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

Start telling a story with your child: "Once upon a time there was a beautiful person who lived in a castle." Ask them, "What do you think this person did today?" They might say, "She played!" You continue, "What did she play with?" Keep the story going based on their responses.

See what your child is learning

Telling ongoing stories with children can become a loving tradition that they will remember and cherish all of their lives. It's skill building too. This is a great way to use imagination and build their memory and vocabulary.


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

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.

3-K for All (3-K)

NYC Department of Education (DOE)

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 (DOE)

Free Pre-K for four-year-olds

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