situation. Simply say, “This is really hard for you, hey?” 
  5. The last step is called ‘start over’. When the storm is over, hold your child and say, “I love you even on the bad days. Let’s start over, okay?” 


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is getting better at counting

41 Months Milestone 

Look who’s counting 

Three-year-olds typically count to 10 and they hand over one, two or three items when you ask for them. They also develop classification skills as they learn to group things. This is important for future mathematical development. Here’s what to expect:

  1. They can sort objects if they can use one rule at a time. In other words, they can sort blocks either by colour or shape in one session. However, if you ask them to do one directly after the other, they will most likely struggle to switch mental gears. 
  2. They can group objects based on where things can be found such as in the kitchen, garden or shop.
  3. They can use categories and say whether something is an animal, food, toy, clothing, furniture, tool, musical instrument or vehicle. This is based on prior discussions with parents or teachers about what things are used for.


How to build a solid understanding of numbers 

Grade Rs typically count to one hundred, but few truly understand the quantities that different numbers describe. Many freeze when you ask: “If Johnny has six balls and Mary has eight balls, who has more?” 

Children who don’t understand the value of numbers will naturally not be able to conjure up a mental image of two sets of objects (in this case, a set of six balls and a set of eight balls) and then compare the sets against each other to determine which one of the two is bigger or smaller. As a result, they won't be able to add and subtract with understanding.

Ultimately, every child in Grade R should be able to picture an image in the mind's eye of a number line with each of the numbers in its place, based on the value that it represents.

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Sadly, the majority of our South African children across all income groups don't reach this milestone in time. 

What can I expect from my child at every age along the way?

Toddlers discover the meaning of “one and many” during their second year of life. 

Two-year-olds usually learn to rote count to three and you can teach them to hand you either one or two toys. 

Three-year-olds can be expected to count to five and they understand the concepts of one, two and three well enough to be able to hand you that many objects if asked. 

Well-developing four-year-olds can be expected to rote count to 10 and count any number of objects from one to five. 

Most five-year-olds can count to 20 and have a real understanding of numbers up to 10. 

And finally, a six-year-old should be able to count to 100 (also in tens); count any number of objects between one and 20; and arrange the numbers from one to 10 in order to build a number line. 

Young children need to experience concepts on three levels for them to develop a clear understanding of the value of different numbers. 

1Engage your child on a physical level, using their entire body. You can, for instance, ask your 
three-year-old to move (clap, jump or twirl) one, two or three times.

2. Let your child use their hands to discover the “how-many-ness” of numbers. You can, for instance, ask your child to hand you one, two or three of something whenever the opportunity presents itself.

3. Involve the mind’s eye. You can place a heap of single construction blocks, two-block towers and three-block towers in a bag and take turns with your child to use your sense of touch to find one of each number without looking. Then arrange your towers from one to three. 

Our goal is for our children to feel as comfortable with numbers as they are with their own name by the time they enter primary school.


Tip: Understanding numbers

The following game is a simple – yet effective – way to expand a child’s understanding of numbers at three years of age.

Play a game where you put only one, two or three pieces of food (such as blocks of cheese, bread or grapes) in a bowl. Say, “If you can count it, you can eat it!” Repeat with different numbers, but only one, two or three. 

When your child counts with a forefinger and touches one piece of food for every word, you can see that they understand the numbers. You have reached an important milestone when the last number said is the one indicating how many pieces of food there are. When this happens, you can introduce four and later five pieces of food.


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name]’s vocabulary has grown

42 months Milestone 

A child needs a forest of words

Your child’s sentences are becoming longer and more complex as their vocabulary grows from a few hundred words at age three to more than 2 000 words at age five. 

Topics for conversation: Typical 3 ½ year-olds can relate experiences from the recent past and they can tell you what they are doing at that moment. They can also describe what objects are used for.

Developing a sense of identity: They can give their name, surname, age and gender as well as the names of their parents.

Language comprehension: They understand questions that start with what, who, where and why. They can follow commands that require them to keep three things in mind. For example, “Point to the cat, the dog and the cow.” They understand words such as loud, quiet, fast, slow, light (weight), heavy, hot, cold, soft, rough. They also recognise many colours.


Tip: Teach children to question 

One very effective way to stretch a three-year-old’s language and build reasoning skills is to have everyday conversations that teach them to question and think about things. 

Practically speaking, when you are about to do something that is going to bring about a certain change, don’t do it straight away. Pause, ask a “What will happen” question and then have a discussion to find an answer together. 

    • What will happen if we put the dough into the warm oven?
    • What will happen if I blow air into this balloon?
    • What will happen if I add bubble solution to the water?
    • What will happen if I hang the wet shirt on the washing line?


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name]’s balance is getting better each day

43 months Milestone 

Life’s a great balancing act

At 43 months, children learn to balance with increasing confidence. 

Stairs: They now walk up and down a flight of stairs easily, with sure footing and one foot to a step.

Tip-toe: Almost all three-year-olds learn to walk forwards and backwards on their toes. Towards the end of the year they learn to run on their toes.

