The Average Three Year Old

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The Average Three Year Old

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Has a full set of temporary (baby) teeth.
Is usually dry all night, but forgets sometimes during the day.
Helps with dressing and undressing; can manage large buttons and zippers.
Feeds himself without spilling.
Helps put toys and clothing away.
Walks very well, climbs stairs, rides a trike.
May take a “pretend” nap instead of a real one.


Is agreeable and cheerful most of the time.
Acts like a baby when he is tired, may want to be carried.
Begins to tell about having dreams.
May be afraid of animals, of the dark, and of being hurt.
Begins to have sympathy toward people and animals.


Talks in complete sentences.
Knows common colors: red, blue, yellow, and green.
Sings and can carry a simple tune
Knows what “today” and “tomorrow” are, but doesn’t understand “yesterday.”
Likes to play house, and will play any part.
Loves stories, especially about babyhood.
Starts to notice differences between boys and girls.
Talks and talks and talks.


With grown-ups:

  • tries to get attention and approval
  • adjusts quite easily to strange people and places
  • follows reasoning and suggestions
  • needs less help from grown-ups when solving problems

With other children:

  • shares and takes turns most of the time
  • sometimes has a special friend or an imaginary playmate
  • can be very jealous of a new baby in the home
  • still likes to have time to play alone
  • sometimes boss and tells others what to do


As your 3 year old gets closer to 4 years old, the pleasant behavior he has shown may begin to “break up.” The 3-1/2 year old shows insecurity and fear, and becomes very demanding. There may be stuttering, bad dreams and whining. This is hard on parents, but is quite normal. Be patient. It’s all part of the process of growing up!

Ask Dr. Susan