3-year-olds are very much in the phase of childhood where they’re curious about everything - they’re in the process of acquiring new skills and often have a very individualistic outlook where they want to do things by themselves rather than rely on others.
Montessori toys can help your 3-year-old feed their natural curiosity and acquire skills they’ll use later in life.
The Montessori philosophy is centered around exploration; it’s all about encouraging children to explore, grow, and use their senses.
Montessori toys promote learning by encouraging kids to hold and touch and usually involve some kind of challenge or experiment that can help children develop their fine motor skills.
The toy should also allow them to work independently at their own pace and use their creativity. One of the most famous and popular Montessori toys is Lego. This encourages children to build structures using their imagination.
In this article, we’ve put together a list of our favorite Montessori toys for 3-year-olds.
We’ve also included a handy Buyer’s Guide which should contain everything you need to know about Montessori toys and the busy mind of the 3-year-old…
Before we delve into the specifics, what kind of skills should Montessori toys encourage in a 3-year-old…? Here are the cognitive milestones you can expect in a 3-4-year-old:
- Identify and name familiar colors
- Compare different sizes and understand the concepts of ‘same’ and ‘different’
- Pretend and fantasize more creatively
- Remember parts of a story
- Understand more about time (concepts of the morning, afternoon, night)
- Count, and understand the concept of counting
- Sort objects by shape and color
- Complete age-appropriate puzzles
- Recognize and identify common objects and pictures
With this in mind, let’s take a look at our top picks for Montessori toys for 3-year-olds…
If you’re looking for an educational game for your child that will enhance their fine motor skills, look no further.
This Cylinder Blocks game helps develop your child’s color recognition and visual assessment skills. You’ll get a set of 4 blocks with cylinders varying in height and/or diameter in each block, making this set great value for money.
Kids will love the bright, bold colors, and the lighter weight which makes the pieces easier to handle for your little ones.
We also like that this set has no sharp edges, so it’s completely safe for babies and toddlers.
A lot of modern toys break easily and will eventually end up on a landfill site somewhere, but these cylinder blocks are simple, timeless, and durable, meaning they’ll last for years to come without chipping or denting.
This set also comes with a lifetime warranty, which you’re unlikely to get from other online stores or Amazon.
- Enhances color recognition and visual assessment
- Develops fine motor skills
- Great value for money
- High-quality materials and paints
- Environmentally friendly - no plastic
- Safe for little ones - no sharp edges
- Lightweight and easy for small hands to lift
- Highly durable and come with a lifetime warranty
This set includes two games in one, meaning you get great bang for your buck. The Carrot Harvest toy develops fine motor skills by encouraging children to slot the carrot in the right sized holes.
The carrots have smooth, polished edges so they’re completely safe for little ones, while the paint is non-toxic and water-based for extra peace of mind.
The bonus worm-catcher toy is equally entertaining and will help exercise your child’s wrist flexibility and improve their hand-brain coordination as well as their visual ability to follow.
Children will love the cute, playful details of these toys which make them not only educational but fun, too.
This set comes with a lifetime warranty and is made of high-quality materials, so these games will remain in the family for years to come.
- Two games in one set
- Develops fine motor skills
- Trains hand-brain coordination
- Smooth, polished edges
- Non-toxic, water-based paint
- Highly durable materials
- Lifetime warranty
- Be careful that little ones don’t put the worms in their mouth.
This screwdriver board and hammer peg game is perfect for teaching kids a practical skill without worrying that they’ll hurt themselves.
This set is great for giving your three-year-old a sense of responsibility and independence, and they’ll love the satisfaction of nailing the wooden pegs and tightening and loosening the bolts.
Whether they’re using the hammer, screwdriver, or spanner, your little one will be continually building up their fine motor skills, and they’ll develop their hand-eye coordination, too.
We love the versatility of this set, which will keep your little one occupied for hours on end.
It’s also ideal for a range of ages, so it’s not something they’ll get bored of after playing with one or two times.
As with all of Giggles Montessori’s games, all of the pieces have a smooth finish and are non-toxic, so you get full peace of mind while your child is playing.
The high-quality materials also mean that these toys are durable and will last a lifetime.
