Curiosity-Sparking Educational Montessori Toys for 3 Year Olds

The hand of a toddler is putting together a puzzle on a wood floor with a red and green tractor on it.

In the Montessori parenting sphere, there’s so much focus on how to play the Montessori way with your infant or toddler, but what about three years and beyond?

During this time, gross motor and fine motor development are exploding; dramatic pretend play is happening almost 24/7; and unique passions or interests emerge. It’s an age of exploration.

Given all these changes, how is Montessori different compared to the toddler years, and what do Montessori toys for 3 year olds look like?

We’ll take a quick look at Montessori preschool and share some curiosity-sparking Montessori toys for 3 year olds that are sure to ignite your child’s natural sense of wonder!.

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What Are The Best Educational Toys For 3 Year Olds?

We believe the best educational toys are those based on developmentally appropriate milestones described by child behavior researchers and social scientists.

The Montessori method is the perfect yardstick for comparing educational, toys as it conveniently correlates with modern practices for child learning, such as isolating specific skills and providing concrete, sensorial examples. 

The method can also be used as a guidepost for introducing certain academic topics to our children and for tempering our expectations around what is achievable at this age.

What Does The Montessori Method Look Like In The Preschool Years?

I’ve been researching this topic a lot because we’ve got a soon-to-be preschooler in our household! We’ve got a soon-to-be preschooler in our household.

And let me tell you, the mama tears are a-flowin’. How do they grow up so fast?

A Montessori preschool is called a Casa dei Bambini or Children’s House. It is named for the very first preschool established by Dr. Maria Montessori in Rome, Italy.

A typical Montessori classroom curriculum for 3-6 year olds includes Language and Writing, Art and Music, Practical Life, Sensorial, Mathematics, Culture, and Science.

Montessori preschools help children build upon and refine the skills learned in the first three years through child-led play and socialization.

What Are The Differences Between Montessori Toys For 3 Year Olds And Toys For Younger Kids?

When it comes to toys you purchase for your home, the only difference is your child’s growing interests and capabilities.

You would still use the criteria we described in our article What are Montessori Toys? And you’d still abide by Montessori toy storage techniques.

A little girl with a yellow bow in her hair is looking to her left. She is wearing a white tank top and is covered in red, yellow, purple, orange, and blue paint.
Looking for Montessori Toys for 3 Year Olds? We’re sharing some of our favorites!

What If My Child Attends Preschool? 

If your child is in a Montessori school (or even Montessori-inspired like my kiddo), there’s no need to repeat what your child is already learning in class.

Montessori teachers (called guides)  generally prefer parents to focus on complementary experiences and toys. Think practical life activities and family-centered fun, such as hikes, listening to music, board games, or open-ended free play. 

(And if you’re looking to homeschool Montessori, check out the woman-owned Monti Kids program.)

Montessori Toys For 3 Year Olds: Toys For Quiet Focus

In Montessori classes, children are given adequate time and space to both select and then settle into the various activities available to them. These periods are called work cycles and can be as long as 3 hours. 

These toys encourage focus and concentration. Just make sure not to interrupt your little one; you only offer help if it’s requested!

1. Wikki Sticks

This portable toy is made of non-toxic wax covering colorful yarn. They stick to each other as well as glass or paper, so your child’s imagination is the limit.

I discovered these bendy, moldable sticks at a restaurant, and they kept my son busy the whole meal! 

You can even create a version of Montessori sandpaper letters, so your child can “feel” the shape of each letter in the alphabet. 

2. Small Tack and Hammer Fire Brigade Kit

Landing the hammer at just the right angle and holding the tiny tacks just tight enough to hammer them is endlessly entertaining for this age group.

 Your child won’t even know they’re practicing fine motor skills!

If your preschooler is not into firefighters, you can choose from a fairy, pirate, or farm scene. 

3. I Spy With My Little Eye Books

While the classic I Spy books are wonderful for older preschoolers, they are often overwhelming for first-time spotters. 

We’ve found these I Spy With My Little Eye Books to be challenging but doable for 3 year olds. 

