The Best Educational Indoor Activities for 3-Year-Olds

Two girls laughing and playing card game about animals

Being three is a special developmental time for children—it’s a big year of emotional, mental, and physical growth.  

Here are some aspects that start to broaden as your child grows:

1. Emotional: Children at this age start becoming more curious about the world and how they relate to it. They begin to understand and express their emotions. 

2. Cognitive: Children at this age  also begin to understand rules and recognize patterns, which makes it a great time to integrate more pretend play. 

3. Physical:  Additionally, children at this age begin to refine their fine motor skills. They learn to use the tools around them and begin to choose clothing and dress themselves.

As winter months and cold weather days drag on, it may begin to feel like a challenge to keep your child engaged and learning while playing inside. Here are some simple and easy indoor activities to try with your child to keep them learning while having fun!

1. Obstacle courses:

Make use of space in your house or backyard to design an obstacle course. You can do this by placing pillows and blanket walls to navigate. These games help develop a child’s sense of spatial perception and problem-solving abilities while encouraging physical activity and the development of gross motor skills. 

2. Search and Find:

3 year old boy writing on erasable activity mats with marker

Search & Find double-sided activity mats will transport your child to different parts of the world. They are designed by educators with the learning milestones of 3-year-olds in mind. These mats, which encourage spatial recognition, concentration, and vocabulary building, help your child enjoy an afternoon of independent play and learning! 

3. Puzzles:

Little boy playing with wooden puzzles made for toddlers

Puzzles are a great way to  build confidence in children and help them develop memory and pattern recognition - they help with better hand-eye coordination and encourage problem-solving skills in children.

4. Playdough:

Playdough allows your child to express their imagination and creativity while developing fine motor skills. You can make some playdough at home with simple ingredients and easy steps:

1. 1 cup all-purpose flour

2. 1 cup water

3. 2 tsp cream of tartar

4. ½ cup salt

5. 1 tbsp vegetable oil

6. Food coloring

Mix all ingredients in a pot and place on medium heat. Next stir the smooth mixture until it starts to thicken. For the final step, empty the playdough on the countertop and knead till it’s lump free and smooth.

Store this dough in an airtight container or Ziplock. The dough will last for months, while the memories last forever!

5. Scavenger Hunts:

Boy and father looking at toddler flashcards and smiling

Hide a variety of Skillmatics First 100 Animals Flash Cards around the house and conduct a hunt to have your little ones search for specific animals! “Can you find the lion?” It’s easy to set up the game, and it’s a fun way to familiarize your child with different animals while they burn some energy running around the house to look for the cards. You can hide the flashcards—or even their soft toys—in their favorite spots around the house and give them clues along the way.

👉 Quick link: We have an assortment of animal games in our online store.

6. Build cardboard houses:

Liltte girl playing with a cardboard house and playing

Crafting and building are two fun ways to incentivize pretend play in toddlers. Among different materials, cardboard boasts the potential for a variety of fun activities - from designing homes  to cars… the possibilities are endless! It’s an engaging and imaginative DIY activity that will allow the child a space for creative expression. This activity allows your child to spend hours decorating the creation with vibrant colors before diving into some pretend play!

7. Indoor dance party:

Bust out the moves by playing kid-friendly music. This encourages confidence and is an amazing emotional bonding experience for you and your child. You can even start a nightly dance party tradition as the day winds down.

8. Create a DIY car wash:

Pull out a small sponge (we recommend cutting one in half for small hands), a pot of water, and soap, and go on a cleaning spree! This includes elements of pretend play, where children can be responsible for their car wash and take up the responsibility of cleaning their toys. Water play is a fantastic way to keep a little one engaged in an activity.

9. Get Crafty:

Encourage your little one’s creativity by offering up Dot It! With various themes including Unicorns and Princesses, Wild Animals and Dinosaurs - your child will use their fine motor skills and imagination to create on-theme masterpieces.

10. Walk Like an Animal

If your child needs to get some wiggles out - play a fun game by encouraging them to walk like different animals. Try a T-Rex, bunny and frog for example. This can evolve into a fun game of pretend play.

Psst... If your little one loves dinosaurs, don't miss our whole collection of dinosaur activities.

At Skillmatics we’re passionate about bringing playful learning experiences to little ones of all ages. Shop your child’s age for our top recommendations here.  

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