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, showing more independence, and the best gifts for 3-year-olds start to involve a little critical thinking (which is 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 gifts for 3-year-olds 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 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 objects using the colorful pieces. Each piece has magnets along its edges, so they can all attach to each other to create amazing 3D structures. Magna-Tiles are really popular so 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. This is definitely one of the best gifts for three-year-olds who love to create and already have a knack for problem solving.
2 Shape Sorter
Shape sorters are great for kids around three years old for a number of reasons. First, if they haven’t already learned to identify all of their shapes, this will certainly help them. Second, shape sorters are really good for color matching and identification. And, third, these toys encourage problem solving, strengthen fine motor skills, and are just a lot of fun. This specific shape sorter comes in the shape of a house and includes 12 different shapes that go beyond the traditional circle, square, and triangle to include a car, music note, tree, and more. Plus, when it’s not in use, all of the pieces stow away into the house for easy cleanup.
3 Play Kitchen
Little kids love playing pretend, and they especially love play kitchens, so it’s definitely a gift worth giving. There is no shortage of great toy kitchens out there, but this one stands out because of it’s cute design and fun colors. It also comes with more than 30 toy accessories like a pan, a pot with a lid, cooking tools, serving ware, plates, cups, bowls, and even salt and pepper shakers. The kitchen and accessories are plenty to keep a three year old busy alone, but if you’re looking for some bonus points, pick up some pretend food for them to “cook” as well, and they will be in pretend-play heaven.
4 Double-Sided Easel
Among the best gifts for three year olds is an art easel like this one. It stands 46 inches tall and features a chalkboard on one side and a dry erase board on the other. There’s a tray under the chalkboard side that is large enough to hold plenty of chalk and markers as well as a couple of erasers for cleanup. Under the white board side of the easel, there’s also a spool for a big roll of paper, giving kids one more option for their art. Finally, the easel is made from wood, is super lightweight, and folds in half so it can be carried around from room to room.
5 Plush Doll
Princess Cupcake Jones has her own book series and is seriously beloved by kids. She also happens to be a very cute plush doll, as you can see here. The doll measures 14 inches tall and is dressed to match the character in her book,
(so if you’re looking for more than one gift, the book and the doll would make for a fun pair). It’s obviously an adorable doll on its own, but what’s really great about plush dolls is that they’re perfect for snuggling and for pretend play, both of which three year olds love. Princess Cupcake Jones and the Missing Tutu 6 Baby Alive Doll
Playing with a baby doll is fun for three year olds no matter what, but kids may love this one just a little bit more because she has fun light-up shoes that will activate when she walks or jumps (well, when kids
help her walk or jump). The doll also comes with a bunch of accessories like her cute glasses, a diaper that she “wets,” a bottle that can be filled with water to “feed” the baby, and a few other fun accessories. To make her seem all the more realistic, she also talks, saying phrases like “now I’m thirsty” and “look at my shoes.” 7 Magic Wizard Costume
By the time they are three years old, kids are really getting into pretend and imaginative play, so dress up costumes make for a perfect gift. There are a lot of different, fun, options out there, such as this magic set that comes with a cape, hat, and a wand. Every piece is handmade and can be purchased as a set or individually (and you can even choose to personalize the hat, if you’d like). The cape is made from high-quality but lightweight fabric and features a Velcro neck strap so that it can be adjusted to fit, and the wand features a cute, glittery star at the tip that’s perfect for casting (pretend) magical spells.
8 Play House
Again, some of the best gifts for three year olds allow for some kind of imaginative play, and a playhouse is no different. What kind of playhouse you get will depend on where you plan to put it (outdoors or inside), how much space you have for it, and whether or not you’re looking for it to come with bells and whistles. For something simple that can be set up inside or outside, this beauty salon house is a great option. It has wood framing and fabric covering that’s printed to look like a little spa. The house also features window cutouts with roll down shades and plenty of space to play.
9 LEGO Duplo
Traditional LEGO bricks are typically pretty small and not easy for little hands to put together. LEGO DUPLO bricks, on the other hand, are great for younger kids because they’re made a little bit larger so that they’re easier for kids to build with (plus if there are any little siblings in the house, DUPLO bricks are too big to be swallowed). You can find LEGO DUPLO sets that feature favorite characters, or have everything needed to create colorful and unique builds, or you can also 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, mop, or dust and just begs you to let them “help,” this kid-size 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 high-quality materials including wood and soft fabrics and is designed to look (and work) like the real thing, so your little one will feel like they really contributed to cleaning up whenever they play with these toys (even if the only thing they’re cleaning up is a mess they created in the first place).
11 Table & Chairs Set
A table and chairs set that’s sized just right for young kids 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 a minimalist design using natural wood and white is a parent favorite. It’s lightweight, wipes clean with a towel and some soapy water, is 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 Pretend Took Kit
There’s just something about power tools, screw drivers, and hammering nails that is so much fun for kids, so a pretend tool set is always a great gift for a little one. There are all kinds of sets out there, so finding the right one depends on what you're looking for. For something basic, this wood set is perfect. It comes with all of the essentials like a level, ruler, hammer, wrench, pliers, and a screwdriver as well as a bunch of different nuts and bolts. When it’s not being played with, all of the tools and accessories tuck away into a little wood box for easy storage.
