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21 Fun Things to Do with a 3-Year-Old: Put that Toddler Energy to Good Use

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If you’re the parent of a rowdy toddler, you’re not alone! Fortunately, you can positively channel all that energy and curiosity with our suggestions for 21 things to do with a 3-year-old below.

Things to do with a 3 year old

Three-year-olds are amazing, they have such a sense of wonder about the world and are so full of fun. But keeping them busy can feel like a full-time job.

We have put together some fun activities that you can do with your 3-year-old. Whether you’re stuck inside on a rainy day or embracing it boot-in-puddle style, these 21 great ideas help develop creativity, fine motor skills, imaginative play. (Not to mention, keeping them busy and entertained!)

Ten Indoor Activities for 3-Year-Olds

There are a wealth of activities that you can do with a 3-year-old when the weather is less than favorable. As much as kids may enjoy the freedoms of the outdoors, this doesn’t mean you should underestimate the importance of some creative ideas and a few pieces of paper!

Sensory Play Activities

Sensory stimulation is a vital way to develop the sensory pathways and promote healthy development in your child. This stimulation can also promote wonderful opportunities for communication and strengthening bonds.

1. Playdough

A great fun way to get your children to use their imagination and make some amazing creations.

You can also have some fun making your own salt dough if you find you don’t have play dough to hand.

This is also a fun activity for them to practice their fine motor skills. Just provide them with some simple tools for cutting, chopping, and shaping the dough. Working the dough hones the strength and coordination of those tiny fingers and hands whilst they play.

2. Rice and Beans

This activity is so much fun and really helps your 3-year-olds to use their imagination.

All you need is some dry rice or beans and then lots of different-sized containers for them to pour them back and forth. Give them spoons, scoops, cups, and even a mesh strainer, and see the fun they have.

You can even encourage your kid to have some fun by mark-making, or showing them how to draw in the different textures.

For some added fun you could always dye the rice a range of colors using food coloring. This gives an extra layer of creativity to this activity for all kids and can help your three-year-olds to recognize colors and their names.

3. Water Beads

Water beads are a fantastic way to make learning fun and improve children’s hand-eye coordination through sensory play, and they can also double up as a fun outdoor activity.

You can use a variety of play ideas to improve kids’ pouring and counting skills and even include other toys and puzzles to create your own racecourse to blow the water beads through!

4. Arts and Crafts

Arts and crafts

Arts and crafts cover a broad range of activities from finger painting, using pipe cleaners, working with a glue stick, cutting out, and using chalk or markers.

You really can let their imaginations run wild. Depending on the time of year you could make cards using colored paper, do some potato printing or use some toy cars and run them through the paint to see the patterns that their wheels make.

These activities provide a fun sensory experience for your little one.

Making fun craft activities doesn’t need to be expensive either, often activities for 3-year-olds can involve several steps such as outdoor exploring to collect materials that can be attached to colored paper using a glue stick or printing using leaves and other items that you may have collected.

You could even just print off some coloring sheets and let your child have some fun exploring their own ideas.

5. Making Lunch

Another great way to involve your preschoolers in daily activities is to let them help you prepare lunch. It’s the ultimate hands-on task that can help to improve their relationship with food in the future too!

Having more control over what your little ones choose and prepare for food can increase the likelihood of them clearing their plate. It also taps into different developmental domains, eliminating the need for lots of toys overwhelming them.

You can help them get creative with different shapes and patterns when chopping up fruit and veggies and make games out of everyday activities to promote wonderful fun for your little ones.

Not only can cooking together improve your kids reading skills, but it can also teach your child valuable life skills that will stay with them throughout the course of their life.

If your young kids struggle to maintain focus on a task then you can draw or write the recipe onto some paper and watch them stay focused to ensure a great outcome.

Pretend Play/Imaginative Play Activities

One of the most widely recognized methods of improving kids’ speech and imagination is through play.

Many a qualified professional says this quality time together can make learning great fun. It helps teach kids exciting new ways to play in the world around them as well as improve fine motor skills, without the need for expensive toys.

Imaginative play activities for 3-year-olds work best when your child can re-enact experiences you have noticed them taking an interest in. L their ideas and imagination take the lead to enable open-ended fun with no structure.

6. Reading Books

Reading books

Although you may already read with your three-year-old every day, you can make your child’s face light up by adding funny faces and voices. Not only will it delight your little one, but it will help them to identify characterizations and follow narratives.

Kids love this type of quality time together when you read books; eye contact can help to immerse your three-year-old in the story further.

It will promote a great bonding experience and help your kids associate reading as a positive experience (a net benefit well into adulthood).

There is plenty of information online showing the best books to read to your kids, and sometimes this website provides printouts for activities related to these books.

Before reading a book you could mentally take some ideas for a nice list of questions you can ask throughout the story to encourage your kid’s imagination. This will help make the most of that childlike creativity and vivid imagination when reading books with them.

