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3 year developmental milestones

  • 1-5 Years
  • Child development and growing up
Young girl sitting on dad's knee reading a book together and laughing.

There are some key physical and communication milestones you will expect your 3 years old to reach. These milestones should be treated as a rough guide, as each child is unique and will develop at their own pace. It is often unhelpful to compare a child to other children or their siblings.


Last reviewed: 1 November, 2023

At around 3 years old you can expect your child to be able to:

Physical

  • walk on tip toes when shown 

  • walk upstairs with alternate feet, still putting both feet on each step when coming down 

  • stand on one foot without holding onto anything for 1 second
  • catch a large ball 

  • pedal a tricycle 

  • climb (obstacles, furniture and outdoor play areas)

Read more about peeing, pooing and toileting

Communication

  • say own name, age and sex
  • say numbers up to 10
  • engage in more vivid pretend play
  • play with other children and take turns
  • understand and use ‘you’, ‘me’ and ‘I’
  • understand sharing
  • understand taking turns
  • tell you what is happening when looking at a picture book
  • put on a coat, jacket or shirt by themselves

Read more about your child's communication

Encouraging development

Activities and toys to explore include:

  • trips to the park
  • arts and crafts
  • matching and sorting games
  • playing pretend and imaginative play
  • activities and games with bricks, boxes, trains and dolls
  • play opportunities (for example, balls, sand, water, jigsaws, threading, drawing and colouring)
  • talk about feelings with toys

Around this age is when some children start nursery. It is not compulsory for your child to go to nursery and some nurseries will take children younger than 3. Check with your local nurseries for more information.

Young boy standing by a tree and pointing at something in the distance.

Toddlers do not need lots of toys or devices to have fun or to encourage development. Toddlers have very active imaginations. Playing with old cardboard boxes or homemade playdough are great alternatives.

Possible development concerns

Sometimes development can be slower than you expect, or you may notice something different about your child or young person. It's normal to feel worried but there is lots of support out there. 

Contact your health visitor if you notice your baby is:

  • not able to walk up and down stairs independently
  • not able to run or jump

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Need more specific support for your child?

If your child needs more help or has additional needs, you can visit our specific section for extra support.

Child development and growing up for additional needs

Information

Who can help

If you have any questions or concerns about your toddler's development, a health professional in our team will be able to offer advice and support.

You can Call Us on 0300 029 50 50 or Text Us on 07520 649887 to start a conversation.

Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays).

Information for children aged 3 years old

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