When your kid gets to a certain age, you find yourself going to a lot of parties at indoor gyms that resemble a prison yard for preschoolers. And after the requisite pizza and cupcakes, it’s time for the gifts! Unfortunately, most 3-year-olds don’t subtly drop hints to their classmates about what they want to for their birthday. Fortunately, this list of the best gifts for 3-year-olds has all the stuff (most under $40) that will win the afternoon. You can keep the “Thank You” note.
Matchbox Treasure Tracker
The truck itself is well designed for the sandbox, with oversized wheels and a dump bed that snaps off to become a little shovel. But, by pairing that with a functioning metal detector that hangs off the front, the Treasure Tracker turns pretty much any room with an area rug or a bed with sheets into a next-level scavenger hunt venue. The only downside is that your loose change mug is about to become a no-change mug.
Making glittery, glow-in-the-dark putty that can turn a near-infinite number of colors and never dries out doesn’t require a toxic chemistry lab in the basement. It just requires …. more putty. Start with a blob of clear Thinking Putty, press it together with a pinch of other Thinking Putty, and mash it up. These gifts for 3-year-olds come with three color mixers, three special effects, and five tins of the clear stuff, but you can keep buying tins for more colors and more effects until the basement is just one massive multi-colored putty ball. No word on whether it can pull the comics off the funny pages, though.
This gorgeous toy will give the rest of their die-cast cars some serious body shaming. Check out the Freedom, Heat, and Thunderlane (the most patriotic, authoritarian, and quasi-Springsteen-y, respectively). Forget getting these as presents — you’re probably going to want to buy everything Playforever makes and give it to your own 3-year-old.
Once your kid reaches a certain age, every surface in your home becomes a drum. This includes, but is not limited to, high chair trays, coffee tables, windows, the cat, and if you’re very lucky, your face. This adorable beginner set at least offers the illusion of an appropriate space for drumming. With a little luck, that child will be the next Ringo Starr.
Whatever you give a 3-year-old boy or girl, they’d rather play with the box. So instead of Toys ‘R’ Us, go with the cheaper gift option and head around behind the grocery store. Then get them to create something truly epic with Makedo’s starter kit. The safety saw and fastener screws will ensure that all the parts are customized and securely fastened.
They’re wooden blocks. With magnets. That’s it… almost. Tegu kits promote every developmental stage, from classic free assortments to horses, stunt choppers, Evel Knievel roadsters, robots, customizable companions called Blockheads, and on-the-go pouches. And they’re do-gooders — their wood is hand-picked by Honduran cooperatives and they plant 983 new trees for every one they take.
With all the duct tape you have lying around, you’re probably pissed you didn’t think of this first. Give the gift of 36 yards of sticky two-lane pavement with the Create A Road tape and car set by Donkey Lab. Yeah, those little cars are pretty dinky, but this street will work with any Hot Wheels-sized toy.
Sneak a little bit of anarchy into the 3-year-old boy or girl’s home with a book written in the lyrics of the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and The Clash. The best part is that it manages to namecheck all of those bands that made your fellow parents want to run away, get piercings and dabble in drugs — without any running away, piercings, or drugs.
Lincoln Logs have yet to go out of style. Even so, why not build a tree house next to that cabin? A set of Tree Blocks comes with 36 pieces for countless different designs. Your 3-year-old kid can unlock their creativity with rustic designs.
Luke’s Toy Factory Cars
It’s a puzzle and a toy car. Choose from a dump truck (it really dumps), a tipper truck (it really tips), a firetruck (it doesn’t really fight fires) and more. The cars can be disassembled into separate pieces and put together like a 3-D puzzle.
Sago Mini Jack’s Diner Playset
Order a slice of pumpkin pie and a cup of coffee with this playset. Okay, maybe not quite, but at least your kid can pretend. The Sago Mini Jack’s Diner scales down the classic diner experience and can entertain your young chef for hours at a time. The handle on the top makes it easy to transport, too.