Three-year-olds are creative, active, playful, and fun to be around. At this stage, they are finding their own interests and preferred activities, but still want to spend most of their time around their caregivers. They are figuring out how the world around them works. 3-year-olds are also learning to manage their big emotions.

If you are wondering what your 3-year-old should be working on, the CDC offers information on developmental milestones. According to the CDC:

  • At 3 years old, children are generally able to speak in short sentences, carry on a conversation, and ask questions.
  • They are mastering fine motor skills, like stringing large beads, drawing, and using a fork to feed themselves.
  • They can calm down within ten minutes and show an interest in playing with peers.
  • At this age, they can follow simple instructions and rules with reminders and redirection.


10 Simple Activities For 3-Year-Olds To Do By Themselves

Moms are children's first teachers. They can nurture their child's development by interacting with them throughout the day. The good news is, you do not need to plan Pinterest-worthy activities. Three-year-olds benefit from simply being talked to, having plenty of opportunities for play, and being included in your daily activities. Here are some things you can do every day with your 3-year-old.

Involve Them In Household Activities

Mom cleaning up floor with small children

Three-year-olds often imitate adults and like to help.

  • When it is time to clean up give your child a handheld dustpan, so they can join you.
  • Your child can help with preparing meals, cooking, or cleaning up.
  • Washing fruits and vegetables is a great way to start getting them involved in the kitchen.

Simple tasks that moms may find mundane are more fun with a little one helping.

Talk & Sing

Mom and daughter singing and clapping

As you go through the day, talk to your child about the things you are doing. Through conversation, your child will learn sentence structure, new vocabulary, and communication skills. You can also think aloud as you work and play. This helps your child learn reasoning and problem-solving skills.

Three-year-olds love to sing and dance! Nursery rhymes, finger plays, and songs are full of learning skills. Fun-A-Day has a great list of fun songs perfect for singing with your 3-year-old!

​​​​​​Explore Outside

Young boy and girl playing in grass

​​​​​​Fresh air and movement have benefits for all areas of a child's development. It's also great for mom's mental health. A walk around the block, a trip to the park, or exploring in the yard can be great ways to enjoy being outside with your 3-year-old.

Teach Foundational Math Skills

Child playing with trains

As you go about daily activities, include math skills naturally. At age 3, children will be learning to name colors, sort objects, count objects, recognize shapes, and understand measurement concepts. You can incorporate math concepts into play with these examples:

  • Have a color scavenger hunt
  • Sort toys by color
  • Count blocks in a tower
  • Notice the shape of foods at snack time
  • Arrange objects by size or height

Play Together

Mother and child playing together

Set aside time to give your child undivided attention as you play together. Play is a child's work. They learn best through opportunities to play in a variety of ways. You can follow your child's lead and join in their play. If you are looking for an idea to add to playtime these options from No Time for Flashcards will be fun for your 3-year-old:

  • Simon Says
  • Red light, green light
  • Playdough
  • I-spy
  • Build a fort
  • Hide and seek
  • Draw with chalk
  • Sensory play with uncooked noodles, rice, beans
  • Dress up
  • Build with blocks or Legos

Encourage Independent Play

Child stacking blocks

Your child likely has preferred toys or activities. Set these up in a space where you can supervise, but not intervene. It is important for their developing mind to entertain themselves at times. Your child will have fun pretend-playing with dolls, kitchen tools, or cars. They may also enjoy art activities, such as painting, coloring, or using stickers.

Social Activities

Preschool children playing together

Three-year-olds are beginning to learn how to make friends, share toys, and show an interest in the activities of others. Social activities with peers are important for the developing preschooler. Activities to encourage play with other children include:

  • Going to the park
  • Storytime at the local library
  • Scheduling play dates
  • Church groups
  • Recreation center activities

Teach Self-Help Skills

Parent tying shoe

Three-year-olds love having the "I can do it myself!" attitude. It may take some patience from mom, but allowing your child the time to practice these skills is important. At 3, children should work on self-help skills for hygiene, dressing, and eating. With practice, they will gain independence with tasks such as: taking care of toileting needs, washing hands, brushing teeth, dressing, zipping clothing, putting on shoes, and opening packaging at snack time.

Sources: CDC, No Time For Flashcards, Fun-A-Day