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A Big Responsibility
Just as in real life, raising a child in The Sims 3 can be a big responsibility. Taking care of the new addition begins at conception and continues until the child becomes a young adult. Successfully raising the child results in the ability to choose what traits the child will have during each stage of the child's development. Failure results in random traits being assigned, which can lead to unintended consequences.
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Eventually, two adults that have spent enough time romancing one another will have the chance to try for a child. The result is an unsurprisingly corny sex WooHoo sequence with lots of funny noises as the two Sims spend their time between the sheets. Finding out if the sexy-time was successful doesn't actually require any attention from the player, as it will become quite obvious once the girl involved starts upchucking breakfast every day. The game will give an official notification a little while after the morning sickness begins.
At that point it is time to start the process of keeping the baby healthy and happy. This is simply during the pregnancy phase, and mainly involves ensuring that the expecting mother keeps herself healthy and that the parents read a few baby books. As one would expect, the baby books can be found at the bookstore or a stocked bookshelf. Buy them, read them, and wait for the big day. This is all that is really required to have a good birth - in fact, the process of pregnancy is easy enough that I've never seen a Sim, even when left almost nearly unattended during the entire pregnancy, fail to earn the first trait selection
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The Baby is Here!
Now things are going to become a bit harder. Newborns are relatively simple in terms of what they need to thrive. They need love and attention and need to regularly have their diaper changed, but that is about it.
The problem is that they cannot do anything for themselves. If their diaper has become dirty, they will be affected by a negative moodlet. That is not going to change until someone comes along and takes care of them. If the baby is left alone for too long then a lonely moodlet will activate, again requiring someone to attend to the child for awhile. These are not difficult tasks, but they require time out of the parent's day. The baby doesn't care if it 4:00pm or 4:00am, sometimes requiring a parent to get up in the middle of the night.
As long as a parent can attend to these needs quickly, earning the trait is not hard to do. Having a parent stay a home for a time helps a great deal. They may be out of a job, but remember they can still earn money by freelancing as a writer, painter, hacker, and other tasks.
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The Terrible Twos
The toddler phase is by far the most difficult phase in The Sims 3. All a baby needs to grow up well is to be attended to regularly. A toddler, on the other hand, has some very specific and important goals which need to be met. These include learning to walk, learning to talk, and being potty trained.
Learning to walk and talk are is simple because it can be done at any time. All it requires is for one of the parents to have one of the parents interact with the toddler and then select the learn to walk or learn to talk interactions. A skill bar with appear, just as when an adult is learning a skill, and when that skill bar is full the toddler will have learned how to walk or talk. Because this can be done at any time, these skills are pretty easy to teach.
Potty training is more difficult as it can only be taught when the toddler has to use the bathroom. That means the player will have to keep a close eye on when the toddler has to go. To make matters worse, parents left to their own devices seems absolutely terrible at this - micro-management is a must. It also takes several attempts to complete the potty training, and because potty training can not be done unless the toddler has to go, the training has to be spaced over several days.
In addition to all of this training, you'll still need to keep the toddler fed and entertained. Thankfully, toddlers are usually good about playing with any toys they are given. Make sure they play often, as the Having a Blast moodlet gives a massive +40 bonus to mood.
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Once a toddler grows into a child, the character becomes a playable character. This takes much of the burden of raising the Sim off of the parents an onto the Sim itself. Eating, going to the bathroom, and having fun are all tasks that the child will be able to more or less take care of on their own. That doesn't mean that the player shouldn't pay attention to these needs, but they don't require constant oversight.
The main challenge of childhood is school. School is basically a job. It is also a very important for earning the next trait. Being successful at school requires that the child do their homework every day, which is about the only part of the childhood phase which requires micro-management. Success at school also requires the same things usually required for success at a job. The child must be fairly happy and should try to learn some helpful skills. There will also be opportunities which allow the child to earn bonuses to their school performance.
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By the time the child grows into a teenager, the young Sim is basically an adult which continues to attend school rather than a job. Teenage Sims also do not have the options to embark on some more adult activities, like getting married, having a baby, or taking a full-time job. Teenage Sims can take part-time jobs, however.
At this point, keeping the Sim happy is not any different from keeping an adult Sim happy. Make sure the teenager has the chance to have fun, interacts with friends, does well in school, and is generally is in a good mood. This is all that is required to earn the next trait selection. A more important part of the teenage stage is finalizing the Sim's adult goals. Sims can earn skills from the time they are a toddler, and the teenage phase is the last chance you'll have for the young Sim to level skills in anticipation of a specific job. The teenage phase is also longer than any other phase of childhood, so take advantage of the extra time.
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All Grown Up
That's it. Once the teenager grows into an adult they are like any other Sim and should be treated as such. In fact, it is time to start the process all over again. Find a nice mate, settle down, and get ready to take care of another baby!