- Teaches a practical skill
- Develops hand-eye coordination
- Improves fine motor skills
- Versatile - plenty of different tasks to do
- High quality, durable materials with a lifetime warranty
- Great for a range of ages
- Some small pieces to be aware of.
Not only will your 3-year old love this sweep and mop set, but you’ll love it too as you’ll have an extra pair of hands helping you keep the house clean and tidy!
These pretend cleaning toys inspire hours of open-ended play and each cleaning tool gives an imagined role and a pretend task to carry out - perfect for little ones who are easily bored.
This impressive set is extremely realistic and includes a wooden broom, mop, duster, brush, and organizing stand, the red dustpan also conveniently clips into all the handles.
Not only will this cleaning set teach your child real skills, but it encourages experimentation, independence, and will develop their coordination and fine motor skills.
The different colors of each tool also encourage color recognition to help children identify each tool and its function. Your child will also love using this set alongside you while you clean.
- Made from durable, high-quality wood
- Realistic - teaches children responsibility and promotes independence
- Encourages color recognition and improves coordination
- Hours of open-ended play
- Kids will love using this alongside you while you clean
- No small parts so no choking risk
- Be wary that some people found the mop marked certain floors
Melissa & Doug are known for creating some of the best Montessori toys on the market, and this 17-piece play-food set doesn’t disappoint.
Through teaching your children how to slice fruit, they’ll learn the concepts of part and whole for early math-development skills, and will even start understanding the basics of safety in the kitchen.
The wooden knife splits the realistic fruit with a satisfying “crunch” sound and the set also features self-stick tabs that stick the fruit together.
Each piece of fruit is painted to look bright, bold, and realistic, and can also be used to teach your little one and about the importance of a healthy diet.
This set comes in a handy wooden crate that can be used to store the pieces in and is handy for traveling with.
- 17-piece set with wooden knife and crate
- Self-stick pieces make a “crunch” sound when cut open
- The fruit is beautifully painted to look realistic
- The crate is handy for storage/portability
- Can be used to teach basic math skills
- Teaches knife safety and healthy eating
- Renowned and well-trusted brand
- 100% happiness guarantee
- Some users found the paint chipped easily
This wooden number puzzle is great for kids aged 2-6 and will help them learn numbers, shapes, colors, sorting, and stacking, as well as basic math.
This game will help enhance your 3-year-old’s early cognitive skills, as well as improve their hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills when they match each shape to the correct cut-out and match the colors to the correct number.
Children will learn not only to recognize numbers but also have to count out the precise amount of rings for every number, meaning they become familiar with counting.
We like how versatile this puzzle is; for example, your child can start with the larger pieces, such as the numbers and shapes, and, when they’re ready, they can then progress to the smaller rings and pegs.
This toy is made of 100% natural wood so it’s environmentally friendly and is painted with non-toxic water-based paint to ensure it’s safe for little ones.
- Versatile: teaches shapes, colors, and numbers
- Promotes hand-eye coordination and problem solving
- Different levels and skills for different abilities
- Plastic-free as it’s made from 100% natural wood - environmentally friendly
- Painted with non-toxic, water-based paint
- Bright, stimulating colors
- Smaller pieces may be a choking hazard if your toddler has a habit of putting things in their mouth
Sometimes the thought of teaching your little one certain skills can be daunting, and for most tying a lace is one of those more tricky skills to acquire.
The Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wood Lacing Sneaker is an easy-to-use lacing toy that helps kids learn how to lace their own shoes.
This sneaker has a fun, bold appearance and durable wooden construction made from high-quality wood and assembled with precise manufacturing standards.
This wooden sneaker is heavy enough to stay-put so first-time lacers don’t get frustrated, and has been designed especially for small fingers, with large eyelets to make lacing that little bit easier.
This toy is ideal for practicing fine-motor skills and will help kids between 3 and 6 improve their hand-eye coordination while encouraging independence through a vital everyday life skill.
- Sturdy and durable construction - high-quality wood
- Precise manufacturing standards
- Bright, fun colors in a sneaker design
- Heavy enough to stay-put to minimize frustration
- Designed especially for small fingers
- Teaches hand-eye coordination
- Encourages independence
- 100% happiness guarantee
- Not the most stimulating toy - some children may get bored easily!
