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

Ask your child to pretend to be a statue and freeze in a pose, like standing on one foot. Try to have them hold this pose as long as possible while you do everything you can to make them laugh and move. Then you can take a turn as the statue and see if they can make you laugh and move!

See what your child is learning

This game is all about focus and self-control. Your child is concentrating to stay in the statue pose, and learning to tune out distractions so they can achieve a goal. This kind of playful learning helps them develop skills for life.


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 to 4 ounces of grains daily, including whole grains (1 ounce equals ½ cup oatmeal, ½ cup of rice, 5 whole wheat crackers, 1 slice of whole wheat bread, or ½ cup cooked pasta).
    • Have 1 to 1 ½ cups of vegetables daily (such as ½ cup baby carrots, ½ cup broccoli, and ½ avocado).
    • Have 1 to 1 ½ cups of fruit daily (such as ½ cup unsweetened meaapple sauce, ½ large banana, and ½ cup chopped berries). Fresh, frozen, canned or dried all count.
    • Have 2 to 4 ounces of protein foods daily (1 ounce equals 1 egg, ¼ cup of beans or lentils, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, or ¼ cup tofu). Protein foods include beans, lentils, tofu, poultry, fish, eggs and meat.
    • Have 2 ½ cups of dairy or suitable substitute daily. This includes whole cow’s milk, whole plain yogurt, or unsweetened fortified soy beverage.
    • Drink water between meals for thirst.

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

Head Start

NYC Department of Education (DOE)

Care and education for 3-4 year-olds from low-income families

Head Start programs are free and run year-round for at least eight hours a day.


NYC Department of Education (DOE)

Early education for three-year-olds

Free, full-day and high-quality education for New York City three-year-olds.

Pre-K for All (Pre-K)

NYC Department of Education (DOE)

Free Pre-K for four-year-olds

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