They’re only 3-years-old once. Seize the day! Here is a list of 50 exciting adventures that are best done before they reach the ripe old age of 4.
3-year-old’s have a different perspective on the world than children at other ages. They are at a time in their lives when the smallest things can create enormous wonder. Cherish every second of your 3-year-old–as they grow older their view of the world won’t be as fresh as it is right now.
I’ve searched the web and probed my memory for hours to bring you the ultimate list of must-do fun adventures for 3-year-olds. It’s a list full of surprises and excitement. These activities take advantage of the simple pleasures of being 3-years-old in the great outdoors.
Grab your muddy boots and your raincoat. Let’s rush outside and escape for a while for an adventure. See how many of these adventures you can do!
1. Hug a Tree
Trees are all around us, standing there, mostly ignored. But trees are important, they create a home and food for wildlife and suck out carbon dioxide from the air we breathe. So, I think they deserve a big hug from your 3-year-old. After you’ve given it a hug, have a look at the tree, closer than usual. Look at its bark, it’s leaves and branches. Is there anything special about this tree? What type of tree is it?
2. Roll Down A Hill
There’s nothing better than rolling down a grassy hill with your friends on a hot summer’s day. You can roll on your side or try roly-polys–if the hill isn’t too steep. Race your friends and see who can roll to the bottom first. Don’t get up too fast though or you’re likely to be dizzy and fall over.
3. Camp Outdoors
Grab your tent, roll mat, and sleeping bag and head outside for a great night’s sleep under the stars. You can cowboy camp with no tent, or camp in luxury with a large comfy tent. It’s up to you. The only requirement is that your not indoors. You can even camp in your yard, it all counts. Eat s’ mores, tell stories, and have fun using your torch. Camping outside is a magical experience for a 3-year-old and a great adventure.
4. Build a Den
I have fond memories of dens that I build when I was little. Grab a stick from over here, and one from over there. Place them all together in a tipi shape. We then used leafy branches and placed them over the sticks to provide some protection from the rain. This picture is a great example of what I mean. Help your 3-year-old to build their very own den, then get settled in to your new woodland home.
5. Skim a Stone
If you have a lake, a river nearby or you’re near the sea, have you ever tried skimming a stone? By skimming I mean throwing a flat stone so it skips and jumps across the surface of the water. I remember me and my dad used to skim stones for hours at the local lake, seeing how many skips and jumps we could make them do.
6. Go for a Rubber Boot Walk in the Rain
Splashing in puddles with your rubber boots on has to be one of the funniest things you can do as a 3-year-old. When it rains you don’t have to feel down, put on your raincoat, slip on your rubber boots and get out there. Feel the cool rain hitting your face, it’s so refreshing! It also means hundreds of puddles for your kid to test their rubber boots out. Splish, splash, splosh!
7. Fly a Kite
With today’s phones, tablets, iPads and YouTube, most kids have forgotten about the humble kite. But I think it’s time you took your 3-year-old out and showed them how much fun flying a kit can be. Amazon has hundreds of great value kites that will provide your little one years of fun. There are so many beautiful designs to choose from: stunt kits, butterfly kites, squid kites, and rainbow kites. The next time your 3-year-old looks bored and frustrated, introduce them to the simple pleasure of flying a kite.
8. Spot a Fish
Fish are curious creatures. Secretive, shiny, and slippy. They hide under the water and dart from view when you try and look at them. That’s why it’s so much fun to try and spot them. You have to be quiet and patient, keep very still and you might be rewarded. Sometimes you’ll only spot a little fish on his own, at other times a big beast of a fish or a large shoal.
9. Eat a Picnic in Nature
Food tastes better in the great outdoors–I don’t know why–it just does. Find a nice patch of grass or picnic-bench if you’re lucky. Bring all your favorite foods and drinks from home and have a feast in nature. Picnics are one of my favorite outdoor activities–you should have been on at least one picnic while your 3-years-old.
10. Find a Flower
Nature is full of beautiful blooms, all you have to do is look around you. Some flowers are big bright and colorful others are small and shy. Take a walk in a natural place near you and see how many flowers you can spot, they might be hiding, but that’s the fun part, finding them. What’s your favorite flower? Can you find a beautiful smelling flower? Every 3-year-old has a natural love for the beauty of flowers.
11. Go for a Bike Ride
Pump up your tires and check your breaks, it’s time for a fun bike ride! Bikes give kids a feeling of freedom and independence. Maybe at 3-years-old, you are still learning, but that’s ok. I’ve got a great article to help you out on finding the best bike for your 3-year-old. You don’t have to venture far if you don’t feel like it, once around the block is enough. The important thing is getting outside and having fun on wheels. It doesn’t even have to be a bike, get your scooter out and have some fun.
