Looking for fun, outdoor activities for 3 year olds? Check out these fun ideas for your next outing with your toddler or preschooler!
For someone who has yet to go camping for fear of the bathroom “amenities,” I still love the outdoors. Even living in an apartment didn’t stop me from finding outdoor activities in our city, from hiking to the beach and even our local park. Now that we’ve moved and are surrounded by hiking trails (not to mention a backyard), being outdoors has become easier.
I want my kids to feel the same way about the outdoors. Even when they were toddlers and preschoolers, I was already trying to get at least an hour a day of outdoor time. And by “outdoors,” I don’t always mean an all-day trek—a walk around the block was enough.
Perhaps you have an energetic 3 year old who can only stay indoors for so long. You both love to be outdoors, but at the same time, you may be getting tired of doing the same things.
I know I’ve found myself feeling that way, which only makes me less inclined to actually get outside. Sometimes all you need is a list of ideas of outdoor activities for 3 year olds on hand to refer to, ideas both old and new.
25 outdoor activities for 3 year olds
That’s why I’ve listed several of the best outdoor activities for 3 year olds to inspire a few ideas for you and your little one. These range from the simple walk around the block to adventures you’d likely need to plan ahead for. Some are also available year-round, while others are seasonal.
Activities near your home
Let’s start with activities you can do near your home, and then those that need a bit more planning. I hope you’ll get your next few ideas—and get out of the house—with these outdoor activities:
1. Play with a sandbox or water table
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Whether it’s with sand, water, or dried rice, kids love to explore with their senses. A sandbox or water table in your backyard will keep your 3 year old entertained and happy.
To make it even more fun, add a few props. Shovels and toy trucks are fantastic with sand and dried rice or beans, while boats and balls that float work well with water.
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2. Collect and forage
In certain times of the year, the huge pine trees near our apartment would drop the tiniest pine cones. My eldest and I would then head to the park and make a game of finding these baby pine cones.
What little things can your 3 year old find in your yard or nearby park? A few ideas include leaves, stones, sticks—anything plentiful he can forage and collect.
3. Write or draw with sidewalk chalk
Sidewalk chalk is a hit with my kids, even now that they’re older. The best part is you can write with chalk just about anywhere, from the driveway and sidewalk to the concrete paths in the park.
4. Walk around the block
Three year olds are still curious about everyday sights, so take advantage of simple activities like walking around the block. Some of the things my boys enjoyed during our walks:
- Pushing sprinklers back down that were still sticking up
- Finding and counting lights and lamp posts (during evening walks)
- Climbing up and down stairs at neighboring apartment buildings
- Jumping over the lines of the sidewalk
- Exploring tiny bugs, snails, and worms
- Splashing in the puddles (perfect for post-rainy days)
It’s these little things that we often overlook but drive their curiosity and imagination.
5. Ride a scooter or tricycle
6. Plant seeds
Planting seeds in a garden is a fantastic way to get your 3 year old outdoors and to learn about the plant life cycle.
Start with easy-to-hold seeds like green beans, which also sprout quickly. Don’t have a backyard? Twelve-inch pots work well (just check the seed packet to make sure the variety can grow in pots). Check your local garden store for a great selection of seeds.
7. Play catch
Your 3 year old may not be able to catch a small baseball in a glove just yet, but you can practice throwing and catching a large rubber handball. Throw or even kick the ball to each other—with the wide space of the outdoors, you don’t have to worry about knocking things down, either.
8. Bring toys outdoors
Can’t peel your 3 year old away from his toy dinosaurs or Lego sets? Bring them outdoors! Playing in your backyard, patio, or even the front of your building can make the same toys even more fun for the little one.
9. Play T-ball
One of my sons loves baseball and can swing a bat like no other. This is a perfect excuse to head outdoors and practice a few of his swings. Even if your little one can’t hit a ball that’s pitched to him, a T-ball set will give him the chance to swing a bat and practice hitting the ball.
10. Do outdoor chores
One of the reasons parents feel strapped for time is because we don’t include our kids in chores often enough. Makes sense, especially when getting them to “help” usually means the task drags twice as long as it needed to.
But when you think of the chore as an activity, then you’re really combining the two. Start showing your child how to do simple, outdoor chores. He can rake leaves, sweep the patio deck, rearrange small pots of plants, water the bushes… anything to get him involved and outdoors.
The best part? He learns he’s a contributing part of the family, and will feel competent and sure of himself.
