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No longer a toddler, your three-year-old is less top heavy and can generally get around faster and with more confidence. She’ll also be holding crayons with her fingers instead of her fists, can make balls and snakes out of clay, and can undress without help.

Toddler on seesaw

Physical skill development

From 3-4 years, your child will show more control and balance when he walks, climbs, jumps, hops, marches and gallops. He’ll be able to jump off low steps or objects, and can climb stairs with alternating feet, using the hand rail for balance. He’ll be able to walk in a line, move quickly around obstacles, run at an even pace, and turn and stop well. Your child will also be able to walk without watching his feet, and can walk backwards.

Your child will be better at balancing, allowing her to ride a tricycle or bicycle with training wheels. She’ll also be able to use her legs to pump a swing. When balancing, your child will use a wide base of support so she doesn’t fall over. She’ll be exploring the use of different body parts as bases of support – for example, she might balance on two elbows and one knee.

Although your child is getting better at jumping, he might have trouble landing on both feet at the same time. Your child will stand on one foot unsteadily, and will watch his feet when he’s walking on a low balance beam.

At three, your child can roll sideways.

At this age, she’ll be improving at ball play, coordinating her movements to throw, catch, kick and bounce balls. She’ll be able to catch a large ball with two hands and her body, and can kick a stationary ball so it travels about 2 m forward. She’ll also be able to run forward to kick a stationary ball.

Children in this age group typically show genuine excitement about physical activity. But your child will tire easily, and will need brief rest periods between short activity sessions.

Your child is developing the strength, dexterity and control needed to use tools such as scissors, a paper punch, stapler and hammer.

His hand-eye coordination is improving, so he’ll be getting better at building with blocks, putting together simple puzzles, stringing big beads, drawing shapes (for example, a circle), putting large pegs in holes, pouring liquids (with some spills) and spreading soft butter with a dull knife.

Your child can hold crayons with her fingers instead of her fist, and will be able to manipulate clay into ball or snake shapes.

While your child can now undress without your help, he’ll still need your help getting dressed. He can undo buttons skilfully, but does up buttons slowly.

Your child will start to show a preference for being right-handed or left-handed, but she might still alternate between them.

    Health status and practices

    At this age, your child can wash his hands, brush his teeth, and use the toilet with growing independence. He’ll be able to blow his own nose when reminded. Also, your child will be starting to try new food on his own.

    As your child grows, she’ll be improving her ability to calm herself.

    Your child will be building his awareness and ability to follow basic health and safety rules, such as fire safety, and traffic and pedestrian safety. She’ll be responding to potentially harmful objects, substances and activities in appropriate ways. And your child will be able to communicate dangerous behaviour to other people. For example, ‘Don’t throw sand!’

      Children grow and develop at different rates. The information above is offered as a guide only. Don’t expect your child’s physical development to fit in with all the areas listed. If you’re in any way worried about your child’s physical development, it’s best to speak with your child health nurse or doctor.
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      • Last Updated 10-03-2011
      • Last Reviewed 14-01-2010
      • Acknowledgements

        © 2002-2006 Public Broadcasting Service.  Reprinted from with permission of the Public Broadcasting Service.