A third birthday feels like a graduation of sorts. Your toddler is becoming a preschooler — he’s feeding himself, talking up a storm, and getting ready to potty train (if he hasn’t done so already). This is the first year he will truly anticipate, understand, and revel in all the attention he’ll receive on his big day. Shopping for toys changes a lot once your child turns 3. All the toys with smaller pieces labeled “choking warning” are now safer for your child, so a whole new universe of play opens up. “Three-year-olds explore things with their hands instead of their mouths,” explains David Perlmutter, M.D., a board-certified neurologist and author of the book Raise a Smarter Child by Kindergarten. “While small pieces are still theoretically a hazard, it’s less likely that a 3-year-old will actually choke.”
For those with younger siblings in the house, small pieces should still be a concern, but there are plenty of toys labeled 2+ that are interesting and won’t pose any threat. Continue to exercise common sense: A toy labeled 3+ with no obvious small parts is a better choice than something that has a lot of little pieces. As the owner of Magic Beans, a children’s toy store in the Boston area, I spend a lot of time researching toys and development. Read on for the types of toys I would recommend to enhance your child’s skill set for this age.