Heel-toe: If you create a line, that is 1 ½ cm wide, with chalk or masking tape on the floor, your child can now learn to balance on it in a heel-toe position for 10 seconds. 

Riding a tricycle: Being able to ride confidently and fast – without slowing down in a turn – shows that your child is developing an internal sense of balance and an awareness of the two sides of their body.


Practice makes perfect 

Unlike a child’s language and thinking skills, physical skills develop pretty much on their own during the first two years. Language and thinking is shaped by a parent’s interaction with their child right from birth. However, if parents give babies space to move around, food, love and a safe environment, they will learn to sit, pull themselves up against furniture, walk, and bend over to pick things up from the floor. Parents won’t remember doing anything specific to train or teach them. The process is programmed into their DNA.

By the child’s third birthday, most parents are so used to seeing their little one’s physical skills appearing out of nowhere, that they don’t realise that things have changed.

Three-, four-, five- and six-year-olds need their parents to help them refine their movement skills. Their physical development is no longer in automatic mode. If you look at a group of three-year-olds on the playground, you’ll notice only slight differences in the way they move, how confident they are and how much they enjoy themselves.

But look at that same group three years later, when they’re six years old. Some of them will be much stronger, fitter, more agile, better coordinated and more competent than others.

Early childhood is the optimal time to develop fundamental motor skills and body awareness. Refining motor skills takes a great deal of time and effort and are best practiced while playing. It is therefore important to provide opportunities for young children to be physically active. This gives them opportunities to develop and master their motor skills. The fundamental motor skills developed during early childhood will serve as the foundation for more advanced movements required for sports later in life.

Be proactive about refining your young child’s motor skills. Find out what a child of their age should be able to do every step of the way. If you feel they are lacking confidence when they play a certain game that should be within their ability, stop and see which skills they are expected to use for playing that particular game. Then, target that skill by playing other games that also involve using that same skill. The key to helping your child reach their full potential is to strengthen weaker skills as you identify them.

As parents, we all make sacrifices to work and earn money to provide a good life for our children, but ultimately, it’s the time we invest in them that changes their lives forever.


Tip: Body awareness 

It is important for your child to recognise where their body is in space so that they can navigate their environment. Body awareness tells us, for instance, how far to reach for something or how close to stand next to someone. 

To support your child in this area, play a game where you ask them to touch three body parts or touch one body part with another, for example, “Touch your eyes – nose – toes!” or “Touch your foot with your elbow.”

Can your child do this with their eyes closed? This is important because it requires the skill of visualising where different body parts are in the mind’s eye.

This game is also valuable for building a child’s auditory working memory – a skill that involves keeping information in mind for long enough to be able to work with it.


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is starting to understand responsibility and sharing

44 months Milestone 

Your child is starting to share

Typical three-year-olds separate more easily from parents if they believe their caregiver has an agreement with their parent(s) to take care of them and support them when they need help.

At this age, a child’s growing understanding of the concept of ownership makes it easier to share possessions, but only if they know their property will be returned and the other child is not imposing on their ownership.

They’re starting to play cooperatively with other children. However, since the pre-frontal lobes in their brains are still immature, their working memory allows them to keep only one or two things in mind at a time. This is also why they speak in short sentences. A three-year-old still struggles to inhibit impulsive behaviour. They have trouble adapting to sudden changes, such as when they’re playing pretend with other children and somebody does something unexpected. 


TipPlaygroup confidence 

If needed, you can help your three-year-old to feel happier at playgroup:

  • Ask the teacher to take care of your child and wait for their affirming response in your child’s presence.
  • Take pictures of your child with their teacher and in different areas of the school environment such as the sand pit, bathroom, swings and block corner. Your child can show these photo’s to friends and family and talk about what happens in these areas.
  • Invite a child from the class over for a playdate. This will help your child will feel confident that they will be invited to join in when the rest of the kids are playing at school. 


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name]’s little hands have mastered a lot

45 Months Milestone 

Your child is learning to use those little hands 

Your child’s fine motor skills are developing. They are now able to pour water from a jug. 

They can learn to undo buttons and trace on a line with few deviations. Many children learn to fasten buckles and some even try to lace their shoes at this age.

Hand preference often emerges at this age, however, left-handed children may develop hand preference somewhat later, and this is perfectly fine. 

Another exciting milestone that children typically reach during the six months before their fourth birthday, is learning to use a pair of scissors to cut a circle, while stabilising and turning the paper with the supporting hand and staying within 1 cm of the line at least ¾ of the way.


Tip: Cutting 

To help your child remember to keep their thumb facing upwards while using a pair of scissors, you can draw a little smiley face on the thumb nail. 

Then simply say, “Smiley up and elbow down!” to help your child develop good habits as he or she practises scissor cutting skills. 


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] enjoys helping with chores

46 months Milestone 

Cleaning together can be fun

Three-year-olds can help around the house and it is important to give them this opportunity. It is a way of developing self-worth and responsibility in them. It also teaches them to solve problems and collaborate with people. 

