Best Toys and Gift Ideas for 3-Year-Olds 2020

Best Toys and Gift Ideas for 3-Year-Olds 2020

A 3-year-old can be harder to shop for than you think. They’re at that odd in-between stage where baby toys are too simple and boring but toys for older children are still too complicated or too much of a choking hazard.

How do you find something that will be stimulating and engaging but not too complicated for them? In this guide, we’ll talk about how to match toys and gifts to the developmental level your toddler is at so you can make an informed choice.

If you want to skip the guide and start looking at the products, you can go straight to top 15 picks for the best toys and gift ideas for 3-year-olds.

How to Choose Toys and Gifts for 3-Year-Olds

For young children, especially toddlers, playtime is more than just a way to fight boredom. It’s a way to explore, learn, and develop the skills they will need to function as adults. Toys that are designed to help with specific areas of childhood development don’t have to be boring or “just educational.” They can also be a ton of fun.

In this section, we’ll discuss where the average 3-year-old is at in terms of cognitive, physical, and social development. We’ll also talk about which toys help improve skills in each of those areas.

Toys for Cognitive Development

By three, children are full of curiosity. They’re asking tons of questions and, especially, wondering “why” and “how” rather than just “what.” They’re also retaining a lot of the information they’re learning. They can name colors and objects. They can make comparisons. They can pretend and imagine. This is an age of rapid development and they’re eager to absorb as much new information as they can.

Memory

At this age, children are starting to remember things consciously. They’ll be able to recall details from stories and sort out their memories in time. For example, they’ll understand the difference between “this morning” and “yesterday afternoon.”

Now is the time to start introducing toys and gifts that strengthen those skills. That includes games that require memory like this set of memory matching cards. Books with longer, more detailed narratives than picture books are also a good choice.

They may not be able to read on their own yet, but they are ready to start listening to and engaging with longer, more complex stories like this choose your own adventure book.

Learning

3-year-olds are not just capable but they are very eager to learn. Their curious minds are starting to consciously observe the world around them and, naturally, they want to know more about it. By this age, they might be showing interest in particular subjects like science, math, or natural history.

Gifts and toys that teach them about a specific interest they have will be a huge hit. This interactive globe is a great example of an educational toy that would be perfect for a toddler who’s interested in exploring their world.

If you don’t know of any particular interest yet, any toy that encourages learning and exploration of ideas will appeal to their curious minds.

Creativity

They’re just as creative as they are curious. Creative activities are a way for children to work through and apply all their new knowledge. You’ll find them drawing pictures of shapes, animals, and other objects that interest them.

But they’re also developing strong imagination skills and able to create their own stories and ideas. Toys and gifts that offer more open-ended play or create opportunities for more creative engagement are ideal.

This mess-free drawing mat is a great example of something where your toddler can create freely and use their imagination. A set of blocks or a camera are also great options for encouraging and developing creativity.

Toys for Physical Development

3-year-old children are past the adorable toddler-waddle stage and now starting to walk with much more confidence and balance—and maybe just a little bit of waddle now and then. By this stage, they can throw and catch a ball, climb up and down things, balance on one foot for up to five seconds, and bend over without falling.

Their fine motor skills are also starting to develop. They unscrew jar lids, maneuver small objects like crayons and pens, and perhaps even write some letters. They can also dress and undress themselves, though they probably still need help with buttons and laces.

Motor Skills

Hand-eye coordination and dexterity are the two key motor skills that will start to appear at this age and will need some practice. Toys and gifts that require fine motor movements and coordination include toy cleaning supplies like this popular sweep and mop set or this toddler-sized basketball set.

Balance

Now that they’ve likely been walking for a little over a year, the muscles in their legs and core are strong enough to handle more complicated balancing acts. Their ready to start doing more agile physical movements so now is the time to put them in a dance class or get them involved in a sport.

