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Why does my 3 year old need step by step instructions for the same thing over and over again?

My DD is 3 years old and still needs step by step instructions to wash her hands. We wash hands many times a day, after going potty, after playing outside, etc. and I still have to stand there and tell her to get her hands wet, get soap, rub hands together, rinse, turn the water off, and dry hands. If I don't coach her she stands there with her hands under the water indefinitely. I've let it go for up to 7 minutes before. Shouldn't she be able to do this by now? We've been through this 1000 times.

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Asked by Anonymous at 10:10 AM on Apr. 10, 2009 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Answers (6)
  • Shes 3. Thats just the way they are. Its not that she doesnt know how to do it. I am sure that she does. But a 3 year old is so easily distracted. So they get sidetracked by watching the water run over their hands or anything else for that matter. lol

    Be patient. I still do this with my 5 year old from time to time. lol It doesnt stop.

    Answer by mom2twobabes at 10:12 AM on Apr. 10, 2009

  • There was an interesting article about how toddlers process information that recently came out. The conclusion was that toddlers don't think in terms of step 1, step 2, etc. For instance, instead of seeing that it's cold outside therefore they should get their coat, they instead go outside, get cold, and come back inside to get their coat. This is how they learn cause and effect, which is much more concrete than steps without reason (which is probably what toddlers think of washing hands/getting clean!).

    Your daughter will eventually pick up the more subtle nature of learning "process" type lessons. For now, what she has learned is that she washes her hands after going to the bathroom-- that's a big success!

    Answer by Busimommi at 10:45 AM on Apr. 10, 2009

  • Because she is 3 :-)

    Answer by maggiemom2000 at 10:54 AM on Apr. 10, 2009

  • My older brother is 39 and he still won't get the hint.

    Eh, she's 3. It's exhausting but kids learn by repitition and what they see us do. Have her tell you how to wash your hands next time you go to wash them. See if she is remembering what you've told her.

    Answer by lilbit022009 at 11:37 AM on Apr. 10, 2009

  • i think they just like to play in the water, my son is 3 and he does the same thing lol he will sit there with his hands under the running water till i tell him.

    Answer by krstqt123 at 1:40 PM on Apr. 10, 2009

  • WE had this exact same issue with our three year old.... with many things. He would look at us like he had no idea what we were talking about.. with things that we do several times a day. And older lady who has grown kids saw it and told me that I should discipline him for it. I didn't want to because I was unsure if he really understood what was expected of him... but she came over to help. When I asked him to put his plate inthe sink after meals... we do this almost 6times a day... he gave the "HUH?" look and just stared.. I was about to walk over and show him (again) what to do, and the lady said "tell him to put it in the sink or he will get a spanken"... so I did, again the "huh" look.... and so I spanked him, and asked him again... and again the "huh" look... and so again... well by time four, he broke down and took the plate to the sink... and its never been an issue again.... with anything!

    Answer by daughteroftruth at 5:59 PM on Apr. 10, 2009

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