Development at
3 Years

What Your Child Should Be Doing
  • Washes hands alone.
  • Dresses self with help.
  • Uses toilet with help, has daytime control.
  • Brushes teeth with assistance
  • Helps with simple tasks.
  • Uses sentences of three to five words.
  • Can pronounce the following sounds clearly:  p,b,m,k,g,w,h,n,t,d.
  • Understands concept of “one”, can count two or three objects.
  • Child understands concepts of “in”, “on”, “under”.
  • Uses a vocabulary of 50-500 words.
  • Draws various shapes and lines.
  • Matches six basic colors
  • Can categorize and sort.  For example: things that are food and things that are toys.
  • Asks short questions, especially “Why?”
  • Answers questions.
  • Can follow two-part instructions, ex:  “Please get the ball and put it in the box.”
  • Catches a large ball.
  • Rides a tricycle.
  • Walks up stairs, one foot on stair at a time.
  • Cuts with blunt scissors.
  • Paints dots and circular strokes on paper.
  • Can jump forward with both feet.
  • Begins to play “make believe” games.
  • Begins to be able to take turns.
  • Shows shame when caught doing wrong.
  • Tries to make others laugh.
  • Shows pride in clothing.
  • Recognizes and names sounds like dog barking, horn honking.
  • Notices differences between boys and girls.
  • Joins in songs, rhymes, storytelling.
  • Rolls, pounds, squeezes clay.
  • Tends to be physically aggressive.
  • May have tantrums when frustrated.
  • May cling or whine.
  • May be shy with strangers; relate best to one familiar adult at a time.
  • May be possessive of loved ones.
  • Talks about own feelings.
  • Begins to understand other’s feelings and show empathy.
  • Plays best with one older child; not a sibling.
  • May develop sudden fears of such things as large animals.
  • Gets a drink without help.
  • Holds fork correctly for eating.
  • May be ready for toilet training if (s)he:
  • Begins to express discomfort at a wet or soiled diaper.
  • Tells you when she’s soiling a diaper.
  • “Hides” when soiling diaper.
  • Can take pants off without help.
  • Enjoys doing things by himself/herself.
  • Wants to do what you/older kids do.

How You Can Help
  • Help the child when she is really stuck, but encourage to do things she can do herself.
  • Tell, read and recite stories, poems, and rhymes.  Encourage the child to recite familiar parts or add his/her own ideas.
  • Provide play experiences with small groups of children.
  • Listen to music together.  Sing along, clap, or hum together.  If you play an instrument, play and have him/her sing along.
  • Praise good behavior and accomplishments in building, drawing or mastering a new skill.
  • Try different art techniques with the child. Ex:  Create things to dip in paint and stamp onto large paper.  Try cut up broccoli, carrots, and potatoes.  Collect leaves, twigs, pebbles and moss.
  • Build things with blocks.
  • Cut pictures from magazines and make ‘category collages’.  Ex:  put the animals on one piece of paper, all the children on another.
  • Provide paste, blunt-tip scissors, colored paper, crayons and paint.
  • Play make-believe games with child.
  • Provide clothes, materials and props for “make believe” play.  Ex:  A big box can become a playhouse.
  • Practice taking turns playing with a toy.
  • When talking with child, try to ask questions, and make positive comments rather than giving directions or commands.
  • Take child outside often to a place where he can safely run, climb, swing, and jump.
  • Play ball, allowing child to throw and catch repeatedly.
  • Ask the child to help you do simple tasks like setting the table or picking things up.
  • When child has a tantrum, stay calm.  If possible, remove her from the situation and to a quiet place to calm down.
  • When child is frustrated or upset, help him identify the feelings with words.  Ex:  “You’re mad because your tower fell.”
  • Set a positive example for handling conflict, frustration, and other emotions.
  • Demonstrate to child how to comfort siblings, friends, pets who are upset or hurt.
  • Help child learn proper grammar by repeating what she says and filling in the blanks or correcting errors.  Ex:  Child says “Mommy goed to the store.”  You say “Yes, Mommy went to the store.”
  • If child is ready to use a training potty:
    - Encourage--never force---him to use the potty when he shows signs that it’s time to go. Try having him sit on it at regular intervals, such as after meals, before and after sleep.
    - Praise success, and avoid criticism.
    - Be sympathetic about accidents.