Has your child just turned 3? Because now is a vital time to start diversifying your child’s educational toy chest. By this age, our toddlers are already showing an early understanding of how people communicate and work together. They often mimic our own ingrained sayings, modes of communication, and daily routines.
What seems so simple and routine to us, like shopping and paying for groceries, typing on the computer, cleaning up, and cooking, truly fascinate our toddlers. Through acting out these very actions through their own toys, 3 and 4 year olds can naturally improve their own problem solving skills, communication, and comprehension of mechanical concepts.
These top educational toys build upon the developmental milestones our toddlers have already achieved and present them with fun, new challenges that will continue to help them learn as they grow.
Melissa & Doug Sushi Slicing Playset
Wait, sushi is educational? That’s right! Pretend sushi, that is. Toddlers are fascinated by how the world works, especially food preparation. Melissa & Doug makes a wide variety of delicious looking play food sets like birthday cake, cutting fruit, and felt burritos. But their wooden sushi set is a real stand out for me.
This pretend food play set is made of real wood, and pre-sliced wooden sushi rolls attach together with Velcro so it can be cut and reattached with ease. It comes with a wooden knife, pretend wasabi, ginger, and soy sauce, and even its own wooden bento box. Role-play toys like this not only satisfies your toddler’s curiosity about the kitchen, but also stimulates their minds to think more creatively about their own pretend meals.
This sushi set is also an excellent learning toy for children with special needs.
- Educational Value: Encourage imaginative play and creative development.
- Price: $19
Hohner 6 Piece Rhythm Instrument Set
After a while, it’s understandable to avoid toys that make a racket. But musical toys for 3 and 4 year olds hold a great deal of educational enrichment for toddlers. It’s great for auditory development and sensory stimulation early on, and continues to improve upon kids’ creative and critical thinking skills as they learn to understand, recognize, and develop melodies.
Rather than just one musical toy, this musical band presents six different instruments to toddlers; tambourine, rhythm sticks, triangle, wrist bells, cymbals with mallets, and a wood sounder as well as songs and activities for use with all the instruments. Of all the different brands of musical toys, this one is definitely my favorite in terms of quality and activity. It’s definitely a more substantial musical toy for a toddler, plus the instruments actually make good quality and realistic musical sound.
- Educational Value: Build an appreciation for music.
- Price: $35
This popular magnetic construction toy has a great 32-piece starter set for 3-year olds. At this stage, they’re forming more complex structures with their blocks and stacking towers. Magna-tiles’ triangle and square tiles easily adhere together with safely enclosed magnets, allowing toddlers to explore and create 3-d shapes and simple buildings without stacking.
Magna-tiles come in solid colors, but I much prefer their colorful clear tiles. Kids really flock to magna-tiles, and so do their parents! These clear, medical-grade plastic tiles are appealing to the touch and make a natural “click-clack” sound that encourages toddlers to stack and build more. I personally find myself enjoying them more each time my son and I play with them.
- Educational Value: Promotes creativity, math, science, spatial and tactile skills.
- Price: $50 to $120
PlanToys 60-Piece Construction Set
Our toddlers are exposed to structures being built on TV, in their books, and in real life. Naturally they’re curious about how these tools and mechanisms work. So ages 3 to 4 is a good time to introduce more toys with push buttons, pull levers, gears, toy tool sets, and play workbenches.
This PlanToys 60 Construction Set is a substantial educational toy that comes with just the right amount of parts for 2 or 3 toddlers to enjoy playing together. Instead of stacking, here toddlers learn how to turn individual parts into a whole using connectors and tools. This wooden construction toy comes complete with a jumbo-sized toy wrench, screwdriver, nuts and bolts, and wooden planks with large holes.
- Educational Value: Inspire imagination, creativity and problem-solving skills.
- Price: $55
Lincoln Logs are still an in-demand toy during the holidays after all these years, but did you know they’re packed with educational benefits? Yes, our favorite pastime building toy has educational benefits, and is even the preferred choice of many child development professionals, occupational play therapists, and preschool teachers.
Developed in the 1950’s, Lincoln logs were one of the first toys popular with teachers and pediatricians for their positive impact on fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Lincoln logs were uniquely designed and appealed to a child’s natural curiosity to stack and connect.
To this day, these classic ,yet unique, wooden connector logs have kept the same design, which helps kids create more realistic looking log cabins, towers, barns, and more. Lincoln logs have a signature tactile surface that toddlers love, plus it encourages more active engagement with the toy. Classic Lincoln Logs also come with wooden trees, shrubs, and other building accessories to help create stories and narratives.
- Educational Value: Promote imaginative play and problem-solving skills.
- Price: $68 to $100
Learning Resources Pretend & Play Teaching Cash Register
Will that be cash or credit? From time to time, you may catch you toddler reiterating something they heard your local cashier say or do. Those seemingly simple moments are a big deal for them, so now would be a good time to explore their cashiering curiosity with that timeless toy cash register from Learning Resources!
Role play toys allow toddlers to explore their curiosity about jobs, how things work, and observed routines. The Learning Resources cash register features an exciting, multi-sensory experience for toddlers. Along with lights, cha-ching sounds and voice messages, this popular toy cash register stimulates creative and critical thinking, as well as teamwork skills when kids are playing “pretend grocery store” together.
