Activities to promote physical development for a 3-year-old

Written by je' czaja
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Activities to promote physical development for a 3-year-old
The work of a child is play. (close up of a young toddler girls brown eyes image by Trevor Goodwin from

According to the Child Development Institute, a 3-year-old should be able to run well, march, ride a tricycle, briefly stand on one foot, put on shoes and socks, and pour from a pitcher. Physical development is promoted through play, according to the Institute, which is essential to the development of fine and gross motor skills, language, socialisation, learning and problem-solving.

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Climb, Run and Jump

Children will naturally climb, run and jump if given the opportunity. Caregivers can encourage these activities by providing safe and spacious play areas, preferably outdoors. Praising toddlers for being fast runners or great climbers not only increases their enjoyment but also reinforces the behaviour. Most playgrounds provide slides and jungle gyms to climb on and space to run. Playing with friends tends to increase a toddler's level of physical activity.


Toys are the tools preschoolers use to do the work of development. A tricycle and a sidewalk open up a new world for the toddler and teach the complex physical skills of pedalling and steering. Stacking blocks teaches them about balance and the concepts of "under" and "on top of." Sorting-type toys help them develop fine motor skills, while dressing dolls helps them learn to dress themselves.


Three-year-olds should be able to put on their shoes and socks, though they cannot tie shoelaces yet. They enjoy choosing their own outfits and should be able to button and unbutton their clothes. When they are learning this skill they may take a long time and miss a buttonhole, but caregivers should resist the temptation to do it for them.


Three-year-olds like to imitate grownups and enjoy sweeping, raking and "doing dishes," especially if they can do these things with others. While they may not do as thorough a job as an older child on any of these tasks, they should be encouraged to try. Special toddler-size rakes and brooms and other cleaning implements make them feel important.

Art and Dance

Three-year-olds love to make art and projects can range from colouring with crayons to sculpting. These activities develop fine motor skills they will need when they learn to write. Toddlers usually dance spontaneously when they hear lively music and they should be encouraged to do so. Some children's songs include directions for specific steps, and kids like to do these with their caregivers and friends. These songs teach motor skills as well as listening and direction-following skills.

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