At age 3, toddlers turn into little boys or girls. We describe how they'll start to show signs of greater body confidence and control.
toddler dancing
Credit: Frances Janisch

Among the most notable differences between 2- and 3-year-olds are the way they look and what they can do with their bodies. Three is the age at which toddlers truly turn into little boys and girls. Though their growth rate slows to only about a pound every three months and an inch and a half every six months or so, their bodies take on new proportions.

Length instead of width gets the emphasis now, producing a slimmer, more grownup look. Gone are the pudgy legs, puffy cheeks, and roly-poly tummy so typical of toddlerhood. In their place are stronger, longer legs; a leaner and more angular face; and an abdomen that's thinner and tighter.

What's really important, however, is how active your child is now. Along with her slimmer and stronger physique, she should be showing signs of greater body confidence and control: standing erect with little conscious effort; walking with her arms swinging at her sides (rather than held rigidly); jumping effortlessly off low steps; running and catching with abandon; and coloring, painting, or drawing with relative ease.

Three-year-olds throw their whole body into learning. They're constantly testing their own limits -- how fast they can run, how far they can walk, how hard they can kick -- and attempting to perfect their physical skills. And they use every inch of their bodies to enjoy and interpret the world. A book about horses might send your little one galloping around the room, for instance; a trip to the airport could inspire him to race through the house, arms spread open like wings and voice rumbling like a jet engine. Even his inner emotions-anger, sadness, joy, fear-are likely to produce rather dramatic physical displays.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.