Activities to Do With Three-Year-Olds
I have a three-year-old boy and I am always looking for lots of play, learning, creative and imaginative activities for us to do. This article gives a list of ideas of activities that my son enjoys.
It includes things to do on rainy days, outdoor activities, arts and crafts, and role play ideas. I think it's good to have lots of varied activities and ideas for those moments when you're trying to think of what to do next. It's also good to have a list so you can plan your weeks out in advance.
Read on for some ideas!
Rainy Day Activities
Here are some activities suitable for rainy days or sunny days too if you prefer.
I've just been bowling with my son (almost 3 1/2) and he loved it. You need to check that the bowling alley has bumpers to stop the balls going down the sides and ramps for little ones to roll the ball down.
Have them run around and burn off energy. Many indoor soft plays have cafes where you can watch them and have a drink.
Walk in the Rain
Three-year-olds will love this activity. When it's raining, put on their wellies, get their rain jacket and an umbrella and go for a walk. Splash in the puddles, see the different animals that come out in the rain, and act out dancing. It's great fun and it gets you outside and active too.
My son loves swimming and this activity wears him out and takes up a morning or afternoon.
My son and I haven't done a cinema trip yet but we are going to go next week to see Toy Story 3. I think he's at the age now where he will sit for long enough to be able to watch the movie and I can't wait!
I don't think the occasional movie is a bad thing, especially when we're tired after a long day. His favorites at the moment are Toy Story 1 and 2. If you'd like more ideas of DVDs, check out my article on movies for three-year-olds based on what my son likes to watch.
The library is a good option for a rainy day. I go about once every 3 weeks and we choose books to take home. Some libraries have singing and storytime activities which are good for toddlers as well. Reading books is something I really enjoy doing with my son. It's quality one on one time, educational, and fun too. Choose books that you both like so that you will enjoy the reading session as much as your child. For some book ideas check out my article on books for three-year-olds.
A good family activity and one that will help develop the imagination and vocabulary is storytelling. Turn the TV off and have every member of the family tell a short story from their imagination.
Indoor Obstacle Course
You can create indoor obstacle courses. We do things like jump over cushions, crawl under the table and over mats, jump on the spot 5 times, and run around the table. Just see what you have around the house and use your imagination. This website has lots of ideas for an indoor obstacle course when you need inspiration.
Build an Indoor Den
Get a blanket or two, put it over the table and you have a nice play area that your child will love.
Three-year-olds love cooking. Get them a sturdy stool or box to stand on in the kitchen and make some easy cupcakes or something to eat. You can get cake mixtures which are ready made to mix together, cook and decorate.
Another fun food idea is making shaped sandwiches. Get some biscuit / cookie cutters (circles, stars, animals etc). Make a sandwich and use the cutters to make different shaped sandwiches.
Also check out the cooking websites below for kids' recipes aimed at preschoolers and tips for cooking with young children.
- Preschool Cooking Activities
A nice article on what your preschooler can help with in the kitchen, how to involve them, and a cookie recipie
- Online Cooking Lessons for 3 to 6 Year Olds
A series of short online cooking lessons with suggestions of what your 3- to 6-year old can help with in the kitchen and ideas of how to teach them.
- Kids Cooking Activities
This is an excellent website with lots of recipes you can cook with kids of all ages. The page I have linked to has ideas of preschool snack recipes. Ideas include painted toast, trail mix, banana bread, cookies and lots more.
Games to Play
There are lots of great games you can play with your young child with little or no equipment.
Simon Says is a great game to play with three-year-olds. Basically, you are Simon and say things such as "Simon says touch your nose" and your child has to touch their nose. However, if you don't say Simon Says before your request they musn't do what you say.
I've just started playing Simon says with my son. It took him a while to grasp that you're not meant to do things when I don't say Simon says but he really enjoys the game. You can make it quite physical to burn off energy. Some things I get him doing are jumping, hopping, running around the room, spinning, dancing, touching his toes etc.
Party Games and Balloon Games
Why not have your own party at home and play lots of party games. This is particularly good if you have more than one child at home. Ideas include musical statues or balloon games. Blow up a balloon and see how long it takes to burst the balloon if you sit on it. Or see how long you can keep a balloon up in the air for. Hit the balloon to one another or play catch with balloons. My son loves simple games like this.
Guess the Animal
You take turns to pretend to be an animal and then the other must guess the animal you are. You can make noises and get on all fours to portray the animal. Ideas include dogs, cats, birds, elephants, lions, butterflies, spiders, rabbits etc.
Go on a color hunt through the house. Make it a race and see how many items you can find of the same color.
Follow the Leader
Your child has to follow your lead and copy what you do. It could be jumping, hopping, skipping, crawling, running, singing etc. You can move around the house or go outside and play. Then swap over and let your child lead. Check out more ideas for follow the leader.
More Game Ideas
- Party Game Ideas
Lots of party game ideas on this website. Many are good to play with more than one child but they can be adapted to play with one child on their own.
