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Little Kids, Big Questions
is a series of 12 podcasts that translates the research of early childhood development into parenting practices that mothers, fathers and other caregivers can tailor to the needs of their own child and family. Click here to listen to or download the podcasts. This podcast series is generously funded by MetLife Foundation.

When do toddlers understand logic?

Q: Sometimes my 3-year-old seems to really understand complicated ideas so I don't see why she can't understand (or remember!) the reasons I give her for rules. When do children really “get” logic?

A: There are several variables that can strain your child’s ability to accept your logical explanations: being tired or hungry; having eagerly anticipated the thing or activity she is not being allowed to have or do; or being a temperamentally intense, persistent child by nature.

So when you tell your daughter she can’t have cake for lunch because her body needs healthy foods to grow strong, she may quickly comply. But when you tell her she can’t go to the playground before bed, she might completely lose it. You’re left feeling confused—why is one explanation harder to understand than the other?  The answer is:  It’s not. It’s just how a three-year-old processes the world.  

Just wait for the déjà vu you’ll feel in 15 years when you try to explain curfews. Until then, enjoy your passionate three-year-old and rest assured that understanding logical connections and family rules is a skill that gradually unfolds over the next few years.




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