A great gift to help with balance would be a balance bike like this one. It’s an ideal first bike to help them get used to the idea before they start learning how to ride an adult bike, and it will help them strengthen their ability to balance with just their core muscles rather than their core and their legs.

Coordination

The ability to coordinate different body parts or to handle multiple movements at once takes a lot of practice. Your 3-year-old will only just now be developing some basic coordination skills. Toys that require self-propelling but allow the child to sit down are ideal for this because it means they can work on coordination without also trying to keep their balance.

Now might be the time for your toddler’s first tricycle for example. They can develop the skills of both peddling and steering while enjoying the stability of training wheels. The classic Sit ‘n Spin is another great option for developing coordination without requiring too much balance.

Toys for Social Development

Your little one’s vocabulary is starting to explode by this age. They’re likely speaking around 200 to 500 words and can understand thousands. They can speak clearly, although they might still have some difficulty pronouncing more complicated words. They know their own name and age and can answer simple questions.

They are also likely starting to show affection and express a wider range of emotions. With the burst of new imagination, they may also start to show some empathy or ability to understand how their actions might affect others.

Language

With the basics of language already learned, this is the age when they start absorbing new words left and right. They will likely be experimenting with using words even when they don’t know the meaning of them. As they learn to say and understand new words, they are also ready to start learning to read and write them.

This is a great time to get them their first reading and writing workbook. At three, they’re getting closer to kindergarten and ready to be introduced to these basic skills.

It’s also the time when you can start introducing them to a new language. The earlier they start learning a new language, the better. Since they’re already eagerly collecting new words wherever they can, a dual language book like this one is a great opportunity to expose them to a new language in a fun and playful way.

Empathy

The combination of greater imagination and burgeoning social skills creates the perfect conditions for helping your little one develop strong emotional intelligence. As they get better at expressing their own feelings, you can also help them learn to recognize those feelings in others.

The best toys for teaching empathy are ones that encourage nurturing or create opportunities for making up their own stories during playtime. This vet play set is a toy that does both. As children pretend to care for sick animals, they can make up stories about how the animal is feeling and what they can do to help the animal feel better.

Baby dolls like this one also encourage empathy. Your toddler is at an age where they’re going to be mimicking you and other adults heavily. This doll is a chance to copy your parenting with a baby of their own.

Conflict Resolution and Decisions

As their empathy develops, they’ll be better equipped to understand cause and effect as well as learn how to resolve conflicts. Since these skills are all brand new and not fully developed, they’ll also likely be getting into some conflicts, especially around sharing with other children or saying hurtful things using their growing vocabulary.

The best way to deal with conflict is to create stories out of them to better understand the sequence of events and how to make decisions.

Choose your own adventure books like this one are designed specifically to help toddlers and young children start thinking through the kinds of conflicts they’ll likely encounter at their age. Books like this let them practice making decisions and then directly seeing the consequences of their decision.

Now that you’ve got a better understanding of where your toddler is at in terms of physical, cognitive, and social development, let’s take a look at our favorite toys and gift ideas for helping them further develop those skills.

For each one, you will see a “messiness rating.” The lower the number, the easier it is to clean up and the less likely it is to lead to damage like marks on the walls or broken furniture. Let’s go!

Top 15 Best Toys and Gift Ideas for 3-Year-Olds 2020

Melissa & Doug 100-Piece Wood Block Set

Why we like it: These colorful blocks are a versatile toy that encourages the development of creativity and problem-solving skills. They’re also easy to share and encourage teamwork

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: Cognitive, Physical
  • Messiness Rating: 3 of 5
  • Solo and group play

A great set of blocks is a classic item that should be in every child’s toy box. With the different colors and shapes, your 3-year-old will have lots of opportunities to learn and get creative. They’ll be able to keep themselves occupied for hours!

Material & Construction

Each block is made of solid wood with edges that have been rounded off and smoothed. The result is a lightweight but durable block that won’t hurt your toddler if they grip it too tight or try to chew on it.

