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The Best Toys and Gifts for 3-Year-Olds

Introducing the essential gift guide for 3-year-olds.
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profile picture of Christina Vercelletto
Updated
October 6, 2021
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Once your kid graduates from early toddlerhood to become a full-fledged threenager, playtime can look very different. At this stage, they have hit some major milestones and mastered many physical, cognitive, social and language skills. The result? Three-years-olds are full of opinions on what toys they like and, on the flipside, the ones they don’t!

So when it comes to finding the best gifts for 3-year-olds, parents may already know which toys are at the top of their kiddo’s wishlist (thanks to that expanding vocabulary!). Even so, littles love the thrill of a surprise, so you’ll want to noodle up a few fresh ideas on your own too. If you’re shopping for a birthday or holiday gift for a niece, nephew or grandchild, check in with the parents to learn more about their kid’s latest interests and hobbies. Need some extra help? We’ve consulted the experts to shed some light on toddlers’ developmental needs, and selected the best toys and goodies that make great gifts for 3-year-olds.

Shopping for babies and toddlers? Check out our gift guides for newborns, 1-year-olds and 2-year-olds too.

How to Choose Good Gifts for 3-Year-Olds

The key to selecting the best gifts for 3-year-olds is to focus on what they’re doing developmentally. “Boredom is not your friend at this age,” says Christina Low Kapalu, PhD, a clinical child psychologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City in Missouri. Choose toys that keep your child engaged and active. You want your kiddo to expend energy; this will ultimately help to prevent tantrums too.

Thirty-six months is the unofficial boundary between toddler and preschooler. “Your child will continue to make massive leaps in cognitive, social and physical development that you will take in with awe,” Low Kapula says. “Combine their natural curiosity about their environment with their greater physical dexterity, and you have a recipe for very busy days!”

At this age, children begin to use language to help them make sense of their environment. “They can follow two- or three-step directions, name objects and have short conversations that are likely to make sense even to people who don’t know the child well,” Low Kapalu says.

Plus, your 3-year-old is showing off rapid cognitive growth. “They are ever so proud of their ability to put together simple puzzles, turn the pages of a book, work age-appropriate toys and draw recognizable shapes or people,” Low Kapalu says. Child-safe paint, crayons, paper and sidewalk chalk will provide hours of entertainment at a relatively low cost, making craft supplies among the best gifts for 3-year-olds. “Construction sets, such as Mega Bloks or Lego Duplo, are also likely to be favorites at this time and are durable and easy to clean,” she adds.

Any list of gift ideas for 3-year-old boys and girls should also include imaginative play options. Your child is beginning to understand emotions, with pretend play coming into full bloom this year. “Encourage that imagination with dress-up clothes and toy home items like vacuums and kitchens,” Low Kapalu advises.

And here’s the news Grandma has likely been waiting for: She can finally buy that adorable tricycle or push bike for her beloved grandkid. Three-year-olds are now able to pedal! Just remember to pick up a helmet and other safety gear for your little rider.

Ready to start shopping? Below are some of the best gifts for 3-year-old girls and boys.

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Image: Courtesy Boon

Boon Marco Light-Up Multicolor Bath Toy

Bath toys are definitely one of the best toys for 3-year-olds; and we love Marco, a deep-sea diver who lights up as soon as his toes touch the water. Your child will love to watch as the light changes color, making bathtime even more fun. He automatically turns off when the water drains—convenient when you’re busy getting everyone ready for bed.

Buy it: $17, buybuyBABY.com

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Image: Courtesy Lovevery

Lovevery Free Spirit Play Kit

A 2021 Best of Baby award winner, these subscription kits come packed with playthings your toddler will love. Each box features different age-appropriate toys made from sustainably sourced wood and 100 percent organic fabrics. They’re designed to engage your child in exploration and play, making them one of the best gifts for 3-year-olds. Bonus: The company was started by two parents with the goal of helping other parents feel confident in the development of their child.

