It's incredible to witness your little one adapt and learn through exploring his/her environment and interacting with peers and adults around him/her.  Your child's brain is like a sponge that absorbs information through observation.

Optimize your child's overall development by knowing your child's developmental milestones and providing your child with age-appropriate activities.

You can read more about development and developmental milestones from Parent's Guide to Understanding Child Development

To guide you as you watch your child's development in the areas of cognition, social and emotional, language, and physical, here are the developmental milestones expected from your 3-year-old toddler.

You may also download and print your copy of the Tiny Steps Developmental Milestones and Activities – 3 Years Old Checklist for your convenience.

Developmental Milestones and Recommended Activities

At three years old, your young learner can already converse in two to three sentences, gain new physical skills, and form early friendships.

Just as your toddler's vocabulary is expanding, his/her curiosity is growing as well.  Expect your toddler to explore and ask you many questions about things he/she is interested in.

Here are the other developmental milestones of a 3-year-old.


-       Plays with manipulative toys or toys with buttons, levers, or moving parts     

Your child becomes preoccupied and interested in toys that can be manipulated.  He/she also practices and strengthens his/her fine motor skills through play.

-       Plays pretend and make-believe games using make-believe toys like dolls, animals, vehicles, and people

A lot of pretend and imaginative play happens during this age.  You may see your child mimic conversations and scenarios he/she sees at home, reads from a book, or watches from the television.

-       Can solve 3 to 4 piece-puzzle

Your child's problem solving and special recognition improves too, and he/she can now put together simple puzzles of up to four pieces.

-       Can understand what "two" means 

Your little one can count two objects at this time.

-       Can copy a shape like a circle using a pencil or crayon

Your child's drawing skills improve as he/she can already copy shapes like a circle.

-       Can flip pages one at a time 

Those little fingers can already flip through the pages of his/her book when you read the books together.          

-       Can stack more than six blocks

Your child's tower is getting taller as he/she begins to master balancing his/her blocks.

-       Can screw and unscrew jar lids and open the door using the handle

Social and Emotional

-       Copies other kids and adults

Your child is a keen observer, and frequently you will see him/her copying words and actions he/she sees or hears from the people around him/her

-       Shows affection without prompting 

Your little one may already be showing affection to the people familiar or close to him/her.  He/she may hug, kiss, or cuddle to show his/her love.

-       Knows how to wait for his/her turn in games

Instead of parallel play, your child is now interested in playing with other kids.  Your child is starting to develop friendships and to understand taking turns.

-       Shows concern for crying or hurt friend

Your child is starting to form early friendships and is showing concern over their friend's feelings. 

-       Understands what "mine," "his," or" hers" mean

Small kids intuitively understand ownership.  A 3-year-old child starts to understand the words that denote ownership.

-       Shows a wide range of emotions

Your child already feels happiness, fear, embarrassment, envy, guilt, or even shame.   At three years old, your child is experiencing new and big emotions such as frustration.  When he/she doesn't get what he/she wants, he/she may express their frustration through crying, yelling, or hitting.  He/she is still learning about self-regulation and still needs support in this area.

-       Can easily say goodbye to parents

Your child may no longer be clingy or experiencing anxiety whenever he/she is left in a babysitter's care or dropped off in the school.

-       May feel distressed or upset when there is a change in routine

Kids thrive on routine, and any sudden change can make them feel upset and stressed out.

-       Can change clothes by him/herself

Your child can already do some tasks independently.  He/she can choose what clothes he/she would like to wear, and he can dress/undress without assistance.


-       Can name familiar things

Your child's vocabulary is expanding, and he/she can already name things that he/she commonly sees and uses.                     

-       Can name his/her friends

Apart from parents, caregivers, and close family members, your child already knows the names of his/her playmates.

-       Understands words like "in," "on," and "under."   

-       Can follow 2 to 3 step instructions

-       Can say his/her name, age, and gender       

-       Says words "I," "we," "me," and "you" and plural words   

-       Most words are understandable

At this age, your child can speak clearly that even a stranger can understand what he/she is saying.

-       Can carry a conversation using two to three sentences 

Your child becomes conversant. He can already narrate and answer questions as long as three sentences at a time.  Your little one also asks more questions to satisfy his/her curiosity.


-       Climbs very well

-       Runs with ease

-       Can ride a 3-wheeled bike   

-       Climbs the stairs, one foot on each step

Recommended Activities for 3 years old

little boy playing with his toy truck with hammer and screwdriver toy

-       Create and maintain a loving and safe environment that your child can explore in.

-       Continue with the established routine.

-       Organize or attend playgroups with other kids to encourage socialization

-       Encourage your child to acknowledge and talk about his/her feelings.

-       Set rules and be consistent in reinforcing them.

-       Give two to three-step instructions.

-       Make reading a daily habit.

-       Provide your child activity materials like paper, crayons, and coloring books

-       Play matching games.

-       Play counting games.

-       Assist your child in climbing the chair and eventually let him/her use the rail.

-       Encourage outdoor play.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

While children vary in their development pace, talk to your doctor if you notice any delay or have any concerns about your child's progress.  Here are some signals that your child may need additional support and intervention.

-       Falls down a lot

-       Has challenges going up or down the stairs

-       Cannot work with simple toys like simple puzzles and pegboard.

-       Does not speak in sentences yet

-       Does not understand and follow simple instructions

-       Does not play pretend or make-believe

-       Does not want to play with other children or toys

-       Does not make eye-contact with anyone

-       Loses skills he/she has once had

We will share the development milestone and recommended activities for the 4-year-old toddler in our next blog post.

Did you find this article informative and useful?  We love to hear your opinion, please send it by writing in the comment section below.

Tiny Steps

We play, learn and grow with children.

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