- Educational Value: Helps with money identification, addition and subtraction.
- Price: $34
eeboo Preschool Memory Games
Toddler games are jam-packed with educational benefits for kids, and even parents too! Early memory games, like eeboo Preschool Memory Games, helps facilitate communication between parent and child which naturally improves verbal skills. But it’s also a helpful tool for kick-starting logical thinking skills, like instantly recognizing when an object is out of place, missing, or has distinguishing features.
eeBoo’s memory cards feature whimsically drawn animals to nature to objects that appeal to toddlers, but more importantly helps them with their memory and recognition as well. Memory games are simple yet powerful. Toddlers can start with just a few cards and eventually graduate to larger groups for more advanced memory exercises.
- Educational Value: Sharpen memory skills.
- Price: $13 to $15
Melissa & Doug 100 Piece Wood Blocks
Classic wooden blocks, to this day, are one of the best educational toys for toddlers and beyond. They’re a fixture at your local doctor’s office, library, and preschool, yet contain a wealth of possibilities for activities. Melissa & Doug 100-Piece Wood Blocks Set comes in different shapes and colors, which appeals to our toddlers’ natural tendencies to sort objects by shape, color, and size.
With this colorful wooden block set, toddlers can stack and create more complex structures with cylinder-shaped blocks, pyramid shapes, hemispheres, rectangular blocks and cubes, and even bridge shaped pieces. Parents and teachers can also use this versatile block set to create fun sorting and sequencing activities too.
- Educational Value: Develop dexterity, color and shape recognition.
- Price: $16
Tub Of Animal Counters
Toddlers can often be seen grouping objects together by size, color, and other similar features. This natural activity reveals their understanding of like objects and a curiosity about sequencing and organization. Eventually, this sorting and sequencing play can help 3 year olds understand early mathematical concepts too.
A tub of colorful animal counters provides endless possibilities for sorting activities and very early math exercises. These cute and colorful counters come in a variety of animals, like teddy bears, turtles, dogs, and friendly dinosaurs, which makes learning fun for toddlers. Plus they give educational professionals a good template for creating constructive exercises.
Parents can get in on the fun too. I recently bought my first tub of Animal Counters and watched my toddler instinctively divide them up by color. My next step is to encourage him to sort them by object!
- Educational Value: Teach counting, sorting, hand-eye coordination.
- Price: $11
Fisher Price Medical Kit
Dress-up toys take toddler role play to a whole new level. And Fisher-Price Medical Kit in particular brings in the fun challenge of problem solving and critical thinking. Pretend doctor kits are particular fascinating to kids because it represents an important profession they encounter in their own lives. These toys allow toddlers to explore their curiosity about their own pediatrician’s profession, such as vaccination shots, organizational tools, uniforms, and more.
By the time kids are 3 or 4, they’re better at recognizing and identifying emotions and feelings too. With the Fisher Price Medical Kit, toddlers explore their own curiosity about health, wellness, how to treat pain, and the hospital world that holds it together. This pretend doctors kit comes complete with bandages, thermometer, blood pressure pump, medical bag, and more goodies.
- Educational Value: Great pretend play to help kids feel comfortable at the doctor.
- Price: $14
Melissa & Doug See n’ Spell
This educational toy is a triple treat because it helps toddlers with object recognition, their alphabet, and early spelling skills all at the same time. The Melissa & Doug See & Spell comes with a series of wooden plates that also act as mini puzzles. Each wooden plate features a different object with the name of that object next to it. The challenge is to match the right wooden letter to the correct plate to form the complete name of that object.
The Melissa and Doug See n’ Spell isn’t just great for 4 year olds, it’s also useful to anyone struggling with reading or just learning to read basic words. I was impressed with my nephew’s See n’ Spell when I tried it out at my sister’s house. When my child is just a bit older, I plan on introducing this to him for his next round of developmental toys.
- Educational Value: Help build up spelling skills.
- Price: $16
Learning Resources Gears
This is one of my toddler’s favorite toys and I couldn’t be happier. He’s still playing with it after a year and is still coming up with new combinations. The Learning Resources Gears set comes with 95 pieces of accompanying gears and toddlers can build unlimited possibilities with this free form toy set.
There are so many different ways to assemble the gears and bases that it will allow kids to discover something new every time they play! Toddlers can also rotate these gears using the provided mini handles, creating real working gears!
This particular toy is one of Learning Resources’ best sellers and I’m not surprised. When toddler birthdays roll around, this is my go-to gift if the child doesn’t have it already.
- Educational Value: Help build up reasoning and problem solving skills.
- Price: $36
Out With The Old, In With The New!
Our toddlers’ educational development rapidly grows during this important childhood stage. So what better way to foster this important educational development than with toys! Improve everything from hand-eye coordination to even social skills with today’s top educational toys for 3 and 4 year olds. Take this time now to go through your child’s toys and separate what they’ve clearly outgrown, leaving room for toys that help strengthen more complex cognitive abilities and your toddler’s growing sense of self.
What are some of your favorite toddler educational toys for 3 and 4 year olds?