Are 3-year-olds Toddlers?

Are 3-Year-Olds Toddlers?

Unsteady on their feet? Check. Looking like they might topple over at any second? Check. Cheeky smile and inquisitive nature? Seems you have a toddler on your hands.

So, are 3-year-olds considered toddlers? Yes, a toddler is a child between the ages of 1-3. If your child is just under one year old then they would be considered an infant. If your child is 4 years old then they would be considered a preschooler.

As your child grows up. They will develop through different categories that relate to their age group. 

Sometimes these categories are helpful. Giving you an idea of what to expect from your child developmentally. 

They may also give you a warning of what to expect, so you can prepare. I can remember being told that my kid would start walking soon and I should safety-proof our house. Well, the warnings were correct!

Let’s look at the age categories for children and see where your child fits in.

Age categories

Infants0-1 year
Toddlers1-3 years
Preschoolers4-5 years
Child6-9 years
Pre-teen10-12 years
Teenagers13-17 years
Young Adult18-21 years
Adult22-39 years
Middle-aged40-55 years
Retiree56-65 years
Senior citizen66+ years

Why are 3-year-olds called toddlers?

The word toddler conjures up ideas of cute chubby kids learning to walk on wobbly ungraceful little legs. Unsurprisingly, that’s where the word toddler comes from. The unsteady walk of children who are learning to walk. 

By 3-years-old your toddler should have already learned to walk. But they might still be a bit unsteady on their feet and may fall over, bump their head, or run into items around the house frequently. Although mobile enough, they are still learning the finer points of walking.

From the years of 1-3-years-old, your toddler’s development growth explodes. This is the period in which they will learn to do some of the most basic but important skills in their life.

For example, between 1-3-years-old your toddler will learn how to walk, talk, cut their baby teeth, potty train, develop tantrums, and need sleep training. Change during this period is non-stop and it can be hard to keep up with every one of their new skills and developments.

What can a 3-year-old do?

3-year-olds are starting to become capable of many amazing things. They learn quickly and have endless energy. During the year that they are 3, your child will amaze you with leaps in their skills and development. Let’s have a look at the major developments for a 3-year-old.

Developmental milestones

These are things that children do by certain ages. They show how mature your child is and act as a reference to see if your child is developing normally. Children reach milestones by the way that they play, speak, learn, behave, interact and move.

At 3-years-old, your child will have just left the terrible twos. A time in which your child struggles with trying to assert their own independence. Most parents find this a difficult period. By 3-years-old, your child will still have a strong desire for independence but may be more willing to compromise.

They are starting to be able to express a wide range of emotions. Follow two-or-three step directions. Sort objects by shape and color, and imitate the actions of adults and friends.

A guide to milestones your 3-year-old should achieve

According to the CDC here is a complete list of the milestones your child should have passed by their 3rd birthday:

Social and emotional

  • Copy adults and friends
  • Showing affection for friends without prompts
  • Turn-taking in games
  • Cares for crying friend
  • Understands mine, his, and hers.
  • Has a wide range of emotions
  • No separation anxiety from parents
  • May be upset with changes in routine
  • Dress and undress themselves

Language and communication

  • Follows 2-3 step instructions
  • Names most familiar things
  • Understands the words in, on, and under.
  • Can say their first name, age, and sex.
  • Can name their friends
  • Says words like; I, me, we, and you.
  • Uses some plural words like cats, dogs, and cars.
  • Ther language can be understood by strangers
  • Carries on a conversation using 2-3 sentences.
  • Speak around 200-500 words.
  • Answer simple questions.
  • Tell stories.

Cognitive (Learning, thinking, and problem-solving)

  • Uses toys that have buttons, levers, and other moving parts.
  • Can use their imagination to play make-believe
  • Enjoys puzzles with 3-4 pieces
  • Understands the number two
  • Copies a circle with a pencil or a crayon
  • Turns the pages of a book
  • Builds towers of more than 6 blocks
  • Screws/unscrews jar lids and can open/close door handles
  • Understand basic time: Morning/evening/night.

Movement/physical development

  • Climbs well
  • Runs easily
  • Can pedal a trike
  • Can use the stairs easily

When to worry about your child’s development

According to the CDC if your child has any of the following issues then you should take them to see a doctor:

  • Has trouble using stairs or frequently falls down on them.
  • Drools or has a speech issue
  • Struggle with simple toys
  • Rarely speaks in full sentences
  • Can’t understand simple instructions.
  • Doesn’t make-believe or pretend play
  • Doesn’t like playing with other kids or toys
  • Struggles with making eye contact
  • Loses any skills they once had.

The CDC recommends that your child should be screened for issues with development at the ages of 9, 18, and then 24 or 30 months by a healthcare professional.

If you are worried about your child’s development. Take them to see your doctor or other healthcare professional. 

It is better to know about any mental or physical impairments as soon as possible so your child can receive the care they need to limit the impact on their lives

13 Tips to keep your 3-year-old toddler happy, healthy, and safe

1. Never leave your toddler unattended near water. For example, near bathtubs, pools, lakes, and the ocean. Drowning is the leading cause of death in this age group. Don’t leave them unattended near water for any amount of time. Not even for a few seconds.

2. Encourage your toddler to sit and chew food thoroughly. Choking can be a hazard at this age. Toddlers always want to be active, but if they are eating. Try and get them to sit still. Moving around too much while eating can lead to food becoming a danger.

3. Check their toys for broken or loose parts. Broken or loose parts on their toys could be dangerous or become a choking hazard.

4. Encourage your toddler not to put pencils/crayons in their mouths or ears. Toddlers can easily choke or damage their sensitive inner ear.

5. Don’t have hot drinks when a toddler is in your lap. One sudden movement could cause you to spill the drink and scold the toddler. Toddlers are much more at risk of burns. Burns at this age are very serious or even life-threatening.

6. When in a car, use a car seat in the back seat. Toddlers are vulnerable in a car accident. Their bodies are more fragile than adults. Don’t let them use the front seat of a car, as airbags can seriously injure or even kill a toddler if deployed in a crash.

7. Encourage healthy eating. Make sure they get their minimum 5 fruits and vegetables a day. Here is an article with more information on healthy eating for your toddler.

8. Limit television and other screen time. Too much screen time can be bad for your 3-year-old. They can miss out on learning social interaction, exercise, and it can cause poor sleep. Read more in this article about guidelines on screen time for your 3-year-old.

9. Encourage your 3-year-old to exercise and play. Play is normal and beneficial to your toddler’s development. Exercise also keeps their bodies fit and healthy.

10. Make sure your 3-year-old gets the recommended amount of sleep each night. If you want to know more. Read this interesting article I wrote about your 3-year-olds sleep. How to Get Your 3-Year-Old to Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep!

11. Take your child to the doctor for checkups and vaccinations. I know it can be scary taking your child to the doctor. But it is better to find any health problems now so you can help your child overcome them sooner.

12. Encourage social interaction. At this age, your child is learning all about the people, family, and friends around them and how they fit into the world. It is beneficial that they learn how to act and interact with adults and other children.

13 Potty Training. If your 3-year-old isn’t already potty trained, then now is a great time to start. Here is an article I wrote to help you easily potty train your child.

Related Questions

What age is my child no longer considered a toddler? At the age of 4-years-old, your child leaves behind being a toddler and becomes a preschooler. A toddler is a child between the ages of 1-3-years-old. 

What grade is a 3-year-old in? A 3-year-old toddler would be considered to be in Pre-Kindergarten.