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Developmental milestones record - 3 years

This article describes the skills and growth markers relevant to 3-year-olds.

Alternative Names

Normal childhood growth milestones - 3 years; Growth milestones for children - 3 years; Childhood growth milestones - 3 years

Information

These milestones are typical of children in the third year of life. Always keep in mind that some variation is normal. If you have questions about your child's development, contact your health care provider.

Physical and motor milestones for a typical 3-year-old may include:

  • Gains about 4 - 5 pounds
  • Grows about 2 - 3 inches
  • Are about half their adult height
  • Has improved balance
  • Has improved vision (20/30)
  • Has all 20 primary teeth
  • Needs 11 - 13 hours of sleep a day
  • May have daytime control over bowel and bladder functions (may have nighttime control as well)
  • Can briefly balance and hop on one foot
  • May walk up the stairs with alternating feet (without holding the rail)
  • Can construct a block tower of more than nine cubes
  • Can easily place small objects in a small opening
  • Can copy a circle
  • Can pedal a tricycle

Sensory, cognitive, and social milestones include:

  • Has a vocabulary of many hundreds of words
  • Composes sentences of three words
  • Counts three objects
  • Uses plurals and pronouns (he/she)
  • Frequently asks questions
  • Can dress self, only requiring assistance with laces, buttons, and other fasteners in awkward places
  • Has longer attention span
  • Feeds self without difficulty
  • Acts out social encounters through play activities
  • Has some decrease in separation anxiety for short periods of time
  • Fears imaginary things
  • Knows own name, age, and gender (boy/girl)
  • Starts to share
  • Has some cooperative play (building tower of blocks together)

At age 3, almost all of a child's speech should be understandable.

Temper tantrums are common at this age. Children who have tantrums that regularly last for more than 15 minutes or that occur more than three times a day should be seen by a health care provider.

Recommendations for parents regarding appropriate play at this age:

  • Provide a safe play environment and constant supervision.
  • Provide the necessary space for physical activity.
  • Help your child participate in -- and learn the rules of -- sporting activities.
  • Monitor both the time and content of television viewing.
  • Visit local areas of interest.
  • Encourage your child to help with small household chores, such as helping set the table or picking up toys.
  • Encourage play with other children to help develop social skills.
  • Encourage creative play.
  • Read together.
  • Encourage your child to learn by answering questions.
  • Provide activities related to your child's particular interests.
  • Encourage your child to use words to express feelings (rather than acting out).

References

Feigelman S. The preschool years. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 10.

Updated: 5/12/2012

Jennifer K. Mannheim, ARNP, Medical Staff, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Seattle Children's Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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