Buy it: Lovevery Play Kits, $120 per playkit, Lovevery.com

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Image: Courtesy HABA

HABA Peter & Pauline’s Farm Magnetic Activity Game

Activity games are a good pick for kids of any age, but they’re positively perfect gifts for 3-year-olds whose problem-solving skills are growing by the minute. This fresh take brings imagination to the party, allowing your kid to create unique scenes around the farm. Your little one can use the fridge or included background scenes to set up their animals and helpers. And with over 100 magnetic pieces, there are seemingly endless combinations to make.

Buy it: $15, Nordstrom.com

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Image: Courtesy Wonderbly

Wonderbly The Birthday Thief

Searching for the perfect birthday gift for a 3-year-old? Check out this personalized story book by Wonderbly. This epic tale—centered around your child’s date of birth—is packed with heartwarming illustrations, characters and personalized details designed to capture kids’ imaginations. You can even add a custom dedication to the opening pages for free.

Buy it: $35, Wonderbly.com

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Image: Courtesy Fisher-Price

Fisher-Price Think & Learn Rocktopus

Octopi are said to be surprisingly smart animals. Rocktopus lives up to its species’ reputation by teaching kids to count rhythms, mix and match instruments and compose their own music tracks. The mischievous mollusk then asks kids to swap out musical styles and coordinate colors.

Buy it: $60, Amazon.com

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Image: Courtesy Schwinn

Schwinn 12-Inch Wheel Roadster Kids’ Trike

This is one of our all-time favorite gifts for 3-year-olds. The image of a trike under the tree with a big red bow is impossible to resist. This model has a retro vibe that makes it stand out. The rear deck is made of genuine wood with a burnt-in logo; plus, the seat can be moved back as your child’s legs grow, while the low center of gravity makes for a stable, easy-to-control ride.

Buy it: $130, Kohls.com

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Image: Courtesy Globber

Globber Go Bike Air Balance Bike

Another great option is a balance bike. Designed for ages 3 to 6, the Go Bike grows with your child thanks to the reversible frame that can be switched from a low to high position. Plus, the curved handlebars and comfortable saddle are adjustable too. Bonus: Globber also makes awesome toddler scooters!

Buy it: $110, Maisonette.com

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Image: Courtesy Lego

LEGO DUPLO Minnie’s Birthday Party

A quality, age-appropriate building set is absolutely among the best gift ideas for 3-year-old girls. Think of this as a starter Lego set with a twist. Besides the hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness benefits that a traditional set imparts, this one adds pretend play into the mix, featuring the classic character Minnie Mouse. A party celebration theme makes this a great birthday gift for 3-year-olds.

Buy it: $25, Walmart.com

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Image: Courtesy Magformers

Magformers Amazing Rescue 50-Piece Magnetic Construction Set

The beauty of Magformers is that the shapes stick and unstick together with magnets, making them good gifts for 3-year-olds who are mastering their fine-motor skills. This particular playset transforms into a fire truck, bulldozer, tractor and more.

Buy it: $60, Nordstrom.com

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Image: Courtesy Plan Toys

Plan Toys Doctor Set

This well-crafted wooden doctor’s kit features everything your little one needs to play pretend, including a stethoscope, syringe, thermometer and other medical tools that store handily in a cute carrying case. Pretend play is great for encouraging imagination and cognitive development, making it one of the best toys for 3-year-olds.

Buy it: $30, TheTot.com

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Image: Courtesy Hasbro

Hasbro Candy Land Game

Introduce your 3-year-old to this classic board game from your own childhood. Your little one will love the colorful illustrations and cards, and you’ll love that it teaches them fair play and cooperation. Plus, it’s a super-affordable and universally adored gift you can buy for all your family members and friends with kids of their own.

Buy it: $8, Walmart.com

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Image: Courtesy Hape

Hape Toys Playful Piano

Musical instruments make for fantastic toys at this age—after all, what little kid doesn’t like to make noise? This cute and sturdy upright piano features 18 kid-size keys in the ideal width to encourage proper finger placement. If you’re shopping for the best toys for 3-year-olds, you may have just found the perfect one.

