3 Years

At age three, children are becoming more social and enjoy exploring with their imagination. They are gaining more control over their emotions and bodies. Children at this age like to have opportunities to help make decisions. “Why” is a word that parents often hear at this time, as children try to understand their world.

Your Baby

Your child may…

  • Show more signs of physical coordination – Running, jumping, kicking and riding a tricycle. Give your child a safe place to be active.
  • Show more signs cognitive / mental development – Putting together puzzles with more then ten pieces and memorizing their own full name, names of relatives or songs.
  • Have less need for an afternoon nap – It still helps to set aside quite time in the afternoon for quiet activities and minimal stimulation.
  • Become more aware of his/her body and aware of gender – Share simple, honest answers about boys’ and girls’ bodies.
  • Begin using scissors – You can help by holding the paper and encouraging the safe use of scissors.
  • Ask a lot of questions – Whenever possible, use experiences and ideas that they can relate to.
  • Memorize information – Practice repeating her full name, names of family members or relatives, songs, etc.

Your Family

Be careful with sugar

It is easy to go overboard on sugar. It is a source of energy that is found in almost all foods including healthy choices like whole foods such as fruit, breads, cereals, milk and cheese. These foods are healthy for growing children because they have nutrients such as calcium, vitamins and fiber. Foods like cookies, candy, processed fruit snacks, fruit drinks, and even 100% fruit juice have more sugar and less nutrients. If your child fills up on these snacks, they may be less interested in more nutritious foods at mealtimes. Excessive juice intake can also add too many calories and contribute to your child becoming overweight.

The recommendation is that young children get no more than 8 ounces of 100% juice per day. Soda pop is not healthy for growing children. Milk and water are good choices to keep your child hydrated.

Childcare and Preschool

You may be in considering preschool or childcare soon. Look for a setting that fits your family’s style and needs. Preschool programs have a broad range of hours and days, and are usually designed for 3-4 year-olds. Visit a variety of settings and talk to other parents. Things to look for in a quality setting include:

  • Happy children
  • Cleanliness
  • Encouragement of parent involvement
  • Accreditation and/or well-trained staff

For more detailed information and a list of licensed providers and preschool programs in the region, visit greatstarttoquality.org or call

Start Good Sleep Habits

Getting Enough Sleep: Children require 8-12 hours of sleep per night. It is important to be consistent by establishing a bedtime routine children can count on. Include activities such as a regular bedtime, bath, quiet play, and bedtime stories to help your child transition from wakefulness to drowsiness. Your child may still need a favorite blanket or stuffed toy to fall asleep.

Sharing and Arguments

When children at this age play together, there are often disagreements over toys, as it is challenging for children to share “their stuff.” Sharing is a skill that takes time to develop. You can help your child learn sharing by practicing simple turn-taking activities such as simple games, talking on the phone, and by your good example. Some suggestions for play time with others include:

  • Putting away his favorite toys during the play date with another child
  • Providing multiple toys with similar functions, such as toy cars or dolls
  • If fighting occurs over the same toy use a timer to trade off after a few minutes

Being a good example also helps.  You are your child’s first and most influential teacher. Your child will learn more from you than any other person, especially during the first five years of life.

Your Checklist

Keep up with your child’s changing safety needs.
  • Supervised play is a must, especially outdoors and near water
  • During any season, sunscreen is a must for outdoor play
  • Talk with your child about safety issues such as stranger safety, fire safety, and the use of 9-1-1
  • Visit your local library together to find books that stress safety
  • Keep your child away from dangerous equipment such as lawn mowers and other outdoor tools
  • Always use appropriate helmets and life jackets
  • Car seats with an internal harness are a must until age four – it is the law!
  • Be especially cautious with cleaning products, medicines, and vitamins
  • Post the Poison Control number by your phone: 1-800-222-1222
  • For more information on child safety, visit michigansafekids.com

Remember to schedule your 3-year well child checkup.