I can’t believe my toddler is turning 3. It felt like just yesterday I brought my little bambino back from the Krankenhaus (hospital) and here she is, blowing her 3 candles on her birthday cake soon.
I think 3 is a fabulous age. Even now at 2, I’m blown away of her capabilities. There are times I feel like I’m talking to a mini-adult, she placing her hands on her hips, conversing to me about everything and anything. So what’s more at 3. They’re developing in leaps and bounce – physically, cognitively, emotionally, socially, their sensory and motor skills are improving, and language.
So, recently I asked myself, what exactly interests a 3 year old nowadays? And my answer? EVERYTHING. I can’t think of a single thing my going-to-be pre-schooler doesn’t like to do. Therefore, while browsing for gifts, I would like them to not only be fun and engaging, but also educational.
Gross Motor Toys
Do you find your toddler jumping on the sofa? Or doing somersaults on the bed? And here you are watching from afar, with your heart skipping a beat imagining the worst that could happen, and begging them to stop. That’s because they’re developing their gross motor skills, which are motions linked to their large muscles i.e. arms, legs, feet, torso, etc. In short, whole body muscle function.
So, you’ll be seeing them jumping, running, climbing, pedaling, kicking, catching, and hopping most of the time. And the fact that I want my toddler to develop these skills, I still want her to be safe. Lucky for us, there are toys to help them grow without us biting our nails.
Scooting helps with leg muscle development and strengthens the back. It promotes a sense of balance, coordination, and direction through steering, in which, once they’re successful in figuring out how a scooter works, they’ll gain confidence. Moreoever, a scooter encourages physical activity and they’ll get some Vitamin D.
The various types of scooters out there are overwhelming. However, these are the ones we like because it’s sturdy, lightweight, has adjustable handlebar height, wide platform deck, and some comes with a brake, safety bumper and foldable seat.
- GOMO Kids Scooter for Ages 2-5
2. KicksyWheels for Ages 1 year and up
3. Albott for Ages 3+
Now, before you place your toddler on a scooter, safety is still very much important. Always have them wear a helmet, and if necessary elbow and knee pads.
2. Balance Bike
In my opinion, a balance bike is the best means to help a toddler develop their gross motor skills. It improves their balancing and coordination abilities by using their arms and lifting their legs to push them forward. It also allows them to ride and balance on a pedal bike sooner. If I could still remember, my eldest could ride a pedal bike between the ages of 4 to 5. My youngest started with a balance bike when she was 2. She’s almost 3 now and at times, she would lift her legs up and balance herself.
We own 2 types of balance bikes ; a PUKY Push Bike and a KETTLER Balance Bike . However, there is another brand we like, which is the GOMO Balance Bike. It’s build for toddlers from 18 months to 5 years and comes with every type of striking colour possible for your toddler’s style.
Again, I would like to stress the importance of wearing a helmet for toddlers before riding on any kind of bikes.
3. Animal Bouncer
I can’t come across any kid who doesn’t like to bounce and my toddler is no difference. Animal bouncer rocks because it helps to develop coordination and balance by sitting upright. Moreover, it’s fun! It doesn’t take much space to play with and can either be played indoors or outdoors.
I understand that there are ‘mixed-feelings’ when comes to trampolines and toddlers. We do own an outdoor trampoline when my eldest was 6, which our toddler has been using it everyday if the weather permits. I have found how much she has improved in her overall balance and coordination, she’s now trying to jump with one leg and would even jump and turn. Also, I caught her doing somersaults and realized how careful, slow, and steady she is. I would say, it did not only improved her posture and stability, it made her feel confident that she could do something new.
If you’re looking for a garden trampoline, we’ve been using the Hop-Sport outdoor trampoline for years and it’s still withstanding the 4 seasons. Another one we would recommend is the Zupapa trampolines. I find it interesting as it has a no-gap design, which means it eliminates the danger of having their hands and feet get caught in between the springs because it’s sewn together.
For those who doesn’t have a space for an outdoor trampoline, there are compact indoor trampolines available to keep your toddler active.
- Hop-Sport Garden Trampoline
2. Zupapa Outdoor Trampoline
- Zupapa Indoor Small Trampoline
2. SmarTrike 3-in-1 Indoor Trampoline
Buying a trampoline for a toddler is a decision not to be made lightly. Before we decided on a trampoline for our eldest (she was 6), I was still contemplating about getting one. You know, the risks, the injuries, and danger. Now, with our toddler, we supervise her (like a hawk) at all times whenever she’s in the trampoline. So, whatever your decision is, always keep an eye on them.
Fine Motor Toys
Fine motor skill is the coordination of small muscles generally involving the synchronization of hands, wrists, and fingers, with the eyes (hand-eye coordination). It’s an important development in young kids to be able to grasp a pencil to write, hold a spoon to feed, button and unbutton clothes, tie shoelaces, cut paper accordingly, zippering, brushing teeth, and so on. And these skills will continue to grow, shaping them towards independence.