12. Play With Sticks
Take a 3-year-old on a nature walk and they are likely to pick up a collection of sticks along the way. Maybe even a souvenir stick they want to take home? Then you have to have a heated discussion about why you can’t take this big, dirty, mud-covered stick home. Don’t worry I’ve been there too. Sticks are best played with outdoors, poked into holes, squished into the mud and floated down rivers.
13. Make a Mud Pie
Every child should experience the fun of making a mud pie. Encourage them to get messy and get a little dirt under their fingernails. Playing with mud is a sensory and creative experience for your 3-year-old, although in our modern, disinfected, anti-bacterial world it’s frowned upon by most parents. But there’s freedom and creativity playing with natural materials. I mean as long as they aren’t eating it and wash their hands afterward, what’s the harm?
14. Dam a Stream
This outdoor activity inspires your 3-year-old to channel their inner beaver. To play this game you need to find a small stream–don’t try and dam a big one! When you’ve found a little trickle of a stream, start gathering sticks just like a beaver. Place the sticks across the steam, as many as you can. Then grab handfuls of mud and plaster it on the sticks, use leaves, stones, branches, or any other natural material you can find to clog up the stick barrier you have created. Once the stream has been dammed, sit back ad admire your work. A little pool that will be a future haven for wildlife.
15. Go On a Winter Walk
If your lucky enough to have snow near you then why not try a magical winter walk. Fresh soft snow crunching under your feet and glistening in the sunlight. Cool, crisp air on your face. Wrap up warm and take some gloves, because a snowball fight is sure to break out and you don’t want cold hands.
16. Make a Wild Crown
A wild crown is a hat you make out of natural materials. Think of it like this, if you were king of nature, what would your crown look like? Use twigs, leaves, berries, ivy, and anything else you can find to make your crown look beautiful. Get an adult to help you tie it together with string or glue. There are no rules about what your crown has to look like or what materials you have to use to make it, the only rule is that you have to wear it on a nature walk and survey your natural kingdom.
17. Have a Snail Race
They might be slimy but they do a wonderful job in nature, eating all the leaf litter, rotting plants and sometimes just soil on its own. But their special trick–if we are gentle with them–is that they like to race! So, find two snails, pick them up very gently–we don’t want to hurt them. Then set them down next to each other and watch them go. Make sure you choose a snail each and set up a finish line. After a winner has been declared, place your snails back safely into nature and give them a big thanks.
18. Create Wild Art
Use your creative side and get your 3-year-old kid to make some wild art. Be imaginative, draw in the sand, make mud sculptures, balance stones, arrange the leaves on the ground. There are no rules to art, as long as your 3-year-old thinks something is beautiful then it’s art, so go wild. You could also bring some natural objects home with you and create your masterpiece there, items like pinecones, nuts, leaves, twigs, seeds, grass, etc. These are all great materials for creating a natural artwork at home.
19. Play Pooh Sticks
Pooh sticks is a game invented by Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin. All you need to play it a bridge, a river, a small stick each and a friend. If you both throw your stick in on the upstream side of the bridge, then rush to the downstream side of the bridge. The first stick to appear is the winner.
20. Go for a Paddle
Find a lake or a pond, or venture down to the sea. Take off your shoes and socks and dip your feet into the cool waters. Having your toes dipped into the water while standing outside is an exhilarating experience for a 3-year-old. If you’re lucky enough to live near the coast, a lake or go on holiday to somewhere near the sea. Then enjoy a good paddle with your 3-year-old, chase the waves in and out, let the water splash up your legs and feel a connection with nature that you can only get with your shoes and socks off.
21. Eat Some Wild Food
Ask for adults’ help on this one, because eating wild food can be dangerous. But it can also be delicious. Before the modern world, humans didn’t use to drive to the store for their groceries. They used to raid nature’s food stores. So find yourself a knowledgeable person who knows about wild foods and ask them what is in season and how to find wild edibles. There’s nothing better than picking and tasting sweet berries out in the wild with your 3-year-old kid.
22. Search for Mushrooms
Mushrooms are magical, popping up wherever they please. Hidden away in the secret corners of the forest and lonely fields. You can just imagine little fairies using them as seats or tables. Mushrooms and fungi are also fun to search for and find. So, go out into your local forest and have a look, can you and your 3-year-old find any? If you do find a beautiful or weird-looking mushroom, then don’t touch it, fungi are delicate, so admire them from a distance.
23. Watch the Sunrise
Not many 3-year-olds get to see the sunrise. We are always too busy or we sleep in too late. Make some time to get up early and go out and see the sunrise, it’s even better if you watch it rise in a natural place. It’s a beautiful time of day when the light has a golden tint. The sun rises and nature wakes up around you, birds tweeting and little animals waking up. It’s my favorite time of day.
