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Children this age love to imagine and pretend. They enjoy creating new things and are excited about being more and more in control of their newfound physical abilities. Here are ideas for toys that tap into those skills.
A tower of blocks may look haphazard to you, but it's a formidable castle to a toddler. Natural wood blocks are perennial favorites, but colored blocks add a dash of pizzazz. For variety and a bit more stability, consider plastic blocks that interlock, or magnetized tiles that build mesmerizing translucent towers and buildings.
All a budding artist needs is some tools of the trade and a little encouragement. An art kit offers both. Look for one that includes a variety of art supplies, such as washable crayons and markers, watercolors, kid-friendly scissors, a glue stick, and construction paper. Crayola’s breakthrough Mess-Free marker ink only appears on their Color Wonder paper, not on your walls.
Crayola Color Wonder Mess-Free Coloring Kit
A sturdy easel
Dedicating a space for art makes it happen more often, and an easel collects everything you need to make a masterpiece without taking up a lot of floor space. One side of this sturdy wooden Melissa & Doug easel is a dry-erase board and the other is a chalkboard. A roll of paper sits on top and can be fastened to either side, while big plastic trays hold all the markers, paint, chalk, and crayons.
Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Standing Art Easel
A play kitchen
Three-year-olds love to plunge themselves into the world of pretend, and a play kitchen is the perfect outlet for their imagination. You’ll be eating pretend plates of eggs or pancakes in no time while your 3-year-old happily imagines himself as a grown-up chef.
KidKraft Uptown Natural Play Kitchen
You can't have a play kitchen without some play food, and this beautiful set of 21 wooden hand-painted staples sets your small chef up perfectly. Secret bonus: The basic foods in the set come in cute crates separated by food group, for some early education, and the included items, like bananas, cheese, and fish, quietly encourage a whole-food diet.
Melissa & Doug Food Groups
A doctor's kit
By now, a 3-year-old is a pro at doctors’ visits. Let her show you exactly what happens with her own doctor's kit. Look for one that comes with a thermometer, a stethoscope, a fake syringe, and a snappy carrying case. Volunteer as a patient and you'll make playtime even more enjoyable -- it’s also a great way to play with your child while lying down.
Little Doctor Play Set
Memory, counting, and matching games
Stimulate a 3-year-old's brain power by helping him learn numbers with The Ladybug Game, a counting game that works with a child's budding imagination. He'll have fun trying to match things that are alike or learning to count backward; you are likely to hear squeals of delight whenever he's successful.
A speedy scooter
As your child’s balance and coordination improve, they can operate new toys, and easy-to-ride scooters are a natural prelude to pedal bikes. This scooter rolls smoothly over surfaces like sidewalks and pavement, has a nice low deck that little ones find easy to climb onto, and comes in a rainbow of colors, so your 3-year-old can pick her favorite.
Micro Mini Original 3-Wheeled Scooter