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Developmentally Appropriate Gift Guide for 3-5 year olds

BY Alicia mason – for growing kind

Have you been wondering what to get your 3-5 year old?

We have compiled a list of 3-5 year old gift ideas that are super fun to play with, and they are developmentally appropriate. As you read through our 3-5 year old gift guide you will notice we have given you the WHY for each item, and constantly referred to play schemas. Please refer back to our “What are Play Schemas?” to learn more.

Imaginative / Role Play

Why? At 3-5, Imaginative play is becoming more complex. Children will enjoy more detailed scenarios and may enjoy more detailed dress up costumes and props. Their vocabulary and social skills increase substantially during this time, through imaginative play scenarios and story telling, and they will enjoy toys they can use with their peers and siblings to create social play scenarios.

Home Corner

Why? Children will enjoy helping at home more at this age, and will use home-task related play to rehearse and refine housework tasks and scenarios. Home corner toys can also be used for shop owner scenarios to practice new found social, mathematics and language skills, such as counting, opposites, positional vocabulary, and following instructions and rules.


Small World Play

Why? Small World play is another way of exploring imaginative play, and the schemas. Children experimenting with the positional schema can line up toy cars, people, and animals. They can be moved about for transporting schema. Toy roads or trains can be connected together for connection schema. A farm scene may offer toy fences for enclosure schema. And imaginative worlds can encourage social skills and language development, as children rehearse or re-enact different social situations.

Art Supplies

Why? An upright easel is great for developing shoulder and wrist strength that will go towards future writing. A spray bottle will help strengthen hand muscles and fine motor control, and explore paint in a new ways for children in the trajectory schema. Poster paint can be ideal at this age as a little goes a long way, and the colours are easy to clean off for the next use if they are muddied by other colours.

Outdoor / Nature Play

Why? Water is a popular medium to explore the trajectory schema. Constructing the waterways in different configurations will encourage connection schema play. At this age children will also start to manipulate toys with friends and cooperate, practicing social and language skills.

                                  Spinning / Rotation Toys 

Why? Spinning tops are another great toy for children exploring rotation schema, and good for wrist strength, which is important for pencil grip and fine motor skills. 

Spinning Bells 

Sensory Play

Why? Sensory play has so many benefits for cognitive development, which is starting to take off at this age. Vocabulary is exploding, and children will enjoy experimenting with new words. Sensory play will provide opportunities for experimenting with so many new descriptive words, as well as provide a fun way to practice fine motor manipulation. Sensory bases can also be used to explore transporting schema, moving items from one container to another, and trajectory schema.

Play Dough

Why? At 3-5, children are starting to make things out of play dough, with an expanding attention span and drive to create. They may also use playdough with loose parts to explore the connecting schema.


Why? 3 year olds enjoy constructive play, including piecing together puzzles, especially children exploring the connection schema. They will enjoy the challenge to their problem-solving and fine motor skills.


Why? At 3-5 children may start to show bigger feelings and this age, and need help to organize their feelings, and be gentle with peers and siblings. They are also becoming more aware of the feelings of others. These are very good themes for books in this age group. 3-5 year olds will also ask a lot of questions about the world, so educational books are ideal at this age. Children in this age group are practicing following instructions, imitating the movement of animals, and balancing. So they may have fun following along with the Yoga Bug book.
Growing Kind also has a book club for ages 3 – 7 years, which is a monthly delivery of two large books and a paper handout with suggest activities and learning experiences.

This gift guide has been written by Alicia Mason specifically for Growing Kind. You can contact Alicia over at @filltheirbucket

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