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.

Soft Play

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.

Games to Play

There are lots of great games you can play with your young child with little or no equipment.

Simon Says

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.

Color Hunt

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.

Preschooler's Busy Book: 365 Creative Games & Activities To Occupy 3-6 Year Olds (Busy Books Series)
Preschooler's Busy Book: 365 Creative Games & Activities To Occupy 3-6 Year Olds (Busy Books Series)

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.


Online Games

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.

Coloring Pages

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:

Activity Ideas

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.

ALEX Toys Little Hands Ready, Set, School
ALEX Toys Little Hands Ready, Set, School

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.


Outdoor Activities

Running Races

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!

Treasure Hunt

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

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.

Obstacle Course

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.

More Ideas

Here are a range of websites with more activity ideas.

Educational Activities

There are lots of educational activities you can do with your three-year-old. Here are some ideas:

Weather Chart

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.

Make Collages

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.

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.

Puppet Shows

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.

Board Games

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.

Educational Insights The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game
Educational Insights The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game

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.

Rotate Toys

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.

Buy Secondhand

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.

Toy Donation

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.

Toy Swap

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.

If you have any good ideas of things to do please add them below. Thanks in advance!

Comments and Suggestions 84 comments

FamilyThemeNights 5 years ago

Nice list of activities! Your son has a fun mom. :-)

chicagoheather profile image

chicagoheather 5 years ago

This is a fantastic list of activities! I'm going to print it out and keep it handy next time my grandsons come to visit. One is 3 and the other is 4 so these activities are perfect! Thanks!

chicagoheather profile image

chicagoheather 5 years ago

I am a retired preschool and kindergarten teacher so I can say from experience that your list of activities is spot-on for this age group! What a wonderfully comprehensive list of activities for young kids. Thanks!

Mary Crowther profile image

Mary Crowther 5 years ago from Havre de Grace

Nice lens! Sometimes it's hard to keep the little ones occupied, but you have some great ideas!

BryanLSC profile image

BryanLSC 5 years ago

great ideas! great lens! really appreciate the compilation!

lbrummer profile image

lbrummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

Three year olds are so precious. They grow so fast that it's great you can spend time with your son. Very nice lens with lots of great ideas to keep the little ones busy and happy.

lessardsgutters 5 years ago

I know at three role playing games like puppets are lots of fun! Its always fun watching them come up with a puppet show! Great lens!

anonymous 5 years ago

omg i love the shopping idea. i'm making some fake dollars right now so i can play with my 3 year old nephew the next time i see him

scarfaceclaw 5 years ago

Thank you for this article. Mine friends and I do in home care is our minds can sometimes go blank especially when it comes to boy type activities.

wcjohnston profile image

wcjohnston 4 years ago

Great Lens: I have always found that if an activity is not fun for the adult the chances are the 3 year old will not enjoy it too. Children take their love of play from those around them. All too often parents just sit the child in front of the TV and wonder why when they get to the teenage years they don't want to do things as a family. Parents, learn to enjoy time with your children, they wont be children for long.

moonlitta 4 years ago

I think I'm a bit late to land here... just two years or something, my daughter is now 5:) Great suggestions though!

KevinColson 4 years ago

I find it is better to buy the old fashioned coloring books from target as opposed to printing them out - almost more expensive and time consuming to print them. Great list here thanks for the share!

anonymous 4 years ago

With my child, i like to do potato printing as i find that she loves to get her hands dirty. It really helps with her fine motor skills and hand eye co-ordination. I would definatley recommend it to any other mothers with a three year old!!