24. Go Barefoot
Find a nice piece of clean grass, check there isn’t anything sharp or dangerous, take off your 3-year-old’s shoes and socks and let them run around barefoot. Kids wear shoes constantly now, the sidewalk is too rough and full of dangerous and spiky things to walk around barefoot. That’s why you have to get back to nature to appreciate barefoot walking. If they feel confident enough, why not join them and walk down a cool, damp forest trail with nothing on your feet. It changes your experience of the forest and also makes you quiet as a mouse, which is handy for animal spotting.
25. Make Music in Nature
If your 3-year-old loves to make music then nature is the perfect place to find some inspiration. You can make a beat by banging some sticks or knocking stones together. Make a whistle with a blade of grass or a leaf flute. There are plenty of ways to make sounds in nature, so experiment and have some fun, you’re only a kid once!
26. Hunt for Fossils or Bones
Fossils are creatures that lived a long time ago and their bodies have been frozen in time inside rocks. Read through this handy guide about how to look and search for fossils near you. People have found fossilized sea creatures, dinosaur eggshells, ferns, and dolphins teeth. If you and your 3-year-old do manage to find a fossil, it might make their day.
27. Look at the Stars
On a clear night, away from the lights of the big city, look up and watch the twinkling stars. Stargazing is a lovely way to spend time with your 3-year-old. You could even use an app on your phone like the ones found here, they will show you the names of the stars and planets that you can see in the sky. Take warm clothes and a blanket, so you can lay on the ground and look up at the stars without arching your neck.
28. Climb a Hill
There’s nothing like the accomplishment of reaching the top of a hill you’ve just stomped up, looking around, taking a few deep breaths and admiring the beautiful view you’ve earned. Choose a hill that your 3-year-old can manage to climb without becoming exhausted. You will want a hill with nice views from the top so your 3-year-old has a reward when they complete their climb.
29. Enter a Cave
Caves can be magical but scary places. They are cold, dark, damp and might even have little creepy crawlies in. Help your 3-year-old become more confident and comfortable with adventure, by exploring a cave. Take a light and stay close together. Caves are scary at first, but once you both relax and get used to the dark, you can find beautiful secrets hidden away in underground caves. Look out for any stalagmites and stalactites you might find on your adventure.
30. Try a Nature Scavenger Hunt
3-year-olds love scavenger hunts. So if you are planning on a walk in nature soon why not plan a scavenger hunt for them. All you need to do is make then a little list of things they have to find along the way. For example, if you’re visiting a forest your list might be–a leaf, a pinecone, a feather, a mushroom, a flower, a stream, a pebble, a stick, etc. They can either collect the items or just tick them off their list when they find them. Scavenger hunts can keep your 3-year-old occupied for hours.
31. Meet a Bug
Bugs are fascinating for 3-year-olds. Spiders, ants, insects, flies, beetles the list is endless. At any one time, there are 10 quintillion bugs alive on the earth. Here in the United States, there are 91,000 discovered species and 71,000 undescribed species! So who knows? You might find a new species of your very own. If you have a magnifying glass then take that along with you so you can see the bugs in all their mucky, slimy and gross glory.
32. Float in a Boat
Raise the Anchors! Splice the mainbrace! Sailing on a boat is a great adventure. If you live near the sea then take your 3-year-old onto the ocean. Book a trip on a boat. If you live near a lake, then maybe you could rent a rowing boat. Whatever your boat–big or small–getting your child bobbing around in the open water is the aim.
33. Try Cloud Watching
Sometimes an adventure in nature can be as simple as looking up at the sky. We don’t always notice the fluffy clouds floating above our heads, but I encourage you and your 3-year-old to stop, look up and watch the clouds. Try to see shapes, patterns, animals, candy bars, even faces. Point out the shapes you can see to your family and friends, can they see them too?
34. Track an Animal
Animals are shy, but they leave clues all around us of where they’ve been and what they’ve done. Take your 3-year-old outside on an adventure to see if they can spot animal tracks and clues. Look for footprints in the mud, scrapes against trees, hair stuck on bushes and other obvious signs that our animal friends are close by.
35. Explore a Pond
Ponds are like mini-worlds of their own. They have strange and unusual plants and animals that work together to form their own ecosystem. Spend some time with your 3-year-old exploring a local pond or small body of water. You might want to take a small net and a glass jar to see what you can catch. You can find a number of bugs, insects, and amazing creatures in a pond.
36. Make a Home for Wildlife
Wildlife needs our help more than ever, with habitat destruction and other problems making it harder than ever for our animal friends. That’s why we need to lend them a helping hand by building them a home. Have a look at these tips for inspiration on making your garden wildlife-friendly on a budget.
