Need toy/play ideas to keep 3yr old boy busy - Mothering Forums
The Childhood Years > Need toy/play ideas to keep 3yr old boy busy
happydog's Avatar happydog 12:05 PM 06-10-2009
Hi all. I've recently inherited a 3.5 year old boy (and his 6yr old sister) and I'm having a hard time keeping him busy. He came to me with a few cars and misc toys but nothing that holds his attention. I've tried waffle blocks and mega blocks but he's not too interested in playing with them by himself.

I know he needs more toys but hate to buy stuff he won't use.

Can you give me some ideas about what 3 year olds like to do? It's been 20 years since I had a 3 year old boy and all I remember is that he always wanted to play with his older sisters and it annoyed the heck out of them, lol.

Any ideas would be gratefully appreciated. Thanks!

OTMomma's Avatar OTMomma 12:21 PM 06-10-2009
If you have a yard, a sandbox and sand toys are great. A good set of wooden blocks, or other blocks are also great adaptable toys- they can become a castle for tiny people type toys- like Playmobile 123, or a tunnel for cars, etc, besides just building. A wooden train set like Brio or Thomas style are also good for a long time.

You might even want to try taking him to a toy store or 2 and seeing what kind of toys he's drawn to, if you've got a good toy store to do that at.

Hope this helps.
pomplemoose's Avatar pomplemoose 12:35 PM 06-10-2009
my DS when he was three loved dinosaurs cars potato head etc. He wasn't really good at imaginitive play that young, or entertaining himself but his older sister helped out with that.
bestjob's Avatar bestjob 01:14 PM 06-10-2009
Here's the recipe for home-made play dough:

1 cup water
1/4 cup salt
2 Tablespoons cream of tartar
1 package unsweetened Kool Aid (for colour and scent... or you can just use food colouring)
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Mix dry ingredients in a saucepan. Mix wet ingredients in a mixing bowl and dump all at once into the saucepan. Stir together.

Cook over medium heat until texture changes from liquid to something like mashed potatoes.

Remove from heat, cool unilt you can touch it, then knead for a few minutes while it is still warm.

Another thing that kept my kids busy for hours and hours was water, either in a wading pool or from the sprinkler. We've also had a lot of fun with big blocks of ice in the back yard.

The sand toys were an excellent suggestion, and if you can get a Brio train, it will likely be very popular.
LynnS6's Avatar LynnS6 01:56 PM 06-10-2009
A large pile of pebbles in the back yard.
Trains - tracks and trains if you can afford them.

Note too that some kids at this age just don't do any one thing in for very long and it's very developmentally appropriate. If he's grieving the loss of his parent(s) (whatever the reason he's not with them, he will grieve), his ability for self-play might be reduced.
4evermom's Avatar 4evermom 02:47 PM 06-10-2009
My ds didn't play by himself for more than a few minutes at that age. He just found interacting with people to be much more attractive than toys. He did like gadgets so things like those battery operated bubble blowers ($4 or $5 at drugstores) that you dip into the bubbles would've been fun for him.

Anything with wheels. Dump truck, concrete mixer, plow and a pile of sand poured out (no need for an actual sandbox). The sand eventually spreads out and I'd pour out some more.

Toy cars are fun to use with playdough to make tracks. If you are up for more mess, they are fun to use with paint, as well.

Windup flashlight ($10 at Sears or even the grocery store) is cool. And if he doesn't like it, it's still good to have.

Squirt bottle (just an old windex bottle, even) with water. Or vinegar and water and a rag to wipe up if he is using it in the kitchen.

Balls. Ds liked to play a game of us hitting a 12" rubber ball back and forth on the ground with sticks or bats. Kind of like field hockey. He didn't really play with balls by himself, though.

Trains and tracks. I think Ikea has some cheaper than the brio ones. Or a playmat that has roads on it for driving toy cars.

Plastic marble run. He'd probably need help setting it up but then might have fun dropping the marbles in for a while.

Junior stomp rocket. If you have enough outside space that the foam rockets won't go on a roof or over a fence.

Good luck!
alison77's Avatar alison77 04:46 PM 06-10-2009
also check out local thrift stores and freecycle for really cheap or free toys - then you can try things out and not feel bad getting rid of them if they're not a success.

my 3 yo ds' favorites are cars (off and on his car tracks, hotwheels or disney cars makes these along with others), trains (we have a train track set up all the time), and books. also he's getting into games, though that requires a playmate.

good luck!
mkmama 01:55 AM 06-11-2009
My 3 year old plays with cars a lot.
Many puzzles for hours a day. We love automoblox (puzzle cars)
Leapfrog books keep him busy.