Best Montessori Toys For 3 Year old Buying Guide
Kids develop at different paces and while there are general “milestones” that we spoke about at the beginning of this article, it’s not too unusual if your child is behind - or ahead - of these when they hit 3.
Ultimately, 3-year-olds should just be encouraged to explore and imagine with open-ended play, and the cognitive skills should follow!
Here’s what to look out for and consider when shopping for Montessori toys for 3-year-olds…
What can your child learn from this toy? Montessori toys don’t necessarily need to be overtly educational, though some toys may improve skills from the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) and improve your child’s basic numeracy and literacy skills.
However, as we said earlier, central to the Montessori philosophy is promoting curiosity and exploration through open-ended play.
So even if your child isn’t playing a number game, a Montessori toy may still teach them the concept of counting, or how to recognize colors, for example.
It may also enhance other developmental skills such as coordination and responsibility, as well as providing them with a sense of independence.
Fine Motor Skills
Fine Motor Skills involve activities that require the use of the small muscles in our wrists and hands, and these are vital to development as we use these muscles every day, both in adulthood and childhood.
Fine motor skills can be split into the following categories: academic skills including drawing, coloring, writing, and cutting; play skills such as construction, IT and doll dressing and manipulation, and self-care - so dressing, eating, and hygiene.
While education is important when it comes to choosing toys for your 3-year-old, their toys still need to be fun, else they’ll fail to motivate or inspire your child to use them!
Look for toys that have bright colors, different shapes, and encourage touching and manipulation.
Toys that offer multiple games and different activities are also recommended to keep your child occupied and provide multiple challenges and opportunities for them.
This ties in with the last section, and versatility is vital because it keeps the toy interesting and your child engaged.
Look for a toy that can be used in different ways or that provides a healthy challenge that they won’t get bored of after five minutes.
The key to Montessori toys is open-ended play, so ensure the toy or game is inspiring and stimulating and doesn’t have one straightforward way of doing things.
Health and safety is always going to be a big factor when it comes to choosing toys for 3-year-olds.
3-year-olds can just about handle smaller items though it’s not unusual for them to still be tempted to put things in their mouth!
If this is the case with your little one, be wary of any toys that contain small pieces that could be a choking hazard.
It’s also a good idea to make sure all of the pieces are non-toxic, even though we’d like to think this is a no-brainer for kids' toys.
Kids’ toys can often be expensive, so ensure that whatever you buy is durable.
While kids can get bored with toys quickly, you never know who might want to use the toy next, or you could pass it on to another child who will use it.
Look for items made from durable wood that won’t break if dropped unlike plastic, and ensure toys are manufactured to a high standard so they don’t fall apart and pose a choking hazard.
How much you spend on a Montessori toy is entirely down to your budget. However, we’d say that roughly you should aim to spend between $10 and $35, as this is where you’ll find the most bang for your buck.
You can find Montessori toys for cheaper, though be wary that these might not be as durable or well-made.
Similarly, there may not be much point in spending over this amount because children tire of toys quickly and often get bored with them once they’ve played with them enough times.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes a toy Montessori?
A Montessori toy encourages learning through play and exploration. It should be a toy that can be held and touched, as learning to manipulate objects is key for developing fine motor skills.
Montessori toys will also promote independence and responsibility and will encourage children to work at their own pace and use their creativity.
Is Melissa & Doug Montessori?
Yes, the brand Melissa & Doug are aligned with the “Montessori” approach to learning and play, so they encourage children to use their imagination and creativity to solve problems and promote open-ended play while also providing the opportunity for children to learn new skills.
What toys will keep a 3-year-old busy?
3 years old is usually when your child is at their peak curiosity, constantly asking “why?” Therefore, the best toys for them are those that utilize their active imagination and teach them something new.
Toys that involve problem-solving, building, creating, or co-ordinating are great for 3-year-olds as they allow them to acquire new skills that they’ll use later in life.
You also want to look out for toys that make use of fine motor skills as these will be vital for when your child starts school.
Toys for 3-year-olds need to be fun, stimulating, and motivate their senses, so bright colors or different textures and activities are always great aspects to look out for in a toy.