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Normal Development: 3 Years Old

Each child is unique. While some behavior and growth milestones tend to happen at certain ages, a wide range for each age is normal. It is okay if your child reaches some milestones earlier and others later than the average. If you have any concerns about your child's development, check with your healthcare provider. Here's what you might see your child doing at 3 years of age.


  • Becomes more relaxed and flexible.
  • Cries and hits at times.
  • Quickly switches from shyness to high spirits and back.
  • May show fear of unfamiliar objects or activities.
  • May want to be a baby at times.
  • Starts to talk about dreams.


  • Is keenly interested in family activities.
  • Sees parents as heroes.
  • Seeks approval from adults.
  • Tests limits constantly.
  • Often prefers to play alone.
  • May have an imaginary playmate.
  • Shares and takes turns occasionally.
  • Quarrels with other children.


  • Develops a sense of self.
  • Speaks about 1,000 words.
  • Starts to use pronouns in speech.
  • Loves to hear stories over and over again.
  • Enjoys learning short rhymes and songs.
  • May match or identify primary colors.
  • Enjoys imaginative and imitative play.
  • Can take on some very simple chores.
  • Puts toys away with adult help.
  • Has attention span of no more than a few minutes.
  • Can make choices.


  • Jumps, gallops, tiptoes, and runs smoothly.
  • Can walk backwards a long distance.
  • May stumble and fall often.
  • Rides a tricycle.
  • Can pour from a pitcher or milk carton using both hands.
  • Undresses self, but needs help with dressing.
  • Uses crayons.
Written by Robert M. Brayden, MD, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Pediatric Advisor 2018.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2012-09-25
Last reviewed: 2016-05-11
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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