13 Veterinarian Play Set
Young kids who love animals can pretend to check them out, bandage them up, and treat their illnesses with this super cute eight-piece toy vet set. It comes with a thermometer, a stethoscope, a little vial of medicine, a syringe, a bandage, a cat x-ray image, a dog x-ray image, a little cone (to keep animals from licking their wounds), and a little doctor bag to carry everything in. The set is absolutely adorable, and each piece is made from high quality wood and/or fabric materials that are easy to wipe clean with a towel and some soapy water.
14 Wooden Blocks
Wooden blocks are a timeless toy. Not only are they basically indestructible, but they’re also great for kids who enjoy using their imaginations and creating things. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can find wooden block sets in various colors, sizes, and quantities at a lot of stores. This particular set comes with 40 pieces in different sizes and shapes made from high-quality wood. Kids can use the blocks to build a castle, a skyscraper, or simply just stack one block on top of another to see how high up they can go before it topples over. Either way, they’ll have a great time.
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 features a working microphone (perfect for announcing a “clean-up in aisle one”), a calculator for adding up purchases, a little scanner that actually beeps, a conveyor belt, and a cash register that opens and closes and can be locked with a little key. The register also comes with a bunch of accessories including a shopping basket with pretend products, play money, and a credit card. Once kids have this toy, all they need to do is set up a little market with their toys, and they’ll be ready for shoppers.
16 Walkie Talkies
Whether they use them for some silly back-and-forth talking while playing outside or for some epic taunting during a competitive game of hide-and-go-seek, a set of walkie talkies makes for a great present for kids of any age. These are available in a wide variety of colors, have a range of up to one mile, can change channels for better sound quality, and even have a parental locking option. The best part is that walkie talkies are one of those toys that kids continue to love as they get older, so they won’t be quickly tossed aside and forgotten.
17 Building Bath Pipes
It doesn’t matter how old a kid is, water play is always fun. For three year olds, this set of five water “pipes” makes for a great water-fun gift. Each tube has its own unique size, shape, and color and comes with a suction cup attached to it so that it can be mounted on the shower or bath wall. Kids can make the pipes connect, create chain reactions, build a whole water system, or just line them up on the wall to see how the water slides through each one. Either way, as long as the pipes are mounted to the shower wall, then the water will be sure to stay in the tub.
For young kids who have developed a love for playing with dolls, it doesn’t get much better than a huge doll house like this one. It’s made completely out of wood, has four different stories, and stands 30-inches tall (which is about perfect for an imaginative three year old). The house also comes with 15 pieces of furniture as well as three play figures. There are six different rooms in the house, as well as a foyer and a garage (which has a door that opens and closes), and it even has an elevator so dolls can quickly get from the first floor up to the top with ease.
19 Bowling Set
Everyone loves a good game of bowling, and it’s especially great for a three-year-old because on top of being fun it’s also great for helping them strengthen their hand-eye coordination. There are plenty of fun toy sets out there that feature famous characters, funny monsters, or that look like the real thing. This set is made completely from birchwood and comes with six pins and a ball. The pins stand five inches tall, so they’re just the right size for young kids who want just a little bit of a challenge. If pink isn’t your color of choice, this set is also available in
grey, turquoise, or black. 20 Climbable Furniture
Remember taking the cushions off the couch to bounce on or to build epic forts when you were a kid? It’s still just as much fun for kids now as it was for you then, but with a play couch like this, you don’t have to sacrifice your nice sofa for the fun. This couch consists of six separate pieces that can be stacked in various ways for different kinds of play. If this isn’t the color, material, or model for you, there are a lot of other ones to choose from and they all offer the same benefits of open-ended play and an opportunity for kids to bounce around to get some of their energy out.
21 Stacking & Balancing Game
This toy is fantastic because it allows kids to explore stacking and balancing and there isn’t just one single way to play with it. The set comes with one large piece of “coral” as well as 18 smaller stacking pieces including a shrimp, hermit crab, a squid, a starfish, four coral pieces, two eels, a crab, a sea anemone, a seahorse, and a sea urchin. Each part of the toy is made from high-quality wood that’s easy to wipe clean with a towel and some soapy water. This set is really great for kids who seem to have a natural interest in building and engineering, but it can be easily enjoyed by just about anyone.
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 perfect for encouraging imaginative play and it allows kids to dress up as their favorite character, person, or profession. You can find dress up clothes all over the internet, but Melissa and Doug have some of the best costume sets including doctors, fire fighters, and chefs. They also made this astronaut costume which comes with a jumpsuit, a pair of gloves, and a little helmet. Whether you pick this costume set or another from Melissa and Doug, you can be sure that it will be made from high-quality materials and designed to fit kids as young as three years old.
24 Wooden Animal Puzzle
Puzzles are always great for kids, because they encourage problem solving, help with spatial awareness, and are so much fun (nothing beats the pride on a little kid’s face after they’ve successfully finished a project). By three years old, kids can start to take on puzzles with more pieces or that present a little more of a challenge, like this one. It’s shaped to look like a giraffe and comes with 12 pieces. When the pieces are out, the puzzle board isn’t color-coded, so kids have to figure out where the pieces go just by looking at the shape, which may be new for some of them.
25 Baby Doll
Little kids love pretending to take care of babies, and it’s absolutely adorable. There is no shortage of toy options for baby dolls, but for something simple you can’t go wrong with this one. It’s a plush doll made from super soft materials, so it can be played with or used as a stuffy for naps or bedtime. This specific doll is particularly great for younger kids because it’s mini-sized, measuring 12” by 10” by 3” and super lightweight. Basically, don’t be surprised if you gift this to your three year old and they begin taking it with them wherever they go.