How to have fun with it
Your 3-year-old is starting to notice differences in the world around him, which is why he knows that a doctor wears one kind of uniform while a firefighter wears another or why he pretends to have long hair when he's Mommy, but short hair when he's Daddy. To enhance this understanding, read books about different types of people from various countries experiencing a range of activities and provide dolls from different cultures. Also, encourage him to notice the variations in nature by looking at different types of bugs, rocks, leaves, and trees. Child-size butterfly nets and backyard explorer kits can make these adventures even more fun.
Before you pack up the toys and props from your child's toddler years, keep in mind that the dramatic advances in his development mean he will now interact with old toys in new and different ways. Last year, that paper towel roll was simply something he used like a telescope; this year he will transform it into a sword, a tree, a pet snake—all in one day. The miniature broom he uses to help you with chores will double as a guitar, a laser or a flag in his fort. Dress-up clothes; play tents (often in shapes like castles and pirate ships); restaurant kits; plush purses that come filled with pretend keys, lipstick, and cell phones; chunky tools; faux cash registers; pretend food; doll sets complete with diapers, bibs, and bottles; picnic and tea sets; and miniature vacuum cleaners are all great props for pretend play. This year, he'll go from cuddling stuffed toys to giving them roles in his stories, so he'll love plastic or wood or plush versions of his favorite characters and animals.