What toys are recommended for your 3-year-old child?
Depending on their age and skills development, a toddler is interested in different toys. Determine what your 3- to 5-year-old child finds especially fun.
Toys to imitate, create, and discover
A 3- to 5-year-old child is very interested in games of imagination and imitation. They observe the adults around them and have fun pretending. This is the age for disguises and role-playing (playing dad and mom, firefighter, cook, etc.). They also like to have fun enacting stories with dolls, stuffed animals, figurines, puppets, small cars, houses, castles, pirate ships, etc.
At this age, a toddler also enjoys crafts and drawing. They like to see concrete results of the stories they make up and enjoy sharing their ideas with their parents. It is a good idea to put crafts materials within reach (e.g., scissors, pencils, wool, glue, newspapers, cardboard, paint, brushes) and let the child use their imagination instead of proposing something to copy.
A child of this age likes puzzles, construction games, and train sets. They are also interested in discovery games. For example, they can have fun with a magnifying glass, binoculars, and tongs to handle small objects.
Playing with others
Their language improves and their vocabulary becomes enriched. A toddler of this age is also getting continuously better at expressing their wants and is more cooperative and collaborative. Other children are now good play partners.
At this age, they better understand the rules of games, such as waiting for their turn. Therefore, this is a good time to introduce them to simple board games (e.g., tic-tac-toe, checkers, memory games, etc.). Board games promote the development of several skills such as the ability to pay attention, memory, logic, problem solving, and even fine motor skills.
Games to get moving
Their motor skills become increasingly effective: They control their movements well and have developed the strength to push, throw, and pull. This allows a toddler of this age to practise a wide variety of games and physical activities (playing with balls, riding a tricycle, a bike without pedals [push bike] or a bicycle, running, sliding, swinging, etc.). Children are most active when playing outdoors. Nature abounds with various items for them to have fun (e.g., branches, rocks, trees, sand, pine cones, etc.).
Obstacle courses are still fun for 3- to 5-year-old children. Simply adapt the level of difficulty to the child’s abilities. They can now walk on a rope on the ground or a small beam, jump from a child’s chair, jump through hoops, etc.
Recommended toys for this age
Games promoting imagination (garage, farm, shop, castle, etc.)
Construction games, train sets
Crafts materials (cardboard, glue, cotton wool, straws, round-edge scissors, coloured pencils, paint, etc.)
Board games (memory games, association games, observation and problem solving games, etc.)
Discovery games (magnifying glass, binoculars, etc.)
Elements of nature (branches, rocks, pine cones, etc.)
Games of skill (bowling, rings, sand bags, etc.)
Outdoor play structures (slide, ladder, swing, etc.)
Puppets, dolls, stuffed animals
- Modelling clay
Disguises and accessories
Tricycle, bicycle with small wheels, or push bike
Should we go with the recommended ages on toys?
The recommended age displayed on packages gives a good indication of whether a toy is suitable for a toddler. It is best to avoid giving in to the temptation to buy toys that are too complex for your child’s age.
By giving your child the opportunity to play games that are appropriate for their age and development, you are allowing them to do activities consisting of an accessible, enjoyable challenge.
On the other hand, if your child finds a game too difficult to understand or perform, they will lose interest in this toy, even later, when they are old enough to use it.
Rotating toys to keep your child’s interest
Put away toys that your child has not played with in a while and take them out a few months later. They will then seem like new and this will generate renewed interest. Keep some storage containers within reach and others less accessible, and rotate them to stimulate interest in different games.
Things to keep in mind
- A 3- to 5-year-old child likes to invent stories and play pretend.
- They are now having fun with other children, and it is the right time to introduce board games.
- At this age, a toddler has better control over their motor skills and enjoys games that allow them to run, throw, push, pull, and slide.
Scientific review: Valérie Ferron, M. Sc., occupational therapist
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: April 2021
Useful links and resources
Note: Hyperlinks to other sites are not updated on a continuous basis. Thus, some links may not work. In such case, use the search tools to find specific information.
FERLAND, Francine. Et si on jouait? Le jeu au cœur du développement de l’enfant. 3rd ed., Montreal, Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2018, 240 pp.
FERLAND, Francine. Le développement de l’enfant au quotidien de 0 à 6 ans. 2nd ed., Montreal, Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2018, 264 pp.
FERLAND, Francine. Le monde des jeux et jouets. Montreal, Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2013, 180 pp.
GUÉNAËL, Louise. La méthode Montessori à la maison. Accompagnez au quotidien l’éveil de l’enfant. Éditions Ideo, 2020, 256 pp.