Developmental milestones record - 3 years

Alternative names 
Normal childhood growth milestones - 3 years; Growth milestones for children - 3 years; Childhood growth milestones - 3 years


This article describes the skills and growth markers relevant to 3-year-olds.


These milestones are typical of children in the third year of life. Always keep in mind that some variation is normal. If you have questions about your child’s development, contact your health care provider.

With physical and motor skills, a typical 3-year-old:

  • Gains about 5 pounds  
  • Grows about 3 inches  
  • Has improved balance  
  • Has improved vision  
  • May have daytime control over bowel and bladder functions (may have     nighttime control as well)  
  • Can briefly balance on one foot  
  • May walk up the stairs with alternating feet  
  • Can construct a block tower of more than 9 cubes  
  • Can easily place small objects in a small opening

In sensory and cognitive skills, a child:

  • Has a vocabulary of many hundreds of words  
  • Composes sentences of 3 to 4 words  
  • Frequently asks questions  
  • Can dress self, only requiring assistance with laces, buttons, and other     fasteners in awkward places  
  • Has longer attention span  
  • Feeds self without difficulty  
  • Acts out social encounters through play activities  
  • Has some decrease in separation anxiety for short periods of time

At age 3, nearly all of a child’s speech should be understandable.

Recommendations for parents regarding appropriate play at this age:

  • Provide a safe play environment and constant supervision.  
  • Encourage and provide the necessary space for physical activity.  
  • Instruct the child how to participate in and learn the rules of sporting activities.  
  • Encourage play with other children to help develop social skills.  
  • Encourage creative play.  
  • Read together.  
  • Limit both the time and the content of television viewing.  
  • Expose your child to different stimuli by visiting local areas of interest.  
  • Encourage your child to learn by answering questions and providing activities related to the child’s particular interests.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Sharon M. Smith, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.