You hear a lot about the Terrible Twos, but hearing about the dreaded "threenager" stage of your toddler's development is the one that will scare you back into birth control. Every person I know with a 3 year old has sufficiently terrified me for when my daughter reaches those ranks in a few months, but I'm also a little excited. Knowing the milestones your toddler reaches by 3 years old will make anyone happy, right? I mean, sure, 3 year olds have total attitudes (so do I), but they are also these incredibly magical little creatures that make life worth living. (Except for the times when they make you cry.)
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said it best — ages 3 and 4 are the "magic years". Your kid is no longer a baby at this point. (OK, OK, they're always your baby.) They are now a tiny little human quoting Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and making up songs about elephants and poop. Everything is amazing, every day is the best, and you are their whole world. As they're gaining their independence, testing boundaries, and trying new things, you may feel like they're ready to jump away from you. But the truth is, you are still the center of their universe. Knowing that, plus all of the little magical capabilities a 3-year-old possesses can make the "year of the threenager" a little easier to bear.
Plus, who can resist these milestones your 3 year old will reach? Although every child is different, these are general milestones, so if you're concerned at all about your own 3 year old, reach out to their pediatrician. Otherwise, enjoy the wacky, funny, lovely, and maddening world of 3-year-old milestones. It's basically Wonderland.
1They Can Ride A Tricycle
Finally, you can dust off that Radio Flyer trike. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 3 year old should be able to pedal a tricycle pretty well. They'll be whipping it up and down the sidewalk in no time with that kind of confidence.
2They Can Dress & Undress Themselves
Finally, right? Until you realize your kid has thrown every clean item on the floor after having a fashion show. The CDC also noted that by 3, your child should be able to dress and undress themselves. Whether they get everything to match or not is anybody's guess.
3They Can Talk Well Enough To Be Understood
You're their parent, so you always know what they're saying (for the most part). But by 3, your child should be talking well enough that a complete stranger can understand them. The AAP noted that they will be able to speak in sentences of five to six words, master some grammar, and speak clearly when telling a story or having a conversation.
4They Can Solve Problems
Whether it's through unscrewing jar lids, opening door handles, or solving puzzles with three to four pieces, the CDC noted that your little one's problem solving capabilities will flourish by 3. They will also be able to explain more easily why they are upset, how to solve their emotions, and negotiate solutions for conflicts according to the AAP.
5They Can Draw Things Other Than Scribbles
Yay, there goes your fridge. Beyond scribbles, your 3-year-old child can probably draw some shapes and even figures that represent you or other family members according to the AAP.
6Their Social Skills Blossom
And I mean, blossom. According to Parents, 3 is when children begin really playing with their peers and become aware of what play dates actually are and how to behave. If you have a particularly anxious kid, this may be a difficult time for them, but their awareness of playing with other children and making friends is still there.
7They Can Walk Up & Down Stairs
Yup, according to the CDC, your 3-year-old can now manage to walk up and down a set of stairs on their own with one foot on each step. Remember the baby gates? Aw, memories.
8They Can Use Pronouns
Although Elmo has a lot to answer for in terms of referring to himself as Elmo all the time, your 3-year-old child should grow out of that habit. According to the CDC, most 3 year olds use pronouns like we, me, I, and you when telling a story or referencing someone, including themselves.
9They Can Throw, Kick, & Catch A Ball
Outdoor play time just got a whole lot more fun. The AAP noted that by 3, most kids can throw a ball overhand, catch a bouncy ball (most of the time), and kick a ball forward. Organized sports are still a mess at this point, but hey, progress.
10They Become More Imaginative With Pretend Play
Whether they're playing house or becoming a princess to fight off monsters, 3 is the age where their imagination really takes off according to the AAP. They will become more imaginative than ever before and really dive into pretend play meaning everything is a dragon and you have no say in it.
11They Understand Time More Clearly
So instead of trying to explain five minutes over and over again while your kid waits for a cookie or to get out of the car, a 3-year-old child can kind of understand it, noted the AAP. Of course, this isn't fool-proof, but knowing that they can kind of grasp time and what it means is going to be really helpful.
12They Can Recall Stories & Make Up Their Own
"Mama, remember that time we went to the store and you bought me a cookie?" "Remember when I met Santa?" "Yesterday, my brother gave me a sucker." Your kid will be full of quips like this because at 3 years old they start to recall stories and even make up their own, according to Parents. They may not get all of the details right or pronounce everything correctly, but they will definitely try.
13They Become A Giant Ball Of Wonder
Seriously. I'm converted — 3 years old sounds less scary and more fun than anything. This is when your kids are really learning who they are, they are beginning to understand their emotions and those of people around them, and they are working really hard to share their personality with you. Soak it all in.