As a mom of two, I always struggle with what the “right” toy is for my three year old son. Should I get him something that is educational or should I defer to his favorite of cars and trucks and things that go? We have some older toys from his brother who is now 8 and are among his favorites. Below are some of our favorite toys for 3 year old boys which I’ve categorized by type. I also try to get science based toys which fit into the STEM theme as well.
When shopping for a new toy I try to use the following criteria
- usability – is it a toy that my son will play with once and be done?
- durability – is the toy durable enough to last through multiple play sessions and not be broken?
- learning – will my child learn something from the toy – either by reading or creative thinking skills like a puzzle
- “fun factor creative toys” – will my kids have fun using it even if it creates a mess?
- imaginary play – does the toy encourage imaginary or role play?
My kids love sturdy wooden toys, and I have found Melissa & Doug toys to be a huge hit over the years. The content of the toys is timeless and typically there is an educational twist to what they are doing. Plus, sometimes they even help out mom and dad with chores! I call that a win all around! My nephew got this cleaning set over the holidays, and it was fun to see my three year old play with it. Guess what is on his birthday list?!? I keep hoping he will help me tidy up or at least sweep up the constant messes that he seems to make.
I also like to look at learning types of toys, especially since I know preschool will be just around the corner. We regularly work on letter recognition and colors. In this category I like simple 5-6 piece puzzles, building blocks like Mega Blocks which are easy to stack and sort by color or counting, and even things like arranging them by size.
Toys that target imaginary play are important to consider as well. My son also loves to dress up – so a few costumes might be a good fit here while we learn about different types of “jobs” in the community. He currently has a dress up costume for a firefighter and construction worker and we have seen lots of great pretend play from these. He also loves cooking in the kitchen, I like to present all types of foods for his play kitchen beyond the traditional meat and potatoes to include vegetables. This tote from Learning Resources has a variety of fresh fruits and vegtables which then we use to talk about why we need to eat our veggies at dinner – which are unfortunatley not a favorite! I love watching my son cook – and he’s now even more intersted in helping me prepare healthy snacks like carrots and apple slices.
As a tech mom, I also like to look at “tech toys”. We introduced a tablet to my younger son at the age of 2.5 – earlier than I would have liked, but we limit #screentime and try to ensure we balance out learning in other ways. We also have had fun getting toys like a pretend remote control which helps him work on numbers and colors. He has an “old school” flip phone that he pretends to call me on from daycare on occasion which is fun as well. When using the iPad I try to limit him to educational type stories or learning type apps. We also love listening to music on the iPad and getting up to dance. Be sure to check out our app reviews here at The iMums for some great apps to add to your device. We also have some great tech toy reviews as well including a Bluebee Pal named Hudson that my son adores who reads stories to him from books on our iPad.
My son loves all things that move and go. Little People are among his favorites. He likes to intermix the Little People along with farm animals so it can make for some pretty creative combinations when he is playing. By far his favorite though is his racetrack. We practice patience – using the “on your mark, get set, go” as well as turn taking skills when he plays with other kids. Most of the time, if my son is given the choice of toys to play with he will almost always choose something that can go. He enjoys a variety of cars, trucks, and construction vehicles. This year, I know I am looking at some Tonka Trucks he will be able to play with outside as well as a few of the lights & sounds trucks which are among his friends favorites.
Last but not least are the “fun factor toys”. Many of these toys fit into the “messy” category and include things like paints, bath toys and more. We use crayons, markers, finger paints, chalk to make fun art related creations. The most important piece here for me is a smock, and then we can move on to good “clean” fun! Kids learn and practice so many skills when doing artwork like grasp as well as figuring out spacing on a page. These may not be my favorites given the mess factor but I do love all of the artwork they create.
No matter what you choose, your three year old will love it. My son loves sitting with me and playing toys no matter what the day. Seeing him have enjoyment during play on his face – is simply priceless!
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What we love…
colorful, open ended, lots to discover and create, educational
What we’d love to see…
detailed instructions for parents, unlocked items to stay in inventory, characters to interact with objects, reset button for when characters are stuck, more objects and different shaped blocks..
