I used to be that mom who prepares tons of projects and activities to keep my kid busy the entire day. But when I started working, I found that I had less time and energy to prepare some Instagram-worthy activities, so I opted for simple things, that requires little to no preparation at all. If you’re looking for some similar things to do with a 3 year old – that’s easy to do, requires zero to minimum materials, here’s my list below:
Things to Do With a 3 Year Old
Our morning routine during the semi-lockdown included a quick playtime, breakfast, short TV break and a major physical work-out – the morning playtime. Well, not really a workout for my toddler, but it felt like a work-out for poor, old me.
I mix up the activities below so it doesn’t get stale and boring for my 3 year old. Say for Monday, we’d do the Yoga then Pup, Pup Boogie Dance Floor then Hide and Seek. For Tuesday, it’s Yoga, Hit the Balloon and Roll the Ball on the Floor. And so on.
After the semi-lockdown, I made our morning playtime mostly outdoors which I’ve also listed down below.
These activities are great for developing your little one’s gross motor skills, as well as hand-eye coordination and an understanding of how things work. And most importantly, they are super low prep, you only need a few and some no materials, to make it work.
Simple Indoor Activities for a 3 Year Old
Pup, Pup Boogie Dance Floor
One of my little one’s favourite shows is the Paw Patrol. She goes crazy when she hears Pup, Pup Boogie, a dance song from the Paw Patrol show. So I thought of doing a pretend dance floor for her! I arranged a bunch of colorful papers on the floor, making sure that all sides are secure on the floor using a masking tape, so it won’t move when my energetic toddler jumps and dances on it.
Hit the Balloon
I blow up 2-3 balloons and I either just let her hit it with some rolled up old gift wrappers or I hang it on the ceiling using again our trusty masking tape and some ribbons.
Here’s a funny scene – a toddler teaching a grown up woman to do yoga. I never even knew 3 year olds could do yoga until my kid’s teacher sent us a youtube link on how to do some exercise at home and saw that it was yoga for kids! It’s so cute and amazing. Then I found a bunch of other youtube channels offering videos on how to do yoga for kids.
Make your kids jump as far as they can by putting some masking tape on the floor and coloring them.
I’m pretty sure everyone of us has some boxes at home, whether it be amazon boxes, shoe boxes or what not. You can use this as a fun and simple activity for your toddlers by making them stack all the boxes as high as they can.
Build a Fortress
Hold on to those boxes – they can also turn into a house, a kitchen, a fortress and basically anything that your kid can play with. If your kids have started surrounding themselves with it, put some toys with them like kitchen toys, clay, magnetic tiles, etc. to further encourage and make their playtime longer.
Hide and Seek
My kid can go forever with this game. I’ve seen how inventive and imaginative she can get, trying to hide from me. She tried hiding under an umbrella, beside the door, put up her playmat and hid behind it, etc.
Roll the Ball on the Floor
You just simply sit on the floor and roll the ball towards each other. Make it as fast or as slow as you can. The game is for the other party to catch it. Depending on your kid’s hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills, make it more interesting by having two balls instead of using only 1 ball.
Play with Cats
If you have cats, play and cuddle with them. It’s a great way to bond with both your furry ones and your toddlers. I’ll sometimes get a string, a stick or a ribbon and let the cats chase it. My kid is always excited when we play with our cats and would always zero in on our Scottishfold, which the latter doesn’t really appreciate as my toddler would always scream out of excitement.
Play with Pillows
Quarantine life can make you a little cuckoo, evidence of which is when I decided to throw all the sofa pillows on the floor and pretend they’re stepping stones or islands to get away from crocodiles. Now my kid frequently does this and I don’t know if I should regret it or just chalk it up as a win, as it gives me 10-15 minutes of rest.
My kid also uses all the pillows in our bedroom and pretends she’s in a boat, submarine, ATV (she learned that from Paw Patrol) and all sorts of other vehicles.
I’ve also included some outdoor activities below, just in case you can go out a little bit and enjoy some sun with your little ones. We don’t have our own backyard though so these activities doesn’t require any major preparations or clean-up.
No Prep, Fun Outdoor Activities for a 3 Year Old
Just blow and let them chase it for hours.
Ride a bike/ scooter
Mine can ride a scooter on her own. For her bike, we have a pink one with 3 wheels and a long handle, for pushing and steering our little one.
I rarely do this with my kid as it can get super tiring. She can do this for more than an hour without realizing that she’s already getting tired, cranky and hungry. But if you want a super simple outdoor activity that would both give you and your little one a work-out, just throw a big ball at each other. That’s already enough to make a kid happy. Plus there’s a lot of skills for them to learn when playing ball.
Pick up some sticks/ flowers
I let my kid carry a basket and just let her pick random flowers, sticks and leaves. We sometimes use it for some art project or she would totally ignore it when we get home and I just chuck them in the trash.
After our morning playtime, we relax for a bit and have some little snacks or drinks. Then I prepare our bath, which means another round of playtime for my kid.
