Movement Milestones for Your 3-Year-Old

A preschooler plays hopscotch, one of our recommended activities for 3-year-olds.

Your toddler is on their way to becoming a preschooler, and with that growth comes new milestones! Around this age, you may see your child’s previously clumsy, unbalanced moves becoming more coordinated. New motor skills like improved aim and balance may lead to more advanced activities. Our experts share what to look for at this age, and how you can encourage movement with fun activities for 3-year-olds.

A 3-year-old develops their fine motor skills by stringing large beads together.

By age 3, your child has probably mastered plenty of movement milestones. Now you may see them “level up” those skills by building on what they already know. Here are some 3-year-old movement milestones to look for:

  • Hopping or standing on one foot. Your toddler might start exploring types of movement that require more control. They may be able to hop or stand on one foot, even if only for a few seconds. Encourage this skill by playing games like the floor is lava and hopscotch.
  • Kicking with aim. It was a big deal when your little one started kicking a ball! Now they may take steps to kick them in the “correct” direction. Encourage this milestone by kicking a ball back and forth or aiming for targets like cones or kid-sized soccer goals.
  • Taking the stairs by themselves. Around 2 years old, your toddler may have started taking the stairs while holding your hand or a handrail. At 3, you might notice them walking up and down stairs without any support.
  • Using movements that require increased fine motor skills. At this age, your child is ready to attempt more advanced skills like stringing large beads or macaroni together. Encourage their development with fun indoor activities for 3-year-olds like making garlands and necklaces!
  • Leveling up their ball game. If they’re not already, your little one will soon be able to catch a bounced ball—at least most of the time. They’ll also be able to throw it back to you overhand-style.
  • Increased coordination and balance. Your child is continuously building their gross motor skills. You’ll see their progress as they start moving backward and forward more easily.
  • Pushing pedals. Increased coordination means your 3-year-old may be ready to try new things, like exploring the use of pedals on a tricycle.

Your kiddo is learning and growing all the time! Celebrate their development by clapping and cheering. This tells them they’re doing a great job and encourages them to keep trying.

There are several ways you can help your child meet these 3-year-old milestones. Try these:

  • Stay positive. Nobody’s perfect, especially when they’re trying something new. As your child develops, it might take time for them to master new skills. That’s normal and OK! Avoid trying to correct your child’s movement. At this age, let them move in a way that feels right to them. To raise a child who is active for life, keep movement fun and positive!
  • Be a role model. Your 3-year-old is moving more easily from one activity to another, and keeping up with them has you in constant movement, too! As tiring as it can be, it’s important that your child sees you engaging in play. Role modeling how to move helps them develop a positive relationship with movement and teaches them new skills.
  • Get together. Create opportunities for your little one to play with their friends. Engaging with their peers not only gets kids moving, but it also helps them learn social, emotional and communication skills. Your child can play with other kids at supervised playdates or in a preschool setting.
  • Support all emotions. Your child may show lots of different emotions as they reach new milestones. Feelings like frustration, discomfort and excitement are all normal. Your role as the caregiver is to encourage them through all their ups and downs. Remember, you can never spoil a child by showing love and responding to their needs.

A parent and toddler place kid-safe items in an easy-to-access toy bin.

Your toddler is growing by leaps and bounds! As they become more independent, they’ll start to discover more things on their own. Keep your child safe by following these tips:

  • Keep furniture safe and secure. Prevent tipping of dressers, bookcases and other furniture by anchoring them to the wall.
  • Keep poisonous chemicals out of reach.Child-proof doors to cabinets that contain hazardous materials and make sure items in easy-to-access cabinets are kid safe.
  • Practice water safety. Drowning can happen in as little as 30 seconds. When playing near water, keep kids within arm’s reach.
  • Make sure everyone wears a helmet. Your child should wear a helmet anytime they play on something with wheels. Model best behavior by wearing one yourself anytime you’re on a bike, skateboard or scooter!
  • Follow gun safety rules for families. Your toddler is learning by opening things and exploring them. Practice safe gun storage to keep your child safe. Believe it or not, kids as young as 2 are strong enough to pull a trigger.
  • Check out more home safety tips for parents and caregivers.

Ready to learn about what comes next? Read our article on milestones for 4- to 5-year-olds.

Note: If you’re concerned about your child meeting their milestones, talk with their pediatrician.