The Best Gifts and Toys for 3-Year-Olds
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-year-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.
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.
36 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? Whatever occasion or budget you have in mind, below are some of the best gifts for 3-year-old girls and boys.
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 unique details designed to capture kids’ imaginations. You can even add a custom dedication to the opening pages for free.
Though your tot may not like to eat their vegetables, they’ll love to play with them thanks to this cute toy set! The vibrant, produce-themed craft kit includes beads, fluff and pipe cleaners to design colorful veggies, such as tomatoes and corn. A chalkboard stand and play money will encourage your tot to practice counting, sorting and more as they “sell” their imaginative creations.
Next up on our list of the best gifts for 3-year-olds has quickly become a cult favorite 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!).
Toddlers love to climb just about anything and everything. One way to help them safely reach new heights is with a Pikler triangle —just like this top-rated option from Piccalio . The sturdy, wooden structure nurtures gross motor skill development and imaginative play, thanks to its open-ended design. The versatile toy can be transformed into a fort, a slide, a mountain or whatever else your little one thinks up—the opportunities are endless! When playtime is over, simply fold it flat for straightforward storage (and to reclaim your living space). Plus, it’s suitable for kids up to 6 years old, so it’s well worth the investment.
Looking for top-notch gifts that won’t break the bank? Here, find the best toys for 3-year-olds for $25 and under.
Isn’t it the best when a toy from your own childhood makes an appearance in your kid’s life? Then you’ll love how 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!)
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 an ideal 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.
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 to prompt hands-on learning.
What’s not to love about these pajamas from Burt’s Bees Baby? The sweet birthday cake print makes them an ideal present for any toddler celebrating their special day. Better yet, these PJs are made from 100 percent organic cotton and have a snug fit for safe snoozing.
At the 3-year mark, tots are continuing to master their fine motor skills, which makes a puzzle a top-notch gift option. The slight challenge is sure to engage them, and they’ll be so happy to show you what they’ve completed when they’re all done. We’re fans of this rocketship-shaped jigsaw, complete with 40 chunky pieces that depict shooting stars, aliens and other otherworldly scenes.
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.
Bath toys are among the best toys for 3-year-olds, and this set of vibrant jellies definitely fits the bill. Your child will love to watch as the light changes color, making bath time even more fun. They automatically turn off when the water drains—convenient when you’re busy getting everyone ready for bed.
Who doesn’t love a Target run? With this toy shopping cart, your little one can “stock up” on essentials around the house and feel like a real grown-up. The best part? It has seat for your tot’s favorite baby doll or stuffed animal. Plus, the cart even comes with realistic accessories (like a mini coffee cup and play food!) to make imaginative play more life-like.
It’s no secret that toddlers love to laugh, and this customized book is sure to earn some giggles as you read it together. It features a lovable, curious monster with one rule: Don’t press the red button illustration that appears throughout. Reviewers love how the personalized elements make this story super interactive—and we’re sure you will too!
Can’t get enough of Barbie this year? We totally get it! Introduce the tot in your life to the iconic doll with this gift idea for 3-year-olds. Designed with preschoolers in mind, this Barbie is slightly bigger in size (perfect for teeny tiny hands to hold onto) and has a soft torso that’s easy to pose, dress and carry around. This set comes with a pretty outfit, a matching visor, purple shoes, a plush bunny stuffed animal and even a brush, so your little one can style their doll’s hair as they see fit.
From make-believe coffee machines to pop-up play tents, these are the best gifts and toys for 3-year-olds that ring in under the $50 mark. Below, check out our top picks.
Story Time 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.
Outdoor toys have a variety 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?
It’s no secret that 3-year-olds love adventure, making this travel-inspired subscription kit a uniquely fun gift idea. With this service, your tot will receive a themed set in the mail every month. Each kit focuses on an educational topic (such as animal habitats or deep-sea fishing) and comes with a mini suitcase full of treasures, like a world map, stickers and an activity booklet.
Toddlers this age often love to “help” around the house and delight in mimicking the actions they see adults doing daily—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.
Next up is another gift for 3-year-olds that’s perfect for tots who love to mimic the adults in their lives. With it, your little one will receive everything they need to create tasty drinks and treats, like a “working” cafe machine, cups, drink pods, toppings and donuts. As your tot plays, they’ll also learn about cause and effect—it’s a win-win!
Spark culinary creativity in your tot from a young age with this fun pasta-making kit. It comes with a wooden pasta machine that can be used to roll out playdough. Kid-friendly shape cutters and inspiring pattern cards are also included to encourage even more educational play opportunities.
Slumberkins is dedicated to helping little ones better understand their emotions so that they can thrive, making their products great gifts for 3-year-olds who are becoming more aware of themselves and the world around them. This sloth snuggler set is no exception. It includes a board book that introduces tots to the idea of routines, so that they’re more comfortable with new experiences that may be around the corner (like the first day of school). What’s more, this sweet set comes with a super-soft cuddle buddy and an affirmation card.
Everyone needs a space to call their own—even toddlers. This cozy pop-up playhouse will provide your kiddo just that. It can be used inside or out, and is bound to encourage plenty of imaginative and social play. Details we love include the colorful, illustrated design, the working mail slot, the window shutters that open and close and the sturdy floor.
