What are your favorite activities for 3 year olds? These simple activities aren’t just for 3 year olds, they are great activities and preschool learning games for older kids too! Don’t miss my new book Everyday Preschool, it’s the best book for parents who want to make sure their child is learning every day.
Finding the right activities for 3 year olds should be easy… but it isn’t. This summer my daughter and I have had a lot of time to play. Extra time in fact because she decided when she turned 3 to give up naps. With her brother home from school for the summer, my attempts at forcing the issue have been met with refusal. I am going to try again in a month when her brother returns to school but in the meantime, she has quiet time, earlier bedtimes and lots of simple activities like these peppered throughout the day. For more specific games for 3 year olds check out our post here with our favorites! If you have a younger child check out our similar list of 75 TV Free Activities For Toddlers. These 3 year old activities have been the bulk of what we’ve done this summer. Big projects are fun but day in and day out this is what we do.
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Fun Activities for 3 year olds
- Playdough sculptures with dry spaghetti.
- Fill a table with books and read, read, read.
- Doodle with smelly markers on cardboard from your recycle bin.
- Play doctor with dolls.
- Take a walk and hunt for colors.
- Play with puzzles.
- Look at family photos together.
- Create with peel and stick jewels.
- Read through catalogs.
- Build a fort.
Need more preschool learning games and fun? Keep Reading!
- Play eye spy with a favorite book.
- Eat lunch outside.
- Play in a box.
- Paint with watercolors.
- Play with stickers.
- Play sports in the yard.
- Play-Doh and sequins.
- Play The Cupcake Game.
- Play Simon Says.
- Make a balance beam out of painter’s tape and walk it!
- Play in a kiddie pool.
- Color with Color Wonder markers and coloring sheets.
- Water some plants
- Play with Magic Nuudles.
- Play with Play-Doh and Duplo together.
What are some easy things to do with a 3 year old? Keep reading!
- Play with a light table ( easy DIY here ).
- Play with cold cooked spaghetti.
- Cook together.
- Play with water, rice, beans, gravel, etc… in your water table .
- Play with the hose.
- Dress up some dolls.
- Take silly pictures together.
- Play hide and seek.
- Play with stamps.
- Make some window clings .
- Paint your toenails with kid-safe nail polish.
- Run Through the sprinkler.
- Write in a journal with markers, stamps, and crayons.
- Go to the beach.
- Learn about emotions with Mr. Potato Head.
- Go to the library.
- Read with a sibling.
- Call Grandma ( or Aunty, Uncle… you get the picture.)
- Help clean.
- Play dentist with dolls.
- Finger paint.
- Draw with chalk on black construction paper.
- Go to a local elementary school and play at the playground.
What are the best activities for 3 year old ?
- Play dress-up.
- Take markers and paint onto the porch for art outside.
- Play School
- Mix sidewalk chalk and other toys for pretend play outside.
- Scrap paper collages. All you need is some paper and glue!
- Hunt for magnets with a magnetic wand in a bowl of uncooked oatmeal or rice.
- Jump in puddles. I don’t know of a better activity for a 3 year old than this one!
- Build a tower out of recycling.
- Wash the car.
- Backyard nature hunt. Tape painter’s tape sticky side out on a window or wall and have your child stick what they find on it.
- Take some pictures.
- Have a tea party.
- Practice cutting with playdough!
- Make a ramp with cardboard and drive matchbox cars down it.
- Read books outside.
- Play-Doh with pipe cleaners.
- Wash push cars, scooters, and bikes.
- Go for a hike.
- Play with Play-doh and egg molds.
- Play airplane or train with your kitchen chairs.
- Wash windows with water and vinegar.
- Turn snack bars into shapes and practice using a knife at the same time.
- Play alone. Yes, it’s more than OK, it’s incredible to let kids play alone. Let your 3 year old think up their own activities. We don’t need to entertain them 24/7 !
What is your family’s favorite everyday activity? Not listed? Add it in the comments and tell us why your kids love it!
Need more activities to do with 3 year olds?
Thank you for the fun reminders! Sometimes it’s easy to fall into similar patterns and it’s nice to mix it up with simple, but different fun activities.
This is so great I am going to be running a camp soon for 4 little girls that are toddlers and I am 13!
What great ideas to keep toddlers busy!
