Looking for simple rules/sayings that your three-year-old knows
June 25, 2013 12:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm compiling a list of simple, abstract rules that three-year olds are likely to know, along the lines of "green means go" or "a smile means they're happy". I need some more rules/patterns/abstract properties that kids this age in the US usually know about.

"Green means go" has a few cromulent properties for my purposes...

- Likely familiar to my target audience, but very easy to state/explain in case they are not
- Abstract - many things *could* be green (even though it's used mainly for stoplights), many different things can go.
- In fact, other properties which reliably mean 'go' or 'right answer' or similar are great
- Positive - so 'hot means don't touch', I'd like to avoid because it's mostly used in a negative safety context
- Doesn't need to fit into/be taught as an "X means Y" construction, but it would be nice
- And finally, maybe most constraining for what I'm looking for: has an 'opposite' (Red means stop, frown means sad.)
posted by heyforfour to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
When its dark it's time for bed/When the sun comes out it's time to get up
posted by drlith at 12:18 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

not sure this counts, but "yes" and "no" are often the first few words that kids learn to spell, because of the rhyme "Y-E-S... spells yes! "N, O.... spells no!"
posted by samthemander at 12:26 PM on June 25, 2013

X means kiss, O means hug?
posted by jeudi at 12:32 PM on June 25, 2013

Hmmm. "You get what you get and you don't get upset." ?

I don't know that that's as abstract/reversible as you're looking for, though.
posted by booksherpa at 12:32 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Indoors means walking feet and speaking voice, outdoors means running and yelling are okay.

My 2.5 year old has internalized that street signs have driving rules on them. He knows they can say "Stop", "slow down" or "be careful train coming!" or "be careful people walking," but applies these rules to random signs.

On slides at his daycare "Up the stairs and down the slide" is a frequently stated rule that he has extrapolated to newly-encountered slides.

And there are many examples with brand names. Many three year olds know that a big yellow M means french fries.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:35 PM on June 25, 2013

Flapping fingers up and down means "bye"

Holding arms wide means "hug"

Pursing lips means "kiss"

Finger in front of mouth means "shhh"
posted by emjaybee at 12:35 PM on June 25, 2013

Don't touch the stove, it is hot.
Don't eat off the floor, it's dirty.
Don't hit the kitty/puppy/sister/brother/me, it's not nice.
posted by xingcat at 12:36 PM on June 25, 2013

Light means 'on', no light means 'off' (stereo, washing machine, dishwasher, etc.)
posted by stromatolite at 12:37 PM on June 25, 2013

Hugs make people happy. Hitting makes people sad.
posted by pizzazz at 12:48 PM on June 25, 2013

You get what you get and you don't throw a fit.
posted by trbrts at 1:00 PM on June 25, 2013

one I taught many kids I nannied (maybe a little later than 3 but definitely young ones) was this:
Stop look and listen, before you cross the street.
First you use your eyes and ears, then you use your feet.

It makes them take the time to actually look (yep, do the actions) and slow down before bolting. We'd say it outloud together before each street crossing.
posted by katie521 at 1:02 PM on June 25, 2013

Our 3 year olds learned this one for riding on a bus on field trips. "Seat to seat, and back to back" Meaning your butt stays on the seat, and your back stays on the seatback. This prevented the kneeling, laying down, and turning around they would otherwise be doing.

In cars these kids would be in car seats still, but school buses here do not have seat belts even, and we needed to keep them in the safest position possible.
posted by maxg94 at 1:19 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

One Two Three Eyes On Me
posted by tilde at 1:24 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Perhaps not 100% familiar because Seasons, but perhaps
winter means it's cold outside/wear a coat
summer means it's hot out/wear shorts and t-shirts
posted by drlith at 1:29 PM on June 25, 2013

Don't play in the street.
Don't play with electrical outlets.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:38 PM on June 25, 2013

Thumbs up / thumbs down
posted by steinwald at 1:53 PM on June 25, 2013

Enter / Exit signs (mean "go in that way, don't go that way...")
Open / Closed sign (means a store is open or closed?)
--maybe I'm overestimating three year old comprehension on those two, if they wouldn't be reading signs yet/these examples aren't abstract enough...

Red means hot, blue means cold
Triangle means play, square means stop or two-dashes mean pause
posted by dahliachewswell at 2:22 PM on June 25, 2013

Kids with iPads know that check mark means yes/good/ok and X means no/wrong/cancel.
posted by xo at 7:38 PM on June 25, 2013

I worked in a kindergarten lunchroom for a while this year, and I am proud to have taught 26 little kids, and many of them only 3, to open thermoses, water bottles and Yops with "Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey."
posted by peagood at 7:43 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

(Oh! And you can tell which side is left, because that hand makes an "L" when you hold it up with the thumb out. Sadly, the right hand does not make an "R", but still - L for Left is pretty helpful!)
posted by peagood at 8:03 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Put your hand on the car while I unlock it and open the door (to keep him from wandering around when we are in a parking lot and my eyes may be temporarily averted).
posted by vignettist at 8:50 PM on June 25, 2013

"We have to find a way for everyone to play" as the warning and if this is not followed, then "____ is not play, now you have to stay" (___ can be any behavior that is not wanted: hitting, pushing, biting, etc; "stay" is time out)

I am not sure what you are using this for but I think songs are better than sayings for getting little ones to do an action, and just as embarrassing when they get older.

"Clean up, clean up, everybody, every where, Clean up, Clean up, everybody do their share."

"Rise and shine and give god your glory, glory"

"let's go riding in the car, car"
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 8:14 PM on June 26, 2013

Chairs are for sitting, floors are for standing.

(In other words, don't stand on your chair. Sit down please.)
posted by alms at 7:13 PM on June 29, 2013

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