Trying to keep your children learning while you have some time for yourself, or for working at home is tough. A lot of my homeschooling resources require active adult participation. I wanted to share my list of toys that I see my students get thoroughly engaged in, and that will allow parents time to breathe, send a few emails, and if luck strikes, you might even have enough quiet time for a conference call. Three-year-olds should (obviously) always be supervised when using these or any toy. These are the best educational toys that kids actually like!
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Best Educational Toys for 3-Year-Olds
These building toys are incredible on light tables, but they are equally excellent in windows, on the floor, and on any magnetic surface. These work on spacial skills, problem-solving, and shape recognition. You can also use them for color sorting and more.
Mr. Potato Head
This classic is often overlooked, but 3-year-olds will sit and work with this toy for ages. They are developing important fine motor skills and hand-eye-coordination while they do too!
Another classic is play-doh. I have lots of recipes for homemade play dough, including a gluten-free one here, but if your shops are like mine, there is NO flour anywhere. Use your own tools like cookie cutters, butter knives, scissors, and fun add-ins ( click this link for ideas). Play-doh is a wonderful sensory material allowing children to squish, squeeze, and mold things working hand muscles that are vital for skills like handwriting and self-help tasks like zipping jackets.
Smartmax Basic 36 Magnetic Discovery
These magnets are amazing. My mother in law who spent many years as a gifted and talented specialist always finds the coolest educational toys and my little engineer ( my daughter) loves to build with these. We use them in my class to build, but we also pop them on the magnet board. We sort them by size and color too. See how much fun my class had with them when we added a simple cookie sheet!
Your little one might be too young for classic LEGO, but the chunky Duplo sets are perfect. Build something amazing with these building blocks and use your imagination to bring them to life.
Getting enough physical activity is tricky in quarantine, but this slide is the perfect toy for 3-year-olds. They can work those gross motor and coordination skills as they climb and slide. This also makes a very cool ramp for toy cars!
Chunky Letter & Number Puzzles
In my classroom, these puzzles are staples, the children would work in pairs with these puzzles, and I loved hearing one tell the other which number or letter they were holding. Remember, just as teachers can scaffold a student, students can scaffold for each other too. Also, these chunky pieces are great in sensory bins, and for letter/number hunts.
eeboo The Cupcake Game
This game is a baking game where players are trying to get the ingredients required for making a super cool cupcake. This game doesn’t require players to be able to read, it is easy to adapt when children decide to get creative and think outside the box, and the pieces are sturdy! You will have to recruit a second or third player, but if you have more than one child, they shouldn’t need too much help from an adult. The box says ages 5+, but my daughter played this easily at 3.
Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope
This microscope is a massive hit in my classroom. One of my students loves to find rocks at recess and slip them into my coat pocket so we can “investigate them” under the microscope later. You can look at so many things under it, but if you need ideas check out this post.
Pop The Pig
This game is one of our favorites because it’s exciting, it requires children to recognize numbers then act on it with counting, and you can adapt it for older kids ( see how we did here). Also, kids love playing it by themselves, even if it’s not designed to be used that way. This game isn’t just a great game on a list of games for 3-year-olds. It will grow with your kids and be used for years to come, which makes investing in it now, well worth it.
Melissa & Doug Magnetic Human Body Play Set – We have a bunch of Melissa and Doug magnetic dolls, but this human body one is awesomely educational. What a fun way to learn about the human body.
Kid Kitchen Toy
Children play with the kitchen set in my classroom non-stop. Pretend play is vital for preschoolers; it allows them to practice adult roles, work through anxiety, and more. One of their favorite things to do is to back with these pretend cupcakes.