This book not only has lots of ideas to entertain your child, there are also some great tips on how to get organised.
The ideas include arts, crafts, learning activities, music, kids in the kitchen and outdoor activities.
It's a great one stop shop for planning activities for your preschooler and getting organised.
I prefer it when my son is running around outside or playing imaginatively but occasionally he will play online games. There are lots of them and most of them are educational too.
Plus, it will give caretakers a few minutes for themselves. Have a quick search on the Internet or check out a selection of websites with online games from below.
Arts and Crafts
I hate paints because of the mess but on a sunny day, we take the paints outside. I put my son in old clothes and it doesn't matter if he makes a mess as I get him cleaned up before we go inside. He loves it when we go for a walk, collect some big stones and then go outside to paint them.
You could actually paint lots of things that you find on a walk, for example, large leaves. Another idea is to get a big bucket of water and some paintbrushes and just paint everything with water - the floor, walls, etc. (outside of course). Finger painting is another good way to paint. They will get paint all over their hands anyway so you might as well make it intentional.
Another great outside activity. Chalk in the backyard or on the sidewalk outside. It can be washed away when the rain comes or before then with a big bucket of water. If you have an easel, you could put it up in the kitchen and use the chalk on the board too.
Stickers and Sticker Books
My son loves stickers and work books. I normally have to do some of this with him but it keeps him occupied for a while.
Print out coloring pages from the Internet of their favorite characters from TV and books. Do a Google search. They're are lots of free coloring pages on the Internet. Then they can use chunky crayons to color them all in.
My son loves putting glue on paper and then we put glitter on it to make nice pictures. I have to sit with him to make sure that glitter doesn't go everywhere but it's nice to make pretty pictures.
Arts and Crafts Online
For more inspiration, there are lots of websites online where you can print out ideas, coloring sheets, worksheets and lots more.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Make a Crown
This website tells you how to make a simple crown. It also has lots of great arts and crafts activities.
- Free Coloring Pages
Lots of free coloring pages to print out and color in.
- Fisher Price Craft Ideas
The Fisher Price website has lots of great craft ideas, well worth checking out. They include: Make an alphabet book, kid's color match, Jelly Bean picture, rock painting, puppet pals. And lots lots more.
- 21 Quick Craft Ideas
Here are 21 quick craft ideas. They include homemade binoculars, fun foam door hangers, salt dough, egg carton caterpillar, collage.
My three-year-old loves activity books (stickers, making things, mazes, dot to dots, simple puzzles, coloring etc). But he mostly loves stickers!
You can pick them up quite cheaply if you look around.
Check out the sticker book, activity book and activity set below for ideas.
Or another suggestion is a magna doodle. Lots of drawing fun without any mess.
This is great for keeping small children occupied and getting them ready for school.
Activities include 15 fun worksheets which will have your child coloring, placing stickers, tracing shapes and performing simple cutting activities.
Practice writing ABC's and 123's over and over again by using the included wipe away marker and wiping the pages clean with a damp cloth.
Kids can also learn to lace up laces and tie shoes with the shoe tying kit.
My three-year-old loves running races. We vary the races from just running, to jumping, hopping, crawling, running backwards and more. Races can take place in the backyard or the park. I normally give him a head start and let him win most of the time!
Other things we sometimes do include running round the tree in the park. I challenge my son to run around 10 times and then I run around ten times. This is designed to help wear my son out (it keeps me fit too!)
Piggy in the Middle
I play this with my son and my husband. Of course we have to give him lots of chances but it's fun and he loves it.
Playgrounds and Parks
If you can, vary the parks and playgrounds that you visit as it keeps it more interesting for you!
There are many different kinds of treasure hunts which are fun for a three-year-old. You could hide objects (such as chocolate coins or teddy bears) around the house, backyard, etc for them to find and collect. If they collect five items, they could win a prize.
Another idea is to create a map with picture clues which they have to follow.
Or, create a list of "treasures" that you need to find while you're outside for a walk. You can put together a list in picture form (perhaps a spider's web, a bird, a flower etc), then your child has to spot or collect the things on the list and they get a gold sticker for each one they find.
My son generally doesn't like to walk but if you make it fun he loves it. A treasure hunt like the one described above is a good incentive to get him walking. Other things we do include looking for sticks (he love sticks for some reason), running races as we go along or follow the leader. Another idea is to have a sheet of bugs and birds you can spot on your walk. You can design and print off a sheet before your walk and tick off the animals you spot on the way.
Young children will love to help you in the garden. Show them how to plant something or how to dig up weeds.
Bean bags are cheap and lots of fun. Toddlers can take part in lots of beanbag games and challenges. You can throw them at a target. See how high you can throw them in the air. Throw and play catch. See if you can throw them into a bucket.
Kids love bubbles. If you blow them, they will have great fun chasing them and trying to stamp on them. Look out for bubble wands too. You move the wands in the air and they make bubbles without having to blow them. This means the kids can make bubbles without blowing.
