Year 3 Toddler Milestones

When your child reaches three years old, congratulations, you are finally done with the terrible twos! Not to dampen your enthusiasm, but three can be a very tricky age (still loads of fun).

You’re going to see them learning and figuring things out for themselves. It’s so rewarding to observe them become a little more independent each day.

What to Look Out For

There are some essential things you need to pay attention to with your toddler’s development. These milestones will give you a good idea of where they need to be.

You can check out the CDC’s guide: “Important Milestones: Your Child by Three Years” for a nice checklist of accomplishments to be on the lookout for.

Remember that every child is different, and they may reach goals early in the year or later on. Check-in with your pediatrician if you have concerns. You can always take the CDC’s checklist with you to give your doctor a better idea of what’s going on. 

What to Expect

Here are all the milestones you can look forward to between the ages of 3 and 4.

Language Development

At this age, your toddler knows their name and how to say it, along with important friends, relatives, and pets. They will start copying everything they hear, so if you haven’t already begun to filter your language around them, now is a great time to start.

Three-year-olds are super curious as they learn to communicate more effectively. Be prepared for lots of “Why is this like that?” and “how does this work?” questions. They sometimes seem to be never-ending.

During your child’s third year, they should be able to:

  • Say their name
  • Tell you the names of most common objects
  • Answer simple questions
  • Speak clearly enough for strangers to understand
  • Articulate sentences of 5 or 6 words
  • Tell stories
  • Ask lots of how, what, when, where, why questions

How You Can Help

Many games make improving your child’s language skills fun and beneficial. Playing the telephone game is an excellent way to practice communicating with your three-year-old.

Singing songs with your toddler is another excellent way to improve their language skills. Have fun with them, sing some of their favorites, and make up your own special songs.

Reading is an easy way to help boost your little one’s language abilities. This activity is enjoyable for both of you, and it’s a great way to bond with your child. 

You can find more resources here.

Emotional and Social Development

Your three-year-old’s emotional and social development is going to be so rewarding to watch. They will start to become even more curious about everything, and now, with the language skills to back it up, start exploring their feelings and emotions.

This is the age where they really start to understand playing with other children. They will start playing together rather than just sitting side by side. Here’s a great overview of some of the social milestones you can expect your 3 year old to experience:

It is so sweet to watch them start showing concern for people who are crying or upset. They can now understand that something is wrong, and they want to help.

They should be able to:

  • Take turns 
  • Find solutions to simple problems
  • Copy what others are saying
  • Show concern for others
  • Be interested in going to new places
  • Play “real life” situations like cooking, shopping, etc.
  • Understand “his” “hers” “theirs” “mine”
  • Separate more easily from Mom or Dad
  • Demonstrate a wider range of emotions

How You Can Help

Being a good role model is so vital for your child’s social development. You can show them how to be empathetic, get them excited about new people and places, and play “real life” situation games with them.

Stay close to them when they’re in playgroups. If you find them engaging in inappropriate behavior, you’ll be there to let them know why it’s not ok.

Fine Motor Skills Development

The year your little one turns three is a year filled with fine-tuning fine motor skills. They are going to be drawing more and sorting toys with greater ability.

They will also be learning things like opening doors and windows, which can be a blessing and a curse. You can’t get away with hiding things behind closed doors and thinking they’ll never be able to get in.

They should be able to:

  • Draw a circle
  • Turn book pages individually
  • Build small block towers 
  • Copy vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines
  • Open door handles
  • Button and unbutton
  • String a large bead onto a string
  • Play toys that have moving parts

How You Can Help

You can purchase books like “Getting ready for Pre-K” that allow your little one to practice their drawing abilities.

Books like this are great because they are “write and wipe”, so kids can practice writing over the pictures and erase them to try again.

You can even just practice with basic crayons and paper to get them practicing. It doesn’t need to be expensive.

Cognitive Milestones

They should be able to:

  • Identify and name colors
  • Count to ten
  • Use their imagination
  • Remember parts of a story
  • Sort objects by color and shape
  • Recognize common objects
  • Understand the different times of the day
  • Follow simple directions

How You Can Help

There are so many games out there to help your child learn anything they might not be a pro at yet. Counting games, finding specific objects, and incorporating time of day into playtime activities will all help.

If your little one is having trouble following directions, make sure to ask for their attention before asking them to do something. It’s important to let them know when something is important to listen to.

Gross Motor Skills Development

Three-year-olds have so much energy, and it’s absolutely mind-blowing. If I had even just a little bit of that momentum, there’s no telling what I could accomplish.

This year will have them improving in so many ways physically. Your child will learn how to climb stairs, pedal a tricycle, throw balls, and jump and hop around.

They should be able to:

  • Walk backward and forward
  • Run without tripping
  • Climb stairs
  • Bend over and not fall
  • Throw, catch, and kick a ball
  • Jump
  • Briefly stand on one foot
  • Pedal a tricycle

How You Can Help

If you feel like your child could use some extra practice developing their gross motor skills, there are many activities you can do with them that will help.

Things like jumping on a trampoline, swinging on a swing set, and learning to play hopscotch are great ways to develop muscles.

Giving them a scooter or a pedal car is excellent for their coordination skills. When your toddler has mastered pedaling, it can be fun to set up simple obstacle courses for them.

Dancing is another way to get them moving and gain valuable knowledge of how their muscles work. Kids love music, so having a little dance party can be a great way to bond as well.

Final Thoughts

These are just used as guideposts to help you follow your three-year-old’s personal development. Remember that every child is unique and will reach these milestones at different times.

If you feel like your toddler is falling behind, or isn’t where they need to be as far as some of these milestones go, don’t worry. Use some of the tips from above to help them on their way.

About The Author

Scroll to Top