I find giving them simple pretend ideas is sometimes all he needs. (why don't you go build a house with a slide for you cars?)

Oh a doctor set. Play kitchen/ making me a picnic is a favorite game. Also he helps me cook and clean just about everything.

A pile of books in his special spot ( a set up of pillows and draped curtains and star lanterns In a closet)
eepster's Avatar eepster 02:35 AM 06-11-2009
The toys 3 yo DS plays with the most independently are trains and Playmobil 123. Most of the other things he plays with, he either wants to play with me, or I feel he needs supervision.

He certainly plays with plenty of other thing though, just it tends to be less indepedent. He likes Legos, but he frequently needs me to take pieces apart; or he'll want to make something from the instruction book, which means I need to find all the parts. He plays games on the computer, but I like to supervise that; since it is mostly online educational stuff, and I don't want him clicking away to inappropriate sites. When he plays in his play kitchen, he almost constantly is serving me play food. He loves his stuffed animals, but wants me to be their voice often. He love running through the sprinkler in the yard, but that requires a lot of supervision. Etc, etc.

If you need sometime to get work done, you might consider a part time preschool. DS goes to a great Montessori school 3 afternoons a week, and has a blast.
JuniperBCN's Avatar JuniperBCN 07:32 AM 06-11-2009
Seconding the sand and train ideas....

Our "sandbox" is simply 4 railroad ties set in a square in a flat place in our yard. As well as stuff for digging, I often keep a big bucket of water nearby, bits of wood, etc for constructions.

Our wooden train is from IKEA and was quite inexpensive

We're also having a GREAT time with Duplo blocks, but specifically sets with vehicles

Our strider bike gets a lot of use

A few small bottles of water coloured with food colouring and some clear recipients for pouring.... throw in a funnel, sieves, etc and that's often good for a while
peilover010202's Avatar peilover010202 05:19 PM 06-11-2009
ds2 LOVES trucks, cars, etc. We have a dirt pile outside (4 landscaping timbers) filled with DIRT. We have gardening tools out there, big dump trucks, monster trucks (make a dirt track).

He also LOVES to play dressup. I have a box full of costumes (bought off-season, so really cheap), hats,scarves, boots, etc.

Kitchen stuff (even having him "pretend" to make me a meal.)


Ride-on toys like a tricycle

T-ball (my younger ds likes this way more than my older one does. lol)
happydog's Avatar happydog 09:55 PM 06-16-2009
Wow, thanks so much! I really appreciate all the replies. We're in a rental right now and can't do a sandbox but we're looking to move onto 10 acres with a creek so I think that'll help keep him busy.

I studied all your answers and got some great toys so I think we're on our way. I'm so out of the loop I've never even heard of Automoblox, had to look it up on amazon.

I'd forgotten how BUSY a three year old is. I considered preschool and may go with a half day program, but I'm going to be homeschooling his sister so it doesn't seem right to shunt him off. (Well, some days it seems like a brilliant idea.) Then again for what I'd pay in preschool he could have some really nice toys.

Anyhow, thanks!!
OTMomma's Avatar OTMomma 10:00 PM 06-16-2009
A quick answer to having an "indoor sandbox" is that you can get a plastic tub and fill it with corn meal, put it on top of a plastic garbage bag in the kitchen floor and let him play with it with measureing cups, kitchen tools and such. Just thought I'd share- my kids thought this was great.
Flower of Bliss's Avatar Flower of Bliss 01:30 AM 06-17-2009
Originally Posted by OTMomma View Post
A quick answer to having an "indoor sandbox" is that you can get a plastic tub and fill it with corn meal, put it on top of a plastic garbage bag in the kitchen floor and let him play with it with measureing cups, kitchen tools and such. Just thought I'd share- my kids thought this was great.
You could do dried beans too. I think they'd be less messy. They're fun to scoop and play in.
bestjob's Avatar bestjob 01:43 AM 06-17-2009
I just want to say a friend tried the indoor sandbox with bird seed and ended up with a lot of mouse poop in her kitchen.... it needs to be in a high traffic area!

Also, you could try what I just did this week... email a group of friends asking for donations. I have a neighbour who has had cousins arrive from Europe for 6 weeks with a 3 year old and a 6 year old. The neighbour's kids are 19 and 18, so the household wasn't ready for little ones at all.

My ds is 8 and I emailed a lot of his friends' parents. Toys have been arriving all day long. They range from LEGO and art materials to some crazy looking games. Who knows what will appeal to the little ones.

If you don't have friends who have slightly older kids, consider posting a note at a nursery school or even at the grocery store. It takes on person to see the note and act on it.
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