By age 3, most children are masters at running, climbing and jumping and are beginning to show interest in other, more structured types of play.
Children at this age will begin scribbling and cutting. Some non-destructive ways for children to practice their cutting skills include snipping along the edge of a piece of paper to make a grassy border for a collage or cutting play dough or cooked pasta tubes into pieces. Paper, finger paint, chunky crayons and blunt tipped scissors are good choices for craft supplies.
Many preschoolers love to don a cape or crown and pretend to be a favored superhero or a member of royalty. Though store-bought costumes can be beautiful, they are also pricey. Find a sturdy box to fill with items from your family’s closets and jewelry that you no longer wear. Over-sized scarves can become turbans, skirts and belts; old sunglasses and hats are great for going incognito. Just remember – never give children items such as ties and thin scarves that can be wrapped tightly around their necks and cause strangulation or that include beads or other trim that can be removed and swallowed.
Experts suggest parents resist the urge to stock up on “educational” toys with the goal of jump starting children’s learning. At this age a good set of building blocks is still a wonderful toy that can be played with in many different and imaginative ways. They are also more likely to teach math skills than expensive electronic toys that work only when you push certain buttons or when they have charged batteries in them. Dolls are also great basic toys that can be used for role playing, making up stories and other verbal exchanges and practicing emotions.
Other toys that teach valuable school readiness skills include:
- Toys for water play
- Lacing cards to encourage hand/eye coordination
- Dot-to-dot games or books that provide practice with numbers and teach sequencing
- Bikes and other riding toys
- Simple board and card games that require children to take turns help develop their social skills
Many older preschoolers develop a beginning interest in sports. At this point sports don’t need to be formal or competitive. Buy an inexpensive soccer ball to kick around the yard or make a bowling set from empty milk cartons or soda bottles and a ball.