My 3 year old

A young girl smiling

Five to Thrive

Respond – Cuddle – Relax – Play - Talk

Do these five things each time you interact with your child from the time they are born and you will help to grow a healthy, strong and confident child.

To find out more about more about each of the Five to Thrive expand the boxes below.


My brain grows better when you respond to me.

My brain works very slowly at first. But when you respond to me in the same way over and over again the connections you are helping to build grow strong. Then they can carry messages between the different parts of my brain more quickly.

Key milestones

  • I can play in a group with my friends. I can make up ideas for things to do and games to play.
  • I can watch what my friends are doing and join in with them.
  • I choose the toys I want to play with and what I want to do with them with help from a grown up.
  • I like it when you say things like 'well done for eating all your dinner' or 'thank you for putting the toys away'.


My brain grows better when you cuddle me.

Before I was born I was more aware of touch than of any other sense, and I was safely held in a small space. Now I can move freely, but I still feel most safe when I am in contact with a grown up who loves me.

Key milestones

  • I can tell you when I am hungry and want something to eat or when I am tired and want to have a sleep.
  • I am beginning to understand that when you are busy I can’t always have everything I want, when I want it.
  • I know that sometimes I can’t do things I want to do, like running around in the supermarket or jumping up and down on your friend’s sofa with my muddy boots on.


My brain grows better when you relax with me.

I know that having a baby is stressful. But if you can find ways to relax when you are with me, you can make a big difference to the way my brain works.

Key milestones

  • I can join in with rhymes and I recognise when words start the same, like ‘big boat’ and ‘tall tower’.
  • I can listen and join in when we read books and sing rhymes.
  • I can join in with my favourite stories and guess what will happen next.


My brain grows better when you play with me.

When you play counting games, or singing games or action games, my brain builds connections that help me to make sense of the world around me and to have fun.

As I get older, playing with me and helping me to play on my own or with other children builds connections in my brain that make it possible for me to think and plan, to make sense of the world around me and to develop social skills.

Key milestones

  • I like running, walking, jumping, hopping, skipping and moving around in lots of different ways.
  • I can go up and down stairs and steps like a grown up, using one foot per step.
  • I can catch a large ball when you throw it to me.
  • I can use some number names and words like 'more than' and 'fewer than', when I am playing.
  • I can use words like 'under', and 'next to' to describe where things are.
  • I choose to play with different sorts of building sets and talk about what I am making
  • I can wave my arms or ribbons to make up and down lines and circles in the air.
  • I can use child scissors to make snips in paper.


My brain grows better when you talk to me.

When you talk to me I copy you. At first I can only make a few sounds, but the more you talk to me the more I can make sounds into words. I need you to tell me everything right from the start. I know nothing, so everything I learn in my life will be built on what you are teaching me now. Involve me in life by telling me about it.

Key milestones

  • I listen to the stories you tell me and I talk about them later.
  • When you read me stories, I join in with my favourite bits, like “Who’s been sleeping in my bed?” when we are reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
  • When you ask me to do something like “Come and put your coat on”, I will do it if I am not really busy playing.
  • When you ask me questions like “What do we need to cut the bread?” I know it’s a knife.
  • When we are playing and you ask me to “Put teddy under the blanket” or “Put the car on top of the garage” I know what you mean and I can do it by myself.

Activities for 3 years old

All the fun activities that you do with your child at home are important in supporting their learning and development and have a long-lasting effect on your child’s learning as they progress through school or nursery or at a childminder.

Personal, social and emotion development

Physical development

Communication and language

Understanding the word



Expressive arts and designs

Rate this page