72 is an everyday lately and I didnt even teach her to do that. Kids and their natural fascination with choo choo trains.
To add to the list, how about build a castle out of blocks
Kirstylee @ Moms Have Questions Too says
These are so great. I often get caught up in the big projects and forget to do the simple things like these. Plus, this is a great list to turn to when netflix is getting tempting. 😉
Allison McDonald says
Exactly! My 3 year old is watching Ni Hao Kailan right now , every day isn’t always perfect and that’s OK.
Great post. Thank you very much. I’m not a big fan of TV, so this compilation should definitely help us a lot as a family to have lots of fun away from TV
Liisa Direen says
That’s a great list, thank you. I’d like to share of my favourite activities with my 3 yr old son. I have a container of junk I have collected, scraps, bottle tops broken toys etc. and we set it up as rubbish tip. He loves getting his toy Rubbish truck and moving the junk around and taking it to the pretend rubbish dump. Simple and entertains him for ages 🙂
I love this idea!
Peggy Carbajal says
I have empty boxes of various sizes that I have taped shut. We use to stack and topple over. Also can be used to sort from smallest to largest , shortest to tallest.
Lori Morales says
Luv the of handy fun! We play with shaving cream quite often on paper, a tarp, cardboard or even the tub. Adding food coloring and sponge brushes if we feel like making it rainbow fun.
Lori Morales says
Balloons and noodles
Terrific collection of ideas! Definitely sharing this!
Naveen Jain says
We do beans/rice/pasta in measuring cups to teach about volume
This is a great list of activities for 3 year olds. I particularly like the one about playing dentist with dolls. Never thought of that one. I put something similar together on my website http://www.excitedkids.com
Feel free to use any of the ideas their for your website.
My 3yrs old likes to paint the exterior of the house with water and a paintbrush
I used to do this for hours when I was a kid! So much fun!!
EMMA ASTILL says
Dishwashing liquid some food colouring and a straw. Blow Bubbles above the height of the container then place a piece of paper over the top to make a cool bubbly picture.
Allison, this is an amazing collection of activities. I have been doing a series of everyday activities and the different developmental domains. I just had to add a link to your activities to the end of my post on Cognitive Development. Of course, I have pinned & shared on fb, & twitter, too. Thanks for all the work that went into this post.
Allison McDonald says
What a great idea or series. So often we get wowed by the big shiny complicated things when really the basics are what kids need the most.
Thanks for the creative Ideas I have a 3 year old brother and it gets hard to think of different things to do with him when I watch him!!!!!
I just stumbled across your blog via Pinterest, but I have to comment! This is a great list of everyday activities to do with a preschooler, but my favorite part about the list is that it isn’t activities for “girls” or “boys”. It is just a great list of kid friendly activities! Thanks so much for sharing!
Allison McDonald says
I have a hard time labeling children. I know and respect why some lists are like that but I prefer to just say kids.
That’s great! I got boys that love to play with dolls. No need to label kids. They all love to have fun!
Susan Morris says
A hard time labeling kids? Since when did calling a girl – a girl – and a boy – a boy – become labeling? It’s what they are!?!?!?! What is wrong with you people???
Allison McDonald says
I am referring to labeling an activity as something a boy would like vs what a girl would like. I don’t do lists like that – I have taught far too many kids who have busted all gender specific activities for me ever to write something like that and feel like there was any girth to it.
Me and my daughter see how many clothes we can get on until we’re big and round.
Allison McDonald says
This is my favorite comment ever 🙂
Gabriella Taylor says
Well, she did start this off saying these are activities with her 3 year old daughter. Yes, a lot of the activities don’t depend on the child’s gender, but there are girl specific ones in there. Unless, of course, you’re raising a boy on dress-up and dolls, although that would be unorthodox.
So Barbie’s friend Ken and GI Joe aren’t dolls? When children play with dolls it’s an opportunity to discover how they interpret the world. Nothing unorthodox about that.
My son has trucks, planes, duplo, Batman, an Elsa doll, multiple Disney figurines ranging from Buzz Lightyear to Cinderella…toys are just toys until we put a gender label on them.
i personally like the last one!
My girls love when I hide a surprise (a toy, utensil, sock, etc) in a pillow case and they have to stick their hand in and guess what it is without being able to see it.
