How your 3-year-old might play now

    • She likes dressing up or pretending she's someone else
    • He loves to move and does not care to be still
    • She's reassured to hear that people love her
    • He begins to compare and contrast himself with others
    • Basic ball play—like catching or kicking a ball—can improve balance and coordination
    • He can throw a ball a short distance and can catch it if it's thrown directly in his arms
    • She starts drawing faces and people
    • He can make balls, sausages and figures out of play dough
    • Her squiggles begin to look like writing
    • He shows sympathy for storybook characters
Role-play toys
  • crawlerImg

    Bubble Mower

    Gross Motor Imagination & Creativity Security & Happiness
  • crawlerImg

    Medical Kit

    Imagination & Creativity Sensory Sharing & Cooperation

Help your child learn more:

    • What do they do? If your child's interested in a particular occupation or theme, feed that curiosity. Visit the library or go online and research together. Attend shows or demonstrations at local grocery stores, home and garden centers, or fair grounds.
    • Two heads are better than one. When you and your child put your imaginations together, you'll be amazed at how much more realistic and fun your play will become. If your toy is a medical kit, create an area for the doctor's office or hospital. Make a sign for the door: "The doctor is in." Gather willing patients (dolls and stuffed animals are always in need of a check-up). Put magazines and a chair in your waiting room, with a play phone for the receptionist.
    • Get them started. If your child needs a few play prompts to get the idea, be the receptionist or nurse and suggest "problems" for her to solve. "Mrs. Johnson isn't feeling well. Can you see her right away?"
    • Take turns being doctor and patient with your child, and listen carefully to what he says in each role. You'll gain new insight, and he'll gain new confidence!
    • What’s for lunch? With a play kitchen, ask: "What will you make? What will you put in your soup? Do you have to go shopping first?" Help measure, mix and pour.
Cars, vehicles and RC toys
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    Shake ’n Go!® DC Super Friends™ Mr. Freeze Car

    Curiosity & Discovery Fine Motor Imagination & Creativity

Help your child learn more:

    • On your mark, get set … For guaranteed fun, get down on the floor and play right alongside your child. Bring other vehicles into the play, then find yourselves in a race!
    • Create imaginary scenarios for play. Does your racecar need to stop at the garage for repairs? Use a play tool set or child-safe real tools (with your supervision, of course) to add to the fun. Tell your child the name of the tool and what it's used for. Talk about how other tools are used.

I Can Do It!

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Help your child become aware of all the wonderful things she can do! This is a great way to build her self-confidence and self-esteem.


  • Magazines with pictures or picture books that show kids doing things


  • Look through magazines or picture books together that show kids doing things.
  • Ask your child if she can do the things that are shown.
  • Have her explain how she does them.
  • Let her demonstrate if she likes!
  • If she says she can’t do something, ask her why not.
  • Discuss with her all the things you can and cannot do. Make sure to explain how or why not.


Make sure to select plenty of pictures of activities your child knows how to do, so she won’t feel like a failure. Don’t pressure her to do things she’s not ready to do.

Which toys promote learning?

What kind of toys do you recommend for learning?
I recommend a variety of toys for learning, not just those labeled as such. In some way, all toys have some learning benefits. In fact, you’d be amazed by what children can learn from even the most basic toys. For example, blocks and buil Read More

Tips: Why Play Is So Important

Play helps children learn about themselves and their understandings of their expanding physical and social worlds. Play gives children opportunities to figure out how things work, how to get along with others and to try on new role Read More

Problems at Preschool: Advice from Moms

From Dawn in Chicago
We had to pull our 3-year-old out of preschool because she was so active. She was taking her shoes and socks off, running everywhere, crawling under the bathroom stalls at potty time, throwing her snacks and shoving other kids. I just don't know what to do to calm her down and get her used to group settings. I'm open to suggestions. Thanks!

Alicia in Raleigh Your preschooler is learning to interact with other children, in surroundings other than home. If you put her back in preschool the teachers should help by directing her "negative" actions in a "positive" direction. My toddler gets Read More