Looking for some educational arts and crafts for 3-year-olds? These seven clever options promote growth and development while keeping your little one entertained.

By Nicole Harris
Updated May 11, 2020
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When a child turns 3, her growth and development are well underway. Indeed, the 3-year old-brain is capable of orchestrating more complex cognitive and physical skills, “like jumping and hopping on one foot, pedaling a tricycle, walking up stairs, completing three- or four-piece jigsaw puzzles, naming colors, and following simple directions,” says Laura Phillips, PsyD, ABPdN, clinical neuropsychologist at the Learning and Development Center for the Child Mind Institute. You can further encourage learning and development through at-home crafts and activities.

When completing them, it's important to facilitate reciprocal verbal and non-verbal exchange. For example, when a toddler is coloring and chatting about his yellow sun, even if the chatter is nonsensical, Phillips encourages parents to make comments and reflections. They can also ask open-ended questions about the craft. "These rich and meaningful exchanges facilitate language development, attachment, self-concept, and lay the foundations for continued learning and growth," she says.

Without further ado, here are seven craft ideas for 3 year olds. They encourage learning at home, helping your child reach important milestones before starting school.

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Three-year-olds have the capacity to create art with markers, crayons, paint, and pencils—all of which improve fine motor dexterity and hand-eye coordination. Handing your child a blank canvas also inspires the imagination. “Open-ended art—as opposed to specified crafts or projects—encourage creativity, flexible thinking, and problem-solving,” says Phillips. She adds that playing with art encourages kids to take risks.

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Search for an easy play dough recipe online, like this gluten-free version. Your kid can help make it—and he’ll learn patience when waiting for the play dough to cook and cool. Playing with the finished product improves fine motor skills, encourages creativity, and provides a sensory experience. Your kid can also learn to follow directions by imitating your movements: rolling out the play dough, flattening it like a pancake, rolling it into a ball, etc.

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Gather art supplies around the house, like buttons or newspaper clippings, and glue them onto paper for a makeshift collage. “While working with different materials, you can encourage awareness of basic concepts and categorization,” says Phillips. “Talk about and play with texture, size, shape, color, letters, and numbers.” (For example, tell your toddler to glue two buttons to the paper, and then have her attach something bumpy.)

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“Many 3-year-olds are learning about letters, especially those in their names. They may be interested in and capable of tracing letters and numbers,” says Phillips. You can print out tracing worksheets or make your own template. Here’s an idea: Draw your child’s name in large letters on a poster board, and have him “trace” the letters with stickers, buttons, or pipe cleaner. This 3-year-old craft will teach him about spelling, and it’ll also improve his fine motor skills. 

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Give your child a stack of stickers. Have him divide them based on color, which helps with primary and secondary color recognition. Then he can use fine motor skills to stick them onto paper. You can also complete this 3-year-old craft with buttons, pompoms, or paper cut-outs. 

Ivee Stephens

Have extra potatoes on hand? Mom or Dad can peel them, cut them in half, and carve shapes into the base. These potato stamps make unique crafting supplies, and they also teach your child shapes! 

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Children need lots of dexterity for writing, and scissors can be a precursor to pencils. Have your 3-year-old cut up drinking straws, which make a satisfying snap when the scissors break through. Then she can string yarn through the straw pieces to make an easy DIY bracelet. This craft relies heavily on fine motor skills and coordination—and your child will also learn patience and frustration tolerance. (You can also make jewelry with pasta, beads, or O-shaped foods!)

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