Buy it: $64, Walmart.com

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Image: Courtesy Play-Doh

Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Popcorn Party Play Food Set

Play-Doh is the epitome of creative pretend play. Its latest incarnation is as a movie-night treat. Crank out the pretend popcorn, then customize your snack by size, mix-ins and toppings. If you have a bunch of nieces and nephews and need multiple gifts for 3-year-olds, this is a great budget-friendly solution.

Buy it: $16, Walmart.com

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Image: Courtesy Skip Hop

Skip Hop Zoo La La Llama Microphone

Get your little one ready for rock stardom (or just future karaoke outings) with this microphone. It’s just like a real mic—shaped like a llama, for extra style points—that lets kids sing along to three classic songs: “Old MacDonald,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Plus, it’s reasonably priced!

Buy it: $10, SkipHop.com

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Image: Courtesy Cubcoats

Cubcoats Kids’ Papo the Panda 2-in-1 Stuffed Animal Hoodie

When it comes to gifts for 3-year-olds, this ingenious find is at the top of our list. This adorable plush panda toy magically transforms into a super-soft, machine-washable hoodie your child can wear. The best part? Even when they grow out of their zip-up, their panda friend will still be there to play with.

Buy it: $45, Nordstrom.com

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Image: Courtesy Colorforms

Colorforms Picture Play Set Pets

Isn’t it the best when a toy from your own childhood makes an appearance in your kid’s life? Colorforms, the original no-mess, take-anywhere, creative toy, has been reimagined for modern tots. This set comes with 145 stick-peel-repeat pieces, making it a great gift for 3-year-olds. (We never had that many!)

Buy it: $28, Amazon.com

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Image: Courtesy Storytime Chess

Storytime Chess for Kids

Storytime Chess promises to teach chess to children as young as 3 (yes, really!). The game has a cast of adorable characters involved in interactive stories that introduce kids to the moves, strategies and language of chess. Talk about clever gifts for 3-year-olds.

Buy it: $50, UncommonGoods.com

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Image: Courtesy Kidcraft

KidKraft Modern Metallics Baking Set

No space for a full-on play kitchen? No worries. This sleek baking set with wood detailing will serve up just as much delight. The rolling pin really rolls! (You’d be surprised how many in similar sets don’t.) And the paddle on the mixer lifts and lowers like the real thing. It’s among the best gifts for 3-year-olds to encourage imaginative play.

Buy it: $43, Amazon.com

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Image: Courtesy Crayola

Crayola Color Wonder Art Desk with Stamps

Do you know what kind of gifts parents with toddlers truly appreciate? Ones that don’t make a mess! We love the Color Wonder line for one very good reason: The markers won’t work on clothes, furniture or rugs. This Art Desk comes with a drawing pad, five markers, five stamps and a convenient carrying case, perfect for travel.

Buy it: $29, Michaels.com

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Image: Courtesy Melissa & Doug

Melissa and Doug Dust! Sweep! Mop! Set

Toddlers this age often love to “help” around the house and delight in mimicking the actions they see adults doing every day—which is why this broom, mop and dust set is one of the best gifts for 3-year-old boys and girls. It includes mini-sized (but realistic) wooden cleaning supplies that’ll keep your kiddo entertained in open-ended play.

Buy it: $36, MelissaandDoug.com

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Image: Courtesy Floss & Rock

Floss & Rock Rainbow Fairy First Puzzles

This pretty puzzle is one of the best gifts for 3-year-old girls. There are four different options to play with—including two fairies, a unicorn and an owl—each of which progresses in difficulty from three to eight pieces as your little one continues to develop their reasoning skills and hand-eye coordination. A tub stores puzzle pieces when they’re not in use, and there’s even a convenient “to and from” gift tag.

