The best Christmas 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 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 2020
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.
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 and bring it to life with a working motor. The set is ideal for boosting fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, logical thinking, and task completion.
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.
Dress-up is something 3-year-olds absolutely adore, and these butterfly wings with elastic straps are so simple yet so mesmerizing when it comes to fantasy play. Kids run and soar and flap them around.
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.
Pretend play coupled with an innocuous math lesson, this wooden scale has an integrated spring mechanism that shows the weight of whatever item goes in the scale, as kids figure out how many tomatoes they need for dinner.
We can't say enough good things about this market stand. Not only does it make fruits and veggies look utterly delectable. But it encourages kids to engage in total pretend play, as they sell the fruit to their friends, collect payment, and package it up. There's a scale, a register, and shelves, plus a clock to let customers know it's closing time.
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.
Speaking of detailed, this vet clinic has a check-in counter, an exam room, a scale, and cages for the four-legged patients, including a cat, dog, bunny, and guinea pig. It's a great blend of open-ended play coupled with an imaginary workout.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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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