Editor’s note: This article was updated on Dec. 6, 2022.
If you have a little one under 5 years old at home, then you’ve experienced what it’s like to try to keep up with an energetic toddler or preschooler. But did you know that kids this age need three hours of physical activity a day?
Children between 2-4 years old don’t only need a lot of movement, they also need a lot of variety of movement. This age group is ready to move in new and exciting ways! So while it’s essential to make time for unstructured, active playtime, it’s also important to have access to plenty of fun, simple activities that you know will help them get active and develop skills in many different ways.
This list of 57 fun activities for kids is the ultimate go-to for any playdate, home child care setting, or a morning or afternoon with a caregiver. Whatever the situation, short attention spans mean that it’s a good idea to have a few of these up your sleeve.
1. Animal Walk
Inside or out, encourage your child to slither like a snake, hop like a frog, gallop like a horse, or walk like a bear on all fours.
2. Keep the Balloon Up
Outdoor on a calm, windless day, or inside, have your kids use their hands or half of a pool noodle to keep a balloon afloat. How long can they keep the balloon off the ground?
3. Puddle Jumping
Preferably outside in what our two year old called “chocolate water”, throw on your kids’ most waterproof gear and let them jump in, out, and over puddles.
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4. Wet Sponge Designs
On a hot, summer day, gather up lots of sponges, provide a tub of water for endless resoaking, and have your kids throw their sponges on a wall or on a cement surface to make designs. Sponges can also be used to “paint” walls.
5. Digging for Treasure
Whether it’s an inside or outside sandtable or sandbox, kids love to dig for treasure. Hide small toys like plastic dinosaurs, small cars, or marbles, and let your child release their inner pirate as they search for booty!
6. Run Away From the Monster
Kids love a game of chase, especially with a parent or other adult they trust. A game of running from a “scary” monster will involve much squealing with delight.
7. Simon/Simone Says
While the rules are simple, the options for movement are endless. Simon can have kids jumping like a kangaroo, standing as tall as a house, making funny faces, standing on one foot, or waving their hands over their heads.
8. Leaf Play
Not everyone loves the raking jobs that come in autumn, but kids love leaves. Rake them up and let kids jump into the piles, throw the leaves in the air, and crunch the foliage in their hands. If you don’t have a garden or a tree, go for a walk and let kids make music as they crunch through the leaves on the ground.
A favourite with kids of all ages, hopscotch is a game that can be played inside or out. Inside, use painters tape on the floor to pattern your own board and use buttons, rolled up socks or bean bags instead of rocks. Outside, use chalk to make a court and use rocks or the chalk itself as a marker. The rules [PDF] are simple and the game can be played alone or with friends.
10. Fly a Kite
Find a wide open space in a park, a beach, or a field, make or purchase a kite, pick a day which is breezy but not too windy, and head out to watch your child delight in running with their colourful toy.
11. Throw Snowballs
Snowballs are the perfect antidote for cabin fever! Have your kids throw snowballs against a surface to make designs as they did with sponges in the summer (see #4) or make a circle or other target in the snow and see how close they can get to a bullseye.
12. Ball Kicks
Balls are a staple for so many games and activities. Using different types and sizes of balls, have your child see how far they can kick, or play goalie in front of a wall or fence and see if your child can kick the ball past you.
13. Dance Party
Indoors or outdoors, turn up the music, use lights or decorations for ambiance, and let your kids twist, macarena, floss, dance like their favourite animal, or freestyle their way to fun.
14. Mini Sticks
Pass a ball back and forth with your child or have them shoot at a target while teaching them to keep their stick on the ice (the floor) and to hold their stick with two hands.
15. Bubble Play
Ideally an outdoor activity, use various sizes and types of bubble wands and have kids blow their own bubbles or blow them yourself and have kids chase and pop them.
16. Ride a Bike
Whether it’s a tricycle, a balance bike, a bike with training wheels, or a two-wheeler, kids love to zoom around under their own steam.
