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Your three year old

Your Three Year Old

close up of young child

3-year-olds are funny, thoughtful, creative, loving little creatures. Your child has moved past the baby and toddler stage and into the preschool stage, which is a super fun time. You will start to feel like you have a real little person now, and you’ll be able to interact with your child in new and exciting ways.

By the age of 3, your child now has 1,000 trillion brain connections (synapses), the most they will ever have in their life. They will show so much more curiosity in the world around them than when they were a baby and toddler, and it will only continue to develop even further as they enter their pre-school phase. Your child will now be more confident to try things on their own and will also start interacting with other children more co-operatively.

Many parents feel relieved to move past the “terrible twos” phase, and hope that their child will become a little easier to manage and less prone to tantrums. But 3-year-olds can still be difficult to parent at times, as they learn to control their emotions and sort through their big feelings. So if you are finding this phase challenging, you are not alone.

Language Development 

At 3, your child’s speaking abilities should start to explode. They will be talking in longer sentences of about 4-5 words, and will be able to start having real conversations with you. Your child should be able to ask for items by their name, understand simple instructions, and make eye contact with others. 

As your child’s curiosity about the world around them increases, so will the kinds of things they want to talk about. You can expect a lot of “why” and “how” questions now, as your child soaks in everything there is to know about how the world works, and their place in it.

Physical Development 

If you are noticing that your 3-year-old just won’t stop moving, you are in good company. 3-year-olds have a ton of energy, and they are also learning new skills and new ways of moving their bodies.

Your child's gross motor movements relates to how they move and develop the larger body. Your child should develop these skills by pedaling a tricycle, walking up and down stairs one step at a time and running and jumping more easily.

Your child's fine motor skills are the smaller and more co-ordinated movements made with their shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. Your child should be able to build a tower with about 6 or more blocks.2 You should notice their ability to draw, using a pencil, marker, or crayon. They should also be able to start copying vertical/horizontal lines and circles at this age. 

Emotional & Social

Again, don’t be surprised if your child is still having tantrums and meltdowns at times. This is normal for age as children experience intense emotions, and are still learning to self-regulate and verbilise how they feel. 3-year-olds may also get upset with big changes to routine and benefit from a warning about whst is going to happen beforehand.  

Toilet Training 

After 3 years of seemingly endless diaper changes, most parents of 3-year-olds are looking forward to their child being toilet trained. Keep in mind, though, that toilet training doesn’t have a specific end date, and all children are different.

While most 3-year-olds are ready to begin the process of toilet training, not all 3-year-olds will complete the process by their fourth birthday. While most 3-year-olds are able to stay dry all day, some still have accidents and dtaying dry all night doesn’t usually happen until a child is 4, or even older.

It’s important to muster up as much patience and compassion as you guide your child through the process. A healthy sense of humor helps immensely as well. Always check in with your GP or health visitor if you have any questions about how toilet training is going.

ERIC is the national charity dedicated to improving children's bowel and bladder health. Please follow the link for further information Home - ERIC


child running on grass

How to help your child learn and grow

3-year-olds are prone to having very big feelings, and they don’t always know how to manage them besides acting out or having a tantrum. As a parent, you might not know what to do in those types of situations.

Besides trying to remain calm yourself, you can try helping your child conceptualize and better understand how they are feeling. You can do this by assisting your child in naming their feelings (“sad,” “mad,” “frustrated,” etc.) and reassuring them that these feelings are normal.

While your child is in the middle of a tantrum, there are a couple of methods you can consider to help manage the situation. You can try redirection, which is where you try to distract your child by suggesting a fun activity or offering them a favorite toy. You can also try giving your child options. For example, rather than saying, “No, you can’t climb up on the counter,” you can say, “Would you rather go outside and play on the slide, or have a dance party?”

Finally, it can be helpful to try and stay on top of your child’s emotions by making sure they get enough sleep and eat regular meals. A hungry, tired child is much more likely to find things difficult than one who is fed and rested.

When to be concerned 

All children grow at their own pace and in their own way, but there are certain signs that your child may be experiencing a developmental delay.

You may want to seek further advice if your child: 
  • regresses with any prior skills that they previously had
  • has frequent falls or injuries 
  • isn't interested in other children
  • doesn't pretend during play 
  • isn't using three word sentences 


Last Updated on Thursday, May 30, 2024

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