40+ Games for 3-Year-Olds: The Complete Guide

It’s hard to find the best games for 3-year-olds. Too big for peek-a-boo but too little for chess; it’s hard to amuse the typical 3-year-old.

Caregivers are always looking for ways to keep little ones entertained. It can be tough to come up with new ideas, or figure out which ones to choose, but that’s why I’m here.

There are so many great games for three-year-olds! I’m going to share some of my favorites with you. So whether you’re a first-time parent or an old hat looking for new ideas, keep reading.

What Games Can 3-Year-Olds Play?

3-year-olds are notoriously short on attention span, so it’s important to choose games that are short and sweet.

Active games are a great choice because they help burn off all that boundless energy. Social games are also good for 3-year-olds, as they help them practice skills like taking turns and sharing. Board games can be hit or miss with this age group – some will love them, while others will quickly get bored.

Ultimately, the best game for a 3-year-old is one that is short, simple, and fun. With so many great options out there, there’s sure to be something to please even the pickiest little gamer.

Scrabble tiles spelling "listen more"
Something games can help 3-year-olds do!

Childhood Development and Games

I look at life with my children through a developmental lens, and games are no exception. The typical three-year-old is right at the end of their biggest brain formation stages.

It’s hard to find easy developmental games for 3-year-olds. Many games are too complex and time-consuming, with too many steps.

Here’s a list of quick, easy, and developmentally appropriate great 3-year-old games, listed according to type and the developmental area they enhance.

There are three developmental areas: gross motor skills (large movements like jumping and running), fine motor skills (small movements involving hands), and school readiness (kinda a grab bag, everything from impulse control to early literacy to pro-social skills).

Toddler and dad running together through grassy field
Get ’em running!

Active Games for 3-year-olds

These games focus on moving the body, getting the sillies out, and tiring out restless 3-year-olds.

Gross Motor Skills

Hokey Pokey

This game gets limbs moving and improves rhythm!

Hop Scotch

Bonus points for more complicated dance moves, counting aloud, and/or chanting a rhyme.

Freeze Tag

This classic game helps 3-year-olds work on stopping, balance, stance, core strength, and more.

Fine Motor Skills

Rice (or any small object) Races

Fill two bowls with rice (or beans or medium-sized beads, etc); challenge your toddler to use tweezers or hand-held tongs to hold a single small object and race to drop it in an empty bowl set on the other side of the room.

Gardening

Raking fingers and trowels through the dirt improves grip and finger strength.

Clapping/Hand Games

Songs like “Bingo” and hand games like “Miss Mary Mack” are low-effort ways to strengthen palms.

School Readiness

Duck Duck Goose

Knowing when to sit and when to be active are big parts of the pre-k experience.

Water Balloon Name Game from Fantastic Fun and Learning

Help pre-k and kindergarten-aged kids learn pertinent information like addresses and phone numbers in a fun way.

Simon Says

It’s hard to listen when one is excited, and this game is perfect, low-stakes practice of following directions. Plus it can be really fun!

kid playing cognitive block game

Cognitive Games for 3-year-olds

Cognitive refers to the mental process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. It can also refer to the ability to use that knowledge and understanding. Cognitive skills include reasoning, critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision making.

Cognitive games for 3-year-olds can improve focus, memory, and problem-solving skills. They’re a great way to keep children’s mind stimulated and engaged.

Gross Motor Skills

Obstacle Courses

These can be as simple as couch cushions and laundry hampers on the floor or using a whole playground! Obstacle courses strengthen problem-solving skills along with all the running, jumping, and crouching.

Hot and Cold

Pick an object or landmark to be “it,” child wanders around the space trying to find “it,” the person who picked “it” guides the kiddo by calling “hot” or “cold.”

Bonus points for (safe) blindfolding or designated certain movements (“skip around the room while you try to find it!”).

Link Tag

This game is best played with a larger group (you can include any older siblings around).This game is a form of tag where one person begins as “it”. As other players get tagged, they link arms with the person chosen to be “it,” forming a chain.

Everyone must work together and communicate trying to tag the remaining players.

Fine Motor Skills

Puzzles

Puzzles are wonderful ways to strengthen fingers and problem-solving skills.

Finger/Hand Puppets

Finger/hand puppets can be as simple as an old sock, or make it a whole craft project with google eyes and pipe cleaners.

Whatever material is used, puppets stoke 3-year-olds imaginations. Act out fairy tales and favorite movies, then make up your own stories!

Button Push from Days With Grey

Explore core concepts like “empty/full” while increasing hand-eye coordination and finger strength.

School Readiness

I Spy

This is a game that encourages attention to detail and deductive reasoning skills. 3-year-olds will need those skills in school.

Feelings Charades

Act out feelings and ask the child to guess what they are. It’s important to practice identifying and naming emotions before they’re in a room with dozens of their peers.

tiles spelling out friends surrounded by other games and toys for 3-year-olds

Social Games for 3-year olds

Having trouble at playdates? Try these games (that can be played with more than one kid) that encourage prosocial behavior and skills.

Gross Motor Skills

Red Rover, Red Rover

This game combines running and strategy.

Make two groups (if it’s small groups, great, better for 3-year-olds) and have each group holding hands, forming a chain.

The groups will take turns calling friends over. If the friend can’t break through the “arm chain” then they join the chain they ran towards, if they can, they take a friend back to their chain.

