3 Years

What Most Children Do by This Age


  • Copies adults and friends
  • Shows affection for friends without prompting
  • Takes turns in games
  • Shows concern for crying friend
  • Understands the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”
  • Shows a wide range of emotions
  • Separates easily from parents
  • May get upset with major changes in routine  
  • Dresses and undresses self

Problem Solving

  • Can work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts
  • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
  • Does puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces
  • Understands what “two” means
  • Copies a circle with pencil or crayon
  • Turns book pages one at a time
  • Builds towers of more than 6 blocks
  • Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handle

Language and Communication

  • Follows instructions with 2 or 3 steps
  • Can name most familiar things
  • Understands words like “in,” “on,” and “under”
  • Says first name, age, and sex (can tell you if they are a boy or a girl)  
  • Names a friend
  • Says words like “I,” “me,” “we,” and “you” and some plurals (cars, dogs, cats)
  • Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time
  • Carries on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentences


  • Climbs well
  • Runs easily
  • Pedals a tricycle (3-wheel bike)
  • Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step

What Families Can Do

  • Set limits and be consistent with what your child can and cannot do; give praise for following the rules.
  • Talk about your child’s emotions; encourage him/her to identify feelings of others or characters in books.
  • Arrange play dates with other children to practice sharing and taking turns.
  • Help your child solve a problem when upset.
  • Give your child simple tasks to help around the house such as sweeping, setting the table and helping with dinner.
  • Make an activity box with paper, crayons, tape, markers, ribbon, glue stick, etc.
  • Color and draw lines and shapes with your child.
  • Play with blocks – take turns building towers and knocking them down.
  • Listen to and encourage your child to use many words and longer sentences as his/her language skills expand rapidly.
  • Give your child instructions with two or three steps such as, “Go to the closet and get your jacket and hat.”
  • Read to your child every day, ask him/her to point things out and repeat words or phrases after you.
  • Ask your child to complete a sentence in a book that you read often.
  • Encourage pretend play and provide props such as stuffed animals, hats or old clothes.
  • Point out letters and numbers in signs and everyday objects such as, “Look, this word begins with the letter ‘m’ just like your name.”
  • Sing songs, repeat rhymes together and make up rhyming games.
  • Hold your child’s hand going up and down stairs, or encourage him/her to use the railing.
  • Play with balls, practicing running and kicking.
  • Visit parks, playgrounds and play spaces where your child can run and climb freely.
  • Provide riding toys, such as a trike.
  • Teach your child how to “pump” his/her legs while on a swing.

Developmental Milestones