Normal behavior for 3 year olds

Child development at 3-4 years

Child development at 3-4 years: what’s happening

This is an important time in your child’s emotional development.

During this year your child really starts to understand that their body, mind and emotions are their own. Your child knows the difference between feeling happy, sad, afraid or angry.

Your child also shows fear of imaginary things, cares about how others act and shows affection for familiar people. And as your child gets more confident, they’ll also get better at handling their emotions.

Playing and learning
Play is important because it’s how your child learns and explores feelings.

Your child is now more interested in playing and making friends with other children. Your child might start to play more cooperatively in small groups. Sharing gets easier because your child understands the concept of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’.

Your child is becoming more imaginative during play. For example, your child might play pretend games with imaginary friends or toys, like having a tea party with toys. Your child might also try different roles – for example, they might pretend to be a doctor or a parent. And at this age, it’s common for preschoolers to have imaginary friends, although your child can probably tell the difference between real and fantasy.

By 4 years, your child might enjoy tricking others and describing what happened – for example, ‘Mum thought I was asleep!’ At the same time, your child also worries about being tricked by others.

Your child might be very curious about bodies – their own and other people’s. For example, you might find your child looking at their own and other children’s genitals. A combination of natural curiosity and role-playing is usually a typical part of childhood sexual behaviour. But if you’re concerned about a child’s sexual behaviour, it’s a good idea to talk with a GP, a paediatrician or another qualified health professional.

Your child’s language develops a lot this year.

Your child learns a lot of new words by listening to you and other adults and also by listening to stories. Your child also shows more interest in communicating and might like to tell stories and have conversations.

Your child understands most of what you say and might guess the words they don’t know. Generally, your child understands many more words than they can say.

Around 3 years, your child uses sentences of 3-5 words, or even more. Other people understand what your child is saying most of the time. Your child also points to parts of pictures – for example, the nose of a cow – and names common objects.

By 4 years, your child speaks in longer sentences of around 5-6 words or more. Other people understand your child all the time. Your child also understands most things you say and follows instructions with 2-3 steps, as long as they’re about familiar things – for example, ‘Close the book, and give it to Mum’. Your child understands adjectives like ‘long’ or ‘thin’ and uses ‘feeling’ words like ‘happy’ or ‘sad’.

Your child is fascinated by the world around them and asks a lot of ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘why’ questions. When it comes to understanding, your child knows about opposites like big/small and more/less and concepts like ‘on’, ‘in’ and ‘under’.

Your child’s memory is developing. For example, your child can remember nursery rhymes and might even repeat them back to you. Your child is also starting to point out and name letters and numbers that they remember, and they can count up to 4 objects and sort them by colour and shape.

Everyday skills
Your child loves eating family meals together. And your child understands your family routine and appreciates special events, like birthdays.

Your child is also becoming more independent. For example, your child can feed themselves, put on shoes that don’t have laces, undo buttons and do a bit more when they’re getting dressed.

Your child is probably toilet trained, and they might be able to do some daily hygiene tasks on their own, like going to the toilet, wiping poo from their bottom and washing their hands and face. But your child still needs your help and supervision with tasks like brushing teeth.

Your child loves moving and being active. Your child is better at walking up steps, riding a tricycle, throwing, catching and kicking a ball, running, climbing, jumping, hopping and balancing on one foot. With your child so active, it’s a good idea to look at how you can make your home safe.

When it comes to using their hands, your child might be able to draw a circle or square, build big towers using blocks, and use child-safe scissors. Your child loves using crayons, pencils and paintbrushes, which is great because drawing and painting build your child’s imagination.

At this age, your child might also:

  • unscrew a lid from a jar
  • know their own age
  • know the names of some shapes and colours
  • hold a pencil and copy some letters by 4 years
  • dress and undress themselves.

