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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