Congratulations! You have made it past the “tremendous” twos and now have a “terrific” three-year-old! Three-year-olds are becoming more independent but are understanding the concepts of sharing and playing with others. Their imaginations are whirring and they’re moving with more confidence. Most three-year-olds can hop, climb, throw, kick, and balance.
When you’ve got a rainy day or other circumstances keeping you inside, you can still keep your little ones moving with fun indoor activities. Here are some ideas to get you started!
Shape paper or cardboard into arches and use painter’s tape to attach them to the floor. Voilà! Super-easy tunnels your preschoolers can race their cars or balls through.
Sensory activities are a great way to spark creativity, build nerve connections in the brain through exploration, expand kids’ vocabulary, and develop fine motor skills.
Make a sensory bin or basket at home with items such as dried beans, pasta, sand, or rice as a base and add small toys, rocks, measuring cups, craft feathers or pom-poms, buttons, spoons, fake plants, cotton balls, magnetic letters, funnels, empty paper towel rolls, tubs, etc. There are so many options that your kids will love!
Want to bring this idea outside? Try these 20 outdoor sensory play activities.
Kids love to clean. That doesn’t mean they always like to tidy up their toys, but if you give your kids a squirt bottle with some plain water, some sponges, cloths, a squeegee, and a duster, don’t be surprised when your windows look sparkly (don’t fret about the streaks at this stage!), your bookshelves are less dusty, and your countertops are clean and shiny.
While your kids might (almost certainly) not have seen the Monty Python Silly Walks sketch, the idea of walking in the silliest way is one your kids will love.
Give them a few examples of walking in a silly way and see if they can come up with their own ideas. Try swinging your arms from side to side while you walk or kick your legs up one at a time. Perhaps you can punch the air or zig-zag as you move around your home.
Build and smash
I’m a bit north of three years old but I can still remember the glee of building a tower and knocking it down. Take turns being the builder and the smasher. Use nesting cups, blocks, or empty tubs to build and a ball, bean bag, or simply a hand to smash.
Catch the light
Use a flashlight in a dimly lit room to make a beam of light. Can your child catch the beam? Move the beam slowly to begin and zig and zag it around at a faster pace as your kid gets the idea. Have your kids take a turn using the flashlight to have others catch beams or to make designs on the wall, ceiling, and floor.
Set up a race track in your own home with painter’s tape and send your driver off with their toy cars to start their engines. Lay the tape in straight lines or up the excitement with corners, turns, and loops. Ramp up the fun by running the tape over empty coffee tins or paper towel rolls to make hills.
Put your child’s imitation skills to work in a fun (and funny) game of mirror dancing. With some lively tunes playing, stand in front of your child and pull out some of your favourite dance moves. Explain to them that they have to do whatever you do. When you raise your arms, have your child do the same. If you jump up and down, spin in a circle, or sway your head from side to side, your kids must follow along. Let them take a turn to be the leader and mirror their moves too. It’s a twist on the traditional dance party!
If you’re like me, you may have a few (you don’t want to know what my most recent count was) odd socks. Ball those up, pull out a laundry basket and take turns sinking the “ball” from different distances.
Looking for other sock games? Try these.
There are so many active songs and rhymes to get your kids moving and having fun.
I’m a Little Teapot, Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around, The Hokey Pokey, and If You’re Happy and You Know It are favourites you’ll want to learn and teach your child. Check online for lyrics and movements.
Ride on toys
If you have an open space in your home, have your kids zip around on a variety of indoor-friendly vehicles. Tricycles, balance bikes, and kickboard scooters are great options for your three-year-old to get their zoom on. Go old school and have your kids gallop with a hobby horse.
Watch a video of a bear walking and talk to your child about how they move. Show them how to crawl like a bear without knees touching the ground. While your kids don’t need to roar while they’re walking like a bear, it might just add that extra element of scary fun! (A “pretend-scared” person is one of a three-year-old’s favourite people!)
Unleash your child’s inner builder by setting up a mini (super, super, mini) construction site. Provide your child with a foam board or playdough, a kids’ hammer, and golf tees or headless matchsticks. Kids love to hammer “nails” and pretend they’re building.
Using a soft ball or a sock ball, set up a target for your child to kick at or knock over. Use painter’s tape on the wall to make a square to kick at or line up toys or blocks to be knocked down. Learn the full techniques of the kicking motion here.
Bat the hanging balloon
Attach a long string or ribbon securely to the ceiling and tie a balloon to the other end. Make sure the balloon is hanging approximately one foot above your child’s height. Provide your child with a pool noodle, empty wrapping paper roll, long spoon, or a foam bat and let them swing the balloon to the moon!
Many kids love pretending to be the adults they’ve seen in person, read about in books, or watched on TV. Some might want to be firefighters, doctors, farmers, pilots, parents, teachers, etc.
And some, like my son, love to pretend to be garbage collectors. My son would drive his toy trucks to pick up “garbage” such as small toys, his special rocks he had collected, and crayons. He would then bring them to the “dump” (a small box or bin) to drop them off. His job would only be done once the dump was full!
Not to worry—we’re not suggesting you freeze water on your floors! But you can recreate the fun of skating on your carpet-free floors. Have your kids place each foot on a face cloth or felt square, and then push and slide across their own personal arena. Have them use one foot to twirl and spin, or see how far they can go with one push.
When you set up an obstacle course in your home, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the movements your child can do. Using chairs to crawl under, empty boxes to crawl through, pillows on the floor to walk on, blocks to walk over, or jump in and out of a hula hoop are just some examples of the ways you can create an indoor adventure your kids will love.
Egg and spoon race
This classic picnic game can be played indoors without the threat of messy yolk on the floor! Change up the game by using cotton balls instead of eggs. Place a handful of cotton balls on a table or in a bowl on one side of a room and have your child carry them one at a time on a spoon. Have them balance the “eggs” as they walk and drop them into a bowl or bin on the other side of the room.
Using masking or painter’s tape, make lines on the floor and see how many your child can jump over. Can they make it further from one try to another?
When you’re in need of a fun way to keep your kiddos moving indoors, try some of these kids’ activities. And let us know of any others you’ve tried and enjoyed!