11. Blow bubbles
Blowing bubbles is one of those activities that grows with kids. It doesn’t matter how old they are, they’ll still like either blowing the bubbles or trying to pop them.
And since bubbles can get messy, this activity is a perfect excuse to head outdoors. From bubble machines to single bottles to jumbo bubble sticks, this is fun, outdoor entertainment for your little one.
12. Kick a soccer ball
Does your little one like to kick balls? Grab a soccer ball and goal post and head outdoors! Show him how to aim the ball for the net, or have him practice blocking the balls you try to kick in the goal.
Our local playground is our go-to park, but to add variety, we also visit others in the city. Each playground is different! For instance, one has a water and sand table, complete with a faucet to turn on and off. Another has a pulley with a bucket you’d raise up a treehouse-like structure.
This is also a fun way for them to socialize and play with other kids.
14. Walk to school
Do you live near your child’s preschool (or older child’s elementary school)? One way to make sure your 3 year old gets enough outdoor time is to walk to school. You might do this every day, every week, or even once a month.
Activities farther away from home
Now let’s check out a few outdoor activities for 3 year olds that are a bit farther than your home. Here are a few ideas sure to get you out of the house:
15. Run on a local track
Do you have nearby high schools or college campuses? Many have running tracks available to the public. This is a unique way to encourage your 3 year old to run or even walk around and around the track. Plus, he can count the number of lanes or laps you run or walk.
16. Attend local festivals
During the pandemic, festivals have had to shut down, but down the line, they are a fantastic way to spend time outdoors. When we can gather again, check your city’s website for local events that gather communities and celebrate cultures.
I’ve taken my kids to festivals that celebrate Mexican, Filipino, Italian, and French cultures among many others. Other festivals gather their local communities, like your town’s annual fiesta or Easter Egg hunt.
17. Shop at a farmers’ market
Skip the grocery and buy your fruits and vegetables (among other things) at a nearby farmers’ market.
Many have had to pare down their offerings, so you may not find musicians or balloon-makers like you used to. But even going to pick out items to take home can be a great way to get fresh air.
18. Visit a botanical garden
Search nearby for botanic gardens that can allow your 3 year old to learn about nature. While many are preserved and have rules about romping through the grounds, they still allow you plenty of hands-on experiences.
Some even have hikes to climb, ponds to observe, or a children’s area that encourage little ones to fully explore.
19. Visit an open-air museum
While some museums are enclosed, many incorporate open spaces into their architecture. They might have gardens, outdoor sculptures, fountains, and other sights that will keep your 3 year old outside.
And finally, let’s explore seasonal outdoor activities for 3 year olds. While some of these can be available year-round, more than likely, they’re best reserved for their optimal season:
20. Have a picnic
Welcome the warmer weather with a picnic at the park. You can go “all out” with a full meal (sandwiches, juice, fruits, cookies). Or you can keep things simple by bringing whatever snack or meal you were going to eat at home outdoors.
21. Swim in a pool
Whether the pool in your background or the local YMCA, swimming is a fun outdoor activity during the hot summer months. My boys learned how to swim because we go to the pool so often during the summer.
22. Pick fruits at a farm
One of our favorite summer activities is driving an hour away to a family-friendly farm. Besides the fun activities (including feeding farm animals!), the kids also get to pick fruits strawberries. This is perfect for 3 year olds since strawberries grow on the ground and are easily reached.
23. Ride a “water bus”
Live near the water? See if you can find a way to ride a boat. One activity we’d do every summer was ride a water bus on the marina. It works just like a regular bus, taking people from one stop to the next, but for little kids, it’s a fantastic way to experience riding on water.
24. Watch summer plays and concerts
Performances may not be around during this pandemic, but once they start again, they can offer amazing entertainment.
Search online for local theater groups—many offer free summer plays especially for kids. You can even combine the show with a delicious picnic. Some cities also host summer music shows that feature local bands.
25. Visit a pumpkin patch
If you’re lucky, you live near a pumpkin patch that not only allows you to choose a pumpkin, but to run through corn mazes, ride ponies, or paint their faces.
Hopefully these ideas have inspired you to explore the outdoors with your 3 year old. I know it reminds me of the many options I have with my kids. And who knows, maybe one day they’ll convince me to go camping, bathroom amenities or not.
Get more tips:
- 10 Physical Activities for 3 Year Olds
- 20 Easy Activities for Three Year Olds You Can Do Any Day
- Preschool Outdoor Activities for Summer
- What to Do when Your Kids Don’t Listen to You in Public
- Children’s Books about Spring Certain to Celebrate the Season
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