Creative app with a fun spin on building blocks
Building Blocks, though among the simplest of toys, provide an incredible amount educational benefit and entertainment for a child. For parents, they are tools to encourage creativity, to develop eye-hand coordination, to teach basic math skills, and to elicit communication, just to name just a few. For children, they are the most magical of toys that can be transformed to anything they can imagine. Toca Boca’s latest app, Toca Blocks, brings this same magic to children, digitally.
Toca Blocks is a colorful world of blocks. The first one you see when you play includes a few items already pre-built to give you the different things you can make or do in Toca Blocks. There are five different icons on the screen. On the very top right is an icon with stick figures on it. This icon allows you to find the 3 special inhabitants of Toca Blocks (more on them later). Right below that icon is the zoom toggle that allows you to get a wider view of your Toca Block world to see where everything is. On the bottom right is your inventory. On a completely new world, this will only contain your basic building blocks and a pink door (more on this later as well). On the middle bottom is a round multi-colored ball that you use to scroll left, right, up, and down in your world. On the very left bottom is a pencil icon that allow you to quickly place a string of blocks together. Next to it is what my children like to call the eraser monster. This creature, when chosen, eats up the blocks you put it next to.
You start with four basic building blocks. A multi-colored block, an orange block, a red block. and a green block. They are just plain solid blocks by themselves, but combine them and they create new blocks with special properties. For example, a multi-colored block combined with a green block makes a blue water block, an orange block combined with a red block makes a red brick block, and a green block combined with a red block makes a gray block that crumbles when you step on it. Every time you create a new block with two basic building blocks, it gets added to your inventory which is located on the bottom right of the screen.
Now you have a set of basic blocks and special blocks, which leads to even more block combinations! Combine two special blocks or a basic blocks with a special block to create objects to beautify your world. Some of the things I found include an apple (red block combined with a water block), a light bulb (orange block combined with a red brick block), a trumpet (orange block combined with a bouncy white block), and a fish (water block combined with a sticky block). All objects you create will also be added to your inventory. More objects can be created by combining 3 blocks in a specific order. You can even create something by combining two of the same basic colored block with a special block if you sequence it as follows: basic block A – special block B – basic block A. As you can see, it can take quite some time and thought to see what new objects can be made. I’m not sure if I have discovered all there is to create! Sometimes the result of combining blocks simply results in block that combines the colors of both blocks and contains the same property as the special block. These color combination blocks are not included in the inventory.
Toca Blocks is inhabited by 3 characters with special powers. There is a red character that looks like a bear with fantastic climbing skills. There is a green character that my kids think looks like a cat that has the ability to destroy blocks by smashing them. There is a black character that looks like a bird who is fast and can somewhat fly. These characters will help you discover how each block works and help you explore your world. You can guide them with your finger, or you can bring up the controls by tapping on a character. The controls include left and right button to direct the character’s movements and a green jump button. Jumping can help the characters get out of sticky situations.
I mentioned earlier that in your inventory you will find a pink door. When your character goes in front of the pink door, an icon pops up. Clicking on this icon will make your character enter the door and be teleported to another room or world. You can also turn this world into whatever you wish. You can return back to your original world by going through the door again.
My children enjoy Toca Blocks and have been creating all kinds of structures and worlds with it. They love discovering what combing different blocks would do and what each block does. They also enjoy seeing how the different characters interact with the blocks. They have suggested a few things for future updates and I wholeheartedly agree with them. First, they would like a “reset” button for the characters so that if they end up falling down far they can quickly get the back to the top with just a click of the button. Second, they would like to see the characters interact with the objects. Currently, most objects are just for decoration. Third, they would like to create more objects and different shaped blocks. Finally, they would like to have all of the items in the inventory to stay inventory when creating a new world instead of having to start all over from scratch. It can be tedious to combine things all over again to get them in the inventory.
Toca Blocks comes with very minimal instructions. As a parent, I would have appreciated a detailed instruction including a list of blocks and their properties, a list of block combinations and objects they create, explanation about the characters, hints, and tips. I would like to have this in the parent section so that if our kids need help we can provide it for them easily. I believe parents are a good judge of how much and how little assistance our children need.
