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3 years old


With imagination in full gear, three-year-olds are entering a peak period for pretend play. And they LOVE to ask questions—about everything! Have fun encouraging self-expression and rich, exploratory play for your increasingly independent three-year-old.

    Love to move—and even find it hard to be still!
    Begin to compare and contrast herself with others
month tile

How your 3-year-old might play now:

She likes dressing up or pretending she's someone else

He loves to move and does not care to be still

She's reassured to hear that people love her

He begins to compare and contrast himself with others

Basic ball play—like catching or kicking a ball—can improve balance and coordination

He can throw a ball a short distance and can catch it if it's thrown directly in his arms

She starts drawing faces and people

He can make balls, sausages and figures out of play dough

Her squiggles begin to look like writing

He shows sympathy for storybook characters

Children develop at their own pace and reach milestones at different times. The highlights mentioned in this website are approximate guidelines only. If you have any questions about your child's development, consult your healthcare provider.

Toys and Playtips

Help your child learn more:

Begin with full instructions about starting, stopping and steering. Set the vehicle on its slowest speed at first to give your child some warm-up time.

Safe and sure. Make sure the area your child is riding in is not only safe, but also big enough to make turns. Always directly supervise your child and be certain she's absolutely clear about where it's safe to ride.

Practice makes perfect. Set up an obstacle course with traffic cones or kid-sized road signs you've made together. Tell your child about some of the basic traffic symbols, and point out real road signs as you're driving together.

Taking turns. If your child is sharing the vehicle with a sibling or friend, a timer can be a helpful, impartial "announcer" when it's someone else's turn to drive.

Parking spot. Find a safe place for your child to "park" his vehicle in your garage or shed, with the responsibility to return it there when he's done driving.

Help your child learn more:
  • Experiment. Help your child try out all the different things a toy does. Notice which activities she seems most comfortable with. Repeating things again and again is a normal part of learning.
  • New and different. Expose your child to a wide range of topics. If she takes an interest in a particular subject, get related books and videos from the library or search the internet for facts about it.
  • Is it round? Give your child's budding reasoning skills a boost with a junior version of "Twenty Questions." Think of a person, place or thing and have him ask you Yes or No questions to discover what it is. "I'm thinking of something we ate for lunch today." ("Is it round? Is it red? Is it crunchy?") Reverse roles so he answers the questions.
  • That’s my name! Show where the letters of her name are on a computer keyboard and let her type them. Print it out and post it on the fridge. In time she'll recognize the individual letters and see how they're grouped to form her name.
  • Let’s play. Find age-appropriate games on children's websites. Using the keyboard can improve your child's fine-motor skills, which he'll use a lot in kindergarten.
Help your child learn more:

What if … Prompt imaginative play with different scenarios once your child is familiar with a toy.

Point out heroes in your neighborhood, country or the world. Explain why heroes are special people. Your child is still too young to really know about current events, but remember how much kids absorb from hearing the news or adults' conversations.

Tell me a story. Asking your child to tell you about what he's pretending will encourage thinking and help develop language and communication skills. Every once in a while ask, "What did your superhero do today?"

Help your child learn more:

On your mark, get set … For guaranteed fun, get down on the floor and play right alongside your child. Bring other vehicles into the play, then find yourselves in a race!

Create imaginary scenarios for play. Does your racecar need to stop at the garage for repairs? Use a play tool set or child-safe real tools (with your supervision, of course) to add to the fun. Tell your child the name of the tool and what it's used for. Talk about how other tools are used.