Kids will delight in making new discoveries on each colorful, whimsical page!. 

4. Fun in the Sun Small to Large Sorting Activity

Three year olds enjoy problem-solving activities like this beach-themed game where multiple pictures are categorized by size. 

Parents and preschool teachers alike rave about the vivid images and durable cards. 

This Summer Sorting Game from Etsy is a great Montessori toy for your 3 year old!

This Etsy shop has so many great sorting activities for 3 year olds, I could hardly choose just one. Go browse their massive collection!

5. Loop Scissors For Little Hands

Using a regular pair of scissors can sometimes be frustrating for preschoolers who are just starting out. It takes time to develop coordination and hand strength.

These scissors spring back open naturally, allowing your child to focus on cutting without struggling to re-open the scissor blades each time. 

Supervision is definitely required for this toy. Cutting with scissors takes lots of practice, so start right away! 

6. MudPuppy Ocean Life 36 Piece Puzzle To Go

Preschoolers will gravitate to the bright, realistic illustrations and colors in this puzzle. It also comes in a travel-friendly drawstring pouch for road trips or picnics.

It’s even got Dori and Marlin from Finding Nemo. See if your child can spot them!

This is a fabulous puzzle for the average 3 year old, but if your tot is already a jigsaw puzzle master, try these epic 48-piece puzzles and build from there!

7. Butterfly Life Cycle Multi-Layer Puzzle

Animal life cycles play a prominent role in Montessori curriculums, and learning about these life cycles often includes working with these beautiful and simple multi-layer puzzles.

This particular handmade, heirloom-quality wooden puzzle takes your child on a journey through the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly.

This Monarch Butterfly puzzle from Etsy will take your little one through the entire life cycle.

Children are often fascinated by the cycles of life at this age. Just ask my son who recently watched a video of a peach slowly decaying over and over. It’s a thing!

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Montessori Toys for 3 Year Olds: Toys for Family Connection

Toys that offer real opportunities for social and emotional connection with our children are worth their weight in gold. In this list you’ll find some nostalgic favorites as well as a few new and interesting finds.

Bonus! Back and forth interactions like the ones you’ll use while playing with these toys are shown to promote healthy emotional development in toddlers

1. Shopping List Memory Game

“Shopping List” is the top-selling game from Orchard Toys, a company well-known among Montessori parents for producing high-quality educational toys.

Take turns flipping over tiles to fill your cart with groceries on your shopping list. Kids will love the cute illustrations and practical life elements of this simple game.

If your child asks to play this game as much as mine does, grab their extension packs for even more variety. 

2. Sneaky Snacks Squirrel Game 

Oh no! Your squirrel friends have lost all their acorn snacks and they’re really, really hungry! Help them find food and dodge sneaky snack thieves in this easy and fast board game.

Special squirrel tweezers are used to gather and sort acorns. By using the tweezers, children increase grasp strength and work on their hand-eye coordination throughout gameplay. 

As popular with parents as it is with kids, this game makes an excellent gift for any household with preschoolers.

3. Candy Land

Make your way home sweet home down a winding path through the Gum Drop Mountains and Lollipop Woods. 

I love this quintessential family board game for teaching kids the very basics of gameplay – taking turns, drawing cards, and moving game pieces. It doesn’t get easier (or sweeter.).

While the elements of fantasy in this game are not strictly Montessori, its timelessness is unsurpassed among preschool board games. It’s a classic!

4. Marble Run

Some marble runs require a college degree in physics to assemble. No, thank you! 

The HAPE wooden marble run is perfect for preschoolers and their parents. With sturdy pieces and a limited number of elements, you’ll spend less time constructing and more time enjoying together.

This is one of the most affordable wooden marble runs I’ve seen. It’s a steal!

5. How to Use a Map Book

Many preschoolers are obsessed with looking at and reading maps. Whether it’s at the park, a museum, or in the subway, they flock to them like bees to honey.

 This special book breaks down the essential elements of a map at a 3 year old’s level and encourages children to draw a map of their own communities. 