Toca Blocks can be enjoyed by the youngest child for simple block building to the oldest child (including adults) for more complex building and landscaping. There is of course no substitute for the classic toy blocks, but Toca Blocks makes an excellent alternative. It takes patience to figure it all out, but I highly recommend it.
by Toca Boca AB
Category: Education, Entertainment
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone4-iPhone4, iPad2Wifi-iPad2Wifi, iPad23G-iPad23G, iPhone4S-iPhone4S, iPadThirdGen-iPadThirdGen, iPadThirdGen4G-iPadThirdGen4G, iPhone5-iPhone5, iPodTouchFifthGen-iPodTouchFifthGen, iPadFourthGen-iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G-iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini-iPadMini, iPadMini4G-iPadMini4G, iPhone5c-iPhone5c, iPhone5s-iPhone5s, iPadAir-iPadAir, iPadAirCellular-iPadAirCellular, iPadMiniRetina-iPadMiniRetina, iPadMiniRetinaCellular-iPadMiniRetinaCellular, iPhone6-iPhone6, iPhone6Plus-iPhone6Plus, iPadAir2-iPadAir2, iPadAir2Cellular-iPadAir2Cellular, iPadMini3-iPadMini3, iPadMini3Cellular-iPadMini3Cellular, iPodTouchSixthGen-iPodTouchSixthGen, iPhone6s-iPhone6s, iPhone6sPlus-iPhone6sPlus, iPadMini4-iPadMini4, iPadMini4Cellular-iPadMini4Cellular, iPadPro-iPadPro, iPadProCellular-iPadProCellular, iPadPro97-iPadPro97, iPadPro97Cellular-iPadPro97Cellular, iPhoneSE-iPhoneSE, iPhone7-iPhone7, iPhone7Plus-iPhone7Plus, iPad611-iPad611, iPad612-iPad612, iPad71-iPad71, iPad72-iPad72, iPad73-iPad73, iPad74-iPad74
Size: 93.55 MB
Screenshots (Click to enlarge)
Screenshots for iPad (Click to enlarge)
PhotoTales by Tho Pham is an app for iOS which allows your family to customize a story with your photos and images based on the text provided. For the purposes of this review, I looked at “A Happy Day in the Zoo” which I customized to be about a recent family trip to the zoo using included images and my own personal photos to make the story more interesting and help to engage my son. The first time we created the story, my son and I did it together using photos from my iPhone as well as those I stored on our Bevy to pull into the book. We completed it together and then saved it off to our computer. The second time I did the same book, I was planning a trip so I re-did the book and left it to be read at bedtime. Once you have created the story you “own it” and can restore it by tapping on it within the app. The app allows you to change key words in a story to personalize it which range from name to specific word phrases. In addition you can change the background color, crop photos, draw on photos and stamp icons as well as change font, size and color. The stories are available in English, Chinese, Hindustani, Spanish, Russian, German, Bengali, Portuguese, Malay-Indonesian, French, and Japanese. In the “Create Your Story” you can actually use any of the languages in your Apple Device to write the story so you are not constrained to the traditional language stories. A story is 12 pages and every page has a caption and space for up to three photos which can include images, drawings or more. New images can be taken with your camera on your iPhone, in my case imported from another source to the camera roll or you can draw them into the story. each option was easy to use and navigate and my son seemed equally comfortable when we picked items either from the camera roll, image library or creating his own. He even drew a few pictures on paper which we took photos off with my iPhone for the story. The app developer Tho Pham built it after his children were looking for a creative way to express their stories.
I loved the ability to be creative with the app. I also loved that my son and I could use photos and images to illustrate the story, so even though there were words on the page he might not know we could create cues for him to understand what the text said and ultimately connect the words to the images. My son is an emerging reader, and at times when he is given the choice between a picture book and a chapter book he will choose the picture book simply because of the visual cues of the story. The app can be expanded to additional titles via in-app purchases, but using the story I had I was able to provide a great story for my son and I to work on together as well as for me to send to him while away. I also liked that you could change the sentence structure which meant you could make the story harder or easier – and with the images make it harder or easier for them to get clues from the images. I actually just purchased the Make your Own story so I can make up a story for my son about an upcoming trip – this could also be used as a social story or anything that you want which is not already covered in the app. I am looking forward to more broadly sharing my son’s stories with my family and saving them in PDF format for when he is bigger and a better reader to show him progress over time. I really enjoyed sitting with him to create the Zoo story and personalizing it to his specific level of reading. I even personalized one of the stories with my son’s weekly spelling words to help reinforce the words during a bedtime story.