Just a little bit of disclaimer here, some of the activities here may not be suitable for kids who are still mouthing toys and stuff. So please always monitor your children if you want to try the activities below. Personally, I don’t really need to be on the look-out for my kid as she already knows what she should or should not be doing. But I am always there to monitor her. I take a long bath myself while she plays in her bathtub, so thank god for glass walls that separate bathroom areas!
Low Prep Bathroom/ Water Activities for Toddlers
Painting Bathroom Walls
Let your kid paint their heart out. Mine can do this for an hour. She would usually end up painting on herself but she really loves this activity.
Just get a stool, place a big container on top, put toys in it that you’re okay with getting painted on and washed and let your kids have a go. Mine also adores this activity which also ends with painting on herself too
Toys in the Tub
Anything that can be thrown in the tub to play with is always a winner. You can do it with almost all kinds of toys – pom pom balls, animal toys, tea pots, watering cans, boats, letters, etc.
We can also extend the “toys in the tub” play by adding her favourite TV show characters in it like Paw Patrol, Tayo The Little Bus, Superwings, etc. It’s always so funny to see my kid get creative and do some imaginative, pretend play all on her own, without any prompts from me.
This is always a hit, indoors or outdoors. I’m thinking of buying a small machine but it may be a bit of an overkill. But my kid always loves popping bubbles, no matter what.
Scoop water and foam
This is the simplest water play of all time. Just fill up the tub with foam, give them some cup and a large spoon for scooping and that’s it. That’s already to make any toddler happy.
My kid either cleans the walls or her toys using a sponge. Either way, she thoroughly enjoys this activity.
Baby shark toy
My husband bought this toy for our kid’s birthday. I’m not really into “one-trick pony” toys but somehow, this has been entertaining my kid for weeks now. And just recently, she found out another way to play with this. She makes the shark drink a cup of water and also pretends that it’s friends with the other animals. Maybe it’s worth a shot, but you can try and see how your kid will react to this adorable toy.
Quiet Activity for a 3 year Old
We start winding down and getting ready for a nap by reading books. I throw in a mix of books every few weeks or so. I either borrow from the library and/or rotate my kid’s books. Some of the books we have are fairy tale books, books on self-care (brushing teeth, emotions, etc.), counting, ABC books, etc.
Super Simple Sensory and Creative Activities For Toddlers
My kid usually wakes up between 3:00 – 3:30PM from her nap and we usually talk, play and cuddle in bed until 4:00PM. Then we have snacks and I almost always prepare some quiet activity for her.
It mostly involves sensory play or art making.
For sensory play, my go-to toys are kinetic sand, clay and water beads. Occasionally, I’d do some activities I’d find in Pinterest like mixing baking soda with baby oil, making a volcano, melting ice, mixing colors in water, etc.
Creative play involves some planning and prepping but I find it every beneficial for her as one, it’s very calming for my little one and two, there’s a lot of developmental benefits when toddlers do art.
Our art activities generally consists a mix of:
Painting on paper – on easel, on table, paper on the floor/ wall
Painting on toys (that are easy to clean)
Cutting and pasting
Drawing and coloring
We use all kinds of paper materials – regular A4, cardboard, gift wrappers, felt paper, drawing board, etc. Sometimes we also use other materials to draw and paint on, such as her bus toys, coasters, old calendars, boxes and other things in the house that we don’t really need or are easy to clean.
For drawing tools, we have paint, paintbrushes, markers, highlighters, stamps, crayons, pencils and what not.
For cutting and pasting, we used to have this kid-friendly scissor for her but it’s not really effective in cutting and I don’t want to waste money on another supposed to be “kid-friendly” scissor that might not work again so I just made her use a small one that we have here. It fits her hand perfectly and it cuts well.
We also have some glue stick and regular, white glue. What I do with the latter is pour it on a small, flat container and tape that on the table so it doesn’t move around when she gets glue. Then for getting glue, I make my kid use a popsicle stick or roll a small paper, so she’s not touching the glue.
I’m always supervising her during sensory and creative play, as most of the time, she likes to paint on herself and on everything. Plus, when there’s cutting and scissors involved, I watch her like a hawk but I let her cut on her own. I’m just always right beside her, reminding her to always be careful when using the scissor.
Independent Playtime Toys for Toddler
If I need to cook or work or do something that requires most of my attention, I direct my kid to do independent play. It usually involves her playing with legos, blocks, magnetic tiles and other educational toys.
Most of the time, she’d still want me playing with her and if I really need some quiet time on my own, I just turn on the TV and let her watch fun yet educational TV shows for toddlers.
I sometimes feel guilty that I have less time to prepare more fun and highly engaging and educational activities for my little one. So once a week, I make it a point to prepare something for her that involves her learning her letters, numbers, shapes, some STEM, etc.
Most of the time though, I opt for simple and less fancy things to do with my 3 year old.
We’re both happy with it, we’re both enjoying it and best of all, she’s still learning some things from it, no matter how simple and low prep these activities are.
Have you tried some of the activities here? What particular activity does your 3 year old like? Share it by commenting below.