17. Freeze Tag
If you’ve got a group of four or more kids looking for some fun, look no further than a good old game of freeze tag. Pick one child to be “it,” and have them chase the other kids around. When “it” touches a player, they must freeze (stand still) until another player “unfreezes” them by touching them. When “it” freezes all players, the game begins again with a new child as “it.”
18. Fill the Bucket Water Game
Provide your child with a cup and two buckets (one smaller, one larger). Place the smaller bucket a short distance from the larger bucket and fill the larger bucket with water. Have your child scoop water from the larger bucket and fill the smaller one. To make the game more challenging, put small holes in the cup or have your child dance as they move from bucket to bucket.
19. Paper Airplanes
There are so many ways to make paper airplanes at home. Throw them inside or outside and see how high they can fly, how far they can fly, or if your child can throw them through an object such as a hula hoop.
20. Avoid the Shark
Cover your living room floor (the shark-filled ocean) with foam floor tiles or towels (taped to the floor with painters tape) and have your child jump from one to the next without getting nabbed by a shark.
21. Bean Bag Toss
Bean bags are an easy-to-grip and throw item for kids. Indoors or out, have kids throw them into targets such as laundry baskets or hula hoops.
22. Egg and Spoon
For this ultimate hand-eye coordination and balance game, give kids a spoon and have them balance a hard-boiled or plastic egg from one point to another either indoors or out. How quickly can they go? Can they dance as they move?
23. Ribbon Sticks
Tie a length of ribbon to the end of a stick or baton and watch as your kids dance and swirl their ribbons in the air.
24. Pillow Walk
Set up a line of couch, throw, or bed pillows on your floor, and have your child walk from one end to the other. It may sound easy but their balance will be challenged!
25. Kick Bowling
Switch up regular bowling inside or outside by having your kids use different sizes of balls to kick down different objects such as empty bottles or rolls of paper towels.
26. Climb a tree
Pick a tree with low branches and let your child climb. Be close by for help but let your kids see how far they can get on their own.
27. Bean Bag Balance
Have your child balance a bean bag on their head and walk from one point to another without dropping it. As they master the walk, move the points further apart or make the course a bit more challenging by adding zig zags or circles, or objects around which they have to maneuver.
28. Jump Waves
Take a day trip to a local beach or lake and simply jump waves as they roll on to the shore.
29. Bubble Wrap Jump
Bubble wrap is not just for packing fragile objects. Purchase a roll of wrap and on an inside day, have your child jump and pop to their heart’s content.
Turn a jump rope around in a circle low to the ground while your child hops over it without touching it. Be prepared to be the jumper when your child wants to turn the rope too!
31. Obstacle Course
Indoors or out, let your imagination run wild as you set up an obstacle course for your child. Have them crawl under tables, climb over chairs, jump over ropes, hop from cone to cone, crawl through a cardboard box, jump through a line of hula hoops, throw a family of stuffed animals into a laundry basket, etc. etc.
Get into nature and encourage your kids to climb hills, jump over sticks, and balance on tree stumps.
33. Neighbourhood Search
Prepare a list ahead of time of items to search for as you and your child leave the stroller at home and take a walk through your neighbourhood. Can they spot a stop sign, a blue flower, something with a tail, something round, a fire hydrant, etc.? Check off the items on the list or use your phone to take pictures to review later.
34. Jump in the Sprinkler
Set up a sprinkler in your yard and have your kids jump through using animal movements or dance through (singing along may cause hilarious water in mouth incidents!)
Kids learn to catch at different rates but working with them on the skill can begin with throwing them a balloon or a soft object such as a rolled up pair of socks or a light ball will be less intimidating than a heavy or small ball. Start by standing close to your child and as they master the catch, move further away.
36. Indoor Skating
Have your kids place each of their feet on paper plates, face cloths, or felt squares, and let them slide along like skating pros on hardwood or carpet. Turn on the music and let them skate to the rhythm!
Find your kids proper skates and a helmet and head to your local rink either indoors or outside. Fresh air and perhaps hot chocolate afterwards will make any skating time a great time.
With a plastic tee-ball stand, bat, and balls, kids can practice their swing indoors or out. Batter up!