Reading maps at an early age is a wonderful skill to have for both recreation and for safety. One day they may need it to find their way home!

6. Lego Creative Rainbow Brick Box Set

What is it about these magical blocks that inspires so much creativity and concentration? Is it the high quality, the bright colors, or maybe the open-ended invitation to build whatever your heart desires?

Legos are simply a must-have toy, and this box set has all the elements required to get your child imagining and creating. 

The affordability and simplicity of the blocks in this set make it great for 3 year olds who are just dipping their toes into Lego.

A boy wearing an orange sweater and grey pants is sitting on a wooden floor. In his hands, he has a book and another book is under is knee.
Looking for educational and fun toys? Check out these Montessori toys for 3 year olds!

Montessori Toys for 3 Year Olds: Toys for Reading and Writing

Early literacy practice in the preschool years results in better reading and writing later in life. 

In Montessori classrooms, 3 year olds practice phonics (the sounds letters make in the English language). They also practice holding a pencil, tracing, and alphabet letter recognition. 

Below you’ll find some at-home activities that can complement these lessons!

1. Dot to Dot for Tiny Tots Book

Preschoolers practice tracing lines and dots in patterns ranging from a simple straight line to whole pictures of animals and insects. It’s reusable and has a built-in handle!

There is no alphabet letter tracing – just fun images and activities. It’s a low-pressure way to practice pen control in preparation for writing letters down the road. 

This book is a personal favorite. I’ve seen huge progress in my son from just a few months of using this workbook, but the best part is… he loves doing it!

2. Language Objects Set for Alphabet Letter Sounds

Language objects are used in Montessori to introduce children to new vocabulary and the variety of sounds present in the English language.

Hand-selected by a certified Montessori instructor (a guide), these adorable miniatures represent the 26 letters of the alphabet. 

We use language objects for the game “I Spy.” You can show your child several objects and say, “I spy something that starts with the sound “Buh.”

These objects from Etsy are a great addition to Montessori toys for your 3 year old!

When they point to the banana, you can say “Yes, ‘banana’ starts with “Buh.”

3. The Original Buddha Board

The Buddha Board is a water-based, mess-free writing tablet. Montessori parents love that it’s made from natural materials including a bamboo wood brush.

Writing with a brush versus a pen requires focus and fine motor control. Preschoolers also cultivate patience as they must wait for the water to evaporate before they can use the board again.

I plan to purchase this board when my little one is ready to start drawing letters so we can practice without wasting tons of paper.

4. Montessori Workbook

While I would never hear the word “workbook” and think “toy,” my son LOVES them. He’s always barging into our office proclaiming, “I’ve come for my workbook, Mommy!”

With this book, you’ll be boosting your child’s language skills in a Montessori-friendly way. 

There are tons of activities for your child plus activity suggestions for parents, all written by Montessori teachers.

This is a no-brainer language-learning powerhouse of a workbook, especially if you’re not too familiar with Montessori but still want the benefits. 

5. Melissa and Doug Letter Match Puzzle

This wooden toy puzzle from Melissa and Doug just happens to be a classic Montessori letter recognition activity.

The realistic illustrations, solid construction, and convenient storage tray are fantastic features, but it’s also self-correcting. Each mini puzzle is unique so your child will know if they make a mistake. 

The attention to detail in this set is excellent. They even included “short” sounds for each vowel since those are typically learned before “long” sounds.

Montessori approved!

These Montessori Toys for 3 Year Olds Are Out To Prove Learning Is Fun!

Dr. Maria Montessori was famous for saying, “Play is the work of the child,” and we whole-heartedly agree. 

Learning through play is the most natural thing a child can do, and our primary role as parents is simply to offer a limited number of quality experiences – toys, activities, family time – and let them do their work.

With our round up of educational montessori toys for 3 year olds, we hope you’ve found some new ways to do just that! 

There are so many Montessori toys for 3 year olds even beyond our list, especially for preschoolers with passions and interests.  (Unfortunately, my son is STILL into trucks.) T

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Tell us all about your favorite Montessori Toys for 3 year olds in the comments!