University of Illinois Extension

What Children Like To Do

Patti Faughn, Family Life Educator

Children have different needs at each age and stage of their development. Each child is also unique. If it's been a while since you've had children in the house, check out this list for activities that can help children learn, have fun, experience success, and feel good about themselves.

Most infants like:

  • to be held, rocked, tickled, sung to, or read books with colorful pictures
  • to hear you describe what you are doing during routine activities like feeding and dressing
  • music and fingerplays (this little piggy, pat-a-cake)
  • to play peak-a-boo or hide under a scarf or blanket
  • to be taken outside for a short walk and have you describe what they see, touch, smell, and hear

Most toddlers still like infant activities but also like to:

  • explore and look for rocks, flowers, and leaves; find objects to dump, fill, move, put together, and take apart
  • separate from and return back to you
  • run, jump, hide, climb; jump in leaves, pillows, old clothes, snow; put a sheet over two chairs
  • sing or dance to music; imitate you (sweep, make pretend food, wash dishes, rock the doll)
  • paint with water on sidewalk (bucket/sponge or brush), play with cups/lids in water
  • ride tricycles, slide, swing, climb jungle gyms, play ball
  • play hide and seek, Simon says, and London bridge
  • build with blocks or Legos
  • play pretend house, store, library, zoo, museum, bank, and other places

Most school-agers like:

  • board games like Monopoly, Scrabble, Candyland, and Checkers; card games like Uno and Go Fish; and computer games
  • preparing favorite snacks (rice krispie treats, brownies, ice cream sodas)
  • athletic or competitive games
  • putting on a play with costumes and props
  • rulers, scales, magnets, thermometers, magnifying glasses, balls, and binoculars
  • to make crafts like jewelry, candles, and sand art
  • to plant vegetables or flowers in a garden
  • trips to gardens, museums, libraries, and florists
  • camping, fishing, biking, hiking, going on a picnic, and going to amusement parks and waterparks

Most teenagers still enjoy board games, cards, computer games, athletics, crafts, and trips. They also usually like:

  • shopping
  • eating out
  • going to movies
  • watching TV
  • solitary games and privacy

Although children of different ages have different needs and interests, playing with younger and older siblings can enhance learning and understanding. And, the time you spend together will help create warm memories for a lifetime.