The set includes nine different shapes and four different colors, all of which are non-toxic and chip-resistant. So, again, safe to chew on if the mood strikes!

The only drawback of the construction is the size of the blocks. While they are large enough that your little one won’t accidentally choke on them, they are still on the smaller side. This can make clean up a little tedious and increase the chances of accidentally stepping on the pointy end of a pyramid when you aren’t looking.

If you’d rather avoid stepping on blocks, this doodle mat offers similar creative development opportunities.

Skill Development

Blocks are a great tool for developing fine motor skills and coordination. Your toddler will need those skills in order to stack blocks on top of each other to build towers. That building process also requires cognitive skills like planning ahead, problem-solving, and learning.

You can also use this playtime as constructive learning time by teaching them the names of the different shapes and colors as well as teaching counting and sorting. For example, ask your toddler to make a pile of just the green blocks or to count how many rectangles there are.

Fun Factor

Blocks allow for a lot of creativity and innovation during playtime. They are a very open-ended toy, which means your child can make up their own rules as they go. This is a great way to counterbalance the comparatively rigid structure of the games they play on a tablet or phone. They’ll learn to think more independently and to cultivate their imagination.

Another advantage of blocks is their shareability. If you’ve got more than one toddler on your hands, you know how important it is to have toys that they can use at the same time or toys that encourage collaboration. While 3-year-olds can find any number of reasons to fight with each other, there is at least an opportunity to share this set of 100 blocks!

Pros

  • Quality solid wood construction
  • Multiple educational opportunities
  • Open-ended gameplay that encourages imagination and independence
  • A highly shareable toy that’s great for families with more than one child

Cons

  • Lots of small pieces can be hard to clean and easy to accidentally step on

2. Best for Building Good Habits: Melissa & Doug Dust! Sweep! Mop!

Melissa & Doug Dust! Sweep! Mop!

Why we like it: These toy cleaning supplies are a huge hit among toddlers and have the added perk of being actually functional – so your little one really can help out!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: Physical
  • Messiness Rating: 1 of 5
  • Solo and group play

Lots of adults are surprised at just how wildly popular this set of toy cleaning supplies is among toddlers, but it’s really no mystery. At this age, children are just now developing the coordination and cognitive ability to mimic the adults around them. This set of cleaning supplies lets them feel like real adults who are genuinely helping out around the house!

Material & Construction

The set comes with a mop, sponge, broom, brush and dustpan. All of these are built to be lightweight and small enough for your 3-year-old to use, but they are also functional items. You might even find yourself reaching for the brush and dustpan to clean up small messes now and again!

There is one drawback to the construction of the mop that should be noted. The hard plastic disc that pins the rope of the mop to the handle has hard edges and a screw. These could damage wood floors if your kid gets too aggressive with the mopping. It’s safe for tile, laminate, or other types of floor, though.

If you have hardwood floors and don’t want to take the risk, this vet play set develops similar coordination skills without the risk of damaging your floors.

Skill Development

Since the toy supplies are functional, your toddler can start learning how to do chores with this toy set. Beyond those practical life skills, they will also develop better coordination, fine motor skills, and balance.

Plus, turning chores into a fun playtime activity will pay off down the road. Since they build up fond memories of pretending to help out, household chores are more likely to feel rewarding and gratifying as they get older!

Fun Factor

Your toddler will love pretending to be an adult and feeling like they really are pitching in on the chores! And when they’re not using it to pretend clean up the house, they can dance around with a mop or treat the stand like a microphone.

