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3 Types of Engaging Games Your Three Year Old Will Like

Playtime is also learning time when you've only been roaming around the playroom for less than three years. What games for 3-year-olds can help develop motor skills and critical thinking? Want to know about the best games for 3-year-olds? 

Let's engage those young minds with some new and old favorite games and activities. Family game night makes spending quality time together a breeze! Time to learn about the science of development and our best creative playtime suggestions. Get some tips on what family games are great for this age group!

You and your preschooler have done a lot of exploring together over the last couple of years on earth. Now they can ask questions about why the sky is the color it is and whether you know why birds have feathers. (Do you?) They can play pretend creatively and sort objects by shape and color.

This explorative age is super fun, and here at Cali's Books, we love encouraging activities for toddlers that are both fun and educational. You'll have little smarty pants in the making in no time! Let’s take a look at some additional fun family games you can play with your preschooler to encourage math skills, memory skills, and motor skills. (Our three favorite M’s!)

You will learn all about how games help develop these skills in toddlers, what we can do as parents and guardians to encourage them, and what type of games will engage those little three-year-old minds best.

Grab yourself some crayons and construction paper and dive into the fascinating world of developmental science with me, Cali, founder of Cali's Books!

How Games Develop Important Skills in Toddlers

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"Play is the Work of the Child"

Have you heard of Maria Montessori? This influential founder of the Montessori approach to childcare and learning said: "Play is the work of the child." 

To Maria, this meant that play is purposeful. From roleplaying in a cardboard house to tidying up toys, any game or activity that children choose answers to some inner need. Additionally, Montessori believed that children don’t distinguish between fun and serious play. It is all the same. Kids can and do learn while having serious fun!

When you walk into a Montessori kindergarten, you may hear people say that the children are "working" rather than playing to honor how purposefully they go about their chosen activities. I agree that child's play is important work.

The Power of Play

Research by the American Academy of Pediatrics has shown that developing appropriate play with parents and fellow peers promotes our children's emotional, cognitive, language, and self-regulation skills. The research agrees that playing games is far from frivolous as it enhances brain structures and creates the ability to learn more quickly in the future.

What Games Can I play with my 3-year-old?

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Scientifically, games, or play, are generally structured into:

  • object play: such as symbolic play when a child discovers that a banana makes a great stand-in for a phone
  • physical, locomotor play: everything from pat-a-cake to catch
  •  outdoor play: getting outside and experiencing the feeling of grass under our tootsies
  • social or pretend play: allows kiddos to explore different social rules

However, when it comes to categorizing games for us and our three-year-olds, we will go a little more straightforward. I hope some of the below gets your imagination and child-like mind going. Your children can't wait to play with you and explore family game night with gusto!

Active Games

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Are you ready to get moving? Active games are essential for fine motor skills and development and help kids learn how to get along. If you hear the sounds of squabbling or conflict, that isn't necessarily bad as they figure out the art of winning and losing with grace.

Keep things simple and allow them to put their vivid imaginations to use rather than prescribing how to play.

Some active game ideas are:

  • Sweep and Dust: grab a dustpan and mop and enjoy watching your preschooler figure out how to make the mess disappear. Be sure not to focus on the outcome here and let them figure it out.
  • Animal Pretend: can you roar like a lion? How does a sloth move from one couch to the other? Let's walk like a bear and jump like a hare.
  • Mimic Sounds: explore all the different sounds in your house. What does mommy's alarm clock sound like? Listen to the noises of the washing machine … 

Board Games

A Dad is playing board games with his daughter, fun kids games, educational activities

You can create your own board games, but sometimes it's just lovely to see what other clever people (and parents) have come up with to entertain and delight our children.

Careful: some games come with small pieces that are very appealing to be gobbled up by hungry 3-year-olds. Adult supervision is required!

You can introduce toddlers to family board games as soon as you feel they can enjoy the fun of learning things such as turn-taking and active cooperation. As their parent, you know them best! Choose a quiet moment to explain the game's rules and save bouncing off the wall time for active fun.

What are the best board games for 3-year-olds?

I'm so glad you asked! Check out some of our personal favorites below. Please don't be scared of introducing them to games intended for slightly older kids. They may surprise you and want to be involved as long as you can offer a helping hand.

Gobblet Gobblers: a strategy game all about getting three pieces in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row.

Stack Up: young players spin for a color and stack up a block. Fine motor skills need developing to find this game enjoyable. Parents may find themselves struggling after sitting at a desk all day!

My First Carcassonne: bring children into the fun of building the city of Carcassonne. Recommended for ages four and up, but very good for developing strategic thinking and turn-taking with the help of an adult.

Create Story Cards: encourage your little ones to use their imagination and tell great stories. Are they a little author in the making?

Hoot Owl Hoot: move all the owls back to their nest before the sun rises. A delight for the senses using colors and skill. 

Qwirkle: this tactile wooden block game requires logic, strategy, and creative thinking.

Rummikub: combining rummy and mahjong may seem like a difficult concept, but young children quickly grasp the rules of this tile game. Help your youngsters develop working memory and pattern recognition.

Educational Games

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Like Maria Montessori, we also believe that all forms of play are educational in some way. Some of our favorite education-focused game times are:

Reading Together

Reading with your kids is a fantastic bonding activity that teaches them about the world and storytelling. At Cali's Books, we're all about creating interactive and fun books.

The Nursery Rhymes Collection takes classic nursery rhymes from your childhood and passes them on to your children with engaging illustrations, delightful music to sing and clap along to, and lyrics that help enhance language, comprehension, and motor skills.

Are you after something entirely unique to play with? The My Story Recordable Book is perfect for any creative young reader. Each booklet encourages kids to create their own stories and illustrations. With the push of a button, they can record and playback up to 50 seconds of recording per page. It's truly magical to watch kids discover the art of storytelling.

What does every interactive book need? Beautiful artwork to go along with your kids' stories! They can draw, paint, color, cut, and paste to their heart's content. Have plenty of art supplies on hand to support them in their most creative endeavors. My personal favorite is saving up old magazines and providing lots of Elmer's glue. They come up with such exciting collages! 

Remember to always change the batteries regularly to avoid disappointment. We recommend keeping some rechargeable AAA batteries on hand to save the environment (& money) and be ready at a moment's notice.


Interacting with a three-year-old child is a beautiful experience. They're coming to terms with how the world, mind, and body work. Getting together to play games is a way of involving the whole family in quality time. Get everyone involved, from your youngest to their great-grandparent!

I believe that learning doesn't, and shouldn't have to feel difficult. Playing games is educational for my children and me. I always learn something new about them when I tune into their needs and leave the phone at the playroom door. Mindful playing is a blast for kids and parents alike!



  1. 3 to 4 Year Olds: Developmental Milestones 
  2. World Means Play in Montessori 
  3. 15 Games for 3 year olds to Play with Others 


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Cali's Books, founder, about us, why I love books, children's books

Hi! I'm Cali, Founder of Cali's Books

“I’ve loved books since childhood and wanted to transmit this enthusiasm to my children”

I'm a mom of two young children who trained as an engineer and worked in investment banking and at Disney. A French of Caribbean origin (Martinique to be precise!), I grew up in Paris. Los Angeles is now the place I call home!

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