Developmental Milestones for Your Child’s Third Year

It’s amazing how much your child can grow and change in just two short years! They go from being this tiny, sweet baby to a curious toddler who is constantly on the move and learning how things work in the world around them. Before you know it, you’ll be celebrating your child’s third birthday! Until then, make sure you know what developmental milestones you should be on the lookout for, so you can help your child grow with confidence.

In this guide, we’ve listed important milestones your child should reach by about three years old. It’s a good idea to look through these so that you know what to expect with your little one this year! And to help you encourage your child’s growth and curiosity, we’ve included some suggestions for how you can help them achieve their milestones through daily activities.

Every child is unique and develops at their own pace. Some children learn to walk early while others take a bit longer. And that’s okay! As long as your child is making progress, there’s no need to worry. Just keep up the good work and provide plenty of opportunities for them to practice. If you’re ever concerned about your child’s development, be sure to talk to their pediatrician or one of our pediatric therapists. We’re always happy to help!

Your Child by 30 Months

It’s been two and a half years since you first brought your little baby home, and they’ve grown up so much. Even so, they’re not quite done yet! By thirty months, most children will achieve the below milestones in the following developmental areas:

  • Can take off some of their own clothes, like pants, shoes, or a jacket
  • Turns the pages in the book when you read to them
  • Can twist things like knobs or lids to open them
  • When they jump, both feet leave the ground and they can land again
  • Holds a cup in one hand without spilling it
  • Can get up and down stairs easily
  • Likes to build tall towers of blocks (at least eight blocks high)
  • Speaks in simple sentences with a verb, like “I don’t know” or “I jump”
  • A majority of what they say is understandable to others
  • Uses pronouns more often when talking (I, mine, she, etc.)
  • Names things when you point them out and ask what they are
  • Can use anywhere from 100 to 250 words (or more!)
  • Starts using the things around them to solve problems, like getting a chair to stand on so they can reach something
  • Likes to play pretend with their toys, like “feeding” a baby doll or favorite stuffed animal
  • Can recognize colors and separate toys (like blocks) based on their colors
  • Better at understanding two-step directions, like “Grab your blanket and let’s go,” even if they don’t always do what you ask them to
  • Is comfortable playing around other children and may even start to play with them
  • Wants to show you neat things they can do, and will often say “Look at me!” before showing you their latest trick
  • May be interested in potty training (or have already started)
  • May want to pick out their own clothes or get dressed on their own
  • Starts using a fork at mealtimes and can feed themselves with it
  • Likes to feed themselves and can do so successfully, yogurt, noodles, etc.

How You Can Help Your 30-Month-Old Reach Their Milestones

The time you spend with your child will help them grow and learn more easily. Here are some tips for what you can do with your child to help them reach their 15-month milestones:

  • Now that they are exploring more on their own, make sure your home (or your child’s play area) is baby-proofed with dangerous or breakable items hidden away.
  • Reinforce their growing language skills by talking to your child every day. Tell them the names of objects, and praise them when they try to copy what you say.
  • If your child says a word like “wa” for “water,” respond to them using the correct pronunciation. For example:  if your child says “wa” and points to their cup, you may ask, “Do you want some water?” This will help them know that you understand them while modeling the correct words for them to eventually learn.
  • Give your child little responsibilities so they can feel like they are helping you. You may ask your child to help put dirty clothes in a laundry basket, grab their shoes or blanket before a trip, or other simple things they are able to do.
  • Take time to play! Playing with your child’s favorite toys, taking them on walks, and doing other physical activities together will help your child learn and grow.
  • Keep reading them stories. This will help them learn even more words, and it can be a great bonding time before naps or bedtime.

Your Child by 36 Months

Your little one has grown so much, and they have so many new things they can do all by themselves! By their third birthday, most children will achieve the below milestones in the following developmental areas:

  • Can successfully use child-safe scissors to cut paper
  • Able to string large beads or macaroni noodles together on string
  • Can put on some of their clothes without help, like a jacket or slip-on shoes
  • Can push themselves on a tricycle or other age-appropriate toy
  • Able to draw a circle by copying you
  • Starts brushing their own teeth (though they still need your help to reach every tooth)
  • Can walk on a line or balance on a curb
  • Able to walk backwards without falling down
  • Can hold and manipulate a thick crayon, marker, or pencil with their fingers
  • Shows curiosity about things and asks a ton of questions to learn more
  • Can tell you what is happening in a story that you read together by explaining the pictures
  • Knows and can tell you their name
  • Speaks in a way that others can understand most of the time
  • Likes to have back-and-forth conversations with you and others
  • Uses longer sentences with pronouns, verbs, and descriptive words
  • Can understand and follow more complicated directions, like “Grab the ball and the truck and put them in the toy box.”
  • Starting to understand the concept of time, like when you tell them to wait a minute or that you’ll be leaving soon
  • Can match identical pictures, like when playing matching games
  • Can put together simple puzzles with three or four pieces on their own
  • Able to identify basic shapes and colors
  • Likes to play pretend, such as having tea parties with their toys or making their toys talk to one another
  • Understands simple game rules, like taking turns
  • Says hello or waves to people when they meet
  • Able to calm down within 10 minutes of being dropped off at daycare
  • Likes to play with other children
  • Can tell you about their emotions (“I’m sad,” “I’m scared,” etc.)
  • Understands when someone is hurt or upset and may try to comfort them
  • Better able to use forks and spoons
  • Able to chew with their mouth closed (even if you have to remind them)
  • Successfully drinks from open cups without spilling

How You Can Help Your Three-Year-Old Reach Their Milestones

The best thing you can do for your child’s development is to talk, play, and explore with them every day. Here are some tips for what you can do with your child to help them reach their three-year milestones:

  • Answer your child’s questions to the best of your ability in an age-appropriate way. If you don’t know something, tell them—and then look for the answer together. This will engage your child’s communication and curiosity and get them used to the idea of learning new things by looking for the answers, which is an extremely helpful skill for when they start school.
  • Use your words to explain your emotions to your child. Doing this can help them learn to use their words to talk to you when they are angry, upset, or happy and helps them learn to manage their feelings well.
  • Let your child spend time every day being energetic, such as going to a playground or running around outside. This will help them practice their motor skills so they can develop good balance, strength, and hand-eye coordination.
  • Play counting games, such as counting how many blue blocks they have or how many stuffed toys they have. You can also sing nursery rhymes that involve numbers (such as “10 Little Monkeys” or “10 in the Bed”).
  • If your child tells you about a problem (such as, “I spilled my crackers”), ask them how they can fix it. This will encourage your child to come up with solutions and be proactive. If they don’t know, you can offer a suggestion (such as, “What if we use the broom?”) and let them help to solve the problem.
  • When you’re reading, ask questions that engage your child’s imagination and cognitive thinking, like “What do you think is going to happen?”
  • Teach your child simple songs like “The Alphabet Song,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
  • Encourage your child to help out around the house and give them the appropriate praise/thanks when they do. They may help bring silverware to the table for dinner, help collect clothes for the laundry, or put away their toys after play time. Giving your child simple things they can do to help you will make them feel good and lets them learn responsibility.
  • Limit your child’s screen time to about 1 hour per day, and make sure you are with them to supervise what they watch or play.

Your child will learn best through play and exploration. Spending time with them, having conversations and engaging in their interests is key to their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Plus, there are so many fun things you can do together that will become fond memories for you both! Your encouragement and love will give them the confidence they need to keep learning and improving their skills. And if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s development, you can always talk to their pediatrician or our pediatric therapists to get answers and advice.