In terms of enhancements, I’d like to see an option for narration. I realize that it is expensive to include this feature within an app, however, for parents who might be away or travelling I think that they would appreciate it a lot which could translate to higher sales. It would also be great if the developer were to create a version where several of the stories were unlocked upon download so that you could complete a few stories at a time. The parental gate for the app is a random math problem – some of which my son could answer even in first grade. I would like to see the gate strengthened especially since additional books are for purchase and I wouldn’t want kids to get beyond that by mistake. It would also be nice if there was an easier way to login to the app – I forgot my password and it was a bit cumbersome for me to reset it.
Overall, this is a fun book which brings personalized reading to a fun new level. Kids can illustrate the books with their parents to help understand reading as well as parents making them for kids. I am looking forward to more broadly sharing my son’s stories with my family and saving them in PDF format for when he is bigger and a better reader to show him progress over time.
iTunes Link: Photo Tales – Create Photo Stories with Your Kids by Tho Pham
Photo Tales - Create Photo Stories with Your Kids
by tho pham
April 2015 Silver Award winner for "Best App for Children and Toddlers" by BestMobileAppAwards.com.
"The well-executed mix of creativity and literacy development that is possible in this app make.
NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.
What we love…
entertaining and enjoyable, easy and challenging puzzles
What we’d love to see…
the ability to create male ponies and to turn the narration on and off
A fun app for My Little Pony fans that encourages creativity, reading, and puzzle solving skills.
Do you have a child like mine who loves My Little Pony? If so, you may want to check out My Little Pony – Cutie Mark Chronicles by Egmont Kids Media Digital. In this app, children design their own ponies, read stories with animated scenes, and solve puzzles with various difficulty levels.
When children open the app, they are immediately greeted by the same upbeat, colorful, and eye catching graphics, characters, sounds, and voices they have come to love in the animated TV series My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic. They are also given a brief description of what a cutie mark is and how the ponies get them.
Children create their own pony by choosing a body type, eye shape, mane, and tail. They can also change the color for each of the pony parts by moving the color graph slider to the color and shade of their choosing. Children can take a picture of their pony and save it on the camera roll by clicking on the camera icon.
Next, children get to read about how each of the six main ponies (Fluttershy, Pinky Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Twilight Sparkle, and Apple Jack) got their cutie marks. At the end of each book is a puzzle activity with 3 difficulty levels. Some puzzles are simpler than others. The hardest ones involve placing a puzzle piece in the exact spot and at the exact angle it fits into. Children earn a cutie mark for every puzzle they complete. There are 18 cutie marks in all to collect and they can apply any one of the cutie marks they have collected to the pony they created.
Cutie Mark Chronicles is translated into 11 languages including English, Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and Russian. It also has child safety feature which requires adults to swipe a specific number of fingers in a given direction in order to access the parent section and external links.
My daughter loved and enjoyed Cutie Mark Chronicles. She spent some time carefully designing her ponies and taking their photos. She was entertained by the stories, lively narration, and animations. She was fully engaged with the puzzles which helped her with observation skills, logical thinking skills, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills. Her only complaint was being unable to create male ponies.. According to her, all the eyes are female eyes. Also, she noticed that Apple Bloom’s mane was missing from the selection of mane styles. I would also suggest adding an option to disable the narration so beginning readers and older children can read it on their own and practice their silent reading skills and read-aloud skills.
Overall, I found Cutie Mark Chronicles entertaining and engaging. I recommend it especially for My Little Pony fans ages 4 and up.
My Little Pony - Cutie Mark Chronicles
by Egmont Kids Media Digital A/S
Price: $3.99 USD
Design your own pony–listen to narrated stories and read along–Complete activities and earn your own cutie mark!
Join Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack.