Family Time, Winter: Child Ages 2-3

This publication provides winter activities for families with children between the ages of 2 and 3.
Family Time, Winter: Child Ages 2-3 - Articles


Your Child from 2 to 3

  • Wants to do things for himself.
  • Is self-centered—the “me do” age.
  • Talks more, uses more words, needs to be talked with.
  • Is full of questions.
  • Likes to be read to.
  • Needs lots of fresh air and exercise.
  • Enjoys lots of large-muscle activities.
  • Needs to be hugged and held a lot.
  • Likes being with his parents.
  • Likes to help.
  • Is beginning to “make believe.”
  • Expresses feelings openly.

To Do Family Time You Must

  • Have a firm desire to help your family grow stronger.
  • Make a strong commitment to do Family Time activities regularly.
  • Set aside time to do the activities.
  • Be determined to involve all family members.

To Get Started

  • Pick an activity.
  • Before the family gathers, be prepared by getting together any materials that you need to do what you have planned.
  • Set aside some time each week when all family members can be together. Turn off the TV, radio, or other distractions.

He or She? Him or Her?

Please Note: In this and all Family Time publications, we take turns referring to children as “he” or “she.” When we use “he” or “she,” we include all children.

A Word to Parents of Younger Children

One of the most important traits of a strong family is the ability to provide the affection, love, understanding, and trust each member needs. Parents who have a warm, loving relationship with their child and who support and encourage him contribute greatly to the child’s emotional, social, and intellectual development.

Expressing the necessary affection, warmth, encouragement, and understanding presupposes that the parent and child are together enough of the time so this kind of relationship can develop. In strong families parents and children spend time together. Parents, especially, place a high value on the time they devote to the children. They plan their lives and schedules so that time will be available.

Family Time is designed for the family—for parents and children to spend time together doing different activities. Family Time will be mutually rewarding for both parents and children. But it is absolutely necessary that Family Time be planned for and carried out on a regular basis. Doing Family Time in the family will create a wonderful atmosphere that will enable parents and children to grow closer. As this occurs the family will become stronger.

James E. Van Horn, Ph.D. Professor of Rural Sociology and Certified Family Life Educator

Let's Explore ... Our Family

Celebrate with the Season

Involve your child in preparations for the winter holidays your family celebrates. She will enjoy the preparations as much as the actual holiday itself.

Examples of winter holidays that some families celebrate are:


Give your child a part in buying the ingredients for special holiday foods and helping to make them. Let her help prepare for the candle-lighting ceremony.


During this celebration of family values and community life, your child can help make decorations from colored construction paper. You can show family photos and talk about your family’s heritage.


Take your child along to pick a Christmas tree. Let her help make and decorate cookies. Give her some decorations to use

Valentine’s Day

Plan for her to make valentines for the family. Let her ice cupcakes with pink icing for dinner.

To Touch

Blindfold your child and lead her around your living room, the kitchen, her bedroom, or other parts of your home. Have her stretch out her hands and try to identify what she feels. Let her blindfold you and lead you around and let you try to identify things, too. All the family can try it. Some young children are afraid of being blindfolded. If your child is afraid, just have her close her eyes for this activity.

Watch TV Together

Sit down with your child and watch his favorite television show. Let him tell you what he is seeing and hearing. Discuss with him what is happening.

This will give you time to share together. He’ll enjoy telling you about his show and will realize his importance to you when you sit down with him.

Family Games

Animal Sounds

Take turns guessing, from the sounds, which animal is being imitated. An adult should not guess immediately. Your child says, “Meow.” “That can’t be a dog,” you say, puzzled. “And it isn’t a fish. Oh, I know, you are a cat!”


(This game is good for travel.) Your child decides on a number (1 to 5 only) or color vehicle—for example, a big red truck or a little yellow car. She shouts “Bingo” when she sees it. If your child recognizes numbers or colors, she’ll love it. You can be competition. She will enjoy seeing it before you do.


Take turns naming farm animals, for example. You might list them on paper and then count them back to your child later. List fruits or flowers, wild animals, or any group of things familiar to your child such as “things we eat at breakfast.”

