The best gifts for 3-year-olds play to their existing strengths, while also helping them develop and master new ones. By age 3, kids are speaking in full sentences and thus are old enough to let you know if they like something — but too young to clearly and specifically articulate what they want. So that leaves the guesswork to you, as you try to decipher which gifts and toys will keep your 3-year-old challenged, entertained, and engrossed. The right educational toys for toddlers boost learning by rewarding discovery with delight.
“Three-year-olds are eager to solve problems and will make their own if needed. That’s why blocks of all kinds are fun choices for 3-year-olds who want to explore, create, and figure things out,” says Rebecca Parlakian, the senior director of programs at Zero to Three.
Look into “pretend-play props that encourage feisty 3-year-olds to tell stories and act out roles, like puppets, pretend play costumes, and storybooks with simple storylines and vivid illustrations,” says Parlakian. “Finally, don’t forget that 3-year-olds like to move. Balls of all sizes, bowling sets, tunnels to crawl through, child-size rakes and shovels (so they can ‘help’ you), and wheeled toys to push and ride” all make great gifts for 3-year-olds.
The Best Toys for 3-Year-Olds 2021
The thoughtfully-crafted balance board is a boon for pretend play, as it becomes everything from a see-saw to a boat. Each of these beauties is handmade, but above and beyond that, the balance board help kids find their center of gravity and work their muscles.
It's magic! Actually, it's not, but it sure will seem like it to your 3 year old. These soft foam blocks are magnetic and rotate 360 degrees, allowing kids to engage in truly open-ended pretend play. Plus, they learn about shapes and colors, as they build weird buildings or bring bizarre creatures to life.
Going to the doctor can be scary. And this set puts kids in charge, empowering them to treat their four-legged patient, and understand that medical care is a good thing. The set includes a stethoscope, thermometer, syringe, ear scope, tweezers, clamp, cast, bandages, and ointments.
The goal: Catch the fish by attaching it to the magnetic pole. The challenge: To concentrate and stay focused, while using those motor skills. Best of all, two kids can play together.
There's absolutely no prescriptive way to play with this set. No stringent directions to follow. No way to do the wrong thing. And that's absolutely perfect. Kids build whatever they want, using nuts, bolts, a hammer, and a screwdriver. The set is ideal for boosting fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, logical thinking, and task completion.
Yes, folks, this is a working scale. It has an integrated spring mechanism on the display board that shows the weight of the product on it. Not only is this great for pretend play at the supermarket, but it also teaches kids numbers, and cause and effect.
These cool bricks are precision-carved from bamboo; they're interlocking, so they're sort of like Legos, but much more manageable for little hands. They can build houses or cars or rockets, or or or.
Scooters are a great way for kids to be active and develop their motor skills. This one is stable, and has an adjustable T-bar accommodates children as they grow.
Kids this age mimic what they see their parents doing, and chances are, they see you cleaning. So put them to 'work' with this child-sized set, which includes a play broom, mop, duster, brush, and organizing stand.
This ingenious Cubebot is a puzzle, an action figure, a robot and a transformer that really puts kids' problem-solving skills to the test.
On their own, flamingoes are unique, glorious creatures. But this game ups the ante. This bird has removable wings, a culbuto base, and comes with 10 small chicks. The goal: Distribute the birds evenly, without anyone taking a tumble. Kids can play solo, or together, as they learn about gravity and balance.
Botley 2.0 teaches kids to code and program — without involving a single screen. Kids can program Botley to do a sequence of up to 150 steps, and are rewarded with 16 complex interactions (as well as lights and music).
You know the timeless game, the floor is lava? The goal is to hop around without ever touching the ground. These six wood steps up the ante, while also helping kids work on their gross motor skills.
Maybe your kid is the next Springsteen. Find out with this sturdy yet fully functional harmonica, which has numbered notes to help beginners out.
The key to open-ended toys is that there's no one way to play with them. These magnetic blocks can be anything that kids dream up.
If you're looking for that wow toy, the one that absolutely blows your kids away, this is it. Because there is nothing more fun than playing outdoors, in the mud, and using said mud to make pies. This wooden kitchen includes shelves for ample storage, as well as planters, metal kitchen utensils, pots and pans.
You don't need a lab to learn about science. Just take your kids outdoors. Talk to them about sun and rain, wind and slush, humidity and cloudiness, and document weather changes on this station. It gives them a stake in what's happening in the natural world around them.
Not only is this funky wood rocking horse a childhood staple that helps kids hone their sense of balance, but it also folds flat for easy storage.
This six-piece kitchen set is perfect for anyone short on space. It comes with one pot lid, one frying pan, one spoon and one spatula. The knobs on the stove make clicking sounds, so kids feel like they're making breakfast, for real.
With gorgeous pretend foods like this set, kids act out the same things they see their parents doing. Like serving dinner. Or making lunch. It's pretend play that helps them understand the adult world around them.
A workbench perfectly sized for 3 year olds, this wooden one has five tools and 16 accessories, as kids embark on fixer-upper projects around the house.
It's rare to find something this detailed aimed at the younger set. And while we may not be flying much at the moment, this airport is a reminder that the world is a big, big place. It's compatible with all Brio sets, and this one includes a control tower, a terminal, two travelers, and luggage. And a plane, of course.
This set helps your child be part of the food prep process, and it's made from 100 percent recycled plastic. This 18-piece meal set inspires young chefs to whip up succulent pretend meals using a cheese stamp, a sauce cutter, dough tubs, and myriad other necessities. Fantasy play at its best.
These are blocks in name only — a set of 16 beautiful stacking shapes, with complex edges and multiple faces, giving kids a renewable challenge and bringing something beautiful into the playroom. And because every block manufactured is unique, you can rest assured no one will have a set quite like yours.
Kids use these wooden eggs to express just how they feel. Anything that helps toddlers express their feelings and connect with their emotions is a win-win. This set helps promote emotional maturity as children identify and articulate their feelings.
Increasingly verbal kids imagine and act out storylines that are increasingly detailed and vivid with this vibrant puppet theater; it comes with two sets of hand puppets for endless creativity and a ton of fun collaborative play.
Kids sort the products by color and put the veggies into the corresponding baskets. The set includes 25 foods, five baskets, and stickers to label them. The foods look like what actual people eat for actual meals, and it's one great real-world toy to help kids understand what they see in their kitchen at home.
It's art-fueled imaginary play at its best: Kids color the animals, wash them off, and start all over again.
Yes, this doll is every bit as ridiculous as you would imagine. She's also really fun and totally uncomplicated. Kids feed her and she poops. And thereby, they mimic what they themselves do every single day. Eat and poop.
This non-genderized dollhouse is tailor-made for collaborative play, as kids create their families and act out scenarios like making beds and walking the dog. It is also a perfect birthdy gift for a 3-year-old.
Truly, this is among the best open-ended play set you can buy. There's no limit to what kids can build, from castles to flowers to cars to whatever they think up.
This beautiful set includes a drum, metallophone (or xylopnone), guiro wooden block, and bell, as well as two mallets for playtime duets. Kids learn the basics of rhythm while honing their motor skills and learning to express themselves through music.
Holding a toy train and learning how to push it around a track or along the floor requires hand and finger coordination, both crucial for kids this age to master.
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