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At age 3, children leap past a big milestone of development out of the toddler stage, showing more independence and becoming more communicative. Because of this surge in development, they tend to outgrow most of the toys they enjoyed as toddlers, and this is a time when age-appropriate toys can help cultivate their skills to the next level.
Although there are endless lists of toys that are recommended by child educators and specialists, the lists can be very generic and often fail to meet with children’s approval. Spending substantial money on toys that will just get pushed into a corner within a matter of minutes is the one thing all parents want to avoid. Below, I review 13 of the best toys for 3-year-olds, to help you pick the best toys for your child.
At age 3, children start to show strong independence and an “I can do it all by myself” attitude, which makes this a perfect time to introduce toys that allow your child to put pieces together and create shapes and structures. Children are also able to role-play and pretend at this age, and begin to exhibit empathy and problem-solving skills.
Providing your 3-year-old with toys that accommodate their developmental milestones of independence and make-believe will further facilitate your child’s acquisition of new skills.
What are the best toys for 3-year-olds
1. Play tent
Best for creating private space
($24.99 USD / $44.99 CAD at the time of publication)
A pop-up play tent can come in handy when your child wants to play house or pretend to go camping. A play tent can not only give your child a private space when they feel the need, but also create a sense of a new imaginary place for them to play in.
2. Dress-up doll
Best for playing make-believe
(about $13 USD / $20 CAD at the time of publication)
An especially excellent variation on this classic is a magnetic dress-up doll, which is easier for clumsy little hands to manipulate—and the magnetic effect adds some extra appeal to capture your little one’s attention. This is a great way to encourage pretending by letting your child roleplay with the doll by dressing, talking and maneuvering it around.
3. Paint with Water
Best for mess-free coloring activity
(about $8 USD/CAD at the time of publication)
Easy to use and less messy than paints, water painting sets like Water Wow! by Melissa & Doug are fascinating to young children. The act of painting with plain water and seeing colourful pictures magically emerge in front of their eyes can mesmerize them.
Water Wow! is perfect for road trips or airplane flights with your children. All you need is a little bit of water to fill the reservoir inside the brush! One more added bonus is the reusable pages—the colours disappear as the image dries, ready to be coloured again next time.
4. Building Blocks
Best for problem-solving skills
($39.99 CAD at the time of publication)
Large to medium-sized building blocks like Mega Bloks or LEGO Duplo can bring hours of joy to your children. Stacking up and putting together pieces to create whatever structures your child desires can be educational and satisfying in many ways. Building blocks are one of the best open-ended toys, since your child can grow with them for years while developing motor skills, creativity and problem-solving skills.
5. Car race track
Best for exploring physics
(about $42 USD / $70 CAD at the time of publication)
Racing cars speeding down a slope of road is a fun pastime that most little kids love. A car race track is one toy that your child can incorporate into their play in a variety of ways.
6. Train set
Best for developing spatial ability
(about $33 USD / $43 CAD at the time of publication)
Building tracks to move their trains around in whatever direction they choose is an adventurous game for children which will develop your child’s spatial ability. Orbrium wooden train sets are intercompatible with many other brands, and they are sturdy enough to endure many years of learning and play.
7. Voice recording toys
Best toy pet friend
(about $16 / $22 CAD at the time of publication)
Children love hearing their own voices, especially when it is instantly played back to them—and all the better if the sound is coming from a cute character. Toys like Pipsqueak The Fox from B. toys by Battat: Happy Yappies series can give your child a tangible imaginary friend and encourage them to engage in dialogue.
This plush toy fox that repeats whatever your child says can bring hours of fun.
8. LeapFrog Scoop & Learn Ice Cream Cart
(about $31 USD / $56 CAD at the time of publication)
As your child gets into pretending and roleplay, providing a role-specific play setting can excite their imaginations further. LeapFrog Scoop and Learn Ice cream Cart is perfect for roleplay as well as exposing your 3-year-old to counting and following instructions.
Best sensory toy
(about $8 USD / $12 CAD at the time of publication)
Colourful, soft, squishy Play-doh provides an irresistible texture for little hands to experiment with as they create shapes with their hands. A perfect sensory toy that gives your child an opportunity to manipulate the material while mixing and matching different colors.
10. Indoor ride
Best indoor riding toy
(about $99 USD / $96 CAD at the time of publication)
All children love riding toys from the moment they are able to sit up on their own. If you have space around the house, an indoor riding toy can break your 3-year-old’s boredom and provide extra fun on days when bad weather limits your child’s outdoor time. PlasmaCar is sturdy enough for your child to grow with for a long time—strong enough to support an adult’s weight(ADULT FRIENDLY it supports up to 220lb/ 100kg on smooth, flat surfaces), its sturdiness is guaranteed. It moves when your child wiggles the steering wheel, giving them a sense of control and a life-like driving experience.
11. Honey Bee Tree
Best for dexterity and learning numbers
(about $29 USD / $27 CAD at the time of publication)
It is nearly impossible to involve a 3-year-old in a board game. But if the game has simple enough rules and it requires moving objects around, you can have a fun time even with young children.
Honey Bee Tree has simple rules—all you have to do is stick the leaves into the holes to create a cushion for the bees, then take turns pulling the leaves out to find out who collects the fewest bees to win the game. This game will challenge your child’s dexterity as well as introduce numbers and counting.
12. Monkeying Around
Best for fine motor skills
(about $20 USD / $43 CAD at the time of publication)
Monkeying Around is another simple game that your 3-year-old can have great fun playing. Once you assemble the tree and decide who gets what color of monkeys, take turns spinning the wheel and hanging the indicated number of monkeys on the tree without collapsing the whole canopy of leaves into the crocodile’s pool.
This game is not only fun and filled with thrills, but also helps develop your child’s fine motor skills as they handle the monkeys and attempt to connect them delicately to the tree.
13. Fisher Price Little People
Best play and learn doll house series
(about $43USD / $56 CAD at the time of publication)
(about $45 CAD at the time of publication)