Pros

  • No small pieces to choke on or lose
  • Easy to store
  • Shareable set for families with multiple children
  • Cleaning supplies are semi-functional

Cons

  • The center ring holding the mop together can potentially scratch wood floors

3. Best for Multi-Child Families: Little Tikes Easy Score Basketball Set

Little Tikes Easy Score Basketball Set

Why we like it: Basketball is a great sport for developing motor skills and coordination. This toddler-sized set will get them up and moving without wreaking havoc on the house!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: Physical
  • Messiness Rating: 1 of 5
  • Solo and group play

This miniature basketball set is compact and safe enough for indoor or outdoor use. It’s a great way to get them off the couch while developing important physical skills at the same time. The set is also easy to share and ideal for families with multiple children.

Material & Construction

The soft plastic hoop comes with an adjustable stand to shorten it to as low as 2 ½ feet, or raise it up to as high as 4 feet. So, your child can get a few years of play time out of this toy. The set also includes three lightweight plastic basketballs that are the perfect size and weight for a toddler.

You should note, however, that you need to fill the base with sand when you first get it. If you skip this step, the base is too light to support the structure. It can topple over easily. It’s not a danger to your child’s safety but it does mean a lot of time spent standing it back upright again.

If you’d prefer something that doesn’t require buying extra parts, check out the Playskool Sit ‘n Spin which comes with everything you need to start playing.

Skill Development

This basketball hoop is perfect for developing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Your kids can either go in for a slam dunk in the wide hoop or stand back and work on their aim and throwing abilities.

Fun Factor

Basketball is a lot of fun and a great way for toddlers to get some healthy physical activity into their day, even if they can’t go outside and play. When they don’t feel like throwing the ball into the hoop, they can also play catch or roll the balls around the floor.

You can also use the adjustable height to change up the difficulty level. This will prevent the toy from becoming so easy to use that it gets boring.

Pros

  • Lightweight and no sharp edges make it safe for babies and toddlers
  • Includes three balls for easy shareability
  • Adjustable height to grow as your child grows
  • Kid-friendly extra wide hoop

Cons

  • Must fill the base with sand (not included) to keep the structure stable

4. Best for Language Skills: Leap Frog Learning Friends 100 Word Book

Leap Frog Learning Friends 100 Word Book

Why we like it: This engaging little book helps your toddler strengthen their vocabulary and communication skills in both English and Spanish!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: Cognitive, Social
  • Messiness Rating: 1 of 5
  • Solo play

This interactive dual-language book is designed to keep your little learner occupied for hours. They’ll enjoy the bright colors, fun pictures, and the variety of sounds and settings that make learning a language fun.

Material & Construction

The plastic base houses the speaker and other electrical pieces that make this little book work. The plastic case also protects it from damage, making it resistant to toddler drool or juice spills. The pages of the book are equally resilient.

While the pages aren’t plastic, they are a durable cardboard with a sleek matte finish that can withstand all the wear and tear that a toddler will put it through. Each page is designed to be responsive to touch. When they touch a picture, the book will say the word for that picture.

The built-in speaker has an adjustable volume setting. However, even at the lowest setting, this toy might be a little disruptive if your toddler is using it while you’re trying to watch TV or get work done. If you’d rather not have something so noisy in your house, you might prefer the My First Learn to Write Workbook which is noise-free but still helps your child develop some language skills, although no foreign language ones.

Skill Development

This dual language book is primarily intended to develop your child’s language skills, in both English and Spanish. By regularly playing with it, your little one could learn their first 100 words in a foreign language before they even reach kindergarten!

Fun Factor

There are three different play modes and two language settings. For each language, you can choose the read-aloud mode that says the names of the objects or animals. Once you’ve gone through all the names, switch it to the sound effects mode to hear what sounds are associated with the picture.

Then, after your child has learned the names and sounds, they can go to the fun facts mode to learn more information about each picture. All in all, you’ve got 100 words in two languages and three informative play modes. Your child will be absorbed in this book for hours.

