Stages of Play: Three Years Old

Want to know what to expect from your growing toddler? These guides share general timelines for developmental milestones and how to encourage new stages of play.

What to expect at this stage

Just like the first year of your baby’s life, the toddler years come with a lot of growth and learning (both for you and your kiddo). While you’re nearing the end of the toddler years, there is so much fun ahead and much to look forward to.

The only real way to start this section on development is by asking one simple question: Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? At three years old, your child’s brain works hard to connect the dots in their new and fascinating world.

They’re curious and seeking to understand the big world around them. This comes with many questions, the big one being “why.” This is a good thing.

Brain development is rapid at this age, and asking “why” questions can help increase security and confidence.

Speaking of confidence, your kiddo will be testing the limits of their body and its movements.

How to incorporate play at this stage

Your kiddo is ready to put that peddle to the metal with new coordination skills.

Another thing you may notice is that their fine motor skills are becoming more refined and precise.

Craft time will also hit a new level. Depending on their opportunities for practice, your child may be able to open and close scissors and start to cut simple straight lines across the paper.

They’ll love creating at this age and will have lots of fun playing with glue, pom poms, sparkles, and more. Hand preference (i.e., using the same hand for one activity and perhaps a different hand for another activity) is usually formed by about two to three years of age.

It is pretty standard for children at this age to use different hands for different activities (i.e., right hand for cutting, left hand for coloring, left or right for eating).

Hand dominance (using the same hand for most activities) doesn’t start until four to six years.

As for other activities, there are many options for exploration and play.

Children this age also love sorting and organizing. While I’m sure we’d love their help with the laundry—organizing a small pile of toys (such as cars) into color, size, and category is much more fun.

At three years, your child will likely be able to take their clothes off independently and start putting them on alone, but don’t be surprised if they still ask for your help at times.

It is 100 per cent okay to help them when they need it. They will still need help with clothing fasteners, but let them experiment by trying some or all of them on their own.

Your child will also enjoy some autonomy in choosing their own clothes. Giving them a choice of two options is best, as more will likely overwhelm them and make a choice more difficult (and time-consuming).

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