Unlike food, preschoolers aren't particularly picky when it comes to physical activities.

Physical Activities for 3-Year-Olds

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Physical activity is something good and healthy for your preschooler that doesn't require pleading, threatening or bargaining. Getting a 3-year-old to get moving is as about as easy as getting her to eat a piece of cake. That's great news because a 3-year-old should be physically active all but one waking hour, according to the National Association of Sports and Physical Education. A plethora of fun physical activities can keep your little one merrily moving along for hours on end.

Go, Go, Go!

If your preschooler isn't kicking, throwing or catching a ball (arms may be a bit stiff but he's giving it a go!), he's jumping, climbing, sliding, swinging, walking or running -- hopefully not from you when you tell him it's time to put his toys away. His eagerness to be active and attempt just about anything that involves movement can tempt fate, making it especially important that you keep a close eye on your budding athlete.

It's not as easy as it may look for a 3-year-old to master his motor skills, explains HealthyChildren.org, a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. If you could take a sneak peek into the brain of a 3-year-old you might discover that while you're asking your preschooler to "Grab the ball!" he may be thinking "Can't fall down!"

The Basics

Riding a tricycle or using push-and-pull toys, such as wagons, toy strollers and play lawn mowers, are age-appropriate physical activities for a 3-year-old. Playing catch in the backyard is a great activity that gets you personally involved in your child's physical fitness.

Enrolling in a mommy-and-me-program offers structured movement activities, such as dancing, tumbling and free-form movement. Although these skills can easily be duplicated at home, a formal program allows your child to improve her social skills by interacting with other children. It also allows you to spend time with other moms, which may lead to a friendship with a like-minded companion.

Get Creative

Try something new even if it seems silly. Hop around the yard like a rabbit or turn your body into a bridge (careful with your back!) and let your tyke crawl under you. If you want to make things a little easier on yourself, sit on the ground or floor while your 3-year-old steps over your legs. Classic games, such as "Ring Around the Rosy" and "Follow the Leader," are sure winners with a preschooler. Keeping your child safe while she's moving is your primary concern when it comes to physical activities for your 3-year-old.


Monkey see, monkey do basically sums it up when it comes to the major impact your behavior has on a young, impressionable mind. Incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine if you're not already doing so, recommends FamilyDoctor.org, a website published by the American Academy of Family Physicians. Keep in mind that nutritious eating goes hand in hand with physical activity. Talk to your pediatrician if you are concerned about your preschooler's weight.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

Photo Credits

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