The Best Toys and Gifts for 3-Year-Olds

Introducing the essential gift guide for 3-year-olds.
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Updated March 22, 2023
toys and gifts for 3 year olds 2023
Image: Little Passports
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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.

Best Gifts for 3-Year-Olds

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

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.

Plush toddler chair and matching toy

Darling Duos Chair & Plush Toy Set
Image: Amazon
Buying Options
Amazon | $49.99

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 pup 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.

Personalized storybook

“The Birthday Thief” by Wonderbly
Image: Wonderbly

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.

Play kit subscription

Lovevery Free Spirit Play Kit
Image: Lovevery
Buying Options
Lovevery | $120

A 2022 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.

Wooden dinosaur play set

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.

Interactive toddler desk

Vtech Explore & Write Activity Desk
Image: buybuyBABY

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?

Comfy toddler swing

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?

Frozen 2 stuffed animal

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!

Crafty produce kit for toddlers

KiwiCo Farmers Market Play Set
Image: KiwiCo
Buying Options
KiwiCo | $27.95

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.

Toddler chess set

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.

Wooden play kitchen

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 to their heart’s content, 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.

Sticker play set

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!)

Playful sensory stones

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. Plus, there’s a game guide to keep your kiddo engaged.

Play-Doh play set

Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Noodle Party Playset
Image: Amazon

Play-Doh is the epitome of creative pretend play. Take this play set, for instance. Your kiddo can crank out pretend noodles, and customize their culinary creation by pasta type, shape 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.

Magnetic farm-themed 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.

Cozy jacket for tots

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.

Peppa Pig dollhouse

Peppa Pig Peppa's Kids-Only Clubhouse Playset
Image: Target

Need help thinking of gift ideas for 3-year-olds? You can’t go wrong with an adorable dollhouse—or anything Peppa Pig-themed for that matter. With this sweet set, the little one in your life can easily create a variety of stories and scenes, thanks to the house’s moveable walls and accessories. This is a perfect way to encourage tots to engage in open-ended play that sparks their imagination.

Art desk for tots

Crayola Wonder Art Desk with Stamps
Image: Crayola

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.

A cozy playhouse

My Very Own Playhouse for 3 year olds
Image: Pottery Barn Kids

This tot-sized abode allows your little one to have their own comfy space, whether they’re relaxing or playing make-believe. The playhouse is made from lightweight cotton canvas and features two windows and a roll-up front door—how cute! Your 3-year-old will love having a spot to call their own, and you’ll love the structure’s minimal, modern design.

Light-up bath toy set

Bath toys are definitely one of 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 bathtime even more fun. They automatically turn off when the water drains—convenient when you’re busy getting everyone ready for bed.

Classic board game

Hasbro Candy Land Game
Image: Target
Buying Options
Amazon | $11.99

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.

Adventurous subscription service

Little Passports Early Explorers Subscription for 3 year olds
Image: Little Passports

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 theme (like animal habitats or deep-sea fishing) and comes with a mini suitcase full of treasures, like a world map, stickers and an activity booklet.

Squishy sensory toy for toddlers

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.

A retro 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.

A super-soft blanket

Jungle Safari Cloud Blanket
Image: Little Sleepies

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 safari-themed option.

Pint-sized backpack

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 personalize it with your little one’s initials.

Funky first guitar

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.

Snuggly book set

Slumberkins Slumber Sloth Snuggler
Image: Slumberkins
Buying Options
Slumberkins | $48

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.

Educational, sensory toy for toddlers

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.

A wooden 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!

Buttery soft PJs

Finn + Emma Organic Pajamas
Image: Finn + Emma
Buying Options
Finn + Emma | $38

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.

Soothing sheep night light

Lamb Critter Nightlight Buddy
Lamb Critter Nightlight Buddy
Image: Pottery Barn Kids

Banish nighttime monsters with this soothing nightlight by Pottery Barn Kids. The plush lamb eases fear of the dark by projecting star constellations in three different colors onto the walls and ceiling. And then during the day, your little one can cuddle and play with their snuggly lamb buddy.

Toddler storytime audio system

Toniebox Playtime Puppy Starter Set

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!).

Mini sneakers

Nike Force 1 LE Baby/Toddler sneaker
Image: Nike

Keep the little one in your life looking stylish with these too-cool sneakers. Available in white or black, the pair is a versatile addition to any kiddo’s wardrobe. Plus, if a parent or relative in their life has the same sneaks, they’ll love the matching moment!

Too-cute nap mat

Shaggy Head Puppy Sleeping Bag
Image: Pottery Barn Kids

A toddler nap mat offers a cozy spot where your little one can enjoy some shuteye, whether they’re at a relative’s house, daycare or even “camping out” in a sibling’s room. This sweet option from Pottery Barn Kids is sure to help your little love feel safe and secure. It’s made from soft cotton and features a playful puppy design that doubles as a cushioned pillow. When naptime is over, simply use the attached straps to roll it up and carry or store it.

Activity table and chairs

KidKraft Wooden Round Table & Chair Set for toddlers
Image: Amazon

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 unique storage solution. When your tot is finished playing, they can open the center of the table and store their toys, art supplies or any other tiny treasures in the mesh storage compartment. What’s more, you can count on your little one to use this present for years to come.

Pretend cleaning 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.

Balance bike

Globber Go Bike Air Balance Bike
Image: Maisonette

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!

Creative building set

PaintOn Very Hungry Caterpillar Magna-Tiles Structure Set
Image: Maisonette
Buying Options
Maisonette | $24.95

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.

Sweet embroidered doll

Meri Meri Ruby Doll
Image: Meri Meri

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.

Comforting alligator warmie

Warmies Microwavable French Lavender Scented Alligator
Image: Warmies

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.

About the experts:

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.

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