article poster


Growth and Development for a 3 year old

Physical Development

  • Gross motor skills: Most 3-year-olds are able to walk a line, balance on a low balance beam, skip or gallop, and walk backward. They can usually pedal a tricycle, catch a large ball, and jump with two feet.
  • Fine motor skills: By age 3, kids can usually wash and dry their hands, dress themselves with a little assistance, and turn pages in a book. Most preschoolers can hold a writing instrument with their fingers, not their fist.
  • Major highlights: Some 3-year-olds are also ready to be potty-trained.

Emotional Development

  • Starts to understand emotions, both their own and others. Your child may use simple expressions such as "I'm mad!," "I'm sad!," or "I'm happy!" to let you know how they feel.
  • ​​Learns to share and take turns, but may not always like it.

Social Development

  • Begins to show empathy when another person is hurt or upset and may even attempt to comfort the person.
  • May start to tattle if they feel they've been "wronged" by another child or sibling.
  • Shows affection for others on their own (without you suggesting they give a friend a hug).

Cognitive Development

  • Enjoys listening to books and may even attempt to "read" it on their own.
  • Identifies basic shapes and colors
  • Says the alphabet.

When to be concerned

  • Drools or has very unclear speech
  • Can’t work simple toys (such as peg boards, simple puzzles, turning handle)
  • Doesn’t speak in full sentences
  • Doesn’t understand simple instructions
  • Doesn’t engage in pretend play
  • Doesn’t want to play with other children or with toys
  • Doesn’t make eye contact
  • Falls down a lot or has trouble with stairs
  • Loses skills they once had