Three Year Visit

3 Year Old

Three year olds are delightful most of the time, although exhausting on occasion.  Typically, the 3 year old is calmer, more conforming, and easier to manage.  At age 3, children adore their parents and want to be just like them.  Their expressed affection and desire to please make them responsive and loveable.  Three year olds are beginning to grasp the concept of time and may be able to wait “a little while” rather than demanding instant gratification of their desires. However, keep in mind that a child’s grasp of time is on an expanded scale (i.e. one hour is a very long time).


By 3, children can run, jump, and climb with finer coordination.  Most 3 year olds can pedal a tricycle, throw a ball overhand and balance on one foot briefly.  Improved hand-eye coordination is seen in their ability to build a nine-block tower, to draw a recognizable copy of simple shapes and cut paper with scissors.

3 year olds speak in short (three word) sentences and ask many simple questions.  Their speech articulation is not perfect, but you should be able to understand what they’re saying.  Stammering may occur, on an occasional basis or for short periods of time, it is not a concern.  This dysfunction is best handled with patient listening.  Allow the child time to finish speaking and do not call attention to the difficulty.  Their brains are moving faster than their tongues!

Three year olds name colors and may count to 10.  They love to hear favorite stories and can recall the words of many nursery rhymes and songs.  Many have favorite stories and most love reading.  Limit and monitor television and video at this age to one hour a day.  Know what your children are watching.  Many cartoons portray violence.  Children model what they observe, and television can be a source for unhealthy language and behavior.

Three year olds continue to enjoy sand and water play.  They enjoy manipulating clay, painting, and crayons.  Jigsaw puzzles, picture games and domino games begin to interest them now.  Three year olds especially enjoy imaginative play-doll play, puppetry, make-believe and dress up.  Electronic games marketed for this age are not the best of toys.  Stick with the “old fashioned” toys.

The AAP recommends vitamin D supplementation for all infants, children, and adolescents.    After reviewing the literature, it certainly looks like many children may benefit from vitamin D, although not everyone necessarily needs it.   Some children are more at risk for vitamin D deficiency than others.  Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency include dark skin (African-americans, Indians, Hispanics), time spent indoors and not out in the sunlight (particularly in the winter months), low amount of milk consumption (less than 16 oz a day), and obesity.  The recommended dose is 400 IU (international units) once daily.  This can be bought over the counter in either liquid, chewable, or pill form.  Another option would be a multivitamin (i.e. Flintstones Gummies Complete ).   Read the label carefully when dosing this to your child.  Too much vitamin D can be harmful.


Three year olds enjoy other children their age and benefit from the opportunity to attend a play group or nursery school.  They may share toys, but do not really understand how to take turns and often prefer parallel play.  Imaginary friends are often created at this age.  The three year old will give these “friends” names, talk to them, and may involve you in imaginary situations with these make-believe friends.  This development should not concern you.  Retain your sense of humor and patience.  Your child will give up imaginary friends when they are ready.


Life is too exciting for the average 3 year old to allow for sleep.  Firmness and set routine which helps the child prepare for bedtime will help.  Sleep requirements very widely.  Most 3 year olds need 10-11 hours of sleep and a 1-2 hour nap, but many need much less and may have given up a nap by now.


Time out (1 minute per age) is the most effective method for setting limits and managing misbehavior.  Three year olds respond positively to encouragement, praise and consistent direction.  They may want to help with simple household chores.  Let them know you appreciate their help and praise their accomplishments. is an excellent resource for parenting tips.  Please parent your child, the world will thank you!


Your three year old is ready to visit the dentist now.  Continue to oversee their brushing routine.


Three year olds are becoming self-sufficient.  Their appetites are fairly good and they feed themselves with little spilling.  They are able to wash and dry hands and start to dress themselves with help for the fastenings.  Most three year olds have a daytime bowel and bladder control but night time wetting may continue for another year or two.  Many three year olds require a quiet play time or rest period in the afternoon.

Enjoy your three year old.  A three year olds’ improved language skills, their curiosity about the world, and their great imagination make them great company.