Family Fitness Program

Plan a regular time for your family to do some sort of exercise together daily or weekly.

Take a winter walk and as you exercise, discover how snow changes the outdoors. Look for bird feeders in town. In the woods look for tracks animals make in the snow.

There are other kinds of exercises that everyone can do together. Toe touches, rolling side to side, sit-ups, and waist turning can be good for all ages and abilities. Let your youngest do them the best way he can. Make it fun for the whole family.

Doing things together can help strengthen your family.

Let's Explore ... Our Community

Visiting the Post Office

Visiting places where real work is being done gives your child ideas for imaginative play later on. A good time to visit the post office is in the early morning. Let your child make a valentine (see Let’s Explore...The World of Crafts) and put it into a self-addressed envelope. Let him buy a stamp at the counter, put it on the letter, and mail it in the proper slot. If you can, go behind the front counter to see the workers sorting the mail and canceling the stamps. Perhaps the mail carrier will show your child where he puts the mail for your street.

When the mail arrives the next day, your child’s card will be delivered to him. It’s a kind of magic!

Post Office at Home

When you get a mailing for magazine subscriptions, save all those stamps so your child can play post office. Save all the junk mail that comes so she can deliver and use the envelopes for letters of her own.

Help her make a mailbox if you do not already have a play one.

On Valentine’s Day or birthdays, she can deliver cards to other family members.

Making, Wrapping, and Delivering Gifts to Neighborhood Helpers

Your child can help prepare cookies, bread, or other food gifts to give your neighborhood helpers.

She can help you wrap jellies, jams, or little soaps for teachers, nurses, and others who have helped you over the past year.

She can make labels using pictures or parts of old holiday cards.

She can deliver these gifts to neighbors down the street and hand them to the postman or paper girl when he or she comes to the door.

The Dentist

The dentist is a very important community helper whom your child should get to know before care is needed. By the time a child is three years old, he should visit the dentist to check if his teeth are developing and growing correctly. Present the visit in a positive light. Tell your child in a matter-of-fact way that the dentist is a friendly doctor who wants to help him keep his teeth healthy and strong. Never use the dentist as a threat of punishment. A good first impression is very important for later visits.

Choose a dentist who treats children or who has a good reputation for get-ting along well with children. Choose one who will be patient with your child and who will show him what is being done. Be prepared to let your child go into the dentist’s examining room without you. Be ready to hear all about it when he returns.

The Library

A children’s story hour is a good way to introduce your child to the library. As soon as she shows any interest in books, see if your library has children’s cards and let her choose her own reading matter (with help from you).

Let's Explore ... The Foods We Eat

Date Cinnamon Granola


4 cups rolled oats

1 package (3 1/2 or 4 oz) shredded coconut

1/2 cup sesame seed

3/4 tsp salt

1 cup chopped dates

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Combine first six ingredients. Combine honey, oil and vanilla. Stir into mixture, mixing well with hands. Divide into three equal part and put into three cake pan (9" x 13"). Bake in preheated 350° oven, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes.

Broiler Sandwiches

Some open-faced sandwiches (one slice of bread) become very special when they are broiled or baked in the oven. Your child can do nearly all the work.

Some suggestions:

  • peanut butter and honey
  • cold cuts, cheese and tomato
  • cheese, olive, and crisp bacon
  • cheese with cold cut shapes

Let your child assemble the sandwich. The next part you do. Toast the sandwich in the oven or toaster oven. Or put it under the broiler until the cheese is melted or the ingredients are hot. Be sure to let the sandwich cool a little before your child eats it.

Encourage him to clean up his work area and dishes.

Scrambled Eggs


6 eggs

1⁄3 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter


  • Your child can do this part: Show your child how to break eggs into a large bowl. Beat eggs with an egg beater. Then add milk and salt. Beat some more.
  • You need to do the rest: Melt butter in pan. Set temperature on “low” so eggs will cook slowly. Pour mixture into skillet and use a spoon or spatula to pull cooked eggs away from the sides of the pan. Stir and move the mixture around so the uncooked portions are cooked. Remove from pan and eat immediately. Serves 4–5.
Close adult supervision is needed when your child is working around the stove.