Buy it: $16, Maisonette.com

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Image: Courtesy Walmart

Gonge Tactile Disks

We’re in love with this stunningly simple, active-play concept for toddlers. It’s like jumping from stone to stone in a brook, but without the risk of falling or getting wet. The disks are strategically designed with different angles and ridges and have no-slip surfaces and rubber edges to stay put. (There’s a game guide, so it’s not just random hopping.) Can you say cabin-fever cooler?

Buy it: $100, Walmart.com

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Image: Courtesy Hape

Hape Master Workbench

Calling all aspiring handywomen and handymen! This awesome workbench with a working vise, gears and tons of tools will turn any kid into Mr. or Ms. Fix-It. Bonus: The completely natural wood construction makes this the rare pretend play toy you won’t mind having in your living room. Shopping for the best gifts for a 3-year-old? Nailed it!

Buy it: $120, buybuyBABY.com

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Image: Courtesy Disney

Olaf Plush Toy

Does your tot love the Frozen movies? (Come on, who doesn’t?) Bring a piece of the family- favorite film home with this plush version of the lovable snowman. As far as toys for 3-year-olds you know they’ll cherish, you can’t get much better than a stuffed Olaf!

Buy it: $23, ShopDisney.com

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Image: Courtesy Rockin' Rider

Rockin’ Rider Tex Rocking Horse in Tan

Three-year-olds will love rocking around the house on this cute plush horse. Meanwhile, parents will appreciate the classic, realistic design and the high-back saddle, stirrups, bridle and reins for kids to hold onto. Yeehaw!

Buy it: $95, buybuyBABY.com

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Image: Courtesy Great Pretenders

Great Pretenders Baby Unicorn Cape

With kids’ verbal skills, social interactions and creativity taking flight, dress-up clothes make for some of the best gifts for 3-year-olds, hands-down. The key is to offer a range of costume options to broaden their imaginations. Great Pretenders has tons of options for boys and girls, including this cute, colorful unicorn cape.

Buy it: $27, Maisonette.com

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Image: Courtesy Tender Leaf Toys

Tender Leaf Toys Dinosaurs

Toddlers (and adults!) love dinosaurs, so a play set of colorful wooden dinos is one of the best gifts for 3-year-old boys and girls. It even comes with an eco-friendly wooden display case with shelves where your aspiring paleontologist can proudly display their dinos.

Buy it: $60, Maisonette.com

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Image: Courtesy B. toys

B. toys Interactive Dog Guitar Woofer

Kids love to rock out, so a musical toy is definitely one of the best gifts for 3-year-olds you can purchase. This guitar is suitable from 2 years of age, making it a great choice for kids with younger siblings or those on the cusp of a birthday. It has eight cords and three different play modes: acoustic, electric or hound dog. As far as the noise goes…don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Buy it: $25, Target.com

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Image: Courtesy Soft Landing

Soft Landing Darling Duos Chair & Plush Toy Set

This matching toy and chair set will look adorable in your child’s nursery or playroom. Your 3-year-old will love playing pretend with the plush elephant and curling up in their very own seat. Plus, the chair has a removable cover that’s machine-washable so you won’t have to worry about spills and stains.

Buy it: $65, Nordstrom.com

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Image: Courtesy Vtech

Vtech Explore & Write Activity Desk

Your mini-me loves to be just like Mom. So why not set them up with their very own work-from-home desk? This option by Vtech goes beyond regular toddler tables thanks to an interactive desktop that helps them with letters, numbers, music, colors and more. And, when it’s time for arts and crafts, this desk easily transforms into an easel and chalkboard. How cool is that?

Buy it: $58, buybuyBABY.com

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Image: Courtesy CreateOn

PaintOn Very Hungry Caterpillar Magna-Tiles Structure Set

Magna-Tiles are ideal for open-ended play as they can be arranged in a multitude of ways. This set is adorned with illustrations inspired by the beloved kids’ book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Mini-artists will adore coloring in each tile using the included paints.

