The best toys for 3-year-olds to support development and wellbeing
Fun times ahead! 3-year-olds are talkative, silly, and beginning to form minds of their own. They’re like little wind-up toys, always on the move and barely stopping to take a breath. The best toys for 3-year-olds should spark their imaginations while helping them to learn in a fun, interactive way.
Toys that encourage creativity
At around 3-years-old, your child should be starting to understand more complex instructions, with two or even three steps. They can be more specific about what they want too, and make themselves understood to people outside of their immediate care bubble.
When asked, they can likely say their name and age and might have accumulated a vocabulary of between 250-500 words. They’ll start using these words to string together longer sentences and even tell stories! Open-ended toys, such as building blocks for girls and boys from Plus-Plus or these by BiOBUDDi and play dough from SES Creative, allow them to explore and express whatever’s going on in their busy little heads.
An emotional, sociable time
There may be fewer temper tantrums but 3-year-olds are still prone to emotional outbursts. And who can blame them? Every day they are learning to deal with new, sometimes stressful situations. They can display a range of emotions and are still, to some extent, ruled by them. If something is funny, they may roll around laughing. If something upsets them or makes them sad, the reaction will be just as unrestrained. They may begin to verbally express these emotions too, telling you “I’m happy” or “I’m sad”. Talk to them about feelings to build up their emotional vocabulary and make it easier for them to express themselves.
You’ll notice them transitioning from parallel play (playing near another child) to group or interactive play. Encourage sharing and taking turns when playing with friends to develop their social skills. At this age, true friendships may start to form with other people - both real and imaginary! Pretend play helps children to mimic the world around them and understand people and social norms. These learnings are supported by toys like these from Le Toy Van which encourage social skills through play. To develop empathy, 3-year-olds need to put themselves into plenty of other peoples’ shoes and explore different scenarios, which they can do while having fun by dressing up in costumes, like these from Melissa & Doug.
The ‘why’ age
3-year-olds are like little sponges. Now that they can sit still for longer periods of time, they’re also able to absorb more of what’s around them. Take advantage of this newfound ability: read to them often, explain what they’re seeing and what to expect from new situations. This is the age of curiosity when they ask endless questions. They’ll also start thinking creatively as their imagination continues to expand.
Encourage them to differentiate between different kinds of toys, such as sorting cars and trucks from dolls and dollhouses. This simple task gets them to think about similarities and differences. Comparing one item with another helps them to develop a range of critical thinking skills and will later be essential when solving problems.
Heads, shoulders, knees and toes
Your 3-year-old’s gross motor skills will have come a long way in the last year. They should be able to walk in a straight line (and maybe even backwards!), balance on a low balance beam, skip or gallop, and catch a large ball. They may grow out of their balance bike and instead enjoy a tricycle, which comes with all sorts of amazing benefits such as helping them to develop their balance and steering skills. It also supports their hand-eye coordination when they are steering to avoid obstacles or ring the bell.
Their fine motor skills will also be improving, and they may be starting to wash and dry their hands, dress themselves (with a little help!), turn pages in a book, piece together puzzles, and hold pieces of stationery like a pencil or crayon. Bring out their rhythmic side with musical toys for 3-year-olds like infant-sized guitars, tambourines, bongo drums, and mini keyboards. Playing musical instruments helps children of this age to explore sensory input in a creative, self-controlled way. Although the resulting sound might not always reflect this!
Remember: all of these skills will vary depending on ability and size. Some children reach milestones much earlier than others, others later. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, speak to your family doctor.
Click here to browse all our products for 3-year-olds, and see if you find something your child will enjoy.