A round up of gifts for three-year-olds.
Credit: Courtesy: Amazon, Schleich®

The Best Toys for 3-Year-Olds

updated Oct 28, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

This feature is part of Cubby's Gift Edit, our editor-curated collection of gift ideas for every occasion. Need more inspiration? Check out all our guides here.

My daughter recently turned four, so the play life of a three-year-old is fresh in my mind. Though she’s a girl, she loved typical “boy” toys just as much as her dress-up clothes and dolls. I’ve found that it’s important to try not to get caught up in gender stereotypes when searching for toys for kids

We’ve used many of the toys on this list in our home, and we talked to parents of other three-year-olds as well to get a feel for what kids enjoy playing with. 

What to Look for in Toys for 3-Year-Olds

Most three-year-olds are now ready to play with toys that have small parts, but you know your child best. If he or she still tends to put things in their mouth, stay away from toys that are choking hazards. 

Many three-year-olds are becoming more interested in pretend play and social play; a lot of the toys we included are ideal for both of those. Three-year-olds are also incredibly active, so look for toys that help them burn off some of their energy. Many kids are starting to kick and throw, and they may be recognizing letters, numbers, and letter sounds. 

Our Top Pick

Our top pick, the Youth Astronaut Helmet from Aeromax ($25), is such a fun dress-up toy for kids of all ages, but especially three-year-olds who are really getting into pretend play, by themselves and with other kids.

Toys Under $20

1 / 5

Toy figurines like these animals give three-year-olds a springboard to create their own play world. Often the simplest toys are the most fun and have the most longevity. This set is sturdy and ready to stand up to rough and tough play.

2 / 5

Three-year-olds are full of questions, often ones that are increasingly complex and difficult to answer. Fuel their curiosity with this book instead of fumbling through an answer or turning to Google. We have this book, and it makes for interesting storytime, too.

3 / 5
Uncommon Goods

Even the most voracious baby can become a picky eater by age three. Most feeding experts actually recommend playing with food; it can encourage kids to try new things. With that in mind, these plates are fun, and as they decorate the faces, they might just feel tempted to take a bite.

4 / 5

It’s hard to top a classic playground ball. Balls are one of the simplest yet most enjoyable toys. This one is like the durable playground balls you remember from your days of kickball and foursquare (not the flimsy ones your kids beg for at the grocery store that pop after one game of catch).

5 / 5

Dot markers are a fun way for three-year-olds to create without needing the precise fine motor skills that traditional coloring requires. In conjunction with a dot marker coloring book, they’ll have a blast with these markers.

Toys $20 – $40

1 / 12
From our partner
was $51.77

If your three-year-old has a favorite doll or stuffed animal, they’ll enjoy pushing them around in this stroller. It’s foldable for storage, comes with a storage basket, and even includes a seat belt to promote safety.

2 / 12
Melissa & Doug

If we’re being honest, a spray bottle alone is enough to occupy a three-year-old for hours, but you’ll get so much more in this set. My daughter has had this set for years, and it’s still a favorite. I often find her “cleaning” the windows or offering to pitch in with household chores.

3 / 12
Kid Made Modern

This stamp set is a great toy for budding crafters! The large stamps and crayons are easy for small hands to grasp and can help develop those fine motor skills.

4 / 12
Uncommon Goods

It doesn’t get much more charming, quaint, and fun than Goldilocks and the Three Bears toy house. The small set is perfect for little hands, and it even comes with a Goldilocks & The Three Bears Book. They’ll enjoy acting out scenes from the book as they read.

5 / 12
was $34.99

Kinetic Sand play sets can provide hours of fun. Kids will love that it comes with a crane, a dump truck, and brick molds. Parents will love that it comes in its own contained carrying case, making clean-up easy.

6 / 12
was $42.00

Writing and coloring on a vertical surface can help build the strength kids need to properly grip a pencil. This one has a blackboard, a magnetic whiteboard, and it includes a clip to hold paper. It comes with chalk and dry-erase markers that you can store in the easel.

7 / 12

Play stores and cash registers are as fun as they are educational. They introduce kids to the concept of money and give them a chance to mimic what they see in daily life. This classic one from IKEA includes a working cash register/calculator with play money and play credit cards.

8 / 12
The Tot

If you haven’t had to clean marker or crayon off the wall, consider yourself lucky. Foster that love for creation and drive it in a positive direction with a cape that’s meant to be colored on. After they color it in, they’ll be proud to show off their design.

9 / 12

Let their imagination take flight with dress-up wings! And it's not just for wanna-be flying unicorns. They can be an owl, a dragon, or a butterfly, too.

10 / 12
was $37.22

Puzzles are excellent toys for three-year-olds. They help with everything from cognitive skills to fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, even self-esteem. And, they're fun - especially if the finished puzzle features your kid's name!

11 / 12
The Tot

With a moving visor and an official NASA logo, I've yet to see this kid's astronaut helmet not be a giant hit with the three-year-old set (and their older siblings!).

12 / 12

This animal puzzle is more than it appears; it's a four-in-one special! Kids can learn the alphabet along with the corresponding animal, and then take up the challenge of figuring out how all the animals fit together into the puzzle. Plus, when all the animals are out, they stand up on their own so your child will have 26 individual animal play pieces!

Toys $40+

1 / 7
Fat Brain Toys

Magna-Tiles are the ultimate building toy. They’re especially fun for three-year-olds because they stack together easily, eliminating some of the frustration for kids who are still learning to build. This 100-piece kit is the master starter set. Most magnetic tile brands can be used interchangeably if you already have other brands at home.

2 / 7
The Tot

Kids love to play dress up at this age, and this realistic-looking space suit is absolutely thrilling for three-year-olds. It comes with official NASA patches, a special commander patch, and an official embroidered NASA cap. Pair it with the matching space helmet (which we already mentioned as a budget pick!), astronaut gloves and boots, and the astronaut backpack, and your kid will be over the moon, pun intended.

3 / 7
was $179.00

Love it or hate it, kids love to play with mud. You can at least make their mud play structured with a dedicated mud kitchen. The set includes a pretend oven, stove, and sink. It also has pots, pans, and utensils. Teach your kids to put the mud in the mud kitchen and keep it out of your real kitchen!

4 / 7

Air Forts are the newest trend in play forts. They blow up with a box fan, which means they’re easy to set up and compact to store. This starry night version is one of the coziest. Grab a book and snuggle in!

5 / 7

In a world where screen time is inevitable, it may seem like a box that only plays sound would be boring to kids. However, my daughter and nephew both enjoy listening to their TonieBoxes. I like knowing that she can only listen to a predetermined set of stories or songs. Another screen-free, parent-recommended audio player option is the Yoto Audio Player, which you can read all about in our write-ups here and here.

6 / 7

Lovevery play kits aren’t cheap, but they’re worth every penny. My daughter has played with all of the three-year-old boxes, and many of the toys and books have become long-standing favorites. Kits are delivered every three months, and they’re designed to meet kids exactly where they’re at developmentally.

7 / 7

What kid doesn't love the thrill of being on two wheels? This balance bike is the perfect starter bike for three-year-olds. It's tough, durable, and will help give them the physical skills and confidence to move on to bigger bikes!

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