Helping child development at 3-4 years

Here are simple things you can do to help your child’s development at this age:

  • Give your child plenty of playtime: play is important for developing preschooler emotions, because it helps preschoolers explore and express feelings like joy, excitement, anger or fear. For example, you and your child could try pretend play with puppets .
  • Spend time playing outdoors: this lets your child explore the natural environment, have adventures and test their physical limits. Outdoor play might include messy play in sand or mud, games of chasey or treasure hunts. When you’re outside, remember to be safe in the sun.
  • Make time for creative and artistic play: this might be collage, drawing, dress-up games or storytelling. Musical play is another idea – your child might like to dance, jump around or make music with simple instruments.
  • Read with your preschooler: reading together, telling stories, singing songs and reciting nursery rhymes all encourage your child’s talking, thinking and imagination. These activities also help your child learn to read as they get older.
  • Do some cooking with your child: this helps your preschooler to get interested in healthy food, learn new words and understand maths concepts like ‘half’, ‘1 teaspoon’ or ‘30 minutes’. You can give your child simple things to do, like tossing a salad or putting together sandwiches.
  • Play games with your child that involve learning to share and taking turns. When you play, say things like, ‘Now it’s my turn to build the tower, then it’s your turn’, or ‘You share the red blocks with me, and I’ll share the green blocks with you’. Sharing is still hard for children at this age, so give your child plenty of praise when they share.

At 3-4 years, your child can go to preschool. At preschool your child can learn through play, make friends, and develop responsibility, independence and confidence. Preschool can support and encourage your child’s amazing development – and it can be a lot of fun too.

Parenting a preschooler at 3-4 years

As a parent, you’re always learning. It’s OK to feel confident about what you know. And it’s OK to admit you don’t know and ask questions or get help.

It’s also important to look after yourself. Looking after yourself physically, mentally and emotionally is good for you, and it’s good for your child. When you’re well, you can give your child the loving attention they need to grow and thrive. You can also guide your child’s behaviour in positive ways, even when you find their behaviour challenging.

And remember that part of looking after yourself is asking for help, especially if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or angry. There are many people who can support you and your child, including your partner, friends, relatives, child and family health nurse and GP.

Never shake, hit or verbally abuse a child. You risk harming your child, even if you don’t mean to. If you feel like you can’t cope, it’s OK to take some time out until you feel calmer. Gently put your child in a safe place like their bedroom. Go to another room to breathe deeply, or call your state or territory parenting helpline.

When to be concerned about child development at 3 years

You know your child best. So it’s a good idea to see your child and family health nurse or GP if you have any concerns or notice that your 3-year-old has any of the following issues.

Seeing, hearing and communication
Your child:

  • doesn’t look you in the eye
  • has trouble seeing or hearing things
  • isn’t using 3-word sentences
  • doesn’t understand 2-part instructions – for example, ‘Get your shoes, and put them in the box’
  • is often hard to understand when talking to you, family or friends.

Behaviour and play
Your child:

  • finds it difficult to separate from their primary caregiver
  • isn’t interested in other children
  • doesn’t pretend during play – for example, doesn’t pretend to go shopping or ride on a bus.

Movement and motor skills
Your child:

  • is clumsy – for example, trips over a lot when walking or running
  • finds it hard to handle small objects – for example, a pencil or crayon
  • isn’t drawing simple shapes.

When to be concerned about child development at 4 years

It’s a good idea to see your child and family health nurse or GP if you have any concerns or notice that your 4-year-old has any of the following issues.

Seeing, hearing and communicating
Your child:

  • has trouble seeing or hearing things
  • doesn’t use sentences of more than 3 words
  • can’t understand 2-part instructions like ‘Put the doll down, and pick up the ball’.

Behaviour and play
Your child:

  • has big tantrums over very small things or clings and cries when you leave
  • doesn’t seem to show empathy – for example, doesn’t try to comfort others who are hurt or sad
  • doesn’t pretend during play – for example, doesn’t pretend to be a grown-up or have a tea party
  • seems very afraid, unhappy or sad a lot of the time.

Movement and motor skills
Your child:

  • is clumsy – for example, trips over a lot when walking or running
  • finds it hard to handle small objects – for example, a pencil or crayon
  • has trouble drawing shapes – for example, a circle or square
  • has difficulty dressing themselves or using the toilet.

See a child health professional if at any age your child experiences a noticeable and consistent loss of skills they had before.

Development usually happens in the same order in most children, but skills might develop at different ages or times. If you’re wondering whether your child’s development is on track, or if you feel that something isn’t quite right, it’s best to get help early. See your child and family health nurse or GP.

