Shopping for kids is always fun, but when you're looking for presents they'll actually enjoy, it can get tough, especially for the 3-year-old set. They're too old for some of the classic "toddler" toys that get pushed out in holiday guides, but they aren't quite old enough for complicated games or toys that come with a billion pieces. Finding gifts for 3 year olds that they'll actually love isn't impossible though and once you keep their interests and skills in mind, you're sure to help Santa fill up his sleigh.
Because 3 year olds, they pack some personality, don't they? They're like real little people and pretty much all of the "baby" parts of them are gone. But they still love pretending, watching their favorite TV and movie characters, and sitting on the floor with you and engaging in activities. Basically, they are the best. (When they aren't being total jerks.)
This Christmas, my little girl is halfway to 3 years old and I'm trying really hard to be intentional about our gift giving. I want toys that make her think, toys that help her learn, but above all, I want toys she'll actually love rather than filling her room with stuff she'll forget about it in a few weeks. If you're in the same boat (or sleigh), here are 21 gifts for 3 year olds that they'll actually love and enjoy all year long. Nobody wants to waste their money, but you also don't want to waste Christmas gifts that get just a "meh" reaction. With this list, you're sure to find something your 3-year-old child will go crazy for.
1. Melissa & Doug Deluxe Standing Easel
I don't know a 3 year old who doesn't love to paint, draw, or color, so the Melissa & Doug deluxe standing easel ($58) is perfect for your budding artist. It is dry erase board on one side, chalkboard on the other, and it has a paper roll that rolls up from in between to use as a painting canvas. Now you just need to find a space in your house to hang all these masterpieces.
2. Playskool Play Favorites Sit 'N Spin
Give your kid's favorite activity new life with the Playskool Play Favorites Sit 'N Spin ($34). Do you remember how fun this was as a kid? Now it can hopefully buy you 20 minutes so you can finish cooking dinner while your child spins to their heart's content.
3. 'Doc McStuffins' Take Care of Me Lambie
My kid is utterly obsessed with Doc McStuffins, and I think she's in good company. For your own toy hospital doctor, the Doc McStuffins Take Care of Me Lambie ($53) is the perfect toy. Your kiddo can interact with the talking, singing Lambie, help her get some rest when she doesn't feel well, and take her temperature and listen to her heart to give her a full check-up. It's a really fun and sweet toy that will guarantee plenty of pretend play time.
4. Barrel of Monkeys
You can't go wrong with classics and I always think games are the perfect Christmas gift. For a 3 year old just learning the rules of games, Barrel of Monkeys ($8) is just the right one. It teaches them to take turns, helps with counting, and is a fun, silly game that they'll break out all day long on Christmas.
5. Matchbox Stinky The Garbage Truck
It seems like every 3 year old I know is obsessed with cars, but the Matchbox Stinky The Garbage Truck ($29) takes that obsession to a whole new level. Not only is he an interactive garbage truck (which is sure to blow any 3 year old's mind), but he also will eat and dump out Matchbox cars. Seriously, every 3 year old I know is going to love this thing.
6. Radio Flyer Tricycle
7. Melissa & Doug Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
The buzzing and lights and batteries of Christmas are great, but so are the quiet, classic toys. For the 3 year old that needs some nice, quiet activities, the Melissa & Doug wooden jigsaw puzzles ($10) are a must-have. With four in one storage box, it's the perfect, easy-to-clean-up gift and will help promote coordination and problem solving in your little one.
8. Superhero Costumes
Super heroes unite. No matter which super hero is your kid's favorite, every 3-year-old will love dressing up with these superhero dress up costumes ($20). With four classic super hero costumes included, each one comes with a cape and a mask so your little one can save the day, no matter if they're feeling like Batman or Spiderman that day.
9. Little Tikes 3' Trampoline
I know, the thought of a trampoline and your 3 year old makes you panic a little inside. But the Little Tikes 3' Trampoline ($33) is the perfect size for your bouncing ball of energy. It's a great indoor trampoline with a bar to help your kiddo get as much air as they want while they're bouncing, but you don't have to worry that they're going to fly face first into the ground four feet below.
10. VTech KidiBeats Drum Set
OK, nobody's ready to give a 3 year old an actual drum set, but the VTech KidiBeats Drum Set ($20) is the perfect compromise. The set allows your kiddo to make their own noise, but it also has lights for them to follow if they want to play a pattern or go along with the music.
