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2  introduction COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL threes with as many teachers as I can. I’ve written this book to help you become mindful of this age group’s needs in planning your curriculum. I also want to help you become reflective about your teaching practice. Creating a balanced program for twos and threes is no easy task. Society places many aca- demic expectations on preschoolers and prekinder- garteners, and these expectations often reach down to even younger children. Children between two and three years old are no longer babies or young toddlers—and yet they are not preschoolers either. I have taught this age group for many years, and the growth between the second and third year still amazes me. This book is intended to help teach- ers see two- and three-year-olds as they are, devel- opmentally speaking, and to help teachers create developmentally appropriate programs that are stimulating and authentic for all twos and threes. In the past, I have offered workshops geared toward teachers and caregivers of older toddlers (eighteen months and older) and two-year-olds. I began by asking the participants where they saw their biggest challenges and their best delights. Al- most all the educators mentioned difficulty with young children’s impulse control, short attention spans, toileting, varying ability levels, pushing, hit- ting, biting, and testing limits. The participants en- joyed the wonder in working with the under-three population. The activities they noted as enjoyable were singing and dancing, hands-on art, and watch- ing new experiences. We all have felt the occasional struggle and exhaustion of working with this age group. Fortu- nately, even more often we feel the delight of work- ing with twos and threes. We get the honor and pleasure of being an important helper at a crucial moment in a child’s life—the developmental leap into independence. How we touch the lives of our students and families in this moment leaves per- manent footprints. All about This Marvelous Age Group Working with two- and three-year-olds is a lively experience. Twos and threes are sweet and feisty all at once. They are tender, warm, and loving. They are bursting with giggles and mischief. Everything is new and exciting to them. They look at the world with wonder and anticipation. Throughout their days, they are constantly finding out how things work and what happens next. Twos and threes are in a delicate state. They are not babies or young toddlers. At twenty-four through forty-two months old, they are leaving toddlerhood and becoming preschoolers. They are gaining independence and learning about them- selves and their place in the world around them. Their egocentrism is transforming into awareness. They are developing important relationship skills, such as empathy and the give-and-take of rela- tionships, often through trial and error. Twos and threes have different emotional, intellectual, and physical needs than preschoolers have. Why Do Twos and Threes Need an Environment Different from a Preschool? Twos and threes are finding their way through the world as people separate from their families— among other children navigating similar develop- mental challenges. Achieving autonomy is hard work! Twos and threes need adult support and a warm and nurturing environment to help them do this work. In addition, they may be at different stages in their development. For example, many twos and threes may still mouth materials. They need materials thoughtfully designed for children ages twenty-four to forty-two months. Finally, two- and three-year-olds have much shorter attention spans than preschoolers have. Teachers must con- sider this reality when planning all aspects of the curriculum. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL