When I sat down to think about the best 3-year-old toys my daughter Adley would like, it didn’t take me long to come up with a long list. There are some usual suspects you will likely recognize. But the best part about this age is ANYTHING can be a toy. Empty Amazon box? You better believe that’s her new favorite sled (we don’t get a lot of snow in Florida, so it’s as close as she will get). Package of toilet paper? We turned it into a fort and got more than an hour of entertainment.
When playing with a toddler, your imagination is the only thing you are limited by. It allows for countless adventures and memories that can’t be replaced. However, we do have plenty of traditional toys as well. Even some new ones I didn’t know existed until recently. We gathered a list of our favorite toys for 3-year-olds to share with you. Some of them are low-cost, portable life-savers. Others are bigger gifts that require some assembly. Each is special in its own way, but the one thing they all have in common is they will get a lot of use in your house.
2 Educational and STEM Toys for 3-Year-Olds
Who doesn’t love toys that are fun and double as educational opportunities? Here are two great picks for STEM toys for 3-year-olds.
1. Boogie Board Reusable Writing Tablet
Remember the Etch-A-Sketch? It was one of my favorite toys growing up and caused many fights between my sister and me. Boogie Board tablets are the 21st-century version of this childhood favorite. With a specialized pen and one button to erase, this provides plenty of entertainment, especially on the road or in the air. It’s a must-have 3-year-old toy and a staple in our travel bag.
2. Toddler Water Lab Science Kit
Are you looking for a gift for the little scientist in your life? Splashology is the perfect STEM toy for 3-year-olds and an excellent way for kids to learn while having fun. The science kit gives kids seven hands-on experiments they can do in a sink, bathtub, or water table. It’s a gift your kids will love, and you’ll feel good about helping them learn!
6 Outdoor Toys for 3-Year-Olds
Get your toddlers outside as much as you can! They can run, chase, kick, bounce, whatever you can imagine, and get that 3-year-old energy out. Here are six top outdoor toys that every 3-year-old will love.
1. Bubble Machine
There’s little that my 3-year-old cares about more than bubbles. We recently bought a bubble machine without thinking much of it. It turns out that it provides more entertainment than we ever expected! They are simple, easy to set up, and inexpensive (this “fancy” one is $20). Even better, it’s a toy that extends to ages above and below 3. Win-win!
2. Little Tikes Trampoline
Does your 3-year-old have seemingly endless energy? Of course, they do. An excellent way to burn that energy is a mini trampoline. In our case, Adley loves jumping on it every chance she gets. She’s jumping on it now while I write this article. That should help you understand why this 3-year-old toy will surely be a crowd-pleaser!
3. Bounce House
If you’ve been to kids’ birthday parties, you know nothing gets 3-year-olds more excited than a bounce house. I once thought these were just things you rented for big events, but they are more affordable than you might think. You can find all kinds of bounce houses on Amazon, including several designed to be used indoors. This big-ticket item requires a lot of space, so it won’t be for everyone. But if you’re looking for that jaw-dropping gift that will likely get used for a long time, this could be it!
4. Reusable Water Balloons
Parenting is all about highs and lows. The high of watching your kids have an absolute blast playing with water balloons . . . and the low of cleaning up a million little pieces of balloon afterward. Enter reusable water balloons. It’s a simple solution that works great and is very popular at my house. Another plus is that they are very easy to fill. So much so that my 3-year-old regularly does it on her own. This gift is a can’t-miss.
5. Zip String
I like to think of myself as an educated guy. I went to college, read, and watch the news occasionally. However, I do not understand the science behind how Zip String works. What I do know is it’s awesome! Zip String is a long loop of string that easily attaches to a handheld controller and then floats in the air at the push of a button. It is a toy for all ages, and Adley has quickly shown it to her friends when they come over. This gift will make you the family’s cool mom/dad/aunt/uncle/cousin.
6. Elefun Butterfly Catcher
This toy has been around for decades and has aged well. An elephant that shoots paper butterflies out of an extended chute that kids catch with a net? It’s that simple and provides hours of entertainment. I even have fun doing this with my daughter.
2 Montessori Toys for 3-Year-Olds
You can’t go wrong with Montessori toys! Your 3-year-old likely will love figuring out puzzles and other learning activities; give one of these a chance.
1. Lovevery Subscription Play Kit
This box won’t be for everyone because of the price (about $120 per kit). But I can honestly say it is worth it. This is your jam if you’re interested in Montessori toys for 3-year-olds. The kits arrive every three months with activities, games, and learning toys for kids. They are specifically designed for each age group and are very well-made. We’ve been using Lovevery since Adley was a baby and will continue to use it when our second child arrives.
2. Wooden Puzzles
Adley is at a stage where she loves puzzles. I show her the pieces and how they are supposed to go, and she figures the rest out pretty quickly. These are well-made with cool designs and affordable (under $20). Sometimes, the best gifts are the simplest ones.
2 Ride-On Toys for 3-Year-Olds
Ride-on toys are fun at any age, especially with 3-year-olds who always want to be moving. Try one of these ride-on toys for your 3-year-old and watch them cruise in style!
1. Micro Mini Scooter
I’ve learned never to underestimate a toddler’s coordination. When my parents wanted to get Adley the Micro Mini Scooter not long after she turned 2, I wondered whether she had the coordination and dexterity to ride it. Within 20 minutes, she was cruising around the neighborhood with a big smile. It’s a great outdoor toy for 3-year-olds that helps kids develop balance, among other skills. Nearly a year later, Adley still rides it several times a week.
2. Battery-Powered Tractor
Calling all future farmers! Battery and electric vehicles for kids are a blast and the perfect ride-on toy for 3-year-olds. I still remember my red Corvette as a kid. This John Deere tractor is a stereotypical toy for 3-year-old boys. But it’s also really cool and sure to be a winner for any child. Just be ready for the price.
7 Pretend Play Toys for 3-Year-Olds
1. Kids Grill Playset
We’re all familiar with kitchen playsets. But why not take it up a notch? This 15-piece kids grill barbecue playset is fully loaded for the active toddler in your life. Plastic steak? Check. Tongs? Check. Everything you can think of in a mini kid grill? Check. A cool idea that will be universally loved!
2. Tea Set
It’s a bit of a stereotype that little girls love tea sets. In my household, this stereotype holds. Adley and most of her friends LOVE pouring tea for each other. And for me. And my wife. And our dog. And anyone or anything that’s breathing close by. I don’t get it. But I’ve come to accept that I’m just not meant to understand some things. It’s been a 3-year-old girl toy staple for generations. Guess what? It’s still a winner!
3. Kids Cleaning Set
If you’re like me, you spend an astonishing amount of time cleaning up after your kids. It’s time for them to earn their keep. In all honesty, Adley enjoys helping me clean. So, we got her a kids’ mop and a broom. It started as something to distract her while I did some actual cleaning. But soon after, she started helping me clean up spills and crumbs. It’s now one of our regular activities. Sign me up for any toy that cleans up messes!
4. Princess Dress-Up Set
Do you have a little princess in your life? I do; mine enjoys dressing up like a princess every day. So, we leaned into it and got her a princess dress-up set. It’s simple, containing several pairs of princess shoes, plastic jewelry, and a crown. Adley asks to play with it daily after school and loves putting everything on simultaneously. This is the best $20 we’ve spent in a long time.
5. Toy Suitcase
Rule #87 in the standard issue parenting guidebook is preparing to travel with your kids. My wife and I found one of the best ways to make the trip go smoothly is to get Adley excited about the adventure. This toddler suitcase (complete with a sleeping mask, moisturizer bottles, and fake headphones) gives off a fun vacation vibe. We practice packing her suitcase, and any nervousness about traveling quickly turns into excitement. Everyone wins!
6. Pretend Doctor Kit
The days of doctor house calls are back. Watch as your child checks your heartbeat, gives you pretend shots, and asks to see your tonsils. As a parent, it’s an experience. But my toddler enjoys going through all the doctor items in the kit. With more than a dozen to choose from, this should keep them entertained for a long time. It’s a classic and truly a fantastic educational toy for 3-year-olds.
7. Plastic Garden Set
Not everyone has access to a garden, and some of us fail miserably at keeping anything alive (thankfully, this doesn’t cross over to my family). This plastic garden set helps your 3-year-old connect the pieces while building beautiful arrangements. This was a birthday gift for my daughter that we now buy for friends and family with toddlers.
6 Other Fun Toys for 3-Year-Olds
Educational or outdoors, toys should be fun for 3-year-olds. Sensory kits are perfect for learning and having fun, and ball pits are meant for good times!
1. Specialty Sensory Kits
If you have a 3-year-old, you’re likely familiar with sensory activities. One of my favorites is a pack with a little bit of everything. Squishy balls, stretchy strings, and tubes, these unique kits are designed specifically for a child’s age. Best of all, you won’t find a kit costing more than $40.
2. Kids Instant Camera
Do you remember how mind-blowing it was when we learned our phones could take good pictures and we wouldn’t have to carry a separate camera anymore? Well, what’s old is new. I bought Adley one and can’t wait to give it to her. It’s not only a digital camera made for kids, but it instantly prints a copy. Think mini Polaroid. This gift has many versions depending on your child’s age and price point. Let the photo shoots begin!
3. Ball Pit
What you remember from childhood is strange. I remember going to IKEA with my parents and being dropped off inside a giant ball pit at the front of the store while they shopped. I thought it was the best thing ever. Now, you can bring a small part of that experience home. The downside is plastic balls will be everywhere, but the fun your 3-year-old will have is worth it. They’re also very affordable, costing less than $50 on Amazon. Boom!
4. Hot Wheels Ultra Loop Set
Over 30 years ago, I wanted no toy more than the latest Hot Wheels. They have staying power for a reason. This Target exclusive features a triple-loop track for less than $20. Like most Hot Wheels sets, it also breaks down easily for storage. It’s a classic that keeps delivering.
5. Dance Mat Floor Piano
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Big,” you likely remember how cool it was to see Tom Hanks and Tom Loggia dance on the giant piano. Chances are your kids haven’t seen that movie. But they can have a similar fun experience with a floor mat piano. With a wide variety of instruments and plenty of lights and sounds, this is a 3-year-old toy that will get your kid moving and having a blast!
6. Let Loose Moose Hovering Soccer Ball
Add this to the category of “Why didn’t I think of that?” My wife recently got this for Adley, and it’s her new favorite toy. This is a disc that you kick like a soccer ball. It slides easily across hard floors and carpets alike. It also has foam to protect walls or anything else that could get bumped. The highlight for Adley is the LED display so she can play in the dark. It’s the type of toy that doesn’t have an age limit. The best kind!
There are gifts for budgets big and small. But what matters most is finding the gift that will help you connect with your toddler. Ultimately, there are no bad options—only unexplored ones.