Pudding Wiches


One 4-oz box instant pudding


Graham crackers or chocolate wafers


Make pudding according to package directions—let thicken. Spread between chocolate wafers or graham crackers. Freeze about 2 hours before serving.

Aggression Cookies


1 cup brown sugar

1 cup butter or margarine

2 cups oatmeal

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda


Your child can help with adding and mixing the ingredients. You need to move the cookies into and out of the oven.

Put all ingredients in a large bowl and mash, knead, squeeze, and pound. This step is the most important of all! The more aggression your child puts into the dough, the better the cookies will taste. Form the mixture into small balls (smaller than English walnuts). Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Butter the bottom of a small glass. Then dip the glass into granulated sugar and mash the balls flat. Butter the glass once or twice, but dip it in sugar after mashing each ball. Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes.


About 5 dozen cookies. These cookies often run together to form large cookies because of the large amount of butter in the recipe. Remember,making the cookies is more important than how they look or taste.

Let’s Explore ... Plants and Animals

Bird Seed Surprise

Sprinkle bird seed on top of a pot of soil. Cover the seeds with about 1/4 inch of soil and water the seeds. A strange crop of little plants will sprout.

Special Treats for Birds

Fresh Fruit

Cut up an apple or banana, and place on feeder. Or use half an orange.

Dried Fruit

Raisins, dates, etc., can be substituted for fresh.


A little fruit jelly in a dish will be welcomed by fruit eaters like the mockingbird.

Suet Feeder

Put chunks of solid fat or suet into an orange or onion net bag. Tie the filled bag to a tree branch.

Table Scraps

Birds enjoy many leftover foods such as cheese (especially American cheese), cooked rice, breakfast cereal, and cooked spaghetti. Use table scraps only in cold weather and keep them well off the ground.

Winter Animal Story

Together read a story about a winter animal. Talk about what animals do in winter. What animals hibernate? What animals grow heavy coats?

Then take a walk looking for animal tracks. While you are out, look at the different shapes of the snow and how the snow is melting.

Where does it melt first? Why?

Include everyone in the activities.

Growing Grass on a Sponge

It’s easy to grow a little “lawn” indoors.


  • Sponge
  • Bowl or deep dish
  • Some grass seed
  • Fork or little stick (popsicle stick)


Put the sponge in the bowl and fill about halfway with water. Sprinkle with grass seed, not too heavily. Push the seeds gently down into the sponge with the fork or stick so they are soaked with water but not under it. Keep adding water to the dish (not pouring over the sponge) every day or two so that the sponge stays wet. Soon little sprouts will grow.

After a few weeks, you’ll have a real little lawn you can trim with scissors.

The Bird Tree

Make a special bird tree with treats for the birds after the holidays. Attach your used Christmas tree to a stake or anchor it some other way. Choose a tree in your yard to decorate.

Now deck the tree with special treats for your bird friends.

  • Use the suet feeder (see previous page).
  • String popcorn chains.
  • Fill pine cones or half an orange with peanut butter.

Let’s Explore ... The World of Crafts

Making Valentines


  • Red construction paper
  • Paper doilies
  • Valentine stickers
  • Other odds and ends
  • Paste or glue
  • Markers, crayons


Let your child tear a valentine. Let her decorate it with the odds and ends you have. If you like, cut out heart shapes first and let her tear the decorations to paste on them. She can put the valentine into the envelope when it is finished, too.

Clothing Self-Helps

When you choose clothing for your child, look for clothes that have roomy sleeves and neck openings. Check for medium-sized buttons and button holes rather than button loops. Pick out pants and skirts that have elastic inserts with waistlines that stretch. These kinds of clothing will make it easier for your child to help herself get dressed.

Using Chalk

Use colored chalk on dark-colored construction paper, paper towel, or brown paper bag after brushing with water. As an alternative, dip the chalk in water. White chalk on blue or black paper makes a “snow” painting. One may “paint” over chalk pictures with liquid starch to help keep the chalk dust from rubbing off, but this is not necessary.