Obstacle Course Tag

Obstacle course, but also while running from someone! Thrilling.

Limbo

How low can you go? (Uh, not that low, they’re three, set the bar high-literally.) Encourage players to try different ways of moving-gallop under the bar, or crab walk.

Limbo works large muscle groups and increases flexibility. It’s also great practice for waiting in line!

Fine Motor Skills

Cookie Jar Tag from Icebreaker Ideas

This variation of tag promotes fine and gross motor skills!

Ring Toss

Or ball, or bean bags, or whatever.

Some kind of game where 3-year-olds must throw (increasing hand and palm strength) small objects into bigger containers (increasing hand-eye coordination), and take turns (increasing pro-social behavior).

School Readiness

Musical Chairs

This game requires players to think quickly on their feet while listening closely for the music change. That kind of focus will be helpful in the school environment.

Red Light, Green Light

Put all of the 3-year-olds together on one side of your play space, while someone yells “green light (run),” “yellow light (move slowly),” or “red light (stop).”

The first to get to the other side of the play space wins! If someone runs when they should have stopped (or stopped when they should have slowed down, etc.), they must go back to the starting point.

This game helps 3-year-olds cope with disappointment and listen in busy environments; skills that will come in handy for school.

Button, Button, Who’s Got The Button?

Children sit in a circle, eyes closed, palm extended. The child who is “it” walks around the circle and places a button in one child’s palm. Then everyone opens their eyes and tries to guess who has the button.

This game promotes social interaction in bigger groups-very similar to school!

3-year-old playing Chutes and Ladders
Landing on a ladder is the purest form of joy

Board and Card Games for 3-year-olds

It’s hard to find good board and card games for 3-year-olds. Ones that a 5-year-old could easily play may be beyond the grasp of typical 3-year-olds. And, of course, short attention spans still have to be taken into account.

These board and card games are short, sweet, and developmentally appropriate for 3-year-olds.

Gross Motor Skills

Elefun Board Game

This active and lively game features an elephant losing butterflies into the air for happy 3-year-olds to chase and catch.

Toddler Scavenger Hunt Cards At Home

All the gross motor skills increasing of scavenger hunts, none of the work (the instructions are already on the cards!).

Throw Throw Burrito

Ok, use this game with caution, the box does say the minimum age for players is 7 years old.

However, I think with some gentle throwing, 3-year-olds will love this dodgeball/card game hybrid game.

Fine Motor Skills

Hi Ho! Cherry-O

A simple game that encourages the pincer grasp.

Magnetic Fishing Game

Grip the fishing pole (for increased palm strength) and hone eye-hand coordination by trying to catch the little rotating fish.

Baby Animals Matching Game

Flipping over the cards strengthens fingers, and 3-year-olds will love the cute baby animals.

School Readiness

Little Treasures Matching Letters Game

Help littles increase memory, spelling skills, word recognition, and more.

Chutes and Ladders

We play this game all the time, it’s wonderful for helping kids cope with disappointment and things they can’t control. Sometimes you land on a ladder, sometimes you land on a chute, and that’s just the way it is, man.

Happy Farm

Is your little one having trouble with communication? This speech therapy game will help!

a great game for 3-year-olds hungry hungry hippos

Party Games for 3-year-olds

Alright. You’ve agreed to host a gaggle of 3-year-olds, in the form of a birthday party.

Don’t panic.

These games will keep them amused, busy, and neurologically engaged.

Gross Motor Skills

Treasure Hunt

Ask small guests to hunt for their party favors in a fun treasure hunt.

Singing and Dancing

Pop in a nursery rhyme CD or stream some Kidz Bop and get kids moving; simple and classic.

Animal Tag

Tag, but only moving like certain animals.

Fine Motor Skills

Cookie Decorating Area

Lay down some old sheets and let 3-year-olds go crazy with icing and sprinkles.

Make Your Own Treasure Map Stations

Party guests will use these maps for the treasure hunt mentioned above.

Fox and Hen Bean Bag Game

Children sit on the floor in a large circle. Give two bean bags to two children that are opposite each other in the circle (the first bean bag is “Hen,” and the second “Fox”). Pass the bean bags around the circle to see if the fox can catch the hen!

Great for aim, hand-eyecoordination, problem-solving, and hand strength. 

School Readiness

Follow the Leader

This game encourages watchfulness and mimicking (which helps develop mirror neurons!).

Magic Show

Alright, not exactly a game, but it’s an activity that encourages 3-year-olds to sit still and watch, totally increasing school readiness.

toddler playing game

Conclusion

If you are looking for some fun and engaging games to keep your 3-year-old entertained, look no further. The games included in this post are perfect for children of this age. They will help develop important skills while keeping your little one busy and happy. Have fun!

Want More?

Check out these articles for more developmentally helpful activities, crafts, and games:

You Tell Me

What are the best games for the 3-year-olds in your life? What are your favorite 3-year-old birthday party themes? Let me know in the comments, please.

Happy gaming!

Love,

megan imhoff
Megan

Megan

Megan writes everything on Ish Mom. She possesses a bachelor's degree in psychology, a flair for theatrics, and a whole lotta nerve. She lives in the Midwest (and loves it) with her wonderful husband and three young boys.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Join my email list and get exclusive content not shared anywhere else!