Ddaboss65 profile image

Ddaboss65 4 years ago

Louise, Thanks for your great lenses, I have grandchildren (ages 5 and 6 months and 3 years) and I will be happy to share your lenses with their parents and try some of the things when I borrow the g-kids. I ordered some books from Amazon from your books for 3 years olds lens. My lenses are few and two are as yet unpublished, but I am finding that people like you have made some useful lenses. My published lens is about the Northern California coast (which is like the coast you'd see in the British isles... although I have yet to confirm that).I hope to have my Big birds lens up soon, your 5 year old might like it.

anonymous 4 years ago

wow my 2 year old loves to do these thanks for your great suggestions

anonymous 4 years ago

my 2 year old likes to play catch me i run slowly she tries to catch me its really fun for her.

anonymous 4 years ago

@FamilyThemeNights: you're right

anonymous 4 years ago


anonymous 4 years ago

@anonymous: hi simmy your suggestions are very good

anonymous 4 years ago

just play.

khatha0808 4 years ago

i have two boys and they like swimming a lot. I have to take them to swimming pool every weekend.

TinasCraft profile image

TinasCraft 4 years ago

Great article...a lot of interesting stuff in there....

anonymous 4 years ago

great lens!!

anonymous 4 years ago

i love this site my child learnt all the colours shaps etc thanks for great lens.

anonymous 4 years ago

@anonymous: really? ooh!!

anonymous 4 years ago

I am a babysitter and will be babysitting for 8 hours for a three year old. I will be sure to use some of these ideas. I love them!! With some of the older kids I babysit we like to go for bike rides to our town pond and look for frogs. Let me know if ya need a babysitter haha!! :)

anonymous 4 years ago

My son and I take turns throwing a bouncy ball into a tote (a laundry basket would work well too). We count how many "baskets" we make. Next round we said the ABCs, then shapes and colors.

jediboy 4 years ago

Great ideas, thanks!

anonymous 4 years ago

fabulous suggestions! thank you!

anonymous 4 years ago

Hey, u know my three year old and myself have a great fun by playing these games ooh it's cool great lens!

anonymous 4 years ago

thanks for load of suggestions....helps me a lot...

BelleBanks profile image

BelleBanks 4 years ago

Thanks for so many ideas!

melissiaoliver profile image

melissiaoliver 4 years ago

Some really great ideas here!

dream1983 4 years ago

I enjoy reading your lens, well done!

anonymous 4 years ago

Thanks for the wonderful ideas

milaniki profile image

milaniki 4 years ago

Great suggestions

anonymous 4 years ago

Fantastic ideas so nicely put in one spot! Awesome!

tfsherman lm profile image

tfsherman lm 4 years ago

You must know some very happy 3 year olds. What a nice lens, and what a great parent you must be. Thanks for the insight.

anonymous 4 years ago

very creative ideas! Thank you

JBradshaw profile image

JBradshaw 4 years ago

wow, you really thought of it all!!

anonymous 4 years ago

thank you! thank you! thank you! this is wohderful

anonymous 4 years ago

Marvelous ideas.... Thanks a lot....

wirrun 4 years ago

Thanks for sharing all these great ideas :)

anonymous 4 years ago

Brilliant ideas! Thanks!

anonymous 4 years ago

@anonymous: Ur rite really ggoodd lens !!!!!

anonymous 4 years ago

@anonymous: Awesome!!!! Gd lens!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

anonymous 4 years ago

@anonymous: Truly good ideas!!! As a Montessori teacher these ideas are very useful for me great lens!! Thanks

PamVan 4 years ago

These are awesome ideas! I have a 3 yr old little guy too and he just loves it when I make simple, short obstacle courses for him, either inside or outside, having him jump over, crawl under, and shimmy through different things.

ruth-williams lm profile image

ruth-williams lm 4 years ago

These are great ideas, not just for 3 y/os but kids of all ages! Just adapt them for your child and they're great. Just goes to show you don't have to spend a small fortune for great games!

anonymous 3 years ago

great lens :)

anonymous 3 years ago

thank you so much!!!! this will deffinetly help!!!

anonymous 3 years ago

Yea I'm watching my little cousin and those are some wonderful ideas!!! Thanks'

crossroadsblogg profile image

crossroadsblogg 3 years ago

Thank you very much for this.

anonymous 3 years ago

This has been the most helpful site i have yet to see. Thank you for putting this together me and my son are going to have a blast! Always need something to keep him entertained with all of that energy! :) this was a blessing!

