Three Years Old: A Guide for Caregivers

At three years old, your child is growing and learning at an incredible pace. This guide will help you understand what to expect and how to support your child’s development.

Growth and Development

  • Physical: Three-year-olds are becoming more coordinated. They can run, jump, and climb with greater control (CDC, 2020).
  • Cognitive: They’re starting to use tools, like crayons or utensils, with more purpose. Problem-solving skills are emerging (CDC, 2020).
  • Language: Vocabulary is expanding rapidly. They may use short sentences and start to identify basic body parts (CDC, 2020).
  • Social-Emotional: Play with peers becomes more imaginative. Tantrums are common as they navigate big feelings (CDC, 2020).


  • Healthy Eating: Offer a variety of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats (AAP, 2019).
  • Portion Sizes: Let your child’s appetite guide you. Don’t force finishing a plate (AAP, 2019).
  • Snacks: Provide nutritious options like cheese, crackers, and fruit to keep energy levels stable (AAP, 2019).
  • Avoid Choking Hazards: Cut food into small pieces and supervise mealtime (AAP, 2019).


  • Amount: Aim for 12-15 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, including one nap (AAP, 2016).
  • Routine: Establish a calming pre-bed routine, like reading a book (AAP, 2016).
  • Environment: Keep the bedroom cool, dark, and quiet (AAP, 2016).


  • Supervision: Always supervise your child, especially near water or when they’re using the stairs (AAP, 2019).
  • Proofing: Secure furniture and heavy objects to the walls to prevent tip-overs (AAP, 2019).
  • Gates: Install safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs (AAP, 2019)
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