By the time your child reaches his third birthday, he’ll be ready for more challenging toys. If he can put on his own T-shirt, take off his own pants, and wash his own hands, he can surely manage blocks and even simple memory or counting games.
At this age, your child is probably a confident walker, runner, and jumper, so he might enjoy playing with scaled-down sports equipment. He’ll also begin to relate to and focus on other kids, making it a great time to try group games.
As he gets older, your toddler will become increasingly imaginative. He’ll start developing his own story lines, characters, plots, and adventures. Encourage this by giving him props for pretend play – a simple cardboard box can become a wagon, a spaceship, a fort, and so on.
Puzzles: Toddlers this age are developing their problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination, and nothing tests their new abilities better than basic jigsaw puzzles. Look for ones with large pieces and a simple, recognizable picture. Some even come in a tray to contain the pieces. (Check my recommended toys)
Beginning board or memory games: If you think your child is developmentally ready, look for a simple board game for kids younger than 36 months. Your toddler’s brain development will benefit from learning how to play board games, such as Chutes and Ladders, or a card game, like Memory. Particularly with memory games, she’ll have fun trying to match things that are alike and is likely to squeal in delight whenever she’s successful. (Check my recommended toys)
Kid-size dishes, pots, and pans: Children this age love to pretend and play imaginary games, and one of the things they like best is imitating Mom and Dad. A kitchen set gives them license to mix up all kinds of imaginary concoctions. Throw in a few empty sample-size food containers (like tiny jars of mustard or jam) and your child just might become the next Alton Brown.
Construction sets: Most toddlers this age are masters at stacking several blocks, but that doesn’t mean the game loses its appeal. They especially enjoy blocks that lock together, such as Mega Bloks or Lego Duplos, because they can use their budding imagination – and hand-eye coordination – to build higher more complex towers. Natural wood or colored blocks are also perennial favorites. (Check my recommended toys)
Art supplies: Children are always ready and willing to experiment with art supplies, so make sure she has the necessary tools of the trade by investing in an art kit. Look for one with a variety of art supplies, or assemble one yourself by gathering your own materials a little at a time and stashing them in a plastic lunchbox. Kids this age like crayons, watercolors, clay, collage basics (like magazines and newspapers), construction paper, and tempera and finger paints. Make sure everything is washable and nontoxic. (Check my recommended toys)
Outdoor equipment: As your child really starts to grow into his physical skills, he’ll love toys that let him test his newfound abilities. Swings and sports equipment – such as plastic balls and bats, miniature basketballs and hoops, soft soccer balls, and play golf sets – are perfect toys for this age group. (Check my article)
Books: As your toddler’s language skills and vocabulary get more sophisticated, it’s more important than ever to surround her with age-appropriate books. Children this age are starting to follow narratives and can understand more complicated words and stories. Try such classics as The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf or Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans.