Finding a good toy for a 3-year-old can be a bit tough because while they’re no longer toddlers, they’re also not quite big-kids yet. The
best toys for 3-year-olds are the ones that fall into that sweet spot of being both developmentally and age-appropriate without being perceived as baby toys by the little recipient. If there is one thing a 3-year-old will insist on, it’s that they are definitely “not a baby” anymore.
As they move from the toddler to preschool stage, kids often start playing “pretend” more, show more independence, and start to enjoy games and toys that involve a little critical thinking (which are also great for preparing them for kindergarten in a few years). With this in mind, consider puzzles with their favorite characters on them, dress-up costumes, building toys, and dolls. All of these kinds of toys will play into their development and keep them occupied for longer than five minutes (which is a plus for their caregivers).
Other things to consider are toys that will help them get their energy out, crafting and art projects, interactive books, and, of course, LEGOs. With so much to consider, finding a toy that’s just right for a 3-year-old can feel overwhelming, so here are some of the best options to help you get started on your shopping.
We only include products that have been independently selected by Romper's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. 1 Magna-Tiles
Magna-Tiles allow kids to build 3D objects using the colorful magnetic pieces. There are a lot of different purchasing and set options, like this one with 32 tiles in a rainbow of colors. It has a mixture of different sized square and triangle pieces so kids can build rocket ships, castles, and anything else they can think up.
2 Classic T-Ball Set
For kids who love playing outside, this classic T-ball set is a perfect toy. It comes with a plastic bat, T, and five plastic baseballs so kids can practice their swing. When it’s not in use, everything breaks down together for easy storage.
3 Play Kitchen
There’s something about a pretend kitchen that little kids just love, so it’s definitely a gift worth giving. This one has a wood design with vibrant colors and comes with more than 30 accessories, like cooking tools and serving ware. Pick up some pretend food for them to “cook” up, and they’ll be thrilled.
4 Double-Sided Easel
Kids can choose to color with chalk on a whiteboard, or on paper with this 46-inch tall wooden easel. It has a tray to hold plenty of chalk and markers and a spool for a big roll of paper. It also folds in half and is super lightweight so it can be easily carried around.
Play-Doh continues to be a kid favorite and this set comes with six containers of colorful ‘doh as well as 25 different tools. They can use the tools to roll out, cut shapes, stamp, and add fine details to their Play-Doh designs.
6 Baby Alive Doll
With her cool light-up shoes, kids can pretend to help teach this baby doll how to walk. The doll also comes with a bottle that they can pour water into and feed the baby with, diapers that she “wets”, and a few other fun accessories. She also talks, saying phrases like “now I’m thirsty” and “look at my shoes.”
7 Tent & Tunnel
This toy is great for imagination and a fun way for kids to get their energy out. It comes with three separate pieces: the triangle tent, tunnel, and square tent that can all be connected together or used separately. When it’s not in use it breaks down and can be stored in a small carrying case; however, if you purchase balls to create a ball pit you’ll have to store them separately.
When it gets warm outside, sprinklers help kids cool down, have fun, and get their energy out. There are all kinds of different designs, from the traditional sprinkler that waves back and forth, to some that wiggle around and spray every which way, to great big character sprinklers like this unicorn which stands over six feet tall.
9 LEGO Duplo
Traditional LEGO bricks are typically pretty small, and not easy for little hands to put together, but DUPLO bricks are great because they’re a little bigger (plus if there are any little ones in the house, they can’t swallow them). You can find LEGO DUPLO sets that feature favorite character to create unique builds, or get a set like this 65-piece one that lets kids build whatever they can dream up.
