3 Year Old Milestones: What to Expect

It is so exciting to watch your child grow and meet new milestones. As a parent, you play a crucial role in helping your child reach these milestones by providing developmentally appropriate activities. Your three-year-old is a chatty, curious, imaginative toddler on the threshold of Kindergarten and Prep. At this age, he or she is becoming more independent and has begun to engage in pretend play. As you nurture your child’s development, keep in mind that every child is unique and will develop at his or her own pace.

We’ve put together a guide on what miletones your 3 year old should be reaching for and some activities that you can do to help him or her reach new ones!

Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills are the active movement skills that involve the large muscles of the body, such as the muscles in the legs and arms. These skills involve moving the whole body, or large parts of the body. Gross motor skills are important for daily living, as well as for participate in sport and recreation activities. By developing strong gross motor skills, children are better able to explore their environment and interact with others.

  • Climb up stairs one foot at a time while holding on to the handrail.
  • Begin to run more smoothly.
  • Kick a ball back and forth with a parent or friend.
  • Ride a tricycle (with supervision).
  • Climb up playground equipment.

Activities you can do to support your child’s gross motor development:

  • Take walks together and point out things along the way
  • Have catch with a soft ball inside
  • Go for bike rides together holding onto the back of the seat while your child pedals
  • Dance to music together
Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills are the coordination of smaller muscle movements, such as in the hands and fingers, in order to perform activities like holding a pencil or threading a bead.

  • Start using safety scissors.
  • Draw simple shapes like circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles.
  • Build towers out of blocks or snap together building toys.
  • Begin copying upper and lower case letters.
  • Start dressing self with supervision (buttons, zippers, shoelaces).
Communication and Language

Every child develops at their own pace, and this is especially true when it comes to language development. While some 3 year olds are already speaking in full sentences, others may only be just starting to put words together.

There are a few things that parents can do to encourage language development in their 3 year old. One is to create a rich language environment at home by reading books together, singing songs, and having conversations. It’s also important to provide opportunities for your child to practice using their new skills by talking with them throughout the day.

  • Say full sentences of 4-5 words.
  • Ask “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “why” questions without prompt.
  • Follow two step directions (ex. “Please put your shoes on and come to the table for dinner).
  • Be able to name common objects.

Activities you can do to support language and communication development

  • Put away laundry together, sorting by socks, shirts, and pants
  • Cook simple meals together and talk about what goes into each dish
  • Read stories together and talk about the pictures
Cognitive Skills

These are the skills that enable us to think, learn and remember. They are the building blocks of our ability to process information and make decisions. These skills are essential for learning new information, solving problems and making decisions.

  • Sort by color, shape, and size.
  • Match similar items.
  • Make predictions (“I think it’s going to rain”).
  • Remember parts of a story.
  • Begin to understand time concepts (later, tomorrow, yesterday).

Activities you can do to support cognitive skills

  • Build towers or houses out of small blocks or foam cubes and knock them down
  • Put puzzles together
Self Help Skills

As children grow older, they increasingly take responsibility for their own physical wellbeing. This process begins in early childhood, as children learn to take care of their basic needs such as eating and bathing. It’s important for parents to provide guidance and support as children learn.

  • Brush teeth with supervision.
  • Wash hands with soap and water.
  • Use the toilet independently (may still need help with wiping).
  • Dress self with some assistance (zippers, buttons, shoelaces).

Every milestone your three-year-old reaches is another step on the road to independence. As you nurture your child’s physical, cognitive, and language development, know that you are helping him or her grow into a happy and healthy individual. With your love and support, your three-year-old will be well on his or her way to a bright future.

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