3 years




These skills tend to be quite variable. But at this age the typical child:

  • Kicks a ball, stands briefly on one foot and jumps in place.
  • Opens doors.
  • Pedals a tricycle.
  • Builds a tower of nine small blocks or imitates a bridge made of three blocks.
  • Alternates feet when climbing steps.
  • Demonstrates speech which is mostly understood, even by people who don't see him or her often.
  • Knows name, age and sex.
  • Understands "cold," "tired, "hungry" and may understand "on" and "under."
  • Knows "bigger" and "smaller."
  • Can explain the use of a ball, scissors, key and pencil.
  • Copies a circle.
  • Describes actions in pictures.
  • Puts on some clothing and shoes.
  • Feeds self.


Injury prevention is proactive. Consider the following:

  • Children should be secured in an approved child car seat; car seats should not be placed in the front passenger-side seat where there is an air bag.
  • Continue to guard or gate openings to stairways.
  • Store knives and firearms appropriately and out of reach.
  • Teach the danger of following a pet or ball into the street but still supervise closely.
  • Advise care around strange pets.
  • Discuss water safety; knowing how to "swim" does not make a child "water-safe."
  • Talk to your child about not following strangers and what are inappropriate touches.


These activities provide good examples for modeling important skills and encourage your child to grow in a healthy and happy way:

  • Provide opportunities for children to discuss the day's events.
  • Allow your child to explore, show initiative and communicate.
  • Provide for special time alone, especially if there are siblings.
  • Promote out-of-home experiences: preschool and play groups.
  • Your child should be forming the concepts of sharing and taking turns.
  • Your child may be growing out of naps; bedtime rituals are still important.
  • Encourage active play with objects as well as pretend play.
  • Many children may have problems with stuttering at this age; give them time to express themselves.
  • Children may become more irritable when over tired and may need help calming down.
  • Children may be curious about birth and the differences between the sexes; be honest and give age-appropriate responses.
  • Children may not be able to tell when you are "kidding;" limit teasing.
  • Show affection.


Good nutrition is essential to a growing body. Tips include:

  • Serve balanced meals; avoid junk food and junk drinks.
  • Continue fluoride supplementation if necessary.
  • Children may continue to be "picky" eaters; serve healthy foods in small portions and allow them to choose.


Childhood behavior may go from one extreme to another. This age is no exception:

  • Explain the consequences of unacceptable behavior to the child.
  • Encourage self-discipline.
  • Promote positive sibling relationships.
  • Encourage independence by allowing some decision-making.
  • Use "no" sparingly.
  • Be consistent; set limits.
  • Be realistic in demands.
  • Do not talk down to your child and respect confidences.


Health maintenance is essential to a child's well-being.

  • Schedule a dental appointment if you have not done so yet.
  • By this age, about 85% of children are toilet-trained but this is highly variable.
  • Teach good hygiene: brushing teeth, washing hands, limiting the spread of germs.


The following items may be useful:

  • Ames, Louise. Your Three Year Old. Dell, 1980.
  • Brace, Edward. Every Parent's Guide to Childhood Illnesses
  • Brazelton, T. Berry. Doctor and Child. Dell, 1978.
  • Brook, Joae. No More Diapers (Doubleday)
  • Chess, Stella. Your Child is a Person; A Psychological Approach to Parenthood Without Guilt. Viking, 1965.
  • Cole, Joanna. Toilet Teaching
  • Kaye, Evelyn. The Family Guide to Children's Television: What to Watch, What to Miss, What to Change, and How to do it. Pantheon, 1974.
  • Nelson, Jane. Positive Discipline
  • Segal, Marilyn M. Your Child At Play. Three to Five Years. New Market Press, NY, c 1986

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