Kids & Company Blog

Developmental Milestones for Children from 36-48 Months

This blog is written by our guest authors Samantha Martin and Hillary Ng, physiotherapist from Toronto Kids Physio. Kids Physio provides pediatric physiotherapy services across Canada; as babies, kids, and teens function differently from adults, and their spaces and team are equipped to provide the highest quality physiotherapy care, delivered in a FUN and engaging way. 

Is your child starting Kindergarten in the next year or two? Are you curious if they are physically ready to keep up with their peers? It is important to keep in mind that every child is different, and there can be a wide age range for achieving motor milestones. Some children are risk-takers and constantly looking for the next physical challenge, while some might be less comfortable with new physical challenges. Either way, it is important to make sure to contin

ue to encourage physical activity in your child to set them up for a healthy, active childhood ahead. 

Typical milestones for 3-4- year olds and how to encourage their development through play.

Developmental milestones that start to occur include: 

  • Going up and down the stairs one foot at a time, without a handrail
  • Standing on either foot for 3-5 seconds
  • Catching balls cleanly with hands - i.e. does not trap it against their body
  • Kicking balls by clearing foot from the ground
  • Jumping: forwards 24+ inches; over a 1-2 inch obstacle; and down from a 6-7 step
  • Hopping on either foot

At 3-4 years old, your child should be fairly confident and independent on a regular set of stairs. However, some of us live in homes without staircases to practice on. Look for stairs elsewhere in your neighbourhood (e.g. at the entrance to your apartment building, at the park, or at a family member or friend’s house) and try and practice regularly. At this age, your child should be stepping with only one foot on each step (using a reciprocal pattern). One fun way to encourage alternating feet on the stairs is to put 2 different stickers on your child’s feet (or on the steps) and make sure each sticker gets a “turn” on only one step.

Balancing on 1 foot is a basic activity that is important for many future physical skills. Encouraging your child to pretend to be a flamingo balancing in the water, to pick up small toys with their toes, or to balance items such as bean bags on top of their feet are all great ways to sneak in some single leg balance practice. 

Obstacle courses are always a great idea to get in a variety of physical activities all at once! Jumping over obstacles such as rolled towels or blocks is a great way to work on coordination as well as height and distance with jumping. Creating a hopscotch game outside with chalk can work on double leg and single leg hopping all at once. Walking along a curb (holding your hand at first if needed) or walking along a piece of painters tape on the floor pretending it is a tightrope will also challenge your child’s balance in a new way. 

If you have access to a nearby playground, this is the perfect place to grow your child’s confidence and physical skills. At 3-4 years old your child will be ready for most of the equipment on an average play structure. Encourage your child to try new things at the playground, and stay nearby while they are first learning! Going for hikes outside or running around at the park will also help to build leg strength and endurance and ability to navigate different terrain outdoors. 


When to reach out to a Pediatric Physiotherapist (the “motor development” experts).

As a parent, it's natural to be concerned about your child's development. If your child has not progressed their skills within 6-8 weeks, or you notice any of the below, it may be time to consider reaching out to a Pediatric Physiotherapist. 

Common reasons you may want to seek out help, include:

  • W-sitting. This is when your child sits on their bottom with their legs bent and splayed out to the sides in a W-shape. While this might seem like a comfortable position for your child, it can put unnecessary strain on their hips and knees, and can even lead to long-term issues with their walking and leg alignment. It can also be a sign of a weak core. Encourage your child to sit in other positions, such as with their legs in front of them or criss-crossed.
  • Walking variations like toe walking, in-toeing, or out-toeing. Toe walking is when your child walks on their toes instead of their whole foot, while in-toeing is when their toes point inward, and out-toeing is when their toes point outward. These variations of walking can cause more trips and falls and even poor walking endurance, as they’re using muscles for longer periods of time than needed - so they start to fatigue and lose balance or stamina.
  • Poor alignment in the legs, such as knocked knees.
  • Sensory seeking or avoidant behaviours. Some children constantly seek out sensory input by touching everything they see or avoiding certain textures or sounds, which may cause them to avoid walking on certain textures or environments.
  • Trouble learning new skills. Sometimes children shy away from situations or don’t want to participate because they struggle keeping up with other children.

Early intervention can make a big difference in your child's gross motor skill development and allow them the ability to begin exploring their environment in a fun and purposeful way!

This is the final part of a milestone development blog series. If you have any questions or are in need of support connect with @kidsphysio on Instagram or visit Kids Physio provides pediatric physiotherapy services across Canada; as babies, kids, and teens function differently from adults, and their spaces and team are equipped to provide the highest quality physiotherapy care, delivered in a FUN and engaging way. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *