3 Years

Discover tips, tools, and support for this age

While you spend time with your child, you’re helping their memory grow! See this in action as they begin to memorize people, events, and movements. Your toddler may also learn how to dress and undress on their own, copy words and actions, and walk up and down stairs (with supervision). 

Learn more about your toddler’s development, explore 3-K and Pre-K, and find free events for kids and families in NYC.


The Early Childhood Family Toolkit

The Early Childhood Family Toolkit is a growing collection of our favorite resources for families with young kids. Discover learn-at-home tips and activities, health support, and more—all chosen by the NYC Department of Education.


Explore our favorite family resources

Brain Building

Learn through life's everyday moments

Invite your child to hunt for objects of different sizes. How many small things can they find? What about big things? Make it harder and ask them to find things that are medium-sized or huge. Talk about what they see and what is the same and different.

See what your child is learning

When you and your child take turns and talk about ideas like big and small and same and different, you're helping to develop their vocabulary. They're also beginning to understand math and science ideas that are important now and in the future.


Skills children develop as they play, learn, speak, act, and move are called milestones. Learn about milestones to help you understand your child's development and act early if you have concerns.

Around 3 years old, many children:

  • Social

    • Copy adults and friends
    • Show affection for friends without being asked to
    • Take turns in games
    • Show concern for a crying friend
    • Understand ideas of "mine" and "his," or "hers"
    • Show a wide range of emotions
    • Separate easily from mom and dad
    • Can dress and undress own their own
  • Communication

    • Follow instructions with 2 or 3 steps
    • Name most familiar things
    • Understand words like "in," "on," and "under"
    • Say first name, age, and gender
    • Say words like "me," "we," and "you" and some plurals, like dogs and cats
    • Talk well enough for strangers to understand
    • Carry on a conversation using 2 or 3 sentences
  • Learning

    • Work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts
    • Play make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
    • Do puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces
    • Copy a circle with pencil or crayon
    • Turn book pages one at a time
    • Build towers of more than 6 blocks
  • Physical Development

    • Climb well, run easily, and pedal a tricycle
    • Walk up and down stairs
    • Screw and unscrew jar lids and turn door handle
  • Health

    • Have 3 ounces of grains daily (such as 1 cup of breakfast cereal plus 1 cup of rice)
    • Have 1 cup of vegetables daily (such as 2 medium carrots OR 1 large tomato)
    • Have 2 cups of fruit daily (such as 1 small apple plus 1 banana)
    • Have 2 ounces of meat and beans daily (such as 2 slices of turkey OR a ½ cup of lentils)
    • Have 2 cups of milk daily
    • Have at least 30 minutes of adult-led physical activity
    • Have 1 hour of free play
    • Are not inactive for more than 1 hour at a time, unless sleeping
    • Sleep about 10–13 hours per day
    • Stay on schedule with shots

Act early by talking to a doctor, teacher, or social worker if your child:

  • Act Early

    • Drools or has unclear speech
    • Doesn't speak in sentences
    • Doesn't understand simple instructions
    • Can't work simple toys, such as peg boards or simple puzzles
    • Doesn't play pretend or make-believe
    • Doesn't want to play with other children or toys
    • Doesn't make eye contact


Find the support your family needs to thrive

EarlyLearn NYC Head Start

NYC Department of Education

Head start for 3 & 4 year olds

Eight hours a day of free early care and education for three and four year olds

3-K for All (3-K)

NYC Department of Education

Early education for three-year-olds

3-K for All is free, full-day, high-quality education for New York City three-year-olds.

Pre-K for All (Pre-K)

NYC Department of Education

Free Pre-K for four-year-olds

Enroll your child in a free, full-day, high-quality Pre-K program.

Virtual Events

See what your family can do for free in NYC

3:00 PM - 3:45 PM

Virtual Drag Queen Story Hour

Please join Queens Public Library for a Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH). The program features…