A three year old's world is full of magic, imagination - and questions about life, the universe and everything! Maybe as a response to new-found fears, children of this age adore a familiar story, or a favorite puzzle or video.
The forumula for success? Mix up a bit of the familiar with something new - and fun!
Funny faces - sounds obvious and it is! You put your hands over your face, wait a couple of seconds and then slowly reveal your newest funny face.
It's good for visualising your own appearance, and thinking
through an idea too.
Simon, United Kingdom
Trace footprints and cut them out of newspaper, place the footprints on the floor and let your little one walk on them.
This will teach them left and right.
Sharon, South Africa
Thanks Sharon - you could also put a bit of safe sticky tac on the bottom of the footprints to keep them on the floor a bit - depends on whether you have carpet or not I suppose!
Balloon off the floor
Balloon Off the Floor: A simple game of blowing up balloons and making sure to keep them off the floor by any means possible -- a touch, kick, throw, etc. The more balloons, the more challenging.
I have twin girls that are 3yrs old.
We like to go outside and pick up items to glue onto a poster board.
Then I have them pick out what colors they want to use.
Then we trace around the objects they glued down.
Free play outside
Arrange various craft tables, dough, paint, pasta, water, felt paste board and join your child and play follow their lead and then let them follow your lead.
Sharon, South Africa
My 3 year old likes to play the cook,so we set up a play kitchen with her toys. She does the cooking and feeds me as her baby. It's more of a role reversal thing.
My 3 yr old son likes to read stories. After he gets to know the whole story, we both would act the main characters that come in the story..(sometimes his dad will also join us if he is free) for example, I would act as a tortoise and my son as hare from " THE HARE AND TORTOISE--running race"..
This would really help our child to improve his vocabulary & communication skills.They will have real fun.
Me and my son like to play a game similar to a relay race. What I did was get blue, red, yellow and orange boxes (which can also can be made from shoe boxes and construction paper.)
I used things from my junk drawer and parts of the house that were one of these colors. I then gather the items in a separate box.
I place the colored boxes at one end of a room and the box with
the items on the other. He has to run back and forth putting the items
into the correct box. It's fun and tires him out.
Feel and guess
I make my 3 year old close his eyes... and feel a toy. He needs to guess what it is without opening his eyes (of course I need to close his eyes with my hands, he doesn't have that much executive control to keep his eyes closed yet.)
Ram, United States
We set up 6 paper cups in a pyramid and the kids roll a ball and try to knock them down.
Only knocked over 3? Great! 700 points!
Andy, United States
Thanks for that idea Andy, it's a really easy game to set up.
All you need are the cups and a small soft ball, and you can play this game again and again!
The next step is to build a bigger tower, of course - so it's good if your pack of cups contains ten or even fifteen cups!
Fridge sentence builder!
We put words on pieces of paper and have her memorize the words. We put the words on our fridge with magnets. Then we reorganize the words into different sentences.
For instance, we put her name on a piece of paper, the word
"loves" on another piece of paper and the word "daddy" on another. Then
she practices reading various sentences (i.e. "Daddy loves Amanda",
"Amanda loves daddy", etc.)
Tube ride I take a large clothes basket, tie a short rope to it, and pull my child while he sits in it. I pull him all around the house and he says it reminds him of riding a tube behind a boat. Bonus: exercise for Mom!
Suzi, United States
Around the World
We love to pretend that we're going in trip around the world (usually I choose places where Kids have been or have heard of so that they can tell me why we're visiting this place in particular).
It's very educational and full of fun! They love it!
I babysit 3 yr old twins. The love to play "go fish!" We play with colored squares of paper (color matching) or letter flashcards! They love to make me GO FISH!
Kathie, United States
Row your boat!
Pretend to sail a boat and sing row row row your boat. Kids enjoy rowing a boat.
We play shipwreak and rescue. We pretend that we are on a ship and sit on the couch and then one of us falls in and the other has to save him or her.
Jo, United States
I sit in a big chair with my grandson, we pretend we are fishing in a boat, sometimes we see alligators, sharks, whatever comes to mind.
I have a magnet fishing pole and we have an easy half hour of fun, at least once a day. It is a very scenic boat ride.
Debi, United States
A game I like to play with my son is Blanket wrap. I just get a blanket and roll him up in it, then unroll it and he comes rolling out! He loves it and wants to do it again and again! Remember to unroll the blanket slowly though!
Farm animal fun
My daughter and I pretend we are farm animals. Sometimes I am a chicken
egg and she is the hen. Great for learning new words such as hatch,
mare, foal, rooster, piglet, and other vocabulary. We end up singing
"old macdonald" every time.