What’s normal (kinda annoying) 3-year-old behavior and what’s not – SheKnows

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If you’re the parent of a 3-year-old, you’re probably reading this with one eye open — because your other eye has been poked with a pencil or spat in by that tiny little monster running around your house. Yes, the struggle is real, and the fun hardly ends after you make it through the baby years. For many parents, the terrible twos are a walk in the park compared to the 3-year-old horror show that is to come.

Related story Reddit Moms Share ‘Tiny Motivators’ Their Toddlers Have Taught Them

You look at your beautiful child and realize he’s become a smarter but more demanding (and probably impolite and self-centered) little person. You might ask yourself these questions: Am I too lenient? Too strict? Is my child doing what he should be at doing this age? If you are aware of what to expect from your 3-year-old as far as development, milestones and normal behavior go, you’ll both enjoy that journey to 4.

More: Pooping during childbirth was far from the worst part of my delivery

What’s normal behavior for a 3-year-old

Social skills, both fine and gross motor skills and language skills have improved. Far different than your 2-year-old, kids who are 3 are easier to understand and have a better grasp of communicating their needs. Here are some of the milestones to expect from this age group.

3-year-old developmental milestones

3-year-old social skills

  • no longer a toddler
  • has become more independent
  • less selfish than 2-year-olds and exhibits less aggressive behavior
  • more aware of and sensitive to the feelings of others
  • more responsive to other children and able to develop friendships
  • capable of taking turns and sharing toys
  • will begin to identify with his own sex and traditionally gender-related activities
  • more interested in structured games
  • spends much of his time in fantasy activity and will have imaginary friends (This is actually a very creative way for your child to sample different activities, behaviors and emotions.)
  • sense of time has become clearer and he’ll know his daily routine and will try to figure out the routines of others
  • will have a capacity to understand his own place spatially amongst the family and is able to view you as a separate person
  • wants to please you — will be less dependent on you because his sense of identity is growing stronger
  • will exhibit a feisty attitude on occasion and resist your requests

3-year-old motor skills

  • losing his baby fat, developing more muscle control and gaining in height
  • is quite agile and can catch a ball with arms extended
  • jumps down from object 18-inches high using two-footed takeoff and landing
  • will be interested in tools such as scissors, paper, fingerpaint and crayons
  • can walk up and down stairs while alternating feet
  • can bend over and not fall down
  • draws a circle
  • cuts paper into two pieces
  • concentration is required when learning to master precision finger and hand movements

3-year-old language skills

  • will have mastered the basic rules of language and should have an active vocabulary of 600 or more words with 80 percent intelligibility
  • should be able to say her name
  • answers the question, “How old are you?”
  • able to talk in sentences of three or fours words and imitate most speech sounds but still has thoughts and emotions that can’t be conveyed through language
  • uses plurals and pronouns
  • may mispronounce words and will become extremely frustrated when he is not understood

Next Up: 3-year-old survival tips

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It would seem that yesterday you brought an envelope from the maternity hospital, and today the baby is already three years old. Now the child has become a preschooler. What changes await him in the coming year in psychological and physical terms? Especially for parents, we have prepared a checklist that takes into account the developmental features of three-four-year-old children.

Physical development of children aged 3-4

Early preschool age is a new stage in the life of children. At this age, the baby is usually:

- already knows how to jump, run, climb objects;

- attempts to play group games;

- gaining weight slightly, only 1-2 kg per year;

- grows by 3-7 cm;

- has up to 20 milk teeth.

Mental development of children 3-4 years old

This period is characterized by the fact that the child begins to identify himself as a person and requires a proper attitude. In a small person appear:

- stubbornness;

- negativism;

- attempts to command;

- overestimated independence;

- jealousy.

Parents should remember that it is at this age that the child has the first crisis, which they, as older and more experienced, must help to cope with.

Social and communicative development of children 3-4 years old

At this age it is important to teach the child:

- to say hello when meeting other children and adults; nine0003

– get to know peers;

- share and exchange;

- take part in joint games with other children;

- use fantasy in joint games;

- be able to tell about yourself: what is his name, what are the names of his parents;

- speak polite words and know the rules of behavior in society.