What’s more, they get to refine their processing skills as they have to learn to remember the steps of what to do, stay on task, plan ahead and adapt to changing demands.

Three-year-olds can do the following chores:

  • Pick up toys and put them away under supervision
  • Feed pets
  • Dust furniture
  • Put dirty clothes in the laundry basket
  • Pack books away in a bookshelf
  • Help to set and clear the table
  • Wipe down the front of appliances
  • Help to sort laundry, for example, match socks and help fold towels.


Exercise develops thinking skills in children

We’ve all heard, somewhere along the line, that exercise is good for us. Every parent would agree, in theory, that children should be encouraged to be physically active. Yet, few make it a family priority. 

Here is a study that should provide us with the necessary motivation to get moving!

A group of 171 children, aged between 7 and 11 years, who had a sedentary lifestyle and were overweight at the time, were divided into three groups. All of them were transported to sports grounds after school, five days a week, for a period of 13 weeks.

During their time at the camp, Group 1 was kept busy with paper-based games and activities that naturally didn’t involve physical exercise. Group 2 exercised for 20 minutes per day and Group 3 exercised twice as long, completing two separate 20 minute sessions every day. Activities included running games, skipping with a rope and modified soccer and basketball games. Children were rewarded when they tried to maintain an average heartbeat of 150 beats per minute.

All 171 of the children were pre-tested and re-assessed afterwards with regard to reading, maths and executive functioning skills.

Note: Executive functioning refers to a child’s ability to stay focused on a task to reach a goal. It encompasses many skills, but the three major areas involve being able to keep information in mind to work with it (working memory), not giving in to impulsive behaviour (inhibitory control) and the ability to adapt to changes in demands, for instance when the rules of a game change (flexible thinking).

After 13 weeks, researchers detected no effect on the children’s reading skills in any of the groups. However, there was a very noticeable improvement with regards to their executive functioning skills, and subsequently also in the mathematical achievement of the children in Group’s 2 and 3.

What’s even more interesting, is that the children from Group 3, who exercised twice as much, benefitted roughly twice as much, compared to those in Group 2.

The most convincing part of all this is that the researchers were able to use MRI scanners to get a glimpse into how the pre-frontal brain activity of a number of the children, who were involved in the study, changed over time.

These findings are interesting, considering that the exercise that these children did was purely physical. The activities didn’t involve special games with complicated rules designed to practice and enhance executive functioning and none of the children received extra maths tutoring.

Since this study was published in 2011, scientific evidence has been mounting that exercise is not only good for our bodies, but also for our brains.

Yet, exactly why physical activity benefits the pre-frontal lobes specifically is not yet well understood. 

What is clear, however, is that the parents of young children will be doing their children a huge favour if they encourage them to engage in physically challenging activities and different kinds of sports from early in life. 

S: Davis, C.; Tomporowski, P.; McDowell, J.; Austin, B.; Miller, P.; Yanasak, N.; et al. (2011). Exercise improves executive function and achievement and alters brain activation in overweight children: A randomized, controlled trial.Health Psychology, 30(1), 91-98.


Tip: Yoga helps with concentration 

Researchers say we have good reason to believe that focused movement and breathing exercises, like yoga, can help our children to be more focused and settled. 

When people focus their attention on executing movements in a specific way, our thinking brain (prefrontal lobes) is activated along with the cerebellum at the far back of our brains. This coordinates voluntary movements which work with the motor regions that span from side to side over the top of our heads. 

This north-south-east-west activation organises the brain in a special way. 

In line with this, researchers in schools in the USA have found that doing yoga exercises before school helps children with special needs to concentrate better and be more settled.

Lees meer: Barclay, E. 2012. Classroom Yoga Helps Improve Behaviour of Kids with Autism. Date of access: 28 May. 2015.


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is beginning to follow instructions

47 months Milestone 

Your child is learning every day 

Your almost four-year-old’s mind is developing every day and they can now point out which of two objects is bigger, smaller, longer or shorter.

Three-year-olds understand instructions to physically climb on and under or in and out of something. They know what is means to stand next to and behind or close to and far from something. 

These physical experiences prepare them for learning to use two blocks to follow instructions such as, “Put the red block under the blue block”.

If you take the lid of a bottle, a thick crayon, a teaspoon and a teabag and draw an outline for each item on paper, your child will now learn to match the objects with their outlines. 


Tip: Visualisation skills

Tell your child they are a bunny rabbit, hopping around. When you say, “Stop Bunny!” your child must freeze and wait to hear which new animal is going to make its appearance. Possible suggestions include: dog, mouse, lion, elephant, butterfly, slithering snake or a stork lifting its long legs through a pond. 

These interesting ways of moving develop body awareness as children explore what their different body parts can do. On a mental level, they also help children to practice their visualisation skills. What’s more, three-year-olds assume that everyone else sees and experiences what they experience. Pretending to be someone or something else prepares them for learning to “Look beyond themselves” at four years of age.



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