Developmental milestones for 3-year-old children

By the time your baby is 3-years-old, he or she should be able to do a variety of new things such as dressing themselves and carrying on a simple conversation.

Jade Elliott spoke with Carrie Martinez, Utah Department of Health, to discuss the important milestones your child should reach by 3-years-old and tools to help parents on this episode of the Baby Your Baby Podcast.

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Social and Emotional

  • Copies adults and friends
  •  Shows affection for friends without prompting
  •  Takes turns in games
  • Shows concern for crying friend
  • Understands the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”
  • Shows a wide range of emotions
  • Separates easily from mom and dad
  •  May get upset with major changes in routine
  •  Dresses and undresses self


  •  Follows instructions with 2 or 3 steps
  • Can name most familiar things
  • Understands words like “in,” “on,” and “under”
  • Says first name, age, and sex
  •  Names a friend
  •  Says words like “I,” “me,” “we,” and “you” and some plurals (cars, dogs, cats)
  • Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time
  •  Carries on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentences

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Can work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts
  •  Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
  •  Does puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces
  • Understands what “two” means
  • Copies a circle with pencil or crayon
  •  Turns book pages one at a time
  •  Builds towers of more than 6 blocks
  •  Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handle

Movement/Physical Development

  •  Climbs well
  •  Runs easily
  • Pedals a tricycle (3-wheel bike)
  •  Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step

What do you do if your baby is not meeting these milestones?

Video Examples 3 year old:

Can parents get their baby on back on track on their own, or is this something they need a professional for?

Most of the time, children get the developmental skills they need when they are given opportunities to practice. Parents play a huge role in their child’s development, and often can help their child right away. For example, if your child’s screening showed a delay in language, you help your child right away, just by practicing this area of development.

However, sometimes your child may need professional intervention. In these situations, it’s best to work with your healthcare or childcare provider to get resources or referrals to professional agencies who are trained to help your child reach their developmental milestone needs.

The Baby Your Baby program provides many resources for all pregnant women and new moms in Utah. There is also expert advice from the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare that air each week on KUTV 2News.