DonMiguel1 profile image

DonMiguel1 3 years ago

Great ideas to keep my twins busy during vacation!

forgive2forget 3 years ago

I get to visit my son today who is 3 and super spontaneous... Great Ideas for us to do! Thank you

Thenewolder 3 years ago

I never did babysit myself in my home country. Babysitting was not popular there. So I wanted to know how to play with kids. This lens is great for person like me! Thank you!

MooshkaDaisy 3 years ago

Thank you for this very informative lens!

oztoo lm profile image

oztoo lm 3 years ago

Lots of great activities for 3 year olds Thanks.

RetireAt57 3 years ago

Great activities!

iijuan12 profile image

iijuan12 3 years ago from Florida

Great ideas!

InfoCoop profile image

InfoCoop 3 years ago

I'm submitting this lens for my Rocket Squids fast track challenge: "Find Things That Go Fast". For me, it was having my children grow up. Yesterday, they were 3 yrs old and today it's prom time. Where does the time go?

mistaben 3 years ago

Very nice lens with some great activities for 3 year olds! Thanks.

anonymous 3 years ago

I am babysitting two 3 year olds on thursday! Thank you so much for all these amazing ideas

cirukariuki 3 years ago

Great ideas

lawyer-marketing 3 years ago

Great tips.

SamanthaHaupt 3 years ago

Great ideas! What a fun lens.

anonymous 3 years ago

I didn't have to go further! This is such an awesome one-stop site! I love it! I have taken down lots of information to keep my 3 year old friend busy when I start baby sitting him next week full time. THANK YOU ;)

steadytracker lm profile image

steadytracker lm 3 years ago

Wow, some really great ideas. Thanks for sharing.

MomAtWork247 3 years ago

Good collection of activities! Thanks a lot.

Early2ReadMom 3 years ago

Great Lens. The key is to stick to a plan or a program. It's hard to make up everything yourself.I got my kids started early to readbefore they ever entered kindergarten. I can't overstate how much it helped their overall confidence level in all subjects. My boy started reading at age 3. As he entered first grade and they told me he was reading on the 5th grade level. Kids love reading when they can learn with no pressure.Diana S.

Hansoph profile image

Hansoph 2 years ago

Some really great ideas here for me to try with my almost 3 year old!

NancyKraz 2 years ago

There are some great activities, coloring and stickers in Zoobooks Magazine. For more info see

adianty-lili 2 years ago

Great lens, I Like Simon Say games.

adianty-lili 2 years ago

Great Lens, I like Simon Say Game,

educationalfun 2 years ago

I agree that determining a childs reading fluency is important in order to assess whether s/he needs extra attention or help. However, I also believe that quality is better than quantity. As for children with learning disability, a combined effort of the parents, teachers (if attending school) and the child is important. Appropriate educational tools will be a big help.

Mikarazgriz LM profile image

Mikarazgriz LM 2 years ago

Awesome! This lens gave me great ideas for my baby cousin :)

kidsarelovely 2 years ago

I especially liked the part for the boring days... Kids just want fun. So, make fun for them! This article is great and there are a lot of tips and things that you can do, just to turn boring rainy day into fun for your kids... find out more ->

Gypzeerose profile image

Gypzeerose 2 years ago

Such a great lens, and it brought back wonderful memories for me. My son and I made a papier mache volcano when he was two and it was wonderful.

eilval profile image

eilval 2 years ago from Western Cape , South Africa

Fascinating lens with great information

MissTulipTree profile image

MissTulipTree 2 years ago

Some fantastic ideas! I have a 3 year old girl and sometimes can't think of anything to do, I've written some of these on a list on the fridge to remember!

ashleydpenn profile image

ashleydpenn 2 years ago

So many great ideas! I'm a stay at home Dad, so I'm going to be doing many of these. I can't believe I hadn't thought of an obstacle course before! Thank you so much! :)

VioletteRose LM profile image

VioletteRose LM 2 years ago

Great ideas, thanks so much for sharing. My son's favourite is the sticker books!

stacy-beckles-37 2 years ago

I LOVE this... I've started to do a lot of the activities from here! Thank you.Chalking outside is our favourite. ;)

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