Pros

  • Dual-language book to learn both English and Spanish
  • Lots of bright colors, lights, and sounds to keep your toddler’s attention
  • No small or separate parts that can be lost
  • Responsive pages will register even the lightest touch of your toddler’s hand on the page

Cons

  • The volume is on the louder side

Orchard Toys Farmyard Heads and Tails

Why we like it: Your child will be strengthening their memory skills while having fun creating pictures by matching up the different halves!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: Cognitive
  • Messiness Rating: 4 of 5
  • Solo or group play

This fun twist on the classic memory matching game was specifically designed with toddlers in mind. The cards are large, thick cardboard and the pictures are bright and fun so your little one stays engaged and interested in the game.

Material & Construction

Unlike other matching card game sets out there, this one comes with heavy-duty cards that are ready for all the drool, spills, and general beating they’re going to get from their 3-year-old owner.

The large size also makes it easier for your toddler to see and notice details in the picture. As a bonus, it also means they’re too large to accidentally swallow or choke on. Their water-resistant glossy surfaces also make them easy to clean.

The key drawback to this game is that 3-year-olds are prone to misplacing cards and if you lose one card, its matching half no longer has a pair so you can’t use it in the game. For a gift with fewer pieces to lose, check out this interactive globe, which also develops cognitive skills.

Skill Development

This game is mainly designed to strengthen children’s memory and deductive reasoning skills. Not only will they need to remember where the heads and tails of different animals are, but they also need to recognize which heads match which tails.

Fun Factor

Toddlers will enjoy the fun of hunting for the right head and tail matches. When you flip the cards over, it becomes a memory game where your little one has to remember the location of different heads and tails in order to get the matches.

But if they just want to have fun, they can get creative by putting together some franken-animals of their own making. Let them name their new half-cow, half-goat creation and come up with a story about it!

Pros

  • Large, durable construction
  • Fun, farm-themed images to keep children interested
  • Stain-resistant and easy to clean surface

Cons

  • Lots of cards that are easily misplaced by a toddler

Melissa & Doug Pet Vet Play Set

Why we like it: This toy encourages nurturing and empathy and might inspire your little one to explore a career in medicine!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: Cognitive, Social
  • Messiness Rating: 3 of 5
  • Solo or group play

This vet play set comes complete with two stuffed animal patients to get your toddler’s veterinary practice started. Soon enough they’ll be treating all their toys, and probably even the household pets!

Material & Construction

This set comes with 24 pieces, including a large storage bag and two stuffed animals. The medical equipment pieces are all large enough to be safely used by a toddler without any choking risk.

Fortunately, even though there are lots of small pieces, the set is still fully functional even if a piece or two goes missing. However, if you don’t want to keep cleaning up your child’s medical equipment, consider [ANCHOR TO #11”-Soft-Body-Doll-in-Gift-Box]this baby doll.[END LINK] It will teach similar social and cognitive skills without any tedious clean up on your part.

Skill Development

This vet play set encourages your children to develop their imagination and critical thinking skills as they create their own scenarios and come up with solutions and treatments for the illnesses and injuries they make up.

Because the set encourages caring for animals, it also teaches empathy and compassion – as children learn through play that others in the world have feelings and need help sometimes.

Fun Factor

Since children love mimicking adults, the chance to play pretend vet will be lots of fun for your toddler. It also encourages imagination and provides open-ended play opportunities. That not only makes the toy itself more fun, but it strengthens their ability to keep themselves entertained in the future.

Pros

  • Complete, 24-piece vet set with carrying case and two stuffed animals
  • Set is still functional, even if a couple pieces get lost
  • Open-ended, creative play
  • Easy to share or play together with the same set

Cons

  • Small parts that can be tedious to clean up

7. Best for Nurturing Creativity: Jasonwell Aqua Magic Doodle Mat

Jasonwell Aqua Magic Doodle Mat

Why we like it: This erasable and inkless drawing mat lets your child draw as much as they want without all the mess that comes with a traditional coloring set!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: Cognitive
  • Messiness Rating: 2 of 5
  • Solo or group play

This doodle mat provides all the fun and creativity of drawing without the clean-up. The erasable mat can be laid out on the floor or mounted to a wall and the set comes with ink-free markers, stamps, and other fun accessories for hours of fun with drawing.

