Preschool boy using scissors

Navigate the captivating journey of a 3-year-old's development is a blend of joyous moments and unique challenges. Our developmental checklists stand as a valuable resource, steering you through the milestones and potential concerns in your preschooler's growth journey.

This checklist is the foundation of the ABCJesusLovesMe 3 Year Curriculum and offers insights into a child's expected development between 36-48 months. Whether you're a teacher or a parent, this comprehensive overview delves into key developmental areas. Treat this tool as your compass, and don't hesitate to seek professional guidance if any concerns arise.

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Always consult with a professional with any concerns.

Physical Development of 3-year-old

  • runs around obstacles
  • walks on a line
  • pushes, pulls, steers wheeled toys
  • pedals tricycle
  • uses slide independently
  • hops/stands on one foot for up to 5 seconds
  • jumps over 6" high object, landing feet together
  • throws ball overhand with some accuracy
  • walks up and down stairs, alternating feet
  • swings by starting and keeping himself going
  • climbs on and off couch or chair
  • kicks a ball forward
  • catches bounced ball most of the time

Play Development of a 3-year-old

  • builds tower of 9 small blocks
  • drives nails and pegs
  • puts together simple puzzle (4-12 pieces)
  • imaginary play 
  • helps clean up toys when asked
  • turns rotating handles
  • changes the rules of a game as he goes along
  •  bargains ("I'll give this toy if you give that one")
  • turns book pages one at a time
  • screws and unscrews jar lids, nuts and bolts
  • shares and plays with other children
  • manipulates clay (rolls balls, snakes, cookies)

Drawing & Cutting of a 3-year-old

  • draws circle and square
  • imitates cross
  • holds a pencil
  • tries to write name
  • draws with arm and not small hand movements
  • uses child-safe scissors
  • makes vertical, horizontal, and circular strokes 
  • draws person with head and one other body part

Personal Care of a 3-year-old

  • feeds self (with little spilling)
  • completely dresses/undresses self
  • brushes teeth with help
  • pours from a small pitcher
  • uses toilet alone
  • tries to do buttons, requiring a little assistance
  • eats independently with spoon

Speech of a 3-year-old

  • understood by others
  • tells a story
  • sentence lengths of 4-5 words
  • vocabulary of about 1000 words
  • knows several nursery rhymes
  • uses good grammar most often
  • uses “please” and “thank you”
  • uses "a," "an," and "the" when speaking
  • wants explanations of "why" and "how"
  • knows last name, age, name of street and town
  • understands spatial words (on, in, under)
  • uses pronouns and some plurals

Sensory and Thinking Skills of a 3-year-old

  • takes turns without always being reminded
  • wants to know what will happen next
  • follows 3 instructions given at one time
  • correctly name some colors
  • distinguishes between real and imaginary
  • identifies situations that lead to happiness, sadness, or anger
  • can concentrate on task for 8-9 minutes
  • can count up to four objects
  • attempts to solve problems
  • less temper tantrums

Be Watching for...

The developmental milestones give you a general idea of the changes you can expect as the child gets older, but don't be alarmed if her development takes a slightly different course. Each child develops at her own pace. Do consult your pediatrician, however, if your child displays any of the following signs of possible developmental delay for this age range.

  • frequent falling and difficulty with stairs
  • persistent drooling or very unclear speech
  • inability to build a tower of more than 4 blocks
  • difficulty manipulating small objects
  • inability to communicate in short phrases
  • no involvement in "pretend" play
  • failure to understand simple instructions
  • little interest in other children
  • extreme difficulty separating from mother



Discover More Ideas


This article information is pulled from the following sources as well as many years of training. This information is provided as a guide only.  Because every child is different consult your pediatrician as this list is a generalization.

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