10 Cleaning Set
If your three-year-old loves to follow you around while you sweep while begging to “help” you, this set with five cleaning tools makes for a great toy. It includes a broom and dust pan, mop, cleaning brush, and duster. Each of the toys is made from wood and soft fabrics and will make your kid feel like they contributed to cleaning up (possibly a mess that they created)
11 Table & Chairs Set
A table and chairs set is the perfect spot to color, work on puzzles, paint, and sit down to have a snack during playtime. You can find sets in a variety of colors and styles, but this three-piece set with natural wood and white is a parent favorite. It’s lightweight, easy to put together, and at 24.75” x 18.87” x 17.75” it offers plenty of room for kids to play without taking up a lot of floor space in the house
12 Sidewalk Chalk
Kids love to play outside when the weather is nice, and sidewalk chalk is a great activity if they also enjoy being creative. You can find sidewalk chalk at most stores, and the more colors you can get in a pack, the better.
13 Veterinarian Play Set
Kids who love animals can pretend to be a vet with this eight-piece toy vet set. They get a little doctor bag that helps them carry a thermometer, stethoscope, medicine, a syringe, a bandage, X-rays, and a cone. All of the toys are made from wood or fabric materials and are easy to wipe clean.
14 Wooden Blocks
Wooden blocks are a timeless toy, because they’re great for kids who like to use their imaginations and create things. This set comes with 40 pieces in various sizes and shapes. Kids can use them to make a castle or simply just stack one on top of another to see how high up they can go before it topples over.
15 Pretend Cash Register
Pretend shopping is a favorite game for preschoolers, and this little cash register has everything they need to make the transaction as real as possible. It comes with a little shopping basket with pretend toys, play money, a cash register key, and a credit card. The register itself is a working calculator, has a scanner that really beeps, and a microphone.
16 Walkie Talkies
For a little back-and-forth talking outdoors or some epic taunting during hide-and-go-seek, a set of walkie talkies makes for a great present. This set is available in a variety of colors and has a range up to one mile. The best part is that these walkie talkies will continue to be loved as they get older, too.
17 Building Bath Pipes
Water play is always fun, which is why this set of five tubes is such a great gift. Each piece has a suction cup attached so it can be easily mounted on the shower or bath wall in a variety of different ways. The tubes can be used separately or can be connected to create a whole water system.
This dollhouse is made completely out of wood and comes with 15 pieces of furniture and three play figures. It features a little front door and garage door that both open and close as well as an elevator that can slide from the top floor to the bottom and back up again. It stands 30-inches high and is perfect for an imaginative 3-year-old.
19 Busy Board
For little carpenters in training, this wooden project bench comes with a variety of pretend tools, gears, and hardware for little kids to play with. It measures 26” x 18.75” x 18.8” and weighs under 20 pounds. When it’s not being used for play, the bench also makes a great desk for little kids.
20 Climbable Furniture
Furniture they can climb on, make forts with, and engage in open ended play is great for kids’ creativity and a good way to help them get some energy out. There are a lot of options out there for this kind of toy, it’s just a matter of style and material preference.
21 Magnetic Fishing Set
Your little fishing fan can now fish indoors with this set that comes with a pole and five wooden fish. Each wooden fish has a magnet inside that connects to a magnet at the end of the fishing line, so they’ll feel like they’re really reeling them in.
22 Clock Puzzle
This clock lets kids practice their numbers, identify shapes and colors, start learning how a clock works, and it also serves as a puzzle. There are 12 pieces, one for each hour on a clock, all of which are differently designed, and the clock’s minute and hour hands actually move around so kids can practice telling time.
23 Dress-Up Set
Dress up is a fantastic way for kids to pretend they are their favorite character, person, or profession. Melissa and Doug make a variety of fun costume sets including doctors, fire fighters, and this astronaut set. Their sets are always made with high-quality materials and fit kids as young as 3 years old
24 A Gardening Set
Kids can “help” in the yard and garden with this three-piece tool set that includes a rake, a shovel, and a hoe. They’re sized for little kids, have real wooden handles, and can actually be used in the yard. They arrive already put together and ready to get to work.
25 Balance Bike
For 3-year-olds who are just starting to learn how to ride a bike, having a
balance bike to practice with is a great way to get the fundamentals of riding down. These bikes without pedals help them develop the coordination needed to pedal with confidence when the time comes.