What Your 3 Year Old Should Be Doing

This year has been the most fun in raising my son (but I think I say that every year!). He’s talking up a storm and forming definite likes and dislikes. He’s enjoying preschool and able to talk about what he feels and join in conversations. It has been so cool over the past year to really get to know him as a person, past what he likes to eat and when he goes to bed.

I find myself really enjoying his company – not just as his mother, but as a person. He’s much more independent and understands behavior expectations, so it is (usually) a joy to take him on errands or plan special “dates” with him. We’ve spent most of the summer at the pool where he’s learning to swim and now doesn’t mind going underwater, unlike the “babies” in their floaties and clinging to their moms. He feels very, very mature and it is so funny to watch him strut.

So while we are moving at a warp speed to having a 4 year old, here is what your 3 year old should be doing:

  • 3 year old milestones 1 of 11

    What should your 3-year-old know? What should she be doing physically? Click through for a complete guide to toddler development!

  • Food and Nutrition 2 of 11

    Preschoolers are notoriously picky (although you may be a lucky parent with a kid that will try anything!). He should get the standard 3 meals and 2 snacks per day, plus plenty of liquids to keep up with his activity.  He may devour a bowl of  yogurt one day and tell you that he hates it the next. For me, I just go with his flow and be sure he always has nutritional options on his plate. If he wants to eat carrots and strawberries for a month straight, that's fine. If he decides he hates yogurt on Wednesday but will eat a stick of cheese, we're golden. Let your sanity and the growth charts be your guide and you will make it out of the picky eating stage just fine.


  • The physical developmental milestones 3 of 11

    At this point, your toddler should be able to copy the shape of a circle when drawing, use scissors, and copy letters. For gross motor skills, he should be able to pedal a tricycle and walk up the stairs with alternating feet.  While he may likely need assistance, he should be able to at least help get himself dressed and undressed - like take off his pants and underwear, stick his arms through sleeves by himself, and velcro his shoes.


  • Doctor visits and vaccines 4 of 11

    No more head circumference! They will check your child's height and weight, calculating BMI for the first time. They will also do a standard vision test, where the child stands back and identifies shapes and colors. Vaccines are limited this year to flu shot or any "catch up" you may be doing from an alternative vaccine schedule. Be sure to bring up any concerns with speech, eating habits, or potty training.


  • Car seat safety 5 of 11

    Whether rear facing (check your weight and height limits on your seat!) or forward facing, she should remain in a five-point harness convertible car seat.


  • Speech 6 of 11

    At this point, your preschooler should be able to string 4-6 words together to form a sentence. He should also know the difference between "same" and "different," and follow most basic grammar rules. Pronouns should come more easily, and the stories he tells strangers should be easily understood. For any hesitations or concerns about speech, contact your pediatrician.


  • I can do it myself! 7 of 11

    Welcome to the last shreds of your sanity! Three year olds are just starting to delve into true independence, so get ready for tantrums, tears, and joy as she learns to do things by herself. Things will take a little longer than normal (like her brushing her teeth before you step in to do it properly) but it is an important period of her life where you get to guide her through new adventures.

    For more ways to let her grow independence without you losing your mind completely, read here on Babble.

  • School days 8 of 11

    By this age, your preschooler is capable of structured learning, whether in a daycare center, half-day preschool, or even homeschool.  She should be able to tell stories and recall parts of stories that she heard, as well as identify most colors and shapes. She engages in fantasy play, is interested in playing with other children, and understands conflict between another child - which means her feelings may start to be hurt socially.


  • Night night time 9 of 11

    Your child is likely in a toddler bed or a full-sized bed at this point, instead of a crib. She should be sleeping 10-12 hours per day. She may still take a shorter nap, but it's not uncommon for the nap to be dropped this year.


  • Extra-curricular activities 10 of 11

    This is where the fun begins! Your tot is now old enough to join a little soccer league or ballet class. Gymnastics are another great physical outlet, while music lessons (like piano) foster the more creative side. Be careful not to overwhelm your toddler with activities, but this age can be a great time to introduce a fun social group activity like sports.

  • Potty training 11 of 11

    At three, your child should be well on her way through potty training. Some may have difficulty staying dry through the night, but that is a physical milestone that must be met and only 66% of kids have this skill by their third birthday. Just stay consistent and speak to your pediatrician if you have any concerns with constipation or "holding it." You can read more about night time potty training here on Babble.


As always, this varies by child. If you have concerns, please see your pediatrician.



Article Posted 2 years Ago
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