Buy it: $25, Maisonette.com

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Image: Courtesy Dimpl

Dimpl Pops Deluxe

Next up is a gift for 3-year-olds that stimulates the senses and encourages the development of fine motor skills. The simple toy has five colorful silicone bubbles for toddlers to push, pop, poke and grab. Tots will love exploring this stress-reducing, tactile toy—plus, it’s a great option for kids with autism too.

Buy it: $25, FatBrainToys.com

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Image: Courtesy Meri Meri

Meri Meri Mia Rainbow Doll

A doll is one of the best gifts for 3-year-old girls and boys. Caring for a doll or stuffed animal helps children develop empathy making them a great new sibling gift too. We like this one by Meri Meri, it’s huggably soft and crafted from quality materials meaning it’ll withstand the wear-and-tear that goes hand-in-hand with toddler games.

Buy it: $65, JanieandJack.com

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Image: Courtesy Finn + Emma

Finn + Emma Organic Pajamas

You’ll love dressing your 3-year-old in these pajamas almost as much as they’ll love wearing them. They’re made with soft organic cotton and feature a nice, comfy elastic waistband, so your child can wear them to bed or just lounging around the house. They come in a lot of different gender-neutral prints. Gift them to your own little ones or to friends and family.

Buy it: Finn + Emma Organic Pajamas, $38, FinnandEmma.com

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Image: Courtesy Land of Dough

Land of Dough Learning Numbers Kit

Sometimes the simplest items make the best gifts for 3-year-olds. Case in point: This eco-friendly play dough set by Land of Dough. Designed to teach preschoolers basic numerical skills, this kit comes with two rolls of dough and a set of wooden numbers for hands-on learning.

Buy it: $25, LandofDough.com

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Image: Courtesy Fat Brain Toys

Sky Nook

Outdoor toys have a myriad of benefits for toddlers. This unique swing can be used indoors and out, has reinforced stitching to prevent falls and offers little dreamers a cozy sanctuary from the outside world. What more could you want from a gift for 3-year-olds?

Buy it: $40, FatBrainToys.com

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Image: Courtesy Cloud b

Cloud b Twilight Ladybug Classic Night Light Soother

Banish nighttime monsters with this soothing nightlight by Cloud b. The ladybug eases fear of the dark by projecting star constellations in three different colors onto the walls and ceiling. It’s on a 45-minute timer, meaning you won’t need to worry about switching it off.

Buy it: $34, Amazon.com

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Image: Courtesy Warmies

Warmies Microwavable French Lavender Scented Alligator

Warmies are another good gift for 3-year-olds that have trouble drifting off to sleep. Heat up the microwavable plush toy for a few seconds for warming comfort at bedtime. They come in a range of cute characters and are scented with French lavender for added stress relief.

Buy it: $25, Amazon.com

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Image: Courtesy Melissa & Doug

Melissa & Doug Classic Card Game Set

Whether you’re celebrating your child’s latest milestone or on the hunt for fun Christmas stocking stuffers, sometimes you need a stash of little gifts for 3-year-olds. Grab this pack of three card games—Old Maid, Go Fish and Animal Rummy—and introduce your kiddo to old-school fun and fair play before screens become their constant companion.

Buy it: $14, MelissaandDoug.com

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Image: Courtesy Toniebox

Toniebox Playtime Puppy Starter Set in Green

Last up on our list of the best gifts for 3-year-olds is a new innovation in the toy industry: The Toniebox. Designed with kids in mind, this audio system plays stories, songs and more. Simply turn it on, pop a Tonie character on top and let the listening adventure begin! The starter set includes the device and a Tonie compilation of the most popular children’s songs including: Wheels on the Bus, If You’re Happy and You Know It and Baby Shark (of course!).

Buy it: $100, US.Tonies.com

Plus, more from The Bump:

Best Toys for Kids Based on Their Zodiac Sign

Best STEM Toys for Babies and Big Kids

Awesome Holiday Gifts for Toddlers and Kids

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