Material & Construction

What makes this doodle mat so cool is that you don’t need to keep buying fresh paper or markers. The mat self-erases and there’s no ink involved. Instead, the mat itself has layers of color underneath the surface.

Your child uses the special “magic” marker, stamp, or other accessory to draw on the surface. The clean water inside the marker will make the colors below the surface visible. After 3-10 minutes, the image disappears all on its own.

If they get carried away with the marker and run off the surface of the mat, there’s no harm done. The marker only has water in it.

However, because it’s water-based, you do want to take care to dry it out after any excessive use, such as toddlers deciding to find out what happens if you just dump a bunch of water on it. If you don’t air it out properly, it may develop mold which is not safe.

For a toy with no risk of mold but still offering a boost of creative inspiration, consider this toddler-proof digital camera.

Skill Development

Your child can use this mat to strengthen their creative and imaginative skills by drawing whatever their minds come up with. But it can also be used as an educational tool. Along the border of the mat, you’ll see traceable letters that they can use to practice writing.

Fun Factor

This mat offers all the fun of free form drawing and adds that wow factor of the “magic” disappearing ink. Mount it to the wall and let your toddler get carried away creating masterpieces.

Pros

  • Completely mess-free drawing
  • Strengthens creativity and imagination
  • Works as an educational tool

Cons

  • Risk of mold

8. Best Outdoor Toy: Schwinn Roadster Kids Tricycle

Schwinn Roadster Kids Tricycle

Why we like it: This iconic red tricycle is the perfect choice for your child’s first set of wheels!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: physical
  • Messiness Rating: 1 of 5
  • Solo play

This sleek and stylish bicycle is the perfect way to get your little one familiar with the art of peddling and steering, in preparation for the day they’re old enough to ride a bicycle. This model from Schwinn is durable enough to be handed down through the generations.

Material & Construction

The retro frame is made of solid steel with a sculpted bucket seat that you can adjust forward or backward to adapt to your child’s height. The deck on the back is made of wood and is strong enough for a second passenger. It’s also ideal for transporting their stuffed animals, toys, or even a picnic basket.

While every piece is made from quality materials that are built to last, buyers should beware that the tricycle arrives in separate pieces. You will need to assemble it when you get it. The instructions are clear but if you miss a step or overlook something, you might end up with a tricycle that isn’t safe or ridable.

If you’d like to get a bike with much less assembly required, check out the Retrospec balance bike.

Skill Development

Tricycles are great for helping children develop coordination, strength, and motor skills with a low risk of injury. The adjustable seat means they’ll be able to practice these skills for years before they outgrow the bike.

Fun Factor

This tricycle lets your child feel grown-up and independent thanks to the classic style that looks like a “grown-up” bike and the fact that they can operate it all on their own. Getting a tricycle also encourages them to develop active, healthy hobbies and get outside and away from their screens.

Pros

  • Classic, retro style
  • Quality steel and wood construction
  • Ideal for developing motor skills and coordination
  • Great way to get your toddler away from screens

Cons

  • Assembly required

9. Best for Critical Thinking Skills: What Should Danny Do? (Power to Choose Series)

What Should Danny Do? (Power to Choose Series)

Why we like it: Your toddler will love the real-world scenarios relevant to their own life and the ability to create different stories each time they read the book!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: Social, Cognitive
  • Messiness Rating: 1 of 5
  • Solo play

This choose your own adventure book tackles important themes in a fun and engaging way that will not only nurture a love of reading but also help with social skills. If your little one enjoys this book, there’s a whole Power to Choose collection that you can get to keep them excited and engaged.

