When Elfie was almost three (15 years ago!), her absolute favorite activity at her Montessori preschool was hammering little shapes onto a cork board. Haba's Geo Shape Tack Zap ($22.99) offers the same fun, learning activity for home use.
This game, intended for ages 3 and up because of the obvious choking hazard, contains 50 wooden geometric tiles, a small bag of tiny nails, a cork board and a wooden hammer. Each tile has a small hole where the child can fit the nail and then hammer it to the board. The geometric shapes allow for all kinds of creative hammering. A larger 100 tile set is also available ($32.90).
So, after remembering how much Elfie loved hammering little shapes into cork board, I bought a set for Arielle when she was almost three. Arielle adored it, but I put it away when Linnea started climbing and getting into things. Recently, I was assembling a bookshelf and to avoid "help", I took it out again. Linnea discovered the joy of hammering nails for herself. At first, it was a challenge, but after a few tries, she figured it out and she is so proud.
Because the parts are small and the tacks are sharp, use your good parental judgment about whether your child is ready.
Of course, Arielle didn't like sharing, so I bought a second set, the Haba Figure Tack and Hammer Set ($31.90). This set includes people and animal figures and makes a nice addition to the geometric shapes in our first set. For fairness, I mixed them together.
Now both girls (supervised) can spend amazingly long amounts of time tap-tapping away. No fighting and no mess. Here's the pictures.