Taryn, South Africa
Coloing printables for a horse, rabbit, cat, donkey, and sheep are all on my site, nice and chunky, great quality!
Shared story - in the car!
I have a quite verbal 3 year old. When traveling in the car she likes to create shared stories. Someone starts a story and after 30 seconds the next person adds to the story and so it goes around each of the travellers. Keep going as long as you want.
I picked up this idea from Amanda Blake Soule at SouleMama.
My daughter and I have "dance parties" - we blow up balloons and turn up fun, wild, loud music and dance all around the kitchen and living room. She loves to dance, jump, spin and move her whole body. This is a great way to get 3 year olds moving, have a great time with the whole family and laugh together. This seems to be a bit of a tradition in our house after supper and before the bath. Wonderful time.
Making up stories from family pictures - my 3-year-old son loves to look at the family pictures and listen to me telling (or making up) stories from our family.
He asks questions and shows great interest in those stories (and asks to watch them all over again)
Imaginative sandbox play
We like to play with construction vehicles in the sandbox and pretend that there are workers working on a road or a basement for a house.
Pretend go carts
I baby sit a three year old, we pretend that we are riding in a go cart. We do this by sitting in a big chair. We use a sofa cushion as the door. I ask him where we are going. As we drive I ask him what kinds of things he would see on our way to this specific place.
Pam, United States
Build a pretend house!
We enjoy making a cubby house, with our kitchen bar stools and sheets!
My son will bring in pillows and his toys and have a great time...
Yes Amy, and it's even more fun if you have a picnic inside, and treat the soft toys to a snack too :)
Your child's own garden
My 3 year old has her own little garden.
Every day we have so much fun. We water the flowers together, see how they grow and make little sticky notes on a wooden flower planted in the garden telling us when we planted the flowers, fertilized it etc.
She enjoys it very much.
Vicky, South Africa
ABC 123 car wash!
I like to wash the car with my girls (I have twins.) I have them count diffrent things on the car. We also sing the ABC's while we play. They have so much fun!
Jennifer, United States
Card memory game
I bought my daughter these Dora cards the are just regular cards with Dora all over them and we play a memory game and match them all up it really has brightened her memory skills.
Kristina, U.S. Minor Outlying Islands
Big Basin Fun
I fill up a big basin with dry beans or big seeds, like maize, which is cheap here.
Add measuring cups, funnels, and small scoops and a child - great fun!
Lindy, South Africa
Thanks Lindy - I have added a pic with a bowl of lentils, as they are pretty popular here in Bulgaria for a delicious soup ;)
A clapping game
My 3 year old daughter was born weighing only 1 lb and 13 oz. She is very disabled so can't play too many games, but playing patty cake with her absolutely makes her giggle bunches. This is very special to us because she does not talk.
Christina, United States
Place several hula hoops side by side on floor. Have children walk around hoops while music is playing. When music stops, everyone has to stand inside of a hoop. You can have more than one person in a hoop. When the music starts back, remove one hoop. Eventually you end up with one hoop and everyone trys to squeeze in to stand in the hoop. We just tried this at our music camp with 3yr-pre-K and they loved it!
Making funny animals with balloons and paint, sticking things onto balloons. For kids 3 years as some games are too boisterous at this age.
Clare, United Kingdom
Sing song fun
We take songs she knows and try to make up new words to them. Making them up is not hard...singing them with the new words is! She loves to sing and this is a great way to get her to expand her vocabulary. of course, we get LOTS of nonsense words included, but we try together to come up with words that make sense.
Liroi, United States
Runs and jumps and spins!
My daughter's favourite game is a very simple game which she calls 'runs and jumps and spins'. It has been her first choice and favourite game consistently for about the last year or so.
The name says it all. We run, we jump and we spin until we're dizzy and fall over together. It's great fun, keeps you fit, can be done anywhere and it wears them out. You don't need any tools to play and as many people as you like can play at one time.
We play 'runs and jumps and spins' almost every day and now my little boy is starting to join in too. Imojen is just turning three and Haydon has just gone fifteen months but it's a game they can play from as soon as they can walk pretty much, I used to carry Haydon before he could walk so that he could join in with our game and he always had a ball, laughing and giggling.
I imagine that I have quite a few more years of 'runs, jumps and
spins' ahead of me. When they grow out of it I might have to go and do
some real exercise to keep fit!
Treasure find - dig holes in sandpit and bury plastic cups, etc.
Tthen give kids a spade and say go find the buried treasure.
They love it! (3-5 year olds)