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 comes with toddler games. It also has a sweet carry case that your little one will love toting.
To infinity and beyond! Your little one will love acting out their favorite Toy Story scenes with this interactive Buzz Lightyear action figure. As they play, they’ll discover tons of fun details, like the light-up wings, the karate-chopping arm and 10+ catchphrases. This toy can even “chat” with other Disney character action figures, like Rex, Jessie or even Spider-Man
Banish nighttime monsters with this quirky night light. The unique gummy bear-shaped design is sure to ease fears of the dark, thanks to its colorful, soothing glow. Choose from four different hues to find the best fit for the toddler in your life.
Bathtime presents aren’t limited to just toys. Case in point: This fun bath bomb bundle for toddlers. This three-piece set can transform the tub water right before your kiddo’s eyes—how cool! Plus, as a parent, you’ll love that they’re made from plant-based ingredients, stain-free and moisturizing to boot.
From retro trikes to engaging toy subscription kits (and everything in between!), we’ve got you covered. Here, check out the best 3-year-old gift ideas for $100 and under.
This retro-inspired tricycle is bound to be a hit with your toddler from the get-go; you may have even had the same one growing up! This sturdy, iconic design has durable tires, an age-appropriate steering system and a double-deck step so your kiddo can get on and off of it easily. You’ll also appreciate the adjustable seat that grows with your child. This present will surely be a playtime staple well past the 3-year mark.
Is your tot a big fan of cuddling? Then this cozy blanket is an ideal present. It’s made from 100 percent bamboo viscose, resulting in a buttery soft texture that’s gentle on delicate skin. What’s more, each blanket features a double-sided design, just like this too-cute option.
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, with no-slip surfaces and rubber edges to stay put. Plus, there’s a game guide to keep your kiddo engaged.
Doll houses are classic gifts for three-year-olds—and for good reason. They nurture fine motor skills, social play and can even help your todldler become more comfortable routines. This mini abode is Bluey-themed, making it a great option for devoted fans of the show. Inside, you’ll find moveable furniture and the iconic characters your little one knows and loves.
Your mini-me loves to be just like their parent—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?
Give your kiddo a confidence boost and a sense of independence by gifting them their very own backpack. Thanks to the soft, padded straps, this mini option is perfect for tiny backs—plus, it can be used to carry favorite toys, stuffed animals or any other trinkets your tot has in mind. Choose from several stylish colors and prints, and personalize it with your little one’s initials.
On the hunt for a 3-year-old gift that will truly stand out? Then you can’t go wrong with one of these top-of-the-line presents—discover our top choices here.
Lovevery’s subscription kits come packed with playthings to fascinate your tot. 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 to help other parents feel confident in the development of their child.
Toddler table and chair sets are a versatile addition to any living space; they can be used for playtime, snack time, arts and crafts or anything else your kiddo has in mind. What makes this set stand out is its sleek, contemporary design and its sheer versatility. Choose from several cool colorways and accessorize it with add-ons like these coloring sheets or a splat mat for a present that’s bound to be loved for years to come.
Have a mini chef in the making at home? Treat your tot to a top-notch play kitchen. Your kiddo can recreate their favorite recipes, and enjoy several interactive features like the microwave, the oven and the faucet. This pint-sized kitchen even has a mini herb garden, and comes with plenty of wooden food items and other kitchen tools to make pretend play even more realistic. Better yet, this modern playset won’t be an eyesore in your own kitchen or living space.
Toddlers love to experiment with sand and water, which is why this outdoor activity center is a clear choice for this roundup. The two-sided design encourages endless play opportunities, and even comes with seven additional accessories for added fun. The table is also complete with an umbrella to protect your kiddo from sun rays as they splash to their heart’s content.
Is dress-up a standard part of playtime in your household? Then these premium-quality PJs are a must-have. They’re made from soft, durable cotton with kid-friendly fastenings so your little one can dress themselves independently. However, the best part has to be the roar-some rainbow-tinted lion bonnet—how cute!
Choo choo! All aboard for this timeless train set. It comes with 30 pieces (like a magnetic train, tracks and even a sleeping bear) that your tot can position and connect to their liking, resulting in a sweet forest scene. This is one of those gifts that will be a favorite for years to come—trust us.
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!
A ball pit may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about gifts for 3-year-olds—but it’s one the best in our opinion. This option is full of sensory-driven fun, thanks to its super-soft, plush foam walls. Plus, it comes with 200 balls, so your little one can start playing as soon as they unwrap this present.
We get it—picking out presents for toddlers isn’t always a piece of cake. To help streamline your search for the best toy for 3-year-olds, we combed through dozens of options from leading brands and trusted online retailers. This way, you won’t have to spend hours scrolling. When choosing which gift options to include in our roundup, we considered several factors, like quality, value and age rating, to name a few. We also read user reviews to get the lowdown on how these products have worked for real kiddos, and didn’t consider anything with less than an average four-star rating. Last but not least, we chatted with a child psychologist to understand developmental milestones that happen at the 3-year mark and how they translate into learning and play.
Interested in learning more about our editorial process? Read about how our team develops and reviews all articles here.
Christina Low Kapalu, PhD, is a clinical child psychologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City in Missouri. She received her PhD from Washington State University and completed her fellowship in pediatric psychology at Children's Mercy Kansas City.
Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial process.
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