Developmental Milestones for 3 - Year - Olds

by David Simon on May 24, 2023

Developmental Milestones for 3 - Year - Olds

Approaching 3 years old, your child has grown considerably in all aspects of development, from physical to social. And while they don’t develop as rapidly as when they were infants, there are still some notable developmental milestones to keep in mind. These are as follows: 

Motor Development

Your child at 3 years old has a ton of energy, and is constantly learning new motor skills. There are also some gross and fine motor skills milestones to take note of around this time. 

In regards to gross motor skills, your kid will start to be able to walk up and down the stairs, usually with one foot at a time, and ride a tricycle. They’d also be able to run and jump more easily and frequently. 

Concerning motor skills, your 3 - year - olds now can build a tower with about 6 or more blocks. They’d also be able to draw with a pencil, marker, or crayon, as well as copying vertical, horizontal lines and circles.

A Brief Physical Milestones Checklist

  • Get dressed and undress themselves
  • Wash and dry their hands
  • Feed themselves with a spoon
  • Throw a ball
  • String items together, like large beads or macaroni
  • Walk up and down stairs, with one foot on each step.
  • Ride a tricycle

kid riding a tricycle

Cognitive Development

At this age, your child’s cognitive ability is rapidly improving. They will begin to understand more complex concepts, such as size differences (big - small) or the past or future tense. This understanding will also help them in language development, as they start using prepositions and form longer sentences. 

At this age, your 3 - year - olds will also begin to understand simple instructions, such as “Put your toys in the basket” or “Put on your jacket”. But it doesn’t mean that they will always do as they’re told. You’ll also see some defiant behaviors too. 

A Brief Cognitive Milestones Checklist 

  • Understand more complex concepts (size differences, past tense, prepositions)
  • Solve puzzles with three or four pieces
  • Draw or copy a circle with crayon or pencil
  • Match and sort objects by shape and color
  • Read books by turning one page at a time

children drawing

Language & Communication Development

At 3 years old, your child’s speaking abilities should start to explode. They will be talking in longer sentences, about 4 - 5 words, and will be able to start having real conversations with you.

And now since they have started to understand more abstract concepts, they’ll ask a lot of questions, and wonder about things around them or people they don’t see, such as “Where’s mommy?” or “Where is grandma today?”. They will also be able to point out the actions happening in a picture or a book, such as “running” or “eating”. They will even be able to recognize and recall the characters’ names in a book or TV program. 

A Brief Language & Communication Checklist

  • Use longer sentences and carry on a conversation
  • Talk clearly enough to usually be understood by strangers (most of the time)
  • Follow longer instructions (2 - 3 parts)
  • Ask “why,” “where,” “what,” “when” and “how” questions
  • Name a friend

Emotional Social Development

Similar to when they were 2, tantrums and meltdowns still show up at times. Of course this is completely normal for their age. This is due to the fact that children at this age tend to experience a lot of intense emotions, and have yet to learn how to regulate them. As they grow older, they’ll be able to vocalize and handle their emotions more easily. 

Parents will also start to notice changes in the way that your child plays. If back when they were 2, children just started to move from parallel playing to associative playing, then now, they are beginning to really enjoy playing with their friends. Through associative playing, children can learn to share, take turns and how to collaborate with others. They’ll even show empathy and comfort their friends if they’re upset or crying. 

children playing together

A Brief Emotional Social Checklist

  • Show concern and affection for others
  • Copy adults and friends
  • Show a wide range of emotions
  • Calm themselves down after they are upset
  • Play with other children