Child development and milestones: Your 36-month-old

What are some of the milestones your three-year-old tot might be meeting right about now? Let's find out.

You’ve blinked, and now suddenly, your baby is a “big” three-year-old going on 13! Your little one has now officially passed the terrible twos stage, and has entered what are know as “the magic years.” This is because they finally seem ready to settle down and listen to you, and also because they develop a magical sense of imagination and curiosity. So, what 36 month old milestones should you expect? 

In this article, you’ll learn about some common 36 month old milestones and get reassurance that your mighty little three-year-old is right on track. However, you should also keep in mind that children develop at their own pace and therefore, may hit various “milestones” at different times.

If you are worried in any way at all about your child’s development, it’s always best to talk to your paediatrician. 

36 month old milestones

You’ll notice a whole lot of changes in your little one as he hits the big 3!

36 Month Old Milestones: What to Expect in the “Magic Years”

Daily Skills

Going to the Toilet

By now, your child might be ready to ditch those diapers. You’ll need to watch for signs of “potty readiness” to ascertain this.

Is he asking you to use the toilet? Does he request to wear underwear or ask for a clean diaper? These are all signs that the time is right for proper toilet training! 

Tip: Don’t expect the magic to happen overnight though. It’s quite normal for accidents to happen, and even for your child to go back to wearing diapers. If this happens, just wait it out for a week or two, and try again. 

36 month old milestones

Expect mess! But encourage your tot to eat by herself as it fosters independence.

Eating Alone

Another 36-month-old milestone your child might display now is the ability to feed himself. Yes, it will probably involve a lot of mess. 

But wanting to eat on their own is a sign of your tot’s growing independence. So, resist the urge to feed him yourself, knowing that your three-year-old champ is right on track! 

Tip: Spread a sheet of plastic under your child’s chair so that clean-up is fuss-free. 

Helping Around the House

Don’t underestimate your smart three-year-old’s capabilities! They love helping you around the house, so go ahead and assign them some age-appropriate chores

Give them some simple instructions like, “put the toys in the basket, please” or “please put those books here.” By assigning such “important” tasks to them,  you are boosting their sense of self-esteem and nurturing an important habit early on. 

Tip: Remember not to over-complicate those orders as your little one may get overwhelmed and frustrated if he can’t carry them out to perfection. 

36 month old milestones

Your three-year-old will be much more sociable with her peers than before.

Social Skills

Among 36 month old milestones are a few important social skills your little one should pick up around now. 

You’ll notice an improvement in how he behaves with peers, such as sharing toys with friends and taking turns. In general, your little one will get along with others much better than around a year ago. 

Your child’s imagination is in over-drive at this age too, and you’ll notice this reflected in his play— both when alone and with others. However, this is also the age when those monsters under the bed are made real by your child’s imagination, so do get that “monster spray” ready!

Tip: While your child is much more sociable in his interactions with other kids, there may be traces of that two-year-old rebel still there! So don’t stress if your 36-month-old still doesn’t want to share and play nicely at times. Don’t force him to do these things either — he’ll get there in his own time! 

36 month old milestones

Yes, there will still be meltdowns. Be gentle, be kind and most of all, be patient.

Emotional Skills

Your three-year-old has come a long way from the tantrumming tot he was not too long ago. But, you can still expect the occasional outburst or meltdown — and this is completely normal. 

Additionally, your little one should be able to show (and understand) a large range of emotions, including anger, joy, fear and sadness.

While your little one is starting to understand his emotions (and those of others) better, he is still learning how to control them. So, if your little one finds something to be even mildly funny, expect hysterical giggles and laughter! Likewise, those tears will flow when something upsets him or makes him angry. 

Tip: If your three-year-old throws that tantrum, do you best to not get upset (1,2,3…) and ignore all that drama. Once your little one has calmed down, give him lots of love and cuddles. While it’s up to you to decide on a discipline method that suits you, ensure you’re consistent with what you dole out. 

36 month old milestones

Notice how your three-year-old child is now more steady on their feet!

Gross Motor Skills

Among the many 36 month old milestones, you’ll notice just how nimble your threenager is! Gross motor skills refer to how your child uses his body, in particular, the large muscle groups, and in relation to active play. 

By now, he should be a master of running, jumping and even climbing! In addition, check for the following 36 month old milestones in relation to gross motor skills: 

  • Runs a short distance without tumbling over
  • Easily climbs up low furniture
  • Rides a tricycle 
  • Climbs up and down stairs using alternating feet
  • Kicks and throws a ball well
  • Can walk in a straight line, and on tip-toe

Tip: You might feel tempted to instruct your little human dynamo to stay still. But allowing him to practice his gross motor skills is important for him to develop even better balance and self-confidence in his abilities. 

36 month old milestones

Does your little one LOVE talking?

Language and Cognitive Skills


Don’t worry too much if your child is not talking too much yet. You’ll see a huge change in this over the next few months. 

A few things your little one might be able to say right now are: 

  • His name and age
  • Simple answers to simple questions
  • Stories
  • Simple questions

Tip: If you are worried about your child’s speech development, speak to your paediatrician about it to ease your mind. 


These skills refer to the development of your child’s mind. As mentioned before, his imagination takes full flight this year. And as he starts to understand and be aware about his surroundings, expect questions… lots and LOTS of questions! 

While it’s difficult to identify precise 36 month old milestones for cognitive development, here are a few: 

  • Complete simple puzzles
  • Remember what happened the day before
  • Count to five
  • Match objects
  • Identify basic shapes
  • Follow simple commands
  • Pay attention for three to five minutes

Tip: While your little one’s intellectual capabilities have greatly improved compared to a year ago, remember he still has limitations. For example, he may be unable to separate reality from fantasy due to his overactive imagination. Or understand reasoning. So keep your language and instructions simple while you watch your little one blossom!

We hope you’ve found this information about your three-year-old’s development useful! Remember: any concerns you have should be raised with your paediatrician. 


References: WebMD

Also read: Identifying children with high IQ: An age-by-age guide