What to Do with a 3 Year Old

Wondering what to do with a 3 year old when you’re home all day? In this article, I’ll share several fun and educational activities to entertain your little one indoors.

What to Do with a 3 Year Old

For anyone who has been home with a 3 year old all day, you know how challenging it can be to keep them entertained. Despite bins of toys, I still found myself running out of ideas. Even though my son was fairly fine with our usual activities, I was more than ready to change things up.

If you can relate, rest assured that you’re not alone, friend. Having a list of things to do in your 3 year old’s daily schedule can be helpful, especially if you want to plan ahead for the week or month. Other times, you just need a refresher to remind yourself of all the activities you can try.

Take a look at these fun ideas and activities (or add your own favorites in the comments below!):

Create weekly lesson plans

One way to incorporate educational activities for 3 year olds is through weekly themes and lesson plans. Decide on a topic each week and design a loose curriculum that allows you and your child to explore it further.

Your curriculum can include:

  • Reading books about the topic from the library
  • Creating a craft
  • Going on a field trip
  • Taking notes and drawing pictures
  • Listening to songs
  • Exploring colors
  • Eating food
  • Learning new words

Let’s say your theme of the week is learning about pumpkins. You could go to the pumpkin patch, pick out a small pumpkin to decorate, and take another one home to turn into pumpkin pie.

The next week, you could study stars and space by reading children’s books (both fiction and non-fiction), signing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and name and count the planets in our solar system.

Make a pile of pillows and blankets

We all have loads of pillows and blankets throughout the house. Turn yours into a fun heap of softness that your 3 year old can play with! Gather them in the center of a room and let her jump, hug, lie down, or otherwise use them to her heart’s content.

Similarly, you can use the same pillows and blankets along with other household items to make an obstacle course. For instance, have her jump from pillow to pillow without falling on the floor or crawl through large cardboard boxes (more on that, later).

Play with large cardboard boxes

Save any large boxes you get shipped to your home for endless fun with your 3 year old!

The best way to start is to simply see what she does with the box. She might use it as a “house” for her stuffed animals or climb inside so she can “drive” her new car.

Then, if you have several boxes, tape them together to form a tunnel she can crawl through. Bring out crayons and paint so she can scribble and brush on its sides (cardboard makes a great canvas because it won’t dampen with paint the way regular paper might).

Then, once all is said and done, flatten the box for even more options. Perhaps she’ll tap dance on the board or use it as a pretend bed to sleep on. Truly, the possibilities are endless.

Go on a treasure hunt

Create a treasure hunt right in your own home for a fun yet simple game!

One option is to write clues on pieces of paper and attach them to certain items. Each clue will lead from to the next one. For instance, the first could read, “The purple chair in the living room.” Attach another clue to that chair that reads, “Your favorite stuffed animal,” and so forth.

After, say, 10 clues, have a final treasure with a prize, like a yummy snack or a new toy.

Another option is more like an “Easter egg hunt.” You can even use actual Easter eggs to hide. Place small items in each egg and stash them throughout your home and backyard. Later, you can talk about the colors of the eggs or count them off as she sorts through her bag.

Play with a balloon

Who knew that a simple balloon could be so much fun for a 3 year old? If the balloon still has helium, weigh the string down to the ground so that the it’s more or less eye level with your child. Then, let him bonk and pop it however much he wants—it’ll come right back for more!

Once the balloon has lost its helium and floats to the ground, cut the string off and have him toss it in the air. He’ll delight in being able to catch it in his arms as it makes its slow descent.

Similarly, play “volleyball” with the balloon and spike it back and forth to each other (or simply have him spike it as far as he can hit). And yet another option is to tap the balloon back and forth to each other, counting each hit and seeing how far you can go before it touches the ground.

Take a long bath

Bath time may happen every night, but you can still turn an everyday activity into a fun one! Set aside time midday or perhaps start bath time earlier than you normally would to give your 3 year old a longer chance to play in the tub.

Then, introduce bath toys to make it fun. Just about anything can make bathing more enjoyable. Here are a few ideas:

  • Foam letters and numbers. Use these to spell words or arrange the numbers in order.
  • Water-safe books. Perfect for reading during a bath. Many come with fun squeaks and sounds, too.
  • Finger paint soap. Turn bath time into an art project! She can use these to paint the sides of the tub. They wash off easily and can even be used as soap.
  • Color tabs. Drop these into the tub and watch them turn the water into different colors!
  • Toy boats and ducks. Classic toys like tugboats and rubber duckies can turn bath time into imaginative play.
  • Water-safe building blocks. Bring her favorite building blocks into the water to create structures and shapes.
  • Bubbles. Add a bit of bubble soap to create sudsy water that’s sure to delight your little one.

Have a dance party

If you’re like me, you likely have kids’ music playing in the background at some point in the day. But what if you set aside a day to have a dance party right at home?

Start with nursery songs that lend themselves to physical activity. Hokey Pokey, The Wheels on the Bus, and Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes are a few ideas. Even adult music works, like Macarena and The Cupid Shuffle.

Another option is to simply play fun music! One way I make playlists of songs is to find kids movies we’ve seen and play its soundtrack. Some of my favorites include music from Tom and Jerry, Despicable Me, and Sing. Make it even more fun by bringing out your scarves. Light and small ones work well, as do bandanas and handkerchiefs.

And lastly, play or even make your own musical instruments! You can buy simple ones specifically for young kids like small guitars or tambourines. Or you can also make your own, like filling those Easter eggs with dried beans or turning kitchen pots and utensils into drums.

Bake together

Don’t assume your 3 year old is too young to be in the kitchen! Baking is a fantastic activity that encourages sensory experiences, math concepts, and of course, delicious treats.

My favorite baked goods to bake with kids is banana bread. While baking in the oven takes an hour, putting it together is pretty quick. And the best part is that you can whip it up using a good ol’ wooden spoon—no gadgets or mixers needed.

For quicker oven times, you can also bake cookies and cupcakes since those are smaller and are usually only in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Keep it as simple or complex as you want. If you’re not keen on making homemade frosting for your cupcakes, a store-bought one will work just fine (or eliminate it completely).

If sweets aren’t your style, consider baking pizza! Whether homemade dough or store-bought, your little one will love brushing on the tomato sauce, sprinkling cheese, and of course, adding her own toppings.

Frequently asked questions

My child gets easily bored with her toys. How can I get her more interested in the ones she already has?

One simple way to rekindle interest in existing toys is to rotate them. If all her toys are exposed, she may be less inclined to play with them because they’ve blended into the background.

Instead, store most of her toys in bins and away in closets and cabinets. Every week or so, bring a bin out and store the ones she has out. That way, even though the ones in the bin are old, they can seem new once again.

How can I encourage more independent play with my 3 year old?

While many of the activities above encourage engagement, independent play is definitely still important (plus, sometimes we just need a break!).

Nurture this independence by setting up your home so that she leads the play. For instance, bring out art supplies and a place for her to create. Set up a sensory bin in the kitchen while you cook, and make sure she can access all her books and toys in low shelves.

The bottom line

You’re not the only one who was wondered what to do with a 3 year old all day. With these ideas, you now have several activities to try. Whether you’re baking or painting, your little one will have plenty of fun things to do!

Get more tips:

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Tell me in the comments: What are your favorite activities to do with your 3 year old?

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