39. Long Jump
Just how far can your child jump? Challenge them indoors by having them jump on lines made by painters tape on the floor or outdoors on grass or in the sand.
Kids can learn all kinds of yoga movements at this age. Look for classes at your local community centre or yoga studio, or teach your children some movements such as a tree pose, downward dog, or sun salutation.
The feeling of whizzing down a hill on a sled is unbeatable for kids. In order to make the activity last, though, remember that your child will not only slide down the hill but will also have to climb back up it. Keep the hill to a height they’ll want to climb again and again.
42. Music Parade
Whether you have traditional instruments or pots and pans, kids love to make noise. Gather a bunch of kids and with different instruments in hand, celebrate a real or a made-up holiday while entertaining friends and neighbours.
43. Action Songs
Sing together or find recordings of songs that have kids moving their bodies in different ways. Hokey Pokey, Shake My Sillies Out, I’m A Little Teapot, and Zoom, Zoom, Zoom are all examples of fun ways to get kids moving and shaking to sing along songs.
44. Colour Run
This one is best done in a group! Gather three or four kids together and, on a driveway, sidewalk, or in a park, colour four areas (draw circles or squares) with different colours of chalk. Call out a colour and have the children run to that coloured area. Make it a competition and see who can get to it first! Continue to call out different colours in varying order.
45. Door Fringe
Purchase a door fringe from a dollar or party store or hang streamers from a door frame. Make sure no one is on the other side of the door as your child runs, hops, or dances through the fringe.
46. Beach Ball Blanket Toss
Have two or four children hold the corners of a blanket (or towel). Throw a beach ball onto the blanket and listen to the kids giggle as they bounce the ball up and catch it.
47. Hide and Seek
Kids can hide either themselves or objects such as their stuffed animals in this favourite game played by kids around the world.
How low can you go? A fun game indoors or out, use your imagination when it comes to using objects under which your child must go under without their hands touching the floor. Objects could include a pool noodle, a broom, or a rope.
49. Outdoor Picasso
Get together some paint brushes or rollers of any size, fill buckets or paint trays with water and let your little artist’s creativity go wild. Perhaps they’d like to “spruce up” your fence, a wall, a garage door or a sidewalk.
50. Snow Angels
Find a clear patch of snow and have your child lie on their back. Show them how to move their arms and legs like they’re doing jumping jacks. And when they stand up and move carefully away … voilà.
51. Squish and Walk
Amongst the games to play with 4 year olds at my kids’ birthday party, this one was a huge hit! Find a ball that isn’t fully inflated and have your child place it between their knees. See how far they can walk while keeping the ball from falling out. Can they run with it? Hop?
52. Pooh Sticks
A fun game Winnie the Pooh and friends loved to play, kids will love it too. Find a bridge and have two or more kids find sticks. Each player drops a stick on the upstream side of a bridge and the one whose stick first appears on the downstream side is the winner.
53. Shadow Catch
Find an open space on a sunny day and get ready to play a fun twist on the old standby game of tag. Choose one player to be “it.” That person chases the other players and tries to step on their shadow. Once they’ve “tagged” that player’s shadow, that person is now “it.”
The game of golf can be played by kids in so many ways. Head to a mini golf course or even better, design your own at home inside or out. For a club, have your child use a toy golf club or hockey stick. Your home course can be as simple as using cups or bins on their sides to putt balls straight into. Make the course more fun by creating ramps out of cardboard boxes or obstacles to be putted around such as pylons or empty items from your recycling bin.
55. Stuffie Wagon Ride
Put out a wagon or sled for your kids and let them fill them with stuffies or other toys. Kids can take their friends for a spin around the neighbourhood or their own backyard.
56. Hill Roller
Whether you find a hill that’s grassy, muddy or covered in snow, kids love to roll down hills! And run right back up them to roll down again.
57. Car Wash
Pull out your kids’ bikes, ride-on toys, and any other items they can wash and prepare for some splashing good fun. Pour water into a tub (or tubs), provide your kids with sponges, cloths and scrub brushes and have them get cleaning! Balls, toy cars, plastic animals and any other toys which are waterproof can also be scoured.