What Are The Milestones For A 3 Year Old

Milestone Moments Matter3 Years

Have you ever wondered what your child is supposed to do by age three? I have to admit, being a new mom, I didn’t know what to look for or expect. I was happy to make it through the day with no incidents, the baby was fed, cleaned, and resting peacefully. Wondering if she was supposed to say so many words by age two, never crossed my mind. That was 23 years ago. My baby is now 25.

In 2020, we took in my little grand-nephew Jaxon, who was about 16 months at the time. Again, I didn’t know what milestones he should be hitting. At an appointment for Jaxon, I saw a little book lying on the table. I picked it up and started reading the page for three-year-olds. ‘Uh oh. Houston we have a problem.’

This little booklet describes various milestones for kids from ages two months to five years old. It’s called ‘Milestone Moments: Learn The Early Signs. Act Early,” by the Centers For Disease Control (CDC).

I wish I would have seen this book much earlier. Maybe Jaxon would be further along. Jaxon is developmentally delayed and autistic and this little book has been insightful. Had I known about this little resource, maybe I would have caught Jaxon’s autism and delays much sooner. I share this with you because there may be others who are unaware of what the CDC defines as milestones for children. These milestones are things to watch for in your child and tips on how you can help your child learn and grow.

“Your Child By 3 Years – What most children do by this age.”

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Copies adults and friends
  • Shows affection for friends without prompting
  • Takes turns in games
  • Shows concern for a crying friend
  • Dresses and undresses self
  • Understands the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”
  • Shows a wide range of emotions
  • Separates easily from mom and dad
  • May get upset with major changes in routine

Language/Communication Milestones

  • Follows instructions with two or three steps
  • Can name most familiar things
  • Understands words like “in,” “on,” and “under”
  • Says first name, age, and sex
  • Names a friend
  • Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time
  • Says words like “I,” “me,” “we,” and “you” and some plurals (cars, dogs, cats)
  • Carries on a conversation using two or three sentences.

How you can help your child’s development

  1. Go to playgroups with your child or other places where there are other children, to encourage getting along with others.
  2. Work with your child to solve the problem when he is upset.
  3. Talk about your child’s emotions. For example, say, “I can tell you feel mad because you threw the puzzle piece.” Encourage your child to identify feelings in books.
  4. Set rules and limits for your child, and stick to them. If your child breaks a rule, give him a time out for 30 seconds to 1 minute in a chair or in his room. Praise your child for following the rules.
  5. Give your child instructions with 2 or 3 steps. For example, “Go to your room and get your shoes and coat.”
  6. Read to your child every day. Ask your child to point to things in pictures and repeat words after you.
  7. Give your child an “activity box” with paper, crayons, and coloring books. Color and draw lines and shapes with your child.

Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Can work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts
  • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
  • Does puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces
  • Understands what “two” means
  • Copies a circle with pencil or crayon
  • Turns book pages one at a time
  • Builds towers of more than 6 blocks
  • Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handle

Movement/Physical Development Milestones

  • Climbs well
  • Runs easily
  • Pedals a tricycle (3-wheel bike)
  • Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step

How can you help your child’s development?

  • Play matching games. Ask your child to find objects in books and around the house that are the same.
  • Play counting games. Count body parts, stairs, and other things you use or see every day.
  • Hold your child’s hand going up and down stairs. When she can go up and down easily, encourage her to use the railing.
  • Play outside with your child. Go to the park or hiking trail. Allow your child to play freely and without structured activities.

Act early if your child:

  • Is missing milestones
  • Falls down a lot or has trouble with stairs
  • Drools or has very unclear speech
  • Can’t work simple toys (such as pegboards, simple puzzles, turning a handle)
  • Doesn’t understand simple instructions
  • Doesn’t speak in sentences
  • Doesn’t make eye contact
  • Doesn’t play pretend or make-believe
  • Doesn’t want to play with other children or with toys
  • Loses skills he once had

Don’t wait. You know your child best.

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay and ask for a developmental screening.

If you or the doctor is still concerned,

Ask for a referral to a specialist and,

Call any local public elementary school for a free evaluation to find out if your child can get services to help.

For more information, go to cdc.gov/Concerned.

Talk with your child’s doctor at every visit about the milestones your child has reached and what to expect next.

The above information was taken from the booklet titled Milestone Moments – Learn the Signs. Act Early.

DISCLAIMER: The CDC recently lowered some of the standards for the milestones in 2022. For those updates, it is best to visit their website. The information contained herein comes from this little booklet which was published in 1991,1993, 1998, 2004, and 2009 by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Bright Futures. This booklet was obtained from a doctor’s office in the fall of 2021. We recognize every child is different and what you do with the information is your decision. We are not making suggestions, simply sharing what we found.

Proverbs 1:5, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,”


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