Your little one is growing into an opinionated, expressive “threenager” filled with determination and a drive toward increasing independence. Three is a time of transition developmentally, as your child is moving into a season of greater consciousness. By the time your child turns four, you’ll have witnessed an incredible transformation as they emerge more articulate, self-controlled, socially aware and self-sufficient.
There are countless toys on the market today, but many only serve to entertain or even overstimulate little minds. While every child can benefit from a home filled with books and rich language, providing a thoughtfully-cultivated shelf of developmentally-appropriate toys is essential in keeping your preschooler engaged and learning at home. Montessori toys for 3-year-olds center around your child’s developmental tasks, inspiring and challenging their brains and bodies in just the right way.
Learn more about the best Montessori toys for 3-year-olds and find the perfect activities to transform your preschooler’s playroom.
Related: Activities for a 3-year-old: Fostering your child’s development
What makes a toy Montessori?
Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator whose philosophy centered around child development. She founded the first Montessori school in Italy in the early 1900’s, which she called Casa dei Bambini, or “Children’s House.” Her observations of children led her to believe that people under the age of six go through what she called sensitive periods, during which they are biologically predisposed to learning certain skills. You’ll notice your child exhibiting an intense focus or interest in a certain activity or concept, indicating that they may be in a sensitive period for that skill.
While three-year-olds continue to grow in fine and gross motor control, they are now moving into a sensitive period for language, specifically reading and writing, in addition to social and emotional learning. Providing Montessori toys for 3-year-olds that foster these skills will feed your child’s natural interests in learning at this stage in their development. While traditional Montessori works that are found in the classroom are especially beautiful additions to any toddler’s playroom, there are other high-quality toys that align well with Montessori’s philosophy.
Montessori toys are:
- Reality-based. According to Maria Montessori, until children enter the second plane of development, usually around the age of six, they tend to prefer reality to fantasy. Young children need a strong foundation in reality-based concepts before they are developmentally ready for imaginative play. Introducing fantasy toys, based on television characters or creatures that don’t exist in real life, can be confusing to young children who are trying to make sense of the world around them.
- Foster independence. Toys that align with the Montessori philosophy can be utilized by the child on their own, and often aim to increase the child’s independence by building valuable skills like fastening buttons, cleaning up a mess or preparing food. Montessori toys for 3-year-olds are most often presented on a wooden tray displayed on a shelf that is easily accessible to the child, so they can independently remove the tray to play and place it back on the shelf when they’re done.
- Focused on building one skill at a time. The best Montessori toys for your three-year-old will be those that focus on building one skill at a time. Many toys you find at the store will promise to teach your child letters, numbers, colors and more, but a Montessori toy will offer an opportunity for your child to learn one skill well, whether it be refining their pincer grasp, color matching or beginning letter sounds.
Montessori toys for 3-year-olds are valuable because they:
- Support their development
- Offer opportunities to follow their natural interests
- Provide the “just right” challenge for their developing brains
- Increase their self-esteem
- Foster independence
- Encourage focus and concentration
- Instill a sense of order
Here are the best Montessori toys for 3-year-olds: