Ultimate Gift & Toy Guide for 3 Year Olds

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The best kids’ gifts inspire the imagination and keep kids interested and engaged. That’s exactly what you get with this Ultimate guide for 3 year olds. You’ll find favorite toys that last through the years and kids still enjoy them. You’ll find gifts here that every 3 year old will love. Whether you have an explorer, engineer, nature lover or the next top chef, we hope you enjoy these hands-on toy ideas as much as we do.

pretend play

Kids at this age learn through imagining and doing. Pretend Play is essential to many areas of development; social and emotional skills, language skills, and thinking (cognitive) skills. Typically, pretend play occurs after 3 years of age, and is also referred to as symbolic or dramatic play. During this stage of play, kids start to imitate familiar scenarios via role play. Another thing you may notice, is your little one may also use an object to represent something other than its original purpose. Addie will use a block as a cell phone, or a spoon as a drum stick. Playing “house” is another example of dramatic play. This is a more advanced form of play as typically roles are assigned to each child involved (a mom, dad, brother, sister, baby, etc.) and the children then get into character.

One thing you are going to want to do is make sure you have some open ended toys. Open ended toys can be used in a variety of ways, they do not have a beginning, middle, or end, that can be used over time, and promote creativity, and allow your child to use their imagination. For example, a video game can only function in one way. You do not have control in the game to play spontaneously based on your mood. While open ended toys can nurture their creativity. I’ve linked up some of our favorite pretend play toys that will last for years and even more are linked up here.

Arts & Crafts

Between 36-48 months old, kids are starting to develop more muscle control and coordination. They may be able to hold and manipulate things between their thumb and forefinger, begin to use safety scissors, copy simple shapes, begin to draw shapes, some letters, dress and undress with minimal help, and feed self neatly.

By providing a variety of arts and crafts activities, you are helping to build this muscle control and help with their coordination. Using an art easel helps beginning writers as they can use more gross motor movements to write, and using rock crayons can help kids move from a more immature fisted grasp to a pincer or tripod grasp. I also wrote an article about our favorite tactile sensory toys which also help build muscle strength and control and you can also learn about the basics of fine motor skills here.

Ride On Toys

Ride on toys, balance bikes, and scooters are perfect for developing gross motor muscles and coordination for 3 year old. Kids also can develop strength by pulling things, carrying, etc. which is why I also included the wagon. At this age, kids are becoming more coordinated, balanced, and by 4 many of them should be able to hop on 1 foot, jump off a step or curb, run with flat feet or along a line, kick, throw, and catch with accuracy, and even climb a small jungle gym. The nice thing about bikes, and ride on toys, etc. is it uses many muscles, motor planning, coordination, etc. all at the same time.


Playing board games with your kids can build a lot of skills and is a great way to spend quality family time together unplugged and disconnected. It helps with learning how to take turns, patience, math skills, critical thinking (thinking ahead, problem solving, making predictions), actions and consequences, teamwork, and being a good sport. It teaches kids how to follow rules, to learn from their mistakes, simple educational concepts; colors, shapes, counting, 1:1 correspondence, sequencing, matching, etc.

Dress Up

As mentioned above, pretend play is critical to your 3 year old development and there is a reason every preschool classroom has a box of dress up clothes. When children engage in dress-up play, their imaginations are given free reign. There is no limit to who, where, or what they can be. Playing dress up helps them brain build or access the file folders they have stored. To pretend to be like a doctor, they need to remember how a doctor acted, what they said, and act those details out. Dress up begins to teach empathy, and kids are literally putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. Playing dress up creates a lot of opportunities for problem solving and one of my favorite ways to join pretend play is to create a problem my daughter needs to solve. “Oh no, there are cows crossing the train tracks, how will we get through??”

stem Toys

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, but what STEM education focuses on is much more than these four subjects. ... STEM toys encourage kids to develop skills in the core disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM toys help develop cognitive skills, problem solving, increase spatial awareness, increase hand eye coordination, and can also foster teamwork, cooperation, and patience if they work together.

Outdoor Toys

At this age, kids are loving the outdoors more than anywhere else. Nowhere is better than the outdoors for running, jumping, throwing balls, catching, pulling things, lifting and carrying objects. All these actions require motor skills that improve with practice. Children get aerobic exercise and gain skills, such as pushing and pulling outdoor play equipment. Preschoolers in particular learn from their senses and no place is better for that than the outdoors. There is research to support that kids will stay at tasks much longer when they are outside so let’s go play outside!!


Studies show that kids with active exposure to language have social and educational advantages over their peers — and reading is one of the best exposures to language.Reading to toddlers sets the foundation for later independent reading. Reading help your child get to know sounds, words and language, and develop early literacy skills, they learn to value books and stories, spark your child’s imagination and stimulate curiosity and help your child’s brain, social skills and communication skills develop.A study was made in Rhode Island Hospital to compare two groups of eight months old – one group was read to often as babies, while the other was not. It was shown that those who were read to have their “receptive” vocabularies (number of words they understand) increased 40 percent since babyhood, while the non-reading group increased by only 16 percent.

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