7. Put On a Puppet Show

One of the most overlooked and hilarious activities for 3-year-olds is to put on a puppet show using anything you can find around the house.

You can set up a stage, make up stories together and see what great ideas your little one can come up with in their very own first performance.

Your child will love something as simple as a sock puppet, or you can even encourage them to draw a paper puppet for you to play with together.

You could use this as a chance to re-enact a difficult scenario your child may have encountered. Address their emotions at the time to enable a healthy outcome to any tantrums in the future.

8. Run a Store

Running a store is a fantastic role play experience that kids love, you can take on any role and even spend time doing fun crafts to create a store sign beforehand.

Kids love to mimic the activities they see in everyday life, and you can often find many children’s toy websites that will feature their own pretend play and toy sections to help your kids take part in their favorite roleplay scenarios.

Toddler Teatime: The Best Tea Sets for Imaginative Play

You could sell board games, pretend to play in a bowling alley or even include their own favorite activities into the play on the days when you don’t want to leave the house!

Engaging in these forms of communication gives your kids the chance to improve their language and writing skills by using phrases they wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to use.

9. Safari Adventure

This is a great activity for your 3-year-old or any other kids for that matter! Your child will love this play set up and can be fully customizable using the toys your child has available.

You can get creative in the house, by drawing on paper to make little hiding spots for your safari animals, or take your child outdoors and hide their safari toys around for them to spot!

You could put together a list on a piece of paper and develop their knowledge of animals by printing fun fact sheets from any website your child enjoys and turn this pretend play into a great learning experience.

10. Doctors and Nurses

Setting up your child their very own hospital playset is a great way to eliminate any fears your toddlers may have of a medical setting and familiarize them with some of the familiar medical terms and equipment.

With some paper signs, or even some website print outs you can decorate the walls to replicate a doctor’s office and treat your patients (dolls, toys, anything your child wants!) and let their creative sides go wild.

Five Fun Outdoor Activities for 3-Year-Olds

Outdoor activities for 3 years olds

One of the best ways to cheer up a grumpy preschooler is by adventuring on outdoor activities and letting their imagination take over, from a scavenger hunt to pretend play, you can find so many great ideas for activities that your three-year-olds are going to find fun.

11. Mud Kitchen

Mud kitchens are a staple preschooler activity that helps to make learning fun by improving knowledge of the outdoors.

The best part about a mud kitchen is that it is fully adaptable and can be used for older kids too.

From a muddy tea party to mixing bowls full of grass and seeds, the number of ideas for your 3-year-olds mud kitchen can lead to hours of great activities and endless fun craft, without having to worry about any mess on your kitchen floor.

12. Toy Car Race Tracks

Toy car races

It often feels like you can miss out on all the fun if your garden space is less than desirable. Even if you only have a small space, this doesn’t mean imaginative play needs to be limited to inside the house.

You can create an obstacle course for your child and their toy cars to race through by drawing chalk on the floor to create a fun race track kids will love. It’s simple fun stuff like this that makes the best activities for 3-year-olds.

13. Blow Bubbles

Blowing bubbles

Bubbles are a great way to play with any kid of all ages. Taking some out and about with you and your preschoolers is a great game to involve others and even watch your kid make friends with others effortlessly!

You can make some great games with bubbles which require lots of imagination that your kid will love. Some firm favorites include-

  • Making bubble wands
  • Hula hoop bubbles
  • Clap the bubbles
  • Add paint to your bubbles

You can make your own bubbles by mixing 1 cup of dish soap with warm water and bending an old coat hanger to make a DIY bubble blower and letting your kids enjoy this fun activity.

14. Board Games

Board games are not only a great idea for activities for 3-year-olds, they can be a fun way to include kids and toddlers of all ages and teach them wonderful new ways to solve puzzles and play a game in a social setting with the whole family.

You could even include it as a once-a-week treat to spend some quality family time together doing something you all enjoy.

Even simple board games can help to improve hand-eye coordination and dexterity in any child, as well as teaching the valuable lesson of learning to follow rules and wait your turn.

Your 3-year-old may be struggling with the idea of sharing their toys and involving others in their game, but a board game can help to encourage your 3-year-old or any other child to play as a team and work together.

15. Car Wash

Water play is always a winner with kids–and you can also get a free car wash out of this activity!

Fill a bucket with water and some toddler-safe shampoo/soap and give them a variety of brushes, sponges, and cloths to clean with. You can get them to clean the family car, a favorite toy fire truck, their bike or scooter, or even an older sibling’s bicycle.

On a hot day, you can finish up the activity by letting them rinse off their car wash with the hose before drying up and showing off their clean new ride around the block.

Six Fine Motor Skills Activities for 3-year-olds

Fine motor skills activities

16. Threading Objects

Threading beads is a fantastic and highly versatile activity that focuses on supporting your child as they work on those fine motor skills.

It will involve their perceptual, visual, and pincer grip as they focus on correctly threading the objects onto their string.

