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 hasn’t stopped me from finding outdoor activities in our city, from hiking to the beach and even our local park.
So of course it’s only natural I’d want my kids to feel the same way about being outdoors. Even when they were toddlers not too long ago, 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—even 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 certainly 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’m listing 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.
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.
Free resource: Want even more play ideas? Join my newsletter and get my Play Ideas Calendar! The first sheet includes ideas, while the second is a blank template to fill with your own. Download it below—at no cost to you:
2. Collect and forage
In certain times of the year, the huge pine trees near our home 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 sidewalk in front of your house to the concrete paths in the park.
4. Walk around the block
Three year olds are still curious even about the most everyday sights, so take advantage of simple activities like walking around the block.
Some of the things my boys enjoyed during our walks:
- Stepping on sprinklers 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 just as well (just check the seed packet to make sure the variety can grow in pots).
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 your 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 her how to aim the ball for the net, or have her 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.
Want to add to the fun? Invite a friend and make it a park play date!
14. Walk to school*
If you’re like me, you live near your child’s preschool, making for an easy and convenient commute. One way to make sure your 3 year old gets enough outdoor time is to simply walk to school. You might do this every day, every week, or even once a month.
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, she can count the number of lanes or laps you run or walk.
16. Attend local festivals*
Throughout the year, many cities host festivals to 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.
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 musicians, so you can even grab a snack and watch a show while you eat. Others have child-friendly entertainment, like balloon-makers or robotic toys.
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 in buildings, 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. I especially want my boys to learn how to swim, so I scheduled our calendar to visit our apartment building pool every weekend.
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 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? One of our favorite activities is riding a water bus on the marina. Available during the summer, the water bus 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.
I especially like the water bus because it’s slow enough not to get sea sick (which I get) and wide enough that you can leave your stroller open (instead of folded).
24. Watch summer plays and concerts*
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 certainly 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
- Play Ideas for Toddlers for the After Work Hours
- What to Do when Your Kids Don’t Listen to You in Public
- How to Stop Your Toddler from Running Off in Public
Want even more play ideas? Join my newsletter and get my Play Ideas Calendar! The first sheet includes ideas, while the second is a blank template to fill with your own. Download it below—at no cost to you:
*Note: Given the current global crisis, this activity isn’t feasible. That said, save it for the future when it becomes available again!