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Guide for the Care of Children Online Manual

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Well checkup: 3 years

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At this age, your child may:

  • jump in place
  • kick a ball
  • balance and stand on one foot briefly
  • pedal a tricycle
  • change feet when going up stairs
  • build a tower of nine cubes and make a bridge out of three cubes
  • speak clearly, have a vocabulary of 1,000 to 2,000 words, speak sentences of four to six words and use pronouns (you or she) and plurals (dogs or cups) correctly ask "how," "what," "why" and "when"
  • like silly words and rhymes
  • know his age, name and gender
  • understand "cold," "tired," "hungry," "on" and "under"
  • tell the difference between "bigger" and "smaller" and explain how to use a ball, scissors, key and pencil
  • copy a circle and imitate a drawing of a cross
  • know names of colors
  • describe action in picture books
  • put on clothing and shoes
  • feed himself

Feeding tips

  • Avoid junk foods, unhealthful snacks and soft drinks.
  • Limit 100 percent fruit juice to four ounces a day.
  • Do not let your child run around while eating. Make him sit and eat. This will help prevent choking.
  • You may need fluoride treatments if you have well water.
  • Your child needs at least 800 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D each day.
  • Milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D.


  • Your child may stop taking regular naps.
  • Continue your regular nighttime routine.
  • Your child may be afraid of the dark or monsters. This is normal. You may want to use a night light to help calm his fears.

Physical activity

  • Your child needs at least 60 minutes of active play time most days of the week.
  • Physical activity helps build strong bones and muscles, lowers your child's risk of certain diseases (such as diabetes), increases flexibility, and increases self-esteem.
  • Choose activities your child enjoys: dancing, running, walking, swimming, skating, etc.
  • Be sure to watch your child during any activity. Or better yet, join in!
  • You can find more information on health and wellness for children and teens at


  • Use an approved car seat for the height and weight of your child every time he rides in a vehicle. Your child must be in a car seat in the back seat until age 4.
  • After age 4, your child must ride in a car seat or beltpositioning booster seat in the back seat until he is 4 feet 9 inches or taller.
  • Be a good role model for your child. Do not talk or text on your cellphone while driving.
  • Keep all knives, guns or other weapons out of your child's reach. Lock guns and ammunition in different parts of your house.
  • Keep all medicines, cleaning supplies and poisons out of your child's reach.
  • Call the poison control center (1-800-222-1222) or your health care provider for directions in case your child swallows poison. Have these numbers handy by your telephone or program them into your phone.
  • Teach your child the dangers of running into the street. You will have to remind him often.
  • Teach your child to be careful around all dogs, especially when the dogs are eating.
  • Always watch your child near water. "Knowing how to swim" does not make him safe in the water.
  • Talk to your child about not talking to or following strangers. Also, talk about "good touch" and "bad touch."

What your child needs

  • Your child may throw temper tantrums. Make sure he is safe and ignore the tantrums. If you give in, he will throw more tantrums.
  • Offer your child choices (such as clothes, stories or breakfast foods). This will encourage decision-making.
  • Your child can understand the consequences of unacceptable behavior. Follow through with the consequences you talk about. This will help him gain self-control.
  • Let your child explore, show, initiate and communicate.
  • If you do not use day care, consider enrolling your child in nursery school or play groups.
  • You may be asked where babies come from and the differences between boys and girls. Answer these questions honestly and briefly. Use correct terms for body parts.
  • Ninety percent of 3-year-olds are bowel trained, 85 percent stay dry during the day and 60 to 70 percent stay dry at night. Praise and hug your child when he uses the potty chair.
    If he has an accident, offer gentle encouragement for next time. Teach your child good hygiene and how to wash his hands. Teach your daughter to wipe from the front to the back.

Dental care

  • Teach your child how to brush his or her teeth. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. You do not need to use toothpaste. Have your child brush his teeth every day, preferably before bedtime.
  • Make regular dental appointments for cleanings and checkups starting at age 3. (Your child may need fluoride supplements if you have well water.)

Lab work

  • Your child may need to have his lead levels checked. This is a blood test to look for high levels of lead in the blood. Lead is a metal that can get into a child's body from many things. Evidence shows that lead can be harmful to a child if the level is too high.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition

To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."

First published: 02/01/2010
Last updated: 01/01/2014

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic