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Ages & Stages

Developmental Milestones: 3 to 4 Year Olds

​​No longer a toddler, your 3-year-old can do more things on their own. They're also starting to interact more with other children. Thi​s is a perfect age to introduce them to school or an organized play group. This can let them ​stretch their skills while learning to socialize.

Here are some milestones you can look for at this age.

Movement milestones

  • Hops and stands on one foot up to 5 seconds

  • Goes upstairs and downstairs without support

  • Kicks ball forward

  • Throws ball overhand

  • Catches bounced ball most of the time

  • Moves forward and backward with agility

  • Pedals tricycle

  • Climbs on and off couch or chair

Milestones in hand and finger skills

  • Copies square shapes

  • Draws a person with head and one other body part

  • Uses child-safe scissors

  • Draws circles and squares

  • Begins to copy some capital letters

Language milestones

  • Understands the concepts of "same" and "different"

  • Understands simple prepositions such as "on" and "under"

  • Uses 3-word sentences

  • Uses words that are 75% understandable by strangers

  • Tells stories

Cognitive milestones

  • Correctly names some colors

  • Understands the concept of counting and may know a few numbers

  • Approaches problems from a single point of view

  • Begins to have a clearer sense of time

  • Follows three-part commands

  • Recalls parts of a story

  • Engages in imaginative play

Social milestones

  • Interested in new experiences

  • Cooperates with other children and shares

  • Plays "Mom" or "Dad"

  • Increasingly inventive in fantasy play

  • Dresses and undresses self (coat, jacket, shirt)

  • Negotiates solutions to conflicts

  • Eats independently

  • Enters bathroom and urinates by self

Emotional Milestones

  • Imagines that many unfamiliar images may be "monsters"

  • Views self as a whole person involving body, mind and feelings

  • Often cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality

Developmental health watch

Because each child develops in their own manner, it's impossible to tell exactly when or how they'll perfect a given skill.

The developmental milestones listed here will give you a general idea of the changes you can expect as your child gets older. However, don't be alarmed if their development takes a slightly different course.

Talk with your pediatrician, however, if your child displays any of the following signs of possible developmental delay for this age range.

  • Cannot throw a ball overhand

  • Cannot jump in place

  • Cannot ride a tricycle

  • Cannot grasp a crayon between thumb and fingers

  • Has difficulty scribbling

  • Cannot stack four blocks

  • Still clings or cries whenever their parents leave them

  • Shows no interest in interactive games

  • Ignores other children

  • Doesn't respond to people outside the family

  • Doesn't engage in fantasy play

  • Resists dressing, sleeping, using the toilet

  • Lashes out without any self-control when angry or upset

  • Cannot copy a circle

  • Doesn't use sentences of more than three words

  • Doesn't use "me" and "you" appropriately

More information

Last Updated
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 7th Edition (Copyright © 2019 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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