When my son was little I would roll out butcher paper onto the kitchen floor and tape it in place. Then he would paint all over it and we’d use it through out the year for wrapping presents. You could use plain brown paper as well. Stores sell it in rolls. We also used to go for a hike in our local park and turn over rocks and look for lizards and snakes! we used to make Christmas ornaments together too. He’s 25 now and we made some together this year. Good memories:)
Love the idea of wrapping Christmas presents in the butcher paper! I have a little artist that’s just waiting to create some wrapping paper. Thanks!
Sharon Chastain says
When my brother and I were little, we used to roll out a big sheet of butcher paper and then draw an aerial view of a city complete with roads. We used to use his little cars and we would drive all over our city. The maps got bigger as we got bigger. I did this again with his grandson and we spent hours deciding what to put in our city. We had a library, a Starbucks Drive through, a school, a fire station you name it! We had a park and we had our homes. We built our houses out of blocks right on top of the city. Perfect for a 5-8 year old. Entertains for hours!
Sometimes it’s a lot of fun with my niece to take different colored construction paper, kids scissors, and a glue stick and just let them cut out different shapes and glue it to another piece of paper, they can also color it. If you’re worried about a mess, you can use a plastic table cloth. Also fun to have a mini chalkboard and paint with water and a paintbrush 🙂 going to some place like a park with ducks and feeding then is always a lot of fun.
I’ve also had a lot of fun making bread with them and letting them dump ingredients in and watching it rise. Always fun to put food coloring in too
Its really great to see so many activities. all of the are fun learning activities.
My stairs are carpeted. I put a single bed (foam) mattress on them. Kids have GREAT fun sliding down it! You could also use an open cardboard box.
Or a mummy sleeping bag I did this all the time as a kid in the house I grew up in!
This is brilliant! I have a three year old niece and all she ever wants to do is play doctors with me. As much as I love her, I absolutely hate playing doctors now.
This list should keep us busy and hopefully distract her from the doctor game
When I was younger, we used to get a glass of washing up liquid and food colouring, blow bubbles through a straw and put a piece of paper underneath, keep blowing until the bubbles overflow and you get a lovely picture xx
My 3 year old has always loved tying knots in a 2 foot length of rope- tying chairs, trees, back of the seat in the car…keeps him busy and QUIET for hours! At some point I will get him a book of knots to see if he can follow the instructions.
Thanks for the tips!! Duly noted! A simple game my kids have enjoyed since they were babies is you screw up a piece of paper and put it in one hand. Then you pass it quickly from one hand to the next and then suddenly stop with the paper in one of your hands and turn both your fists down. The child then has to remember which hand the paper ended up in. It’s great when you’re out and about and need sudden entertainment.
If you have long-ish grass (clover works well), you can tie the end(s) of a blade of grass into loops and loop them together into a chain. With my three year old, I tie the knots and let her loop the next one in. After you get a long chain, you can decorate yourselves or a chair or a tree with the chains. When she gets older, she might be able to tie the knots herself.
What about ball games. There is no mention of that.
Allison McDonald says
This is very cool but i wish it had more details and had more games rather than crafts. Thanks anyway.
Sharon Chastain says
Pick up some used small tennis rackets at a second hand sports store. Get some big nerf balls or pressure-less balls and then go out to a local tennis court. Forget about the net. See who can hit the most balls. Teaches hand/eye coordination. Older kids can get a point every time the ball goes over the net. Let it bounce as many times as needed or even let it roll. Have fun and run and hit. See who can hit the farthest or play follow the leader.
My 2.5 year old baby girl like cycling. She has a tri cycle. Water paints and colouring is also favoriout hobby.
Love the ideas it should keep my bunch busy no matter what the weather is. Thank you
Deb Gillmore says
Walk around your local streets and look at all the different letterboxes
We used to cut potatoes into shapes and use them to make paintings
Gina B says
Plant a garden with your kids. My kids absolutely love pulling carrots up, and will eat tomatoes and mint leaves right from the garden-only if they plant it though;). Also, worm digging and ant watching is hours of entertainment;)
Kim Bierma says
My 3 year old grandson loves to:
1. Use a blunt Fiskars scissors to trim the bushes with me, or clean up weeds in the back patio. Cut cut cut. Also cuts pieces of construction paper and puts them in a cup.
