Activities that Promote Physical Development in a 3-Year-Old

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While all children develop differently and at their own pace, there are some physical milestones that the American Academy of Pediatrics says children should reach by the age of 3. You can help your preschooler to reach these milestones through entertaining and engaging activities that promote healthy physical development.

Undirected Play

According to Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg, undirected playtime builds self-confidence as well as an individually relevant set of motor skills. Set your 3-year-old up outside with water play such as a running hose or a sprinkler. Show your child how to draw in the dirt with a stick, or on the sidewalk with chalk, and then allow him to work on his own. Create an obstacle course made from items you have around the yard, or create one indoors with pillow cushions, boxes or even tape applied to the floor in different shapes. Let your child play undirected but always supervise his safety, particularly around water.

Arts and Crafts

Arts and crafts activities develop fine motor skills a 3-year-old needs for healthy physical development. Kids love activities such as lacing noodles on a shoestring or even buttons on a pipe cleaner to make a bracelet or a caterpillar. In addition, painting, drawing and clay shaping develop dexterity and strength in those little hands and fingers.

Family Playtime

The best way to inspire children to get active is to be a good role model. Run and play along with your child. Toss a ball back and forth to develop hand-eye coordination and arm muscles. Instead of watching television after dinner, go for a walk together. Day trips to a state park or other natural environment where the whole family can hike or swim together is a healthy activity that will get you outdoors and promote your child's physical development.

Playing with Toys

Playing with toys that have physical and mental play value can help a 3-year-old develop large and fine motor skills. Ride-on toys and rockers, as well as train sets and dollhouses inspire creative play. Pretend cooking and kitchen activities, and pretend shopping at home are ways to promote physical development. Also, supply a dress-up box so the child can role-play different characters then encourage her to act them out.

Dance and Physical Activities

Check with your local parks and recreation department for gymnastics or ballet classes your 3-year-old can take. Incorporate dance and exercise in the home by playing music and simply dancing together. Play an instructional yoga video and do yoga with your child, it will be relaxing for both of you. Encouraging your 3-year-old to make up her own moves, or do them differently according to her physical needs, will promote physical and creative development. You can also keep your little one active by having him act out the stories you read to him or by asking him to pretend to be various animals, such as swimming like a fish or hopping like a bunny, suggests Lets Move!