3-4y Play and Interaction

What is it?

Play is your child’s way of experimenting and learning about the world. This includes their learning of new words. Play and interaction are important skills for your child to develop to enhance their learning.

What to expect?

By 3-4 years children will usually:

  • Initiate conversation
  • Play more with other children
  • Understand sharing and taking-turns
  • Engage in a wider range of imaginative play activities with adult support, for example driving a toy car to the garage, filling it up with petrol and driving away.

Information & advice

You can help by:

  • Being face to face – getting down to your child’s level, e.g. on the floor, on your lap, crouch down, lying down. It makes it easier to see messages we are giving each other if we are face to face. It engages your child, shows your child you are interested and helps them to listen to you.
  • Join in your child’s play- follow their lead; play with what your child is interested in, it is best to follow your child’s play ideas.
  • When playing alongside your child, look at what your child is doing, and respond by copying their action and acknowledge what they say.
  • It is important to talk about what your child is doing while playing, so that they learn what to say by hearing you e.g. ‘it is a big cup’.
  • Stop, look and listen – Don’t rush in, give your child a chance to communicate first. Observe and watch your child, looking for the little cues your child gives you however big or small before talking or acting.  If you find this a struggle, count to ten. Even if you know what your child wants to say, don’t rush in, wait and listen to them.


  • Join in your child’s play copy what they do then gently extend it. Show interest in your child’s play by commenting rather than asking questions e.g ‘ Wow, what a lovely dolly I like her clothes’.
  • Develop turn-taking skills by using structured games like pop-up pirate where you each have your own pieces for the games. Also use visual cues to help with showing whose turn it is e.g. use a silly hat or favourite toy to pass between you
  • Include your child in activities that involve working together and helping e.g doing jobs, tidying up and parachute activities.
  • Act out imaginative activities which could be linked to stories e.g ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’
  • Choose books and dolls that help your child think and talk about friendships.
  • Have a special time to talk about the day. Talking about what has happened that day is a great way to develop their conversation and memory skills.