A perfect way for them to develop on their dexterity is through playing, whether they are toys, materials around the house, or even in the garden! And when it comes to educational toys, there are a variety of them and it can be overwhelming by the choices available. However, here are a list of toys I’ve compiled that we’ve gone through. No, let me correct that, we are in fact, still going through them. Let me put it by saying there are at times, I find my kid and toddler playing together with these learning toys.
This is one basic toy you can’t go wrong with. Squigz is a suction construction toy with endless of imaginative fun and play. You can stick them on any flat and smooth surface i.e. windows, refrigerator, bath tub, table, kitchen counter top, car window, etc. My kids (9 and 2.5) have been sticking them on our windows and doors, building funny items and then ‘pop’ them out. Or they’ll try to stick them by throwing from a distance onto our glass door. The possibilities of play is limitless. Another plus point – you could wash them in a dishwasher!
We’ve had this doll since our eldest was a year old. And now, my toddler is playing with it. She loves to button and unbutton, zip and unzip. It’s a great fine motor skill doll to help toddlers to eventually learn to dress up themselves. If a princess doll is too girly, they’ve also got a pirate and sailor version for the boys.
You can’t go wrong with jigsaw puzzles for a pre-schooler. It helps with their hand-eye coordination, develops problem solving and cognitive skills, and self-esteem. We love puzzles in the house. My 9 year old has in fact finished 2 sets of 1000-piece puzzle from Ravensburger. While my 2.5 year old likes everything to do with Peppa Pig. We even had a 1000-piece puzzle specially made with one of our wedding photo printed on it by Ravensburger and it came out really nice.
These ‘brain flakes’ or ‘snow flakes’ is an amazing STEM toy. We’ve had them for years and though it’s meant for 5 years onwards, my almost 3 year old got the hang of it within minutes today, and now she’s hooked. They are interlocking discs for hours of creative construction play. We also use them to learn colours and counting in the house. I like that it’s a nice change from the usual Legos and building blocks. And guess what? I stepped on one of these before and didn’t scream. Now, that’s a plus point in my books!
If you’re looking for something in the craft department for young kids, you got to check PlayMais out. It’s made of play corn, so it’s naturally safe and 100% biodegradable. All you need is to damp a playmais on a damp cloth, and start sticking them together. I’ve seen my kids made all kinds with these. They would cut it into smaller pieces, stick them together, and even poke it with a toothpick to create something.
Also, I’ve stumbled upon a tub of pink Playmais. So, if you’ve got girls who are into the colour pink, it’ll be a great gift.
Playdoh is very popular among kids and is great for their fine motor skills development. It helps to strengthen those little finger muscles to roll, press, stamp, and mould. Moreover, I find that it has a calming effect from all the squishing and squashing. The potential of play with playdough is limitless.
This Frozen set, which we’ve got is a hit in the house at the moment. A great Frozen gift for any toddlers who are obsessed with the movie.
Another interesting construction toy for young toddlers. It’s soft bristle-like blocks make it easier for little hands to construct anything which goes through their imaginative minds. We’ve had this toy for 9 years and it’s still in good condition considering the amount of play. Though it’s meant for ages 2 years and up, I’ve seen my toddler (then 1+) playing and stacking these blocks easily.
If you’re into wooden toys like for example, the Grimms wooden rainbow, which my toddler loves to play with, then this is another great gift idea. Stack the acrobats as high as you can by balancing them. A very good hand- eye coordination toy, and develops a sense of touch and control. Unfortunately, it can only be found either in Austria or Germany.
However, I’ve found something similar called the Vilac Wooden Stacking Acrobat and the cutely painted acrobats make a nice decor in any kid’s room.
I can’t think of any kid who doesn’t like magnets and how it functions. They’re STEM approved, developmental toy to keep those active creative minds busy. Not only it’s educational (teach colours and shapes), I like the fact it creates open-ended play. I’ve seen my kids building a hotel for their Littlest Pet Shops and Schleich figurines. It’s definitely a must-have!
We know how waiting for doctor’s appointment, long car rides, flights or in restaurants can be for a kid. They’re basically BORED. So if you’re looking for an activty to bring along wherever you go, plus having your child to develop sensory motor skills, this should definitely be in the list. It has buckles, zippers, laces, buttons, clips, hooks, and threading.
Lacing helps develop hand-eye coordination, cognitive, fine motor skills, patience, and self-esteem. It enhances creativity and makes a great quiet independent play for toddlers or pre-schoolers.
I would like to add a small note, that most of the recommended gifts listed are already owned by my girls and they’ve been playing with them for quite some time now. So, they’re tested, approved, and engaging to kids. More gift ideas can be found here and here.
I hope this list helps you in your gift shopping – for birthdays, Christmas, Easter, or ‘just because’. 🙂