This is such a vague title – Learning Activities for 3 Year olds. Here’s the thing: there is no time when a 3 year old isn’t learning. They are picking up everything good, bad, and everything in between. Our job as teachers and parents is to cultivate the environment so what they play with and explore helps them to learn not just what we want them to but what they need to develop and engage with the world around them in a positive inquisitive way. Still, most people typing “Learning activities for 3 year olds” into google aren’t looking for general advice; they want concrete activity ideas. So here are ten of my favorite simple learning activities for 3 year olds ( older preschoolers will like them too). If you are looking for more pre-packaged learning activities for preschoolers, check out my favorite games for 3 year olds too.
Ten Learning Activities for 3 Year olds
FISHING FOR LETTERS
- Get 4-5 pieces of paper. Draw some basic fish, and write a letter on each fish. I make upper and lowercase letters and simply adjust to the child’s knowledge.
- Cut out.
- Make a “pond” with a tray, or blanket, or just use the floor.
- Pop the fish face down in the pond.
- Invite your preschooler to go fishing. As they get a fish, ask them to tell you what they got. ” Yes, that’s a T!”
Need to differentiate? Limit the number of fish to only 5-10, and use letters your child is familiar with, like the letters in their name. If they need more of a challenge you can try numbers too.
This is a simple version of a classic activity. If you have time to make a more complicated one with a magnetic fishing rod check it out here.
SCISSOR SKILLS PRACTICE
- Grab your scissors and work on mastering this skill, for our youngest learners, use play dough.
- Roll it into little snakes and cut it into pieces.
- For older children, try following lines on paper or making a simple craft like this lion, or setting up a cutting station!
PLAY DOUGH LETTERS
- Grab some play dough and start making letters. Suggest to your preschooler to make their first letter. If you have letter stamps or cookie cutters, go get them and add them in for more fun!
Need to differentiate? Making just X’s and O and rolling out the playdough for an adult to make the letters is beneficial all on its own, don’t fret if they aren’t ready to make letters. For more of a challenge, make or write names in the play dough with letter stamps or by forming the letters.
SING IF YOU ARE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT… EMOTIONS EDITION
This is one of my favorite ways to work on recognizing emotions in a neutral positive way. Children aren’t learning about emotions when they are in a heightened state, instead use playtime to talk about all kinds of emotions.
If you are happy, and you know it clap your hands
If you are happy, and you know it clap your hands
If you are happy, and you know it, then your face will surely show it
If you are happy, and you know it clap your hands.
Now substitute happy with a variety of emotions:
Mad – cross your arms.
Frustrated – stomp your feet.
Excited – jump up and down.
Sad – make a frown
Scared – hide your face.
As you sing the song, ask your 3 year old to mimic your facial expressions and guess what emotion you are trying to show them.
Need to differentiate? Focus on just a few feelings, like mad and sad. Or if your child/ students need more of a challenge, ask your child if there are emotions that the song doesn’t include. What would they add? Can they make a face or use body language to express that emotion?
This is an easy learning activity for 3 year olds at home or in a classroom, for one on one time with a teacher.
- Write your 3-year-old’s name on a piece of paper.
- Use an uppercase letter for the first letter and lowercase for the remaining letters.
- Cut the letters out, so each letter is its own strip of paper.
- Pop them in an envelope.
- Present the envelope to the child saying, ” What is in here? Let’s find out!” Take each letter out of the envelope and have your child name it if they can. If not, you name it. ” Look it’s a lowercase l, what’s next? Oh, look a lowercase i… until you get all the letters out. They do not have to be in order.
- When all the letters are out, ask if they recognize the letters. “What do you think these letters could spell?” Let the child play with them. Together spell your child’s name. Mix them up and spell them again.
How to differentiate: For very young children, write out their name on a 2nd piece of paper and have them place the letters on top, matching the letters to the intact name. Remember the goal of this is to play with and become familiar with the letters in their names, not to drill the child on the letters or quiz them about how to spell.
Scavenger hunts are always fun, and kids don’t move enough most days. Let’s make sure kiddos are moving, even if they are stuck inside.
- Use some post-it notes numbers or use paper and write numbers on them.
- Use at least ten and hide them around your home or classroom.
- Now it’s time to go hunting! What numbers did you find?
Need to differentiate? Hunt together! If you want more of a challenge for this try these math games for PreK.
- Gather some paper, glue, and scissors. Any color, any type of paper, whatever you have on hand or in your scrap paper box.
- Cut all but one sheet into different shapes.
- Give the artists a full sheet of paper, glue, and shapes.
- Let them create! Manipulating the shapes while creating helps them to learn the properties of the shapes in a meaningful way.
Need to differentiate? You do all the cutting and focus only on two shapes, like circles and triangles. For three-year-olds that need a challenge, offer a building challenge like using the shapes to make a robot, house, rocket, or their favorite thing.
SINK OR FLOAT? STEM LEARNING ACTIVITY FOR 3 YEAR OLDS
This is one of my favorite science activities for preschool at home and at school. It really teaches children how to use the information to make a hypothesis and test it out.
- Get a tub of water ( a large mixing bowl will work fine, and so will a bathtub if you are at home).
- Gather various toys or items you don’t mind getting wet. Try to get a mix of things; some that will float and some that won’t.
- Hold up the items one at a time, asking your child if they think they will stay on the water and float or fall to the bottom and sink.
- Place each item in one at a time. Were the predictions right?
Need to differentiate? For beginners, use items they have seen floating or sinking, like rocks and bath toys. This will encourage them to speak up and make a prediction because many of theirs will be right! or if they need more of a challenge; Ask your why they think some float and some sink; if you need a refresher for why this post explains it in a way kids can understand.
- Get some plain paper and write letters on them.
- Use a mix of letters, but there is no need to use all twenty-six.
- Place them around a room with the furniture pushed aside in your home or at the circle time rug in a preschool class so there is room to move and groove when the music plays.
- Play the music and groove.
- Pause the music and CALL out a letter. Or if you are doing this in a group – just pause and tell the children to pick a letter.
- Your child should stand on that letter. In a preschool class, tell your students to shout out what letter it is.
Need to differentiate? Use only a few letters and make them all different colors. When it’s time to call out the letter, call it out as ” RED H” or “BLUE T,” whatever colors the letters are. This gives your child help to find the letters since they have the color as a hint.
This is so simple but let me tell you, not only does it do a bang-up job at giving children’s fine motor skills a boost, but it also promotes oral language and storytelling which are vital literacy skills for 3-year-olds. This is why I have included this in my post about learning activities for 3 year olds. I like it because it helps me use up the random stickers I seem to collect in my classroom. All you need is some paper ( use the back of an old poster or wrapping paper if you don’t have large sheets), some painter’s tape to attach to your wall, and stickers. That’s it!