15 games for 3-year-olds to play with others - Care.com Resources

15 games for 3-year-olds to play with others

The best games for 3-year-olds teach social skills, logic and reasoning. So grab one of these board games or head outdoors and have fun playing together.

By 3 years old, little ones have graduated from the side-by-side parallel play of younger toddlers and are ready to start really playing with others. Some games may still be beyond his abilities, but there’s no shortage of great games for 3-year-olds that teach hand-eye coordination and important cooperative skills. 

Susan Heim, co-author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul: New Moms,” says, “At the age of 3, your child achieves many cognitive milestones, such as recognizing colors, shapes and common elements. Your child also matures physically, becoming better coordinated when it comes to kicking, throwing and climbing.”

Here are several games to play with 3-year-old kids:

Board games for 3-year-olds

  1. Candy Land
    Pick a card and follow the instructions as you race through the Gumdrop Mountains, the Peppermint Stick Forest and other yummy lands to Home Sweet Home.
  2. Chutes and Ladders
    This game rewards good deeds with a ladder climb, but you’ll slide down a chute if you land on the wrong spot. Spin the spinner and move your child-shaped game piece the number of squares on the spinner. The first player to 100 wins.
  3. Hungry Hungry Hippos
    Start a feeding frenzy when you release the marbles into the game base. Your little one will learn to move her hippo quickly to chomp the marbles. The hippo who chomps the golden marble wins.
  4. Elefun
    Players catch butterflies with nets when the elephant’s trunk shoots them into the air. The player with the most butterflies wins.
  5. Don’t Break the Ice
    Tap out the ice blocks one at a time, but keep the polar bear on top of the ice. If you break the ice, the polar bear plops.
  6. Cootie
    Mix and match bug parts to create your own Cootie bug. The first player to complete his bug wins.
  7. HiHo! Cherry-O
    Players take turns picking apples, cherries and blueberries from their trees to fill their baskets. The first player with an empty tree wins.
  8. The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game!
    Players spin the spinner, use their Squirrel Squeezers to pick up the matching colored acorn and place it into the log. The first player to fill their log with acorns wins.

Card games for 3-year-olds

  1. Classic Card Games
    Card games like Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Old Maid and Monster Match (or all four!) are perfect for older toddlers. Players learn to take turns, ask for cards to make sets, draw and discard, find matches and more. Monster Match and other matching games “help little ones find items that are alike by recognizing details and common features,” Heim says.
  2. War
    Played with a standard playing card deck, War teaches numbers and counting. Each player turns a card over at the same time. The player with the highest number gets both cards. War is declared when two players have the same rank — they flip over another pair of cards, and the player with the highest number gets all four. The game ends when one player collects the whole deck.

Active games for 3-year-olds

Active games for 3-year-olds are not only important for their development, but, according to Heim, “Active group play lowers the risk of obesity and helps children learn how to get along with others, settle conflicts and win and lose gracefully.” 

According to Janis Meredith, sports mom and author of the “Sports Parenting Survival Guide” series, “Interacting with other kids helps children learn to settle differences.” She adds that, “Playing together outdoors helps kids physically, socially and mentally.”

  1. Twister
    This game “teaches little ones about the parts of the body and helps them to learn colors,” says Heim. Players put hands and feet on different colored circles without falling. Create a DIY version with spray paint in your yard.
  2. Kickball
    Help your tyke develop gross motor skills! Your little one will learn to wait for the ball, run fast and tag each base on the way to home plate.
  3. Don’t Drop the Ball
    To play this easy DIY game, “Have players place a bounce ball on a spoon and race from one end of the room to the other without dropping the ball,” suggests Heim. “An age-appropriate T-ball set or golf game is also terrific for developing coordination.”
  4. Bowling
    This DIY game makes bowling easy for 3-year-olds. Set up plastic cups in your hallway and use a tennis ball to bowl the pins down. Take turns and count the total pins bowled. First player to reach 25 wins.
  5. Scavenger Hunt
    There are lots of fun ways to adapt the classic scavenger hunt. For 3-year-olds, draw five to seven pictures on your list instead of words. Limit your play area to one room indoors or a small area outdoors to keep your little one’s attention. Use a crayon to circle each picture. The first one to find all of the items wins.