2. He like to play his guitar (my ukelele) while I play my big guitar and Paw Paw joins us to sing familiar song, IE muffin man. He’s big into doing things “toGETHer” w Grammy and Paw Paw.
3 Each planted a lily. He had plenty of freedom during that tine to find worms, use his growl to dig, and water things to his heart’s content.
yo waddup this nice
In your house or apartment, find everything you can that is blue.
Which is biggest?
Which is smallest?
Make up a silly story about one of the things.
My daughter loves to play kitchen! she watches me cook and she likes to do it, too… or at least she pretends too!!
I think these are great Ideas for kiddos! Thank you for being so thoughtful and sharing. I have a small round table in my kitchen and I have a box of scratch paper in my home office that had a printing error or something on one side and blank on the other. I took them and taped them together overlaying them together, tucking them under the table and taping them under as well. I gave them markers and crayons and they just colored or drew all over it. I would leave it out for a week or so as a table cloth. One of my granddaughters drew all over one with me and it was a lot of fun. My grandson came over a couple of days later (after she had left) and we had to stay in because of sheltering in. It so happened it was his birthday a few days later and we added a few things to our colorful table cloth with extra drawings and said he had a very special birthday table cloth that was left by his cousin. It was a good time.
Nana Edwards says
Thanks for the nice list and the great ideas in comments also. This Nana has grandbabes who are 8 mo, 11 mo, 3 1/2, another 3 1/2 (one month apart), and 6 yrs old being home-schooled for kindergarten.
Yep, we’re busy especially during the coronavirus isolation protocols. Two sons and their wives are ok with me just being around their two families.
Anyway, here’s something that used to keep my 3 kids entertained for hours 30 yrs ago.
They each got a ball of crochet yarn, tied one end to a doorknob at different places throughout the house, then walked around and wrapped there yarn ALL OVER the entire house looping around doorknobs in every room, table legs, bedposts, shower curtain bar, etc….not too tight as to pull things over and not too loose and drooping…so that for the day we all had to step over yarn or duck under yarn to get around. It was crazy fun!
This didn’t happen too often, but on a weekend or icy snowy day it was perfect.
I just came across your blog via Pinterest, but I’ve got to make a statement! Here is a wonderful list of day-to-day events for preschoolers, but my favourite part of the list is that it’s not “girls” or “people” events. It’s such a wonderful list of child fun events! Thank you so much for sharing it!
great help to get ideas for my college assignment. love the ideas all very fun.
Melissa Aldrich-Welch says
use a cookie sheet with sides and allow child to play with Magic Sand using different objects like toy cars, plastic animals, etc. My grandson likes to bury the cars and use the animals to rescue them. Provide a small plastic spoon and fork to “dig” with. Take turns hiding the objects in the sand and have the other try to find it. Magic Sand is great because it never dries out. You can even mix the colors to make new colors.
It’s an amazing 75 lists of activities. Would love to bookmark for the future. Ting!!!
My grandson loves to cut up sheets of craft foam because it’s so satisfying to cut through the spongy-ness! Great scissor practice! He just cuts and cuts at this point and really isn’t interested in doing anything with the bits.
Forgot to say… my (Canadian) grandson also likes to pretend he’s a member of American “marching bands.” We use everyday objects to represent instruments and march around and around the house, in time to great American marches…. Stars and Stripes Forever on the computer is his favourite! A short curtain rod that he found in my sewing room has become a trombone, we use a chopstick for a piccolo, two pot lids for cymbols. You get the picture! Lots of fun for Nana and Papa too!
A J says
Excellent!!! Looks like I will try this activities with my niece.
Sam Hood says
Thanks for writing this will surely help us to get engaged in activities.
Amanda Torres says
My cousin is 4 years old and this will give her great company and time. Thank you for sharing.
Percetakan Murah Jakarta says
Great article. Keep up the good work!
Steve Smith says
I work with Head Start children 0-3 years old. One of the things I think is so important is the everyday aspect of learning. There are countless things in our world that fascinate children and they can use to learn and imagine. Thank you for all 75, PLUS! the comments. You miss out on some great ideas if you don’t read those, also. I still think its so funny and instructive to adults when children unwrap gifts and then end up playing with the boxes!