  • Your child should be free to draw what she likes.
  • You may want to show her that chalk can be used by rubbing the side as well as the end of the chalk.

Note: This is a messy activity. Cover the work surface with newspapers and your child with an old smock, apron or old clothes. Use containers for water that will not tip over easily.


The floor is a good place for a two- or three-year-old to paint. Start with a big supply of large pieces of paper and a big paint brush. Painting is a messy activity, so cover the floor with old newspapers or an old plastic table-cloth before putting the painting materials down.


  • Newspaper
  • Large paper bags cut in half
  • Used gift wrapping
  • Shelf paper
  • Shirt cardboards
  • Poster paints (powdered paints are less expensive than those already mixed)
  • Blunt-ended scissors


First, be sure you have a good pair of child’s safety scissors (left-handed if necessary) and then help by holding the paper and tilting it as needed to make the cutting easier for your child. If your child is using some other grip than the standard thumb and index finger grip, you may want to show her how to hold the scissors. (If, however, she is using a nonstandard grip and is getting along okay, then let her go.)

A child may need to spend some time cutting slashes or fringing paper before she is able to move on to cutting across the paper. (Again, you may need to help her by holding the paper.)

Let her cut what she likes.

Painting “Blobs” in Folded Paper


  • Construction paper
  • Tempera paints


Fold sheets of brightly colored construction paper in half (newsprint will do but is not as exciting) and drop some colored tempera paint in the fold. Let your child press down on the outside of the folded sheet, open it, and see what he has made. Most children will be content doing this. Some may see something more and could be encouraged to use tempera, crayon, or chalk to finish their picture.

Let’s Explore ... Other Fun Things


This is a way to help 2- to 3-year-olds (and older family members) discover some parts of familiar objects that can’t easily be seen.

Take a small plastic magnifying glass, one lightweight enough for your child to handle and hold over different objects. He can examine his thumb, a coin, a bottle cap, some yarn, a piece of newsprint, some bark, or a leaf.

Show your child how to hold the magnifier to look at objects. Point out how much bigger they look through a glass.

Toys in a Jar

Give your child a screw-type plastic jar and some objects to place inside (blocks, plastic rings, pieces of colored cardboard, corks, etc.). Show your child how to screw the lid on and off.

(This game gives your child a chance to practice manipulating objects with her hands. She also learns order and sequence, in and out, on and off, and if I do this, this will happen.)

Warning: A young child can choke easily on small items if he puts them in his mouth. Supervise your child closely during this activity.

A Treasure Box of Boxes

Fill a box full of small boxes that open in interesting ways. These could include a band-aid box, kitchen match box (without the matches), and other slide-type boxes.

Try other interesting fillers:

  • snap change purse
  • small jack in the box
  • notebook rings
  • magnets, pinch clothespins, whatever

The Tasting Game


  • Something salty: table salt, potato chips, pretzels
  • Something sweet: sugar, candy, cake, cookies
  • Something sour: pickle, lemon, sauerkraut
  • Something bitter: unsweetened chocolate, strong coffee


Ask your child if a lemon (or any familiar food that is sour and on hand) tastes the same as an apple (or any other familiar food that is sweet). To answer the question, both of you taste them and have your child describe how they taste. Continue to taste all the food items you have selected.

  • Let your child choose which to taste next.
  • If she describes a taste incorrectly, have her try that taste. For example, if she says that some-thing tastes sour when it is really bitter, have her taste a bitter food and compare their tastes.

Mixing Colors

Your child can discover that by mixing the three primary colors—red, blue, and yellow—he can make other colors.


  • red, yellow, and blue food coloring
  • shiny 9- or 12-cup muffin tin (you could also use small glass jars or white margarine containers)
  • teaspoon water


Have your child fill each cup half full of water. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red food coloring to one cup (it stains, so be prepared). Add the same amount of blue and yellow to other cups. Then experiment by mixing them together. Make orange, purple, green, and light brown.

Name the colors and match them to your child’s clothes or other things in the room and outside.

Developed by James E. Van Horn, professor of rural sociology and certified family life educator; Ellen Y. Matten, program assistant; and Natalie Ferry, former extension coordinator of special program initiatives.