3 Year Old Developmental Milestones for Boys and Girls

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As your child grows, so too certain skills develop and advance. With age, your children will be able to do things better, quicker and with more confidence. Of course, it won’t be easy and painless. You can expect to get many tantrums, meltdowns, crying sessions, and general dissatisfaction during this period from your child. But it won’t be in vain and it won’t be the only thing you experience. There will also be lots of laughs and overall joy for realizing that your child is growing up and is more capable to do things on its own. 

So what are the major milestones to look out for? And what should you do at this point? You’ve survived their 2-year-old milestones. Brace yourself for new adventures. Here are some of the most important skills your child will develop at the age of three. Being aware of these milestones might help you navigate easier through all the changes that are taking place at this point and be better prepared for any situation.

Physical development

One of the major 3-year-old milestones is the development of fine motor skills. Not only will your child grow in height and weight, but its sense of self and its body grows. Your child will learn how to control itself better and be more ready on its feet. 

Major motor skills include walking in a straight line, skipping, walking backward and riding a tricycle. Fine motor skills include being able to wash and dry their own hands, dressing, and holding a pen with their fingers instead of using the whole fist.

Tip for parents

At this stage, you might feel compelled to prevent your child from doing something that requires balance and physical skill, especially something new to both of you. Try not to give in to the fear of your child getting hurt. Instead of saying “Don’t do it you might hurt yourself”, try to allow them to discover what they can do, as it will benefit them in the long run, making them more stable and aware of their abilities in their surroundings. Of course, only do this when there is no real danger of getting seriously hurt. Some things you can do to keep them safe include wearing a safety helmet on riding toys, not keeping guns at home, paying attention if your child plays on or near a street, and never leaving them alone in a car.

Emotional development

One of the major 3-year-old developmental milestones is the development of emotions. They start feeling a wide range of emotions, and it will not always be easy for them to express how they feel. Try to be patient and recognize what they are feeling and be there for them as best as you can. At this stage, your child becomes more aware of and can recognize its own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. You can expect to hear simple phrases such as “I’m happy” or “I’m sad” from your child. They also learn how to share with others, although they might not always be glad to do it. 

Some of the major developments include showing affection in a clear way and without hesitation, and showing concern if someone is upset and feeling a wide variety of emotions. 

Tip for parents

Talk about your and your child’s feelings. Do not ignore them or dismiss them. If you are feeling something such as happiness, sadness or anger, express it to your child in simple terms and make sure to point out what caused the emotion, in general. For example “Mommy is happy” or “Mommy is sad because she hurt herself”. Since your child will also express their feelings, compliment them for doing so and encourage them to use words more often to express themselves.

Social development

Around the time of your son’s or daughter’s 3rd birthday, you might notice a different approach he or she has towards other children. While they were only playing next to one another by this point, they learn how to play with each other and interact. They move on from parallel play to interactive and group play. New relationships will grow and they will need your help to understand and navigate through these relationships.

Major developments include imitating the behavior of others, copying what people around them do, understanding of what is ‘his’ and ‘hers’ or someone else’s, and taking turns while playing with other children.

Tip for parents

Sharing might come the toughest for your child to learn. They will become aware of things that they own and that are not theirs, and at this point, you should let them learn the skill of sharing on their own. There might be some unpleasant situations and crying involved, but unless someone gets aggressive, try to stay away and let them work it out on their own.

Cognitive development

During this stage of development, your child will ask you questions almost constantly. Learning how to read and count, and sit still through something isn’t the only part of this developmental stage. The easiest way for your child to learn about their surroundings is to ask questions. But your job isn’t just to answer those questions, but also to show them what to do with this newly learned information. The practical use is also desirable because they can see first hand how some things work and why. 

Copying circles, drawing, the ability to do simple puzzles, using toys with levers, buttons and moving parts are just some of the major developments to look out for at this stage. 

Tip for parents

Help your child develop speech and language skills by asking them to speak clearly, answer them with full sentences and also ask a few questions of their own. Help them develop thinking skills by using their toys with moving parts and play with them. Most of all, be patient.

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What to look out for?

These milestones for 3-year-olds are just a means to follow your child’s growth more easily but are by no means set in stone. There is no need for concern if your child isn’t showing any of these signs, as children develop at different rates. Each child is a unique individual, and their growth differs just as much. But still, there are some warning signs to look out for just in case. Talk to your pediatrician if your child displays any of the following behaviors: 

– drooling and unclear speech

– inability to work simple toys

– doesn’t use full sentences

– doesn’t make eye contact

– has trouble walking and keeps falling

– loss of previously established skills.

Every child is unique and develops at their own speed. Try to give them room to do their own thing, and be there for them when they need you. Answer their questions with patience, as there will be many of them. Read to your child as often as possible, and help them go through from picture books and maybe make up your own fairy tales. If you see something you might consider a warning, or a red flag, feel free to talk to your chosen doctor and explain what it is that worries you. Their imagination runs wild, so having friends of the same age would be desirable. Don’t forget that 3-year-old boys and girls tend to develop certain skills at different points, so don’t be surprised or expect your child to develop at the same rate as someone else’s.

Author: Jonathan M. Ward
Author: Jonathan M. Ward

Himself a father of two, John is obsessed with getting the most out of every children’s product on the market, finding value wherever it can be found. His years of study in developmental psychology coupled with his passion for parenting make him an invaluable asset to our team.

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