Intellectual development of a child at 3-4 years old

Starting from the age of three, a certain knowledge base is formed in the child, which he tries to apply. The kid actively gets acquainted with the world around him and by his age should already know:

- names and characteristics of 10 pets;

- 5-7 species of birds, be able to show them in the picture;

- 4-5 varieties of fish;

- 4-5 varieties of insects;

- names of the main plants growing in the region: up to 5 species of trees and flowers;

- names of vegetables, berries, fruits and mushrooms that grow in the region and are sold on the shelves;

- what is the difference between the characteristics of materials such as wood, glass, stone, plastic; nine0003

– times of day and their characteristics;

- the seasons and how they differ;

- natural phenomena;

- parts of the body, and be able to show them;

- 3-5 popular professions;

- up to 10 types of vehicles;

– what is the difference between a city and a village.

Logical and mathematical development of children 3-4 years old

Between the ages of three and four, basic logical operations and mathematical concepts improve. If a child is given enough attention, then at this age he can confidently:

- count up to 10;

- name the primary colors;

- know geometric shapes;

- know the concepts more - less, many - few, high - low, etc.;

- compare objects according to 1-2 features;

– add pictures from fragments;

- find differences between similar pictures.

Parents should actively encourage children of this age to engage in independent activities by offering to complete certain tasks. nine0003

Speech development of children 3-4 years old

By the age of three, a baby should be able to:

– compose simple phrases;

talk about recent events;

- use speech as a way of obtaining new information;

- retell a fairy tale based on illustrations;

- talk about yourself;

- try to change words by case.

By the age of four, a child should have mastered the following skills:

- describe the seen image;

- quickly formulate one's thoughts;

- know the signs of objects;

- use verbs;

- repeat complex phrases after adults;

- give your first and last name;

- invent your own words, determine the meaning of incomprehensible words.

Artistic development of a 3-4 year old child

The ability to express one's feelings through creativity plays an important role in the formation of a child's psyche. At the age of 3-4 years, it is desirable for a child to master the following types of creativity:

- drawing with pencils, finger paints, brushes, crayons, sponges, felt-tip pens;

- applications of colored paper, natural materials, wadding;

- molding from plasticine and clay;

- construction;

- cutting along the contour with children's scissors with round ends;

- origami - folding figures without the use of scissors and glue;

- in addition to classes aimed at developing creative potential, the child should be offered to develop knowledge in painting, music, and literature. nine0003

Keep your finger on the pulse of your baby's development. But do not get carried away by the fears of not having time to develop the child according to the generally accepted scale. Children develop differently! And if, nevertheless, there is doubt that your child keeps up with their peers, the personal assistance of a preschool teacher will not hurt.

Materials provided by a professional teacher Tatyana Fedorovna Antonova. Tatyana Fedorovna, a teacher with 48 years of experience, lives in Prague and teaches children aged 3-12 in her school to read, write, math and Russian in person and online. She teaches her youngest students aged 3 to 6 the basics of reading and writing, counting, logic and the world around her, helping them take the first steps in the development of speech and develop fine motor skills. nine0186

You can find additional information on the website of the School of Tatyana Fedorovna, on Instagram and Facebook.

Peculiarities of a child's development at the age of 3-4

Many children go to kindergarten and begin to explore the world more actively. How can adults help them?

At the age of 3-4, children strive to learn about the world around them and ask a lot of questions, they actively develop their speech and expand their social contacts. They are no longer kids who did not walk very confidently and could not always explain their desires in words, but they are still far from school. What new skills and interests arise at this age, and in what cases should parents consult with specialists? nine0200

The main achievements of this age

Emotional development

This is an important period in the emotional development of the child. If earlier the child could not imagine himself without a mother, now he begins to realize that his body, mind and emotions belong to him. He begins to confidently distinguish emotions, understands the difference between feelings of happiness, sadness, fear or anger.

A child of this age may be afraid of the fruits of his own imagination (for example, monsters under the bed), worry about how others act, and show affection for people he knows. As the baby becomes more confident in himself, he copes better with his emotions. nine0003

Games and learning

The child actively learns and expresses his emotions through games, so they are also very important. He is now more interested in playing with other children, better distinguishes between the concepts of "mine" and "his / her", shares toys more willingly than before.

During the game, the child acts more inventively and shows imagination. He tries different roles and behaviors - for example, he can portray a doctor or one of the parents; can have a tea party with his toys and play with imaginary friends. At this age, children often invent imaginary companions for themselves, although they are already able to distinguish fantasy from reality. nine0003

By the age of 4, the child sometimes tries to play pranks on others and tell others about it, for example: “Mom thought I was sleeping!” At the same time, the baby begins to worry that others will deceive him too.

