Entertaining activities to occupy 3 year old

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  • Starting in the fall, I am diligently having my 3 year old sit quietly at the table with olders during part of school.

    For activities, I have on my list so far:


    -scissors and glue activity (oh my!)


    -sewing cards

    Anyone have extra suggestions?



    Check out http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com for her tot school suggestions.

    You may also want to do some fine motor activities with clothespins. Paint some or find some colored ones, then have her put them on the rim of a large can (filed down so it doesn’t cut) or plastic container or large bowl. Extend the activity by requiring x yellow, x red, etc. or have her make patterns with the clothespins.

    Felt shapes

    Stickers on paper

    shape sorter/stacker (unless you want to use them for free play instead of school)



    Good ideas, thanks!


    watercolors and paper


    plastic animals for the playdough

    foam sheets for the scissors and glue

    lacing shapes and beads

    paper dolls (there are historical and boy-type)

    make a character from a story out of construction paper – like a lady bug after reading The Grouchy Lady Bug

    a bowl of water in a cookie sheet with plastic animals (we like horses and dinosaurs) – just put a bath towel under the pan 😉

    learn to make patterns by following pattern cards

    file folder games here: http://filefolderfun.com/SearchAge.html




    Just finished my “plan” with my 3.5 yr old.  I plan on working with her 1st thing in the morning for about 30 minutes and then she will have 2 times seperate: 1. Blanket/TV time and 2. Table/Art Time.  This is in addition to the 30 min.

    I wish I would have saved it to a file I just printed and deleted.  Oh well

    So here is a list: coloring sheets, walmart workbook (lots of color and fun things for 3yr old), book time, play-doh, sewing cards, shaving cream, puzzles, chalk, magnets, fingerpaint/thumb paint, dot markers, stringing beads, washtub play, blocks, animals…  This is just to give me something M-Th different for 2 weeks that she must do.

    Blanket – to work on doing something quiet on a small area without talking.  And Table – to work independently at the table with an activity also trying to learn to do more for herself.

    Now I am just trying to figure out how to put this in the scheduler so I can glance at it daily?


    Lots of great ideas here! 

    I just came across this blog post today while I was looking for ideas my daughter who will be 3 this school year.


    (From the post, which she gave permission to share:)

    Each activity needed to meet the following criteria:

    • Self-contained.  This way, you can just grab a bag and GO! (without having to add a number of supplies to the bag in order to make it useful.)

    • Transportable.  Yes, they will definitely be used at home, but I want to be able to grab a few bags to take to a restaurant, a waiting room, plane trips, car rides, etc.

    • Convenient.  None of the bags will have supplies that require major set-up or clean-up: (no paint, watercolors, liquids, sand, dirt, etc.)

    • Inexpensive. I didn’t want anyone spending too much money on this project!

    • Easy to Make: I didn’t want anyone spending hours and hours and hours making their activity.

    • Re-usable. I want these activities to last a while so that our other children can use them in the future.  Therefore, I avoided activities where you would have to buy new supplies to re-stock the bag.  This is why lamination is important for some of the activities.

    Hope this helps! 


      This is all so very good. Thank you much!! 🙂


      I participated in a busy bag swap for my 4 year old last year. They were a big hit. She got to choose which one to do each day and we rotated through them…there were 30 in all. Just google “busy bags” for ideas. I hope to do something similar this year for math/reading activities. It is easier to have a group of people participate and swap bags b/c it is easier to make 30 of one thing than 1 of 30 different things!!


      These are all great ideas! I, too, will have a 3 year old looking to do ‘school’ with his big sister (3rd grade). SO, after much looking, thinking, and praying, I decided to get Little Hands to Heaven from Heart of Dakota for my 3 year old this fall! I get more and more excited about using it everytime I look at it, so I think it will really sweet for us to do for ‘school’ this year! I plan on doing it with him while his big sister is doing her independant work.

      My hopes is that he will be satisfied with having that Mommy time, so I can work with my daughter on the other subjects. If that isn’t the case, I have some activity bags and ‘school’ toys for him to mess around with!

      I am hoping that is enough! That is my ‘plan’, but you know how 3 year olds like to sabotage their Momma’s plans! : )


      I would love to purchase quality made busy bags. Anyone know resources for this? I found one or two on etsy. We did the swap a few years ago and some were well made, but others weren’t.

      I have looked around as well for ready made bags, but everything I’ve seen has to made.

      I do like the easy ideas from a link above. I plan to make a couple of really easy ones like the reversible flannel board, and Popsicle stick puzzle. I think my dd3 would love to have HER picture to put together.

      But that’s all the time I want to put into it. Life is too busy for making 25 activities. 🙂


      This is great, thank you! I can afford to do this stuff too.

      Anything like this for a 10 year old? lol.


      I haven’t read all the posts, so sorry if this is a repeat, but my favorite activity for kids at that age was rice (uncooked!) in a shallow plastic bin with a lid.  We’d set it out on a large blanket and my kids would take spoons, cups, cars, whatever and play and play.  Initial instructions need to include the necessity of keeping it all on the blanket.  Clean up involved pouring it all back into the bin and closing the lid and it kept them busy for a long time.  


      I had forgotten the rice – that 15 bean soup works really well too.  Lots of color, texture and sizes in there.  I used this a lot with my older dc when they were younger.


      My 2YO DD loves to play with water. Pour in, pour out. But it gets so messy indoors so quickly. So I modified it for when I can’t have her outside (e.g. winter).

      I put beans and pasta in a plastic tub. She LOVES it! She can pour in, pour out. I was encouraging her to sort them too, but so far she is not interested in sorting. Still she seems to know some are different than others.

      I like the beans and pasta b/c I can more easily pick up any that escape the tub. Of course vacuuming is always an option too.


      Dot markers are great.

      I also highly recommend this blog: http://www.1plus1plus1equals1.net/ (she was the one who introduced me to the idea of “tot school” back in 2009 when we first began homeschooling and DD, our youngest at the time, was just turning 4.

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