37. Explore a Rock Pool
If you live near or go on holiday to the ocean then this adventure is for you. Take your 3-year-old and explore the shoreline, you can find the most wonderful and exciting things. Explore rock pools with their strange animals and plants, look through items that get washed up on the beach to learn about pollution, or scan the sky to see the ocean birds swooping and gliding right above your head.
38. Find a Butterfly
Butterflies are graceful and beautiful. You might be standing in a field on a summers’ day and notice a butterfly flutter by. Take your 3-year-old out into nature and see if you can track down some of these colorful insects. If you do manage to see one, take a picture and sit down and draw the butterfly when you get home. What a perfect end to a day in the great outdoors.
39. Catch a Crab
This is another adventure for those of you lucky enough to have access to the ocean. You can attach bait to a line and catch your own crabs straight from the ocean. Make sure you have a bucket ready to put them in or they might crawl around and give you a pinch. Return all your crabs safely back into the sea and thank them for all the fun.
40. Explore Nature at Night
At night wild places change completely. The moon lights your way, new animals wake up, strange noises in the dark and you need torches to light your way. Being in a forest at night is a special experience for your 3-year-old. Don’t worry if they don’t feel brave enough yet, try and use lights to make it less dark. Although, in the dark, your 3-year-old might show you how brave they really are.
41. Grow a Plant
Watching a plant grow and blossom because of your care is a wonderful experience for your 3-year-old. Get easy to grow seeds like sunflowers and plant a few in your garden or on your windowsill. Remind your little one to water them regularly and watch as their excitement builds when they see their seed turning into a plant and growing right before their eyes.
42. Go Swimming in the Ocean or a Lake
If you are lucky enough to have access to the ocean or even a lake. Why not go for a wild swim? Swimming outdoors is an exhilarating experience and not just because of the cold! Swimming pools are fun but the ocean is bigger, saltier and has fun waves to play in.
43. Help a Wild Animal
Our animal friends need our help sometimes. If you spot a bird who looks in trouble, or a small mammal in a forest with a sore leg, or even a tired little bee. Do what you can to try and help them safely. Help a snail cross the road, feed the tired bee some honey. It doesn’t have to be much, but teaching compassion for animals is important. 3-year-olds have a natural caring connection to animals, encourage it.
44. Watch a Bird
Every day plenty of birds visit your house and garden. Here’s a great idea for an adventure–why don’t you spot them and try and find out what type of bird they are? Use your phone and a birdwatching app to help you identify your new feathery friends. Take some pictures of the birds and Encourage your 3-year-old to draw the birds that they saw.
45. Use a Map
Map reading skills are essential in the great outdoors and the earlier you teach them to your 3-year-old the better. Now, I’m not talking about map and compass navigation. Just learning to read a simple map, like the ones you find at your local park, forest or nature reserve. Ask your 3-year-old to lead the way and let them decide what they want to see on the map.
46. Climb a Rock
Climbing is a fun activity that almost anyone can do. It’s like running, it’s just something you can learn on your own. Why not take your 3-year-old’s climbing skills out into nature. Let them clamber up a small rock (be careful to support them at all times). Climbing will improve your 3-year-old’s strength and confidence. It will also keep them active and healthy. Their climbing adventures might just be beginning if they carry it on as a sport when they grow up.
47. Cook on a Campfire
Why does food always taste better in the great outdoors? Maybe it’s the smokey taste? You have to introduce campfire cooking to your 3-year-old. Grab your cast iron cookware and bake up some cornbread, or cast iron pizza with cookies. If you’re new to the outdoor cooking world then roast some marshmallows over a fire and make s’mores. Skewering a hotdog on a stick and roasting it gently over the fire is another easy campfire classic.
48. Make a Nature Scrap Book
If you collect things from your nature walks then why not create a nature-inspired scrapbook? You could print out pictures of yourself and your family on your adventures, draw pictures of the plants and animals you’ve seen. Press flowers between the pages and make them smell lovely. Stick interesting leaves in your scrapbook of all shapes and sizes.
49. Watch the Sunset
So, you’ve seen the sunrise, now it’s time to watch the finale of every day–the sunset. It has a different feel to the sunrise, more relaxing, I think. Listen to all the birds tweeting in the trees and watch the sky turn all the colors of a warm glowing fire. Watching the sunset with your family is bliss.
50. Bring a Friend!
If you’ve had so much fun in nature with all these adventure ideas then why not introduce all of them to a friend now your a professional 3-year-old wild child.
Hi, my name is Gavin and together with my wife we are the proud parents of twins. We believe that learning more about your children will help you be a better parent and love your 3 year old even more. That’s why we created At3yearsold.com, just for you!