This can be a great calming activity to relieve stress and unwind after a hard day and allow your child to get creative and explore the different patterns they can make within their beads of choice

You can use anything to make this activity come to life which is a fantastic way to reduce spending on new toys you don’t have room for. You can thread any beads of choice from wooden beads, metal, buttons, leaves, felt, or even shapes.

You don’t have to use string either! It could be spaghetti, pipe cleaners, macaroni, a colander, holes in a lid, or anything you can find that would fit the activity!

Threading is a highly versatile activity that your child will enjoy at any age and can be highly adaptable to your three-year-old preferences.

17. Building Blocks

One of the most highly recognizable toddler toys is the wide variety of stacking and building blocks that are all designed to have a versatile approach to aid their learning.

These blocks can be solid and easy to stack or interlink to focus on their engineering skills.

Structured block play is highly adaptable and can help improve color work and mathematic skills as a visual representation can help your little ones to understand basic mathematic concepts easier.

18. Webbed Baskets

Grab a small basket and some string and watch your kids love trying to solve this puzzle!

You can alter the amount of yarn you use in order to suit their abilities with this task and give them some tweezers, tongs or even a clothes peg to fish out small toys you place under the layers of string.

You can use any toys you have to hand such as plastic spiders, wooden pegs, or figurines your child loves! This activity is suitable for older children too if you want to improve their fine motor skills.

19. Gem Patterns

If you want to start focusing on patterns and shapes within letters then this is a great idea that kids love!

Using any buttons, beads, or shiny gems you have, trace a pattern onto some paper and get your child to follow the pattern with their chosen material.

You can even get them to focus more on creating a repetitive pattern with the colors of their buttons and beads to work on their concentration skills.

You could also alter this activity to include pipe cleaners and get your kids to bend and wiggle them into the right shapes and focus their hand strength.

20. Fidget Objects

Fidget Toys

Making your own fidget pillow isn’t as difficult as you may think, although there are several available online to purchase.

You can introduce a variety of different developmental activities to help improve your child’s skills. You can include zippers, buttons, switches, locks, or even doorknobs and attach them to a board or block for your toddler to focus on the individual skills that they’re most interested in.

21. Scissor Skills

Introducing the use of scissors can be a highly scary topic for a 3-year-old, but around this age, it is perfectly normal for them to develop an interest in this exciting-looking object.

Showing your child the safest ways to use scissors is the best way to introduce the use of scissors and also improve their visual-motor skills as well as an appreciation and understanding for appropriate tool usage.

There are a few fun activities you can introduce the use of scissors to your toddler:

  • Cutting Playdough
  • Cutting foam sheets
  • Cutting string/ yarn
  • Cutting paper

All of these methods are a great way to get creative with your little one, but of course, make sure you watch over them as they work on this new skill so you can appropriately help them learn how much fun this can be.

If your child is already familiar with the use of scissors you can draw some interesting patterns on paper for them to follow along with their scissors to work on their steady hand and gripping skill ready for all the crafts to come!

Frequently Asked Questions

As parents, we can spend a lot of time worrying about our children’s development and if they are meeting the correct milestones. Here are some frequently asked questions about your three-year-old to help.

What should a 3 year old know educationally?

At three years of age, most kids should be able to correctly name common colors, memorize parts of stories, understand a better concept of time, have a wider creative thought, understand differences in sizing and notice the difference in similar and different features.

Should a three-year-old know the alphabet?

By this age, your child will usually not remember the whole alphabet, but often will be able to remember around half the letters and their sounds in order to connect a letter to their sound.

Should a three-year-old be potty trained?

Most children will not fully master potty training until their fourth year, although if you start around 18 months of age then they may begin being fully potty trained during their third year.

Can 3-year-olds draw people?

Usually, around this age, a drawing of a person will emerge with a “tadpole” style, and a head attached directly to the legs with some arms sticking from the sides.

Related Reading: 12 Kid-Friendly Card Games

Fun with Toddlers: Summary

At three-year-olds your child will be showing so much more emotion and awareness of the world around them.

During this important stage of understanding their own mind and body, you can really ease this developmental stage through creative play and educational learning to make the job of learning these new skills easy and stress-free for the caregivers.

Filling each day with exciting and entertaining age-appropriate activities can seem like an overwhelming task, but having access to open-ended toys and multi-purpose materials can do the world of good for your little one and help them play and learn together.

This article has covered some of the firm favorites that toddlers know and love, and given you some ideas for ways to improve your three-year-olds developing skills in a fun and appropriate way that can get the whole family involved.

Hi, I'm Emma and I'm a mother to 5 beautiful children aged from 1 to 21 years old- life is hectic! I have learned so much along the way, not only from my own children but also through my professional life. In my positions as a Childminder and Teaching Assistant, I have studied Child Development and The Early Years Developing Practice. I wish to share all of this knowledge and help you with your own parenting journey!