You can set up an obstacle course so easily by using household objects and toys. The other day my son and I were running round tables, crawling across old pieces of carpet, jumping on and over cushions and kicking footballs to the wall, then running back. All it takes is your imagination to set one up. This can be done outside or inside if you have enough room.
Here are a range of websites with more activity ideas.
- Take a Child Outside
Lots of simple ideas for activities to do with three-year-olds outside. Ideas include shadow watch, nature bracelets, nature study, shapes, colors and textures
- Preschool Rainbow
Lots of activities for preschool age children. Can be done at a children's preschool or many can be done at home with one child. Ideas include outdoor water art, treasure hunt, making volcanoes, outdoor animals, rock collecting and lots more.
- Best Outdoor Activities for Preschoolers
Ideas include tag, backyard mazes, stop and go, and lots more.
There are lots of educational activities you can do with your three-year-old. Here are some ideas:
You can make a weather chart for your three-year-old, with a slot for the morning and afternoon. Every day you can do a drawing of what the weather is like outside.
For lots of activities to do with your child regarding the weather, check out these weather activities. They include crafts, coloring, poetry, and printable weather ideas.
Make a Name Puzzle
Write your child's name in big letters on a piece of paper. Then cut out a set of letters which are the same size as the letters on the paper. A three-year-old can then match the right letters on top of his name. You can actually make puzzles for any word. Draw a picture next to the word so the three-year-old can see what it says.
Cut out pictures from a magazine of pictures of things beginning with "a" (apple, ant, etc). Or make collages with pictures that are all red. You can have all kinds of themes for your collages including numbers, letters, colors and shapes.
At 3 years old, you don't need a formal educational activity plan. Just make learning fun. Don't forget to read books and sing songs. You can learn vocabulary, numbers, colors and letters through toys, play, talking, singing, going on outings and other everyday activities. They can also learn a lot by playing with their toys.
My son is always playing imaginatively and learns through playing with jigsaws, his construction toys like legos, games and arts and crafts.
More Educational Activities
Role Play Games
My son's imagination is running wild at the moment. Every object has a personality and says hello. He pretends to be a monster and other characters. Here are some ideas of how to use their imagination and role play.
Get all your three-year-olds soft toys or character toys and use them to put together a short puppet show for them. Then they can do a puppet show for you too.
The other day, my son and I made some money out of paper. We put different numbers on the paper for different amounts. Then we set up a shop using a table and we "sold" lots of his toys in the shop which we bought using the money we made. He was the shopkeeper and I was the customer and then we swapped. He loved it and wanted to play it again and again.
For some excellent ideas for role play and lots of activities surrounding role play check out this article.
Three-year-olds are just old enough to play simple card or board games. My little boy loves playing games and he has learned so much.
They're great for learning to take turns and about winning and losing. They improve social skills and, depending on the game, can improve vocabulary, hand and eye co-ordination and lots more.
Check out the one below.
Spin the spinner, squeeze the matching colored acorn with your Squirrel Squeezers and place it into your log. Be the first to fill your log with delicious acorns and you win. You could also spin “pick an acorn,” “steal an acorn,” or “lose an acorn,” so be strategic, little squirrel.
We have a selection of toys at home that my son loves to play with. He has his favorites that he loves (they include cars as he is currently car crazy) but we have various other toys too.
Toddlers and preschoolers love playing with toys and they can be an easy way to keep them entertained, especially when they are new to them. I have noticed with kids that they have an initial interest in toys but as soon as the novelty factor of each toy wears off, the toy doesn't get played with as much.
However, there are cheap and easy ways to keep them with a supply of new toys. Then, playing with toys can be a great way to keep them entertained. This is what I do to make sure the toys get played with a lot.
I have a small toy box that is kept out and some other toys in storage. I regularly rotate the toys to keep my son interested.
I pick up used toys at garage sales and thrift stores. They are cheap and as he hasn't seen them before, they keep my son's interest. I donate our old toys but you could always sell old toys too.
I have a friend who is always giving me her son's toys that he no longer plays with. She is happy to get rid of them (since she has more space) and my son has some new toys to keep his interest.
I also swap toys with my sister who has a child of a similar age and then we swap back again.
We go to different playgroups where the toys are always fresh, new and exciting to him.
Invite friends with children around to play. My son is always more keen to play when other children are there (although sometimes sharing is an issue!!). You'll quite often get a return invite where there are different and new toys for your child to play with.
More Great Links
Here are two more great links for things to do and activities for your young child.
- Kids Activities for Three-Year-Olds
This is an excellent website with lots more activity ideas. They include making paper plate tambourines, playing toy towns, making special soup, super letter hunt, bubble count, indoor boat ride and lots, lots more.
- Games, crafts and activities for 3-4 year olds
The kids activities range from indoor fun like arts & crafts, science experiments, best websites for kids and brain teasers to outdoor games like hide & seek, pool and water fun and finally car activities to make road trips fly by.
If you have any good ideas of things to do please add them below. Thanks in advance!