Written by: Jessie

Developmental milestones is a progress or stages where babies learn to do more complex things …

3 year old Developmental Milestones

Developmental milestones is a progress or stages where babies learn to do more complex things when they grow older. Developmental milestones is more about learning skills than physical growth (in size). As my daughter is turning 4 in 2021, I guess, it is good to share my 3 year old developmental milestones with you.

Every child will have their own developmental pace, some maybe ahead of others, some kids maybe a bit slower. Give them time and monitor closely. They will pick up the skill eventually.

For those parents who always have questions like “my 3-year-old daughter is not ready for potty training, is that normal?”, “She is not eating like what adult eats”, “she doesn’t know how to read and write yet” et cetera. This is the article for you.

3 year old developmental milestones

5 important development stages for a 3-year-old toddler

  • Physical development
  • Motor development
  • cognitive development
  • languages
  • social & emotional

You will learn how well they grow when you see them playing, learning and speaking. Physical development may be vary from child to child as factors such as genes, food and exercise, may affect ones developmental rates. If the child is growing healthy and happy, physical development will not be a priority issue.

Here is a link to developmental milestone checklist for a 3 years old toddler from CDC, Centers from Disease Control and Prevention, as a guide.

Physical development

We are not touching on the growth in size and weight but more to the physical movement which they are able to do when they reach 3 years old.

If you like to know the growth in weight and height for your child, please check with your doctor during check up.

If you monitor closely, your little toddler is able to learn to :

  • Hop and jump from low steps
  • Run easily
  • Go up and down staircase without support, one foot on each step
  • Walk in tiptoes
  • Able to kick ball forward
  • Climb objects well
  • Able to ride a tricycle
  • Enjoy swinging on a swing
  • Able to climb on a slide and slide down
3 year old developmental milestones

Motor development

When your children enjoy activities such as block, colors and shape games, play dough, sand box, simple puzzle games, drawing and colouring, matching games and reading story book, their motor skills is eventually improved while they play. For a 3-year-old toddler, he/she is able to :

  • Stack up objects
  • Hold colouring pencils or marker with two fingers and one thumb, not in a fist like before
  • Use scissor to cut
  • Turn pages from a book one at a time
  • Able to squeeze, press, pound, and roll objects
  • Able to draw circle or square
  • Able to copy some capital letters
  • Able to hold a cup, with less spilling
  • Able to brush his/her teeth but not thorough
  • Able to wash and dry hands
  • Able to control bladder, some achieve potty training successfully only at 3
  • Able to form shapes and object while playing in a sand box or play dough
  • Able to differentiate sizes, from small to big

Related post “ baby developmental toys

3 year old developmental milestones

Cognitive development

Cognitive development is focusing on children development in terms of processing of information, think and perceive, learn to understand the world from toys play, through their parents or caregivers guide, influence from the TV they watch and anything that catch their attention.

Here are some examples, a 3-year-old toddler is able to do:

  • Able to turn a jar lid or door knob
  • Able to complete 3-4 pieces of puzzle
  • Able to differentiate sizes, big and small
  • Able to tell different shapes or colors
  • Enjoy pretend play
  • Able to count numbers
  • Able to build tall building with more than 6 pieces of blocks
  • Recognize direction, know how to get home or to school
  • Able to do matching, e.g dog eats bone, cat eats fish, rabbit eats carrot etc
  • Able to undress and dress up
  • Able to copy shapes like circle or square
  • Able to enjoy “reading” story book
  • Turn pages one at a time
3 year old developmental milestones

Related post “Activities that promote kids’ cognitive development“, “kids pretend play


3 year old toddler is able to communicate using simple phrases. Less crying as compared to 2 years old toddlers as they can basically tell parents or caregivers what they want. Example,

  • Able to name things that they are familiar with
  • Able to call out name of a person
  • Able to converse in 2-3 sentences
  • Understand between girls and boys
  • Able to tell when they are hungry, thirsty, in pain when they fell down, when they need to go toilet, sleepy, request for their favorite food/drink etc.
  • Able to understand and choose what they like including clothing, hygiene care, personal belonging, food/beverages or toys
  • Able to tell body parts, such as head, arm, elbow etc
  • create own story from pretend play
  • Imitate how adults speak or learn through singing, watching TV
  • Able to sing simple songs or rhymes
3 year old developmental milestones

Related post ” how do babies communicate

Social and emotional

3-year-old toddlers are sensitive emotionally. They get upset easily with big changes. Sometimes, sudden change of environment such as putting them into child care, meeting with strangers will freak them out. Once they are used to the new changes, they can adapt to it without any problem.

Some examples of what they are able to do when they reach 3 years old:

  • Able to comfort a crying friend
  • Learn to share toys or food with others
  • Able to line up and take turn to play
  • Understand the idea of mine and hers/his
  • Able to mix around and play with group of friends
  • Like to help in housework
  • Easier to separate with parents, easier to adapt to new changes
  • Interested in new things such as new toys, clothing, food/drink, water bottle, belongings etc
3 year old developmental milestones


Every stage of development is showing how well your child grow before they turn into adulthood. Every developmental milestones is important and if you see they have delay in development, please consult your doctor and seek for his/her advice.

Do share with us your experience if you have a 3-year-old toddler, comment it in the comment box below.

Happy reading!

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