11. Melissa & Doug Julia Magnetic Dress-Up Toy
Paper dolls were some of my favorite toys as a kid, but I get that most 3 year olds would not be great (or patient enough) with tiny pieces of paper that need to be meticulously applied. But, you can have the same fun with the Melissa & Doug Julia magnetic dress-up toy ($13). With eight different magnetic outfits, your kid can turn Julia into any career they want, whether they want her to be a doctor, an astronaut, or a police officer. It helps with motor skills, sure, but it's also a great way to dive into pretend play, especially with Julia's successful outfits.
12. Dyson Toy Vacuum
Look, I'm not saying a toy vacuum that actually suctions is the answer to all your problems, but it can't hurt, right? Your 3 year old will love this Dyson toy vacuum ($33) that has real suction, sounds, and twists and turns just like a real Dyson. The amount of good reviews on this toy is insane, so for any kid who wants to help around the house or just thinks they're a grown-up, this is the perfect addition to their pretend play.
13. Peppa Pig Deluxe House
My 3 year old nephew goes ga-ga for Peppa Pig, so I'm going to assume that little British piggy has every 3 year old wrapped around her finger. For your own Peppa fan, the Peppa Pig deluxe house ($40) is a great gift. They can act out their favorite stories with the figurines and enjoy diving into the world of Peppa Pig right there on their bedroom floor.
14. The Little Blue Box of Bright and Early Board Books by Dr. Seuss
Books are my favorite thing to pick out for someone, especially kids. At 3 years old, children are at the perfect age to start listening to more in-depth stories and follow along with a plot, so The Little Blue Box of Bright and Early Board Books by Dr. Seuss ($9) is just right. The books include some Dr. Seuss classics, but they are in sturdy board books so even the most energetic 3 year old can't accidentally rip a page while reading along.
15. Melissa & Doug Stamp and Sort Wooden Mailbox
I'm going to assume my kid is not a novelty and that all toddlers love checking the mail, which is why the Melissa & Doug Stamp and Sort wooden mailbox ($26) is such a fun toy. With wooden letters and removable stamps, your kid can pretend they are in the mail room, delivering the letters, or removing them from the mailbox for pick-up. The pretend possibilities are endless and your 3 year old will absolutely love it.
16. 'Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood' electronic trolley
So basically all of them, right? Catapult your little one into the world of being a good neighbor with Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood electronic trolley ($30). With just a push of the button, the trolley moves forward, carrying Daniel Tiger and Mom Tiger away to visit their favorite friends and neighbors. There are a few other accessory pieces that come with the trolley and the toy also plays two songs, more than 12 phrases, and has fun lights and sounds.
17. Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad
Stickers are always an excellent present for 3 year olds, but the Melissa & Doug reusable sticker pad ($5) is even more fun. Kids can spend hours putting the stickers on to backgrounds to create their own visual stories, promoting creativity and make-believe.
18. Land of Nod Off-Broadway Puppet Theater
Give the 3-year-old in your life the ultimate theater with the Land of Nod Off-Broadway puppet theater ($39). It can hang in any doorway easily and also comes with pockets to hold hand puppets or other stars of your child's show. Hours of entertainment here.
19. Rocket Ship Play Tent
Whether they're playing in tents, hiding in them, or enjoying them for down time, this rocket ship play tent ($28) is a great addition to a bedroom or play room. It comes with a space torch toy projector, so your little one can pretend they're about to head to the moon while hanging out in the tent.
20. Step2 LifeStyle Custom Kitchen
Trust me, they can still make a mess in their own kitchen, but the Step2 LifeStyle Custom Kitchen ($81) is at least the right size for your aspiring chef. Every 3 year old I know would have a blast with this kitchen, especially with all of the sounds it makes and the accessories it comes with. I mean, it makes frying and boiling sounds. This ain't your mama's toy kitchen.
21. Disney My First Doll and Pony
Mulan is my own toddler's favorite Disney princess and I love the Disney My First Doll and Pony ($26) sets. There are different ones, depending on your child's princess preference, but they are just the right size for 3 year old hands without being too small or too complicated of a toy. Seriously, your princess fan will love them.