Fun Things a Three-Year-Old Can Do by Himself

By Jodi Strehlow

Keeping a 3-year-old engaged and entertained is exhausting. You may have wondered when your child will be able to play by himself and give you a reprieve. Your 3-year-old struggles to be independent from you, yet demands constant attention. Finding a balance between giving in to your child and encouraging independent play is difficult. However, there are activities your child can do by himself.


A 3-year-old wants independence, attention and praise.

Every child develops at a different rate. Assessing your child's capabilities will determine which activities he can do independently and how long he will play by himself. You will first need to teach him the skills to play independently. Provide him with toys, activities and objects that will keep him interested and encourage him to use his imagination. Your child will periodically interrupt you for assurance, praise and to show you what he is doing.

Books and Music

Reading inspires imaginative thinking.

Books featuring lots of pictures will hold your child's attention. Spend time reading books with your child. Either by memorization or through her own imagination, she will independently look through books and create her own stories. Books that include an audio CD encourage independence. This way, your child can "read" the book without you. Also provide your child with music. She can spend time listening to and learning the words to songs. Dancing and singing to music will help her develop gross motor skills and encourage language development.

Jigsaw Puzzles

Puzzles encourage hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills.

Puzzles promote fine motor skills and problem-solving development. You will need to complete the puzzle with your child first. Once he is familiar with the puzzle, he will be able to complete it without help. Avoid boredom by rotating his puzzle selection so that he has access to a variety of different types of puzzles. Also try giving your child a puzzle that is too advanced for his stage of development. You will need to put the puzzle together and then let him study it. Without taking the entire puzzle apart, your child can spend time taking out individual pieces and putting the pieces back into place.

Simple Toys

Select toys that inspire dramatic play.

Choose toys wisely. A noisy flashing toy that does everything for her will not require your child to use her imagination, and she will lose interest quickly. Toys that utilize noises and lights properly, however, can enhance your child's playtime experience. Noises and lights are not essential, but visual and auditory aids are intriguing and will keep her interest. For instance, a fire truck with a siren and flashing lights will help your child imagine she is driving the fire truck. Observe her interests before purchasing toys. For example, if your 3-year-old is obsessed with Barbie, a Barbie doll and some accessories will keep her busy. If your child likes cars, investing in a good racetrack and car accessories will hold her interest. Don't waste your money buying expensive toys that your child won't play with.

About the Author

Jodi Strehlow has been a freelance writer since 1992 and has experience writing employee how-to handbooks. Jodi earned an Associate of Arts in social and behavioral sciences from Merritt College and a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from San Francisco State University.