Three-Year-Olds - Needs and Expectations

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The third year is a fascinating one in the growth of a child and is personally my very favorite. I have never met a three-year-old I didn't just adore. The three-year-old can do things. He can run, jump, ride a trike and go up and down stairs proficiently. He loves to run errands, and his best reward is a smile from his parents. He pays attention to adults and watches their facial expression for approval or disapproval. He is motivated by stories, games and songs to get a message across. He is very curious and loves to talk and learn.

Social Development

  • Begins to enjoy other children, but may start hitting and pushing
  • They may have an imaginary playmate and have difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy.
  • They like to say "Me too" and "Mine."
  • Asks lots of questions
  • They are adept at reading facial expressions

Physical Development

  • They like to eat and can feed themselves
  • May have more colds and communicable diseases
  • They have good use of their hands and fingers. They can pick up small objects.
  • They are starting to draw pictures.

Mental Development

  • May be able to count to ten
  • Love to listen to stories
  • Use language to get what they want.

Task Expectations

  • Pick up toys
  • Dress himself
  • Clear his plate from the table
  • Clean the TV screen
  • Dust with a feather duster
  • Deliver items from one room to another
  • Drop extra change into the charity jars at the grocery store
  • Put clothing away (Cut out pictures of clothing and paste on 3 x 5 cards. Tape the cards to the corresponding drawers.)

It is exciting to learn about the ages and stages of your child. If they don't do everything on the list, don't be concerned, but do be aware. This is just a guideline of what a great many children can do at that age and stage of their life.

Have fun with them. It is a great time of rapid development in their lives. Enjoy it.

Judy H. Wright is a parent educator, family coach, and personal historian who has written more than 20 books, hundreds of articles and speaks internationally on family issues, including end of life. You are invited to visit our blog at for answers and suggestions which will enhance your relationships. You will also find a full listing of free tele-classes and radio shows held each Thursday just for you at

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