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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

Battery-powered ride-ons

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Help your baby 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.

Toys that encourage creative expression

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Help your child learn more:
  • Show interest in your child's creations. If you can, stop what you're doing and check it out when he says, "Hey, Mom! Look what I made!" or "Watch this dance I made up!" Set aside special time when you can focus on your child. Ask her to demonstrate her work, and praise her abilities.
  • Encourage self-expression.. Can he explain why he's created a certain drawing or video? Or why she thinks her music sounds a certain way? Encourage talking about ideas and feelings.
  • Capture memories. Let your child take photos to document experiences. Help add special effects or a fun digital border.
  • Music, please. Make sure your child is exposed to music and art. Take a trip to a gallery or sculpture park, attend plays and concerts just for kids.

Playsets and action figures

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Help your baby learn more:
  • What if … Prompt imaginative play with different scenarios once your child is familiar with a toy.
  • Take a trip to a local fire hall. The more familiar children are with firefighters, the safer they'll feel if they need them. Many local fire halls schedule times for young children to come in for a tour, talk with the firefighters, and see the trucks close-up.
  • 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 communications skills. Every once in a while ask, "What did Billy Blazes do today?" or "Will you tell me a story about what happened to Billy Blazes today?"

Cars, vehicles and RC toys

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Help your baby 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.