The child may show interest in other people's bodies and his own. Therefore, for example, parents may one day find that the baby is exploring his genitals. This curiosity is quite natural and normal.


A real leap is taking place in the development of a child's speech. He memorizes many new words from fairy tales, cartoons and adult conversations. In general, the kid begins to be much more interested in communication than before, he may want to tell a story himself. nine0003

The child understands most of what others tell him and is able to guess the meaning of words he does not know from the context. So children 3-4 years old, as a rule, understand much more words than they can say.

At about 3 years old, a child can use sentences of 3-5 words or even more. Articulation also improves, and now strangers begin to understand the bulk of what the baby says. He is able to describe the picture in general terms and even point out the details - for example, the nose of a cow. nine0003

By the age of 4, the child's speech consists of fairly long sentences (5–6 words or more), and those around him understand almost everything he wants to say. The child, in turn, also understands most of the words addressed to him and can follow simple instructions from 2-3 points when it comes to familiar objects: for example, "Close the book and give it to mom."

A 4-year-old child understands adjectives such as "long" or "thin" and expresses emotions such as "happy" or "sad" in speech. nine0003


The child is literally fascinated by the diversity of the world around him and asks a lot of questions. He distinguishes between opposites, such as "big - small", and understands such indications of the location of objects in space, as "on", "in", and "under".

His memory is also developing rapidly. For example, he memorizes and repeats nursery rhymes, begins to point to and name the letters and numbers he has memorized, can count up to 4, and separate objects by color and shape. nine0003

Everyday life

The baby becomes more independent. For example, he can eat himself, put on shoes without laces, unfasten buttons. Most likely, he can already independently perform some daily hygiene procedures, for example, go to the toilet, wash his hands, wash his face. But he still needs parental help and supervision in such manipulations as brushing his teeth and washing his hair.

Physical activity

Children at this age are very active and love to move. Now they are much better at walking up stairs, and they can also ride a tricycle, they can catch a ball, throw it and kick it, run, climb, jump, and even balance on one leg for a short time. nine0003

In terms of fine motor skills, the child can draw a circle or a square, build a tower of blocks and is good with children's scissors. He likes colored pencils and paints, and with the help of drawing, the kid develops his imagination.

At this age, your child usually has the following skills:

  1. can open a screw-top jar;
  1. can give their gender and age;
  1. knows basic shapes and colors; nine0252
  1. dresses and undresses independently;
  1. by the age of 4 holds a pencil in his hand and can write some letters.

How to help your child develop in 3-4 years

  1. Give your child a lot of time for unstructured play: with their help, preschoolers express joy, excitement, anger or fear. Children at this age also like to mess around in the sandbox, play with dolls and other toys. Especially outdoors, where you can actively move. nine0252
  1. Find time to create things together, whether it's drawing, sculpting, appliqué or dressing up dolls. Another idea that a child might like is musical games: all kinds of dances, active games to music, or playing simple instruments.
  1. Read with your child: reading stories and fairy tales together, singing familiar songs and reciting poems by heart - all this develops speech, stimulates the thinking and imagination of the child. nine0252
  1. Cook with your child. This will help him develop healthy eating habits, learn new words, and learn concepts such as "half", "3 teaspoons" or "30 minutes". You can give your baby simple tasks in the kitchen: for example, toss a salad or make sandwiches.
  1. Play games that develop the ability to share and take turns. During the game, say something like: "Now it's my turn to build a tower, and then yours", or "You give me a red die, and I give you a green one." At this age, it is still quite difficult for children to share their things - praise the baby when he is ready to share and exchange toys. nine0252

At the age of 3-4, many children already go to kindergarten. There they learn through play, make friends, become more responsible, independent and self-confident. Being in a peer group in kindergarten can be a good incentive for the further development of a child.

Causes for concern

Despite common age traits, each child develops at his own pace. If you have concerns about its development or you notice signs of problems in it, it is better to contact a specialist. nine0003

At 3 years old

Vision, hearing and communication: the child avoids making eye contact with others; can't see or hear well; in speech uses sentences of less than 3 words.

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