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Definition:

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



Alternative Names:

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



Information:

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 4 to 5 pounds
  • Grows about 2 to 3 inches
  • Has improved balance
  • Has improved vision
  • Has all 20 primary teeth
  • 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
  • Can copy a circle
  • Can pedal a tricycle

In sensory and cognitive skills, a child:

  • Has a vocabulary of many hundreds of words
  • Composes sentences of 3 to 4 words
  • Counts 3 objects
  • Uses plurals and pronouns (he/she)
  • 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
  • Fears imaginary things
  • Knows own name, age, and gender (boy/girl)

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.
  • Encourage your child to learn simple chore such as picking up their toys or room. Welcome their help in small household tasks.


References:

Feigelman S. The Preschool Years. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: Chap. 10.




Review Date: 5/3/2008
Reviewed By: Jennifer K. Mannheim, CRNP, private practice in Autism Treatment and Research, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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