Welcome back to my Top Toys series. Here I will be laying out my favourite toys for a three year old, many of which will be on T’s birthday list this year! These are definitely getting a bit harder now. This is probably partly because my daughter is still only two, so I’m having to think ahead a little! But also I think it is harder because so many of the toys I included in my first couple of posts are still great toys for a three year old and beyond – in fact, many of them I had in one form or another in my reception class of four and five year olds! This is absolutely part of the reason I chose them: I don’t want a house full of clutter, I want toys which can be played with in many different ways and for which the interest will last!
However, T’s birthday is fast approaching and Christmas is not very much later, so I have had a think and come up with a list. Here we are with my Top Toys for a three year old.
Role Play toys
Role play – such as dressing up or acting out real life situations, or playing with characters in a ‘small world’ scene – is a really important part of a child’s development. Role play really helps children to develop their understanding of language and build their vocabulary. It also develops their understanding of the world around them. Role play develops children’s social skills by encouraging interaction with others (other children, adults, or even soft toys) and by allowing them to explore different feelings in a playful way. It develops their imagination and creativity, as they come up with different scenarios, problems and ways of solving them. Role play also provides opportunities for many other areas of development, such as writing, understanding of number, opportunities for measuring, and much more!
1. Grimm’s Earth
Grimm is a German company which make beautiful wooden toys. They make several nesting shapes, including rainbow arches which seem very popular in many early years settings. I prefer these ones – I like the more muted colours and also the shape. I guess it feels more natural. These are so versatile – they can be used for building, developing children’s understanding of shape and space, understanding how to balance objects, and teaching them to think creatively. They can be used in a small world as caves, tunnels, fences, or bridges, which promotes language development and also helps them to develop their imagination and creativity. They can also be used for learning about size and ordering – think caves for the three bears, for example! These aren’t cheap but I do think they represent good value for money. You can get 10% off all Grimms toys until the end of August at Little Acorns to Mighty Oaks Ltd by entering the code GRIMMSLOVE (disclaimer: nothing in it for me! Just sharing!)
2. A till and some toy money
This can be used in many role play situations – a shop, a vet, a cafe or anywhere else that takes your child’s fancy! It’s a great way to introduce number vocabulary into play. As time goes on, money is an excellent real-life way of teaching addition and subtraction skills. If you give your child money that resembles your currency (or even better, some real coins!) it helps them begin to learn about ‘real’ money. I think we will probably start doing a small amount of pocket money once T is four of five, so some play with pretend money would be good preparation for that.
3. Weighing scales
Any sort of balance scales are great for children. We have some traditional Salter scales at home which we use in the kitchen, and they are great for using with a toddler! They are really visual and she is able to see very clearly when they balance – much simpler than watching a small needle! Having their own set of scales are a fantastic addition to a child’s role play scenarios, such as a grocers, post office, or kitchen. They also enable them to get a real life experience of measuring. This helps children to understand the concept of heavier and lighter, and also to learn that size and weight don’t necessarily go hand in hand! These are lovely for just free play, and children can weigh all sorts of objects. As they become older, they are great for ordering things by weight – and of course to order any more than two things, the children will need to employ some logic and memory skills!
Most toys I can think of have some creative use, whether that be artwork, construction, imaginative! All the toys I have listed as ‘role play’ offer opportunities for creative development. The following toys are ones which I think have creativity as their primary focus.
Gone are the days of hunting in the kitchen for a spud that’s past its best, and trying not to break the somewhat fragile accessories while sticking them in. These days Mr P.H. comes in plastic, with pre-made holes and much sturdier limbs. I can’t help but feel some of the creativity has been stolen from it, but it does make it more accessible for younger children. We love using the limbs and some of the facial features to make monsters and aliens in playdough, instead. I’ve also found these body parts, which would be lovely as well. I’m told that they won’t work with a Mr Potato Head body, unfortunately, but you could always go old-school and use a real spud!
5. Kinetic sand
This is on our list although it would be suitable for some two year olds. I haven’t had a chance to play with this yet, but have a look on YouTube – it looks amazing! Mouldable but not as messy as normal sand. It looks so fun!
