5 messy games and activities for energetic 3-year-olds

Three-year-olds make mess wherever they go. Here's how you can turn that talent into a game

Games For 3 Year Olds

Most pre-schoolers are naturally skilled at making a mess, so embrace that fact by introducing them to these messy games for 3-year-olds. Messy, sensory play is great fun, but it’s also essential for a toddler’s development. Experimenting with different materials will help them start to understand the world around them, and they’ll begin to explore their creativity. They’ll love getting stuck in, and mums and dads will appreciate the fact that these activities are simple to tidy up together afterwards.


Keep some kitchen towels on hand for wiping spills during these activities. Plenty The Extra Big One is super absorbent and durable, and the extra-large sheets make light work of any mess.


1. Handprint painting activities for 3-year-olds

Yes, you’ve probably got a pot of perfectly good paintbrushes, but your pre-schooler is going to love dipping their hands in the paint a whole lot more. Painting is one of those classic activities for 3-year-olds, but you can bring new life to it by using fingers, hands and even feet to make pictures. Fingerprints can create flower petals, while handprints make excellent leaves, and footprints with the heels pressed together can represent fish and mermaid tails.


Make sure you choose a non-toxic paint that’s safe for toddlers (you can even find edible paint, which is ideal for very young kids).

2. Sensory spaghetti 

Many of the best messy games for 3-year-olds involve sensory play, particularly touch. Cook a batch of spaghetti until it’s soft and then coat it in oil to make it slippery. Your energetic 3-year-old will enjoy handling, pouring and stirring it really fast. Increase the fun by adding food colouring to create rainbow spaghetti. It’s worth investing in a large heavy-duty plastic mixing tray for these kinds of messy games and activities for 3-year-olds.

3. Icy games for 3-year-olds 

When cold weather stops you from getting outside and you’re looking for activities for 3-year-olds at home, you can bring some of those icy temperatures inside in the form of ice games. This takes some preparation beforehand – just fill up a small container with water and submerge a toy of your choice (toy dinosaurs frozen in an ice age are a particularly popular choice), before popping it in the freezer. Your inquisitive 3-year-old will have a ball being an excavator, trying all kinds of approaches to free the creature from its icy confines.

4. Rainbow jelly

From hard ice to soft jelly, this gloopy texture is ideal for little hands (and feet) to explore. If you’re looking for fun games for 3-year-olds that won’t cause problems if they get some in their mouths, this one’s for you. Set different colours of jelly in a variety of containers, from ice cube trays to jelly moulds and sand toys. They can then build with it, put their plastic figures through it and squish it. You can also hide toys inside, like in the ice game. Jelly play is one of the most popular activities for 3-year-olds who like to get their hands sticky.

5. Pompom hockey 

If your energetic little one would rather be kicking a ball about outside but the weather’s not on your side, try some sporty indoor activities for 3-year-olds instead, like pompom hockey. Many of the most enjoyable games to play with 3 year olds involve lots of creativity and very little outlay, and all this one requires is a stash of those small, soft craft balls and some form of hockey stick (an empty kitchen roll tube will do the trick). They can then push the pompoms into a ‘goal’ with their ‘stick’.

After all that messy fun it’s time to tidy up, and this is a great opportunity to teach boys and girls about helping with the cleaning.

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