6. Bath flutes
We’ve not tried these yet but they look lovely. Some friends of ours have them and they love them! A nice way to get creative with music, but also introducing a scientific element by experimenting with how the sound is made and how it can be changed.
Maths and Literacy
If you’ve read much more of my blog, you’ll know that I am not someone who is going to push T to learn her numbers and letters before she is ready! In the first three years of her life, she has had very little exposure to letters and numbers, and I’ve tended to avoid toys which promote this kind of learning for babies (which seem to be primarily electronic and noisy, another very good reason to avoid them!). However, she is starting to take an interest in letters and numbers now, often pointing them out when she sees them, asking me what things say, enjoying counting things as she plays, and using her fingers to show us quantities. So I have decided that now would be a good time to introduce more number and letter elements in to her play. Again, these won’t be pushed on her – it’s just a case of putting these things in her environment and allowing her to explore them, become familiar with them, and develop at her own pace.
Great for all sort of things! Balance them on your head, weigh them, throw them in to hoops or buckets. I like these beanbags as they have numbers and also a visual representation of the number using dots. A good way to familiarise your child with number recognition and later means these beanbags become more versatile as they can be used in a mathematical context.
8. Camelot Jr. Logic Game
I saw this in a toy shop recently and just thought it was brilliant! The premise of the game is that you have to get the Knight to rescue the Princess. And for any of us keen to avoid gender stereotypes, there’s absolutely no reason why either party can’t do the rescuing! There are forty-eight puzzles with four difficulty levels. There are several wooden blocks of different lengths and shapes, and for each puzzle you are given a starting set up and shown which blocks you are allowed to use. The knight and princess are only able to walk up and dow steps, or along a flat surface. They cannot jump down or climb up walls! We were really torn between Camelot Jr. and another game from Smart Games, Castle Logix. The simpler puzzles for Castle Logix are slightly easier than those for Camelot Jr, and I think T would understand what she has to do more quickly. Castle Logix is marketed as 3+ whereas Camelot Jr. is recommended for 4+. However, in the end we decided that the addition of the people would actually add a lot more interest for T, and I think with a little help to begin with she will quickly cotton on to the idea. This toy will also last for years! I had a go myself in the toy shop and some of the harder puzzles had me stuck!
9. Magnetic numbers and letters
T loves playing with the magnets on the fridge. It drives me potty, because they’re all in use holding coupons, photo’s, leaflets or the like! So I’ve been thinking for a while it would be nice to have some on the fridge for her to play with. There are loads out there, but as far as letters are concerned, I have two main criteria: one, they must be lowercase – I’ve taught so many children who arrive at school writing everything in block capitals and it’s really frustrating for everyone involved having to re-teach them letter formation. In fact, it often takes longer for them to learn it than it does those children who came to school unable to write a thing! And two, I want the letters to be formed ‘correctly’ – e.g. no ‘a’ with a funny thing above it, and no ‘g’ with a loop rather than a curl. These ones from Tidlo are lovely, or you can get slightly more for your money with this classic set. Tidlo also do a set of numbers, or you can get a plastic set here. I think we will probably put one wooden set and one plastic set on T’s birthday wish list so that it is easy for her to differentiate between the letters and the numbers.
My last toy category! I am sneaking in an extra couple of toys here. Twelve for the price of ten! I couldn’t choose!
10. A bug viewer.
We got ours from Tiger. These are a great way to get a closer look at the minibeasts around you! The one we have has two levels of magnification so that it is possible to get a really close look.
11. Gardening tools
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, allotment, or even some pots, I love these miniature garden tools from ASDA. T loves helping me dig and plant, and these are a great size for her. As soon as she sees me do anything in the garden, she runs to get her tools. She is VERY proud of them!
12. Monster feet.
I’ve seen some in Tiger recently, or you can get them here. Or if you’re on a budget – some old tin cans and a length of string! These are good for developing gross motor skills, balance, strength, and also problem solving – children often find these really challenging to begin with as they don’t realise that in order to use them effectively they need to keep the rope taut.
Disclaimer: I have used some affiliate links in this post, but opinions are all my own.