Material & Construction

The hardcover book has standard paper pages so it’s not very resistant to stains or damage. Also, younger toddlers who still have difficulty with the motor skills required to turn pages will need assistance. However, since you will likely be reading this book to them anyway, those shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

However, if you want a book they can use on their own, you might prefer the Leap Frog 100 words book which has thicker pages and an interactive, audio read-aloud feature that is toddler-friendly.

Skill Development

Throughout the story, the main character, Danny, confronts a variety of real-world issues that will be relevant to your toddler. For example, in one scene, Danny’s little brother uses Danny’s favorite plate for lunch.

The reader, then, gets to make a choice. Should Danny just enjoy his lunch and let his brother use the plate or should he demand to get his favorite plate? Your toddler will get to make the decision and change the course of the story based on their decision, learning valuable social skills along the way.

Fun Factor

The interactive nature of the book will keep your toddler fully engaged and excited to be a participant in the story. And since the story changes depending on what your little one chooses, it’ll be a new story every time you read it!

Pros

  • Interactive storytelling keeps children engaged
  • The choices presented to readers help teach social skills
  • Ability to tell a new story with each read-through

Cons

  • Easily damaged by toddlers

10. Best for Social Skills: 11” Soft Body Doll in Gift Box

11” Soft Body Doll in Gift Box

Why we like it: Baby dolls are the perfect way to encourage empathy in young children and the soft body makes it easy to carry and snuggle with!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: Social
  • Messiness Rating: 1 of 5
  • Solo play

Baby dolls are a classic toy that children across generations have loved and this soft body model from the New York Doll collection is a great pick for your toddler’s first baby doll. It’s great for both boys and girls and helps teach empathy and build social skills.

Material & Construction

The 11-inch body includes a soft vinyl head, arms, and legs that are molded into realistic baby-like features. The torso is a fabric casing stuffed with fluff to make it soft. The 11-inch size is slightly shorter than standard doll sizes, making it great for toddlers who might struggle to carry a full-size doll around.

The little onesie the doll comes in is also removable and the whole doll is machine-washable so you can throw it in with your laundry. The vinyl parts can also be wiped down easily if they get dirty.

Households with younger children or pets should be careful with the included pacifier, however. It’s very small and could pose a choking hazard. It’s easy enough to remove the pacifier and keep it stored in a drawer or just toss it away.

If you’d rather just get a toy with no choking hazards, consider getting this book which also teaches valuable social skills but has no small parts to accidentally choke on.

Skill Development

Dolls are ideal for teaching social skills like empathy, compassion, and language. Toddlers can practice talking to it and taking care of it. Plus, the outfit is removable so they’ll also be able to work on their fine motor skills by dressing and undressing the doll.

Fun Factor

Dolls are perfect for open-ended and imaginative play. Your child will never tire of coming up with different scenarios and talking to their new baby doll. The doll can also help decrease anxiety at night. If your child struggles to sleep at night, cuddling up with this baby doll can make bedtime a little less scary.

Pros

  • Quality, toddler-safe construction
  • Easy to wash
  • Ideal for teaching social skills
  • Great size for toddlers to carry easily

Cons

  • Pacifier is a potential choking hazard

11. Best for Improving Balance: Retrospec Cub Kids Balance Bike

Retrospec Cub Kids Balance Bike

Why we like it: Toddlers will love darting around on this balance bike that is safe for both indoor and outdoor play!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: Physical
  • Messiness Rating: 1 of 5
  • Solo play

This balance bike from Retrospec is ideal for helping toddlers improve balance and coordination. It can be used both indoors and out so your little one can safely explore their surroundings while improving their strength and agility.

Material & Construction

The lightweight frame comes with an adjustable seat and handlebars. While there is a lot of plastic and thin steel parts, it’s durable enough to handle anything your toddler could put it through. It may not last long enough to be handed down to later generations but it will certainly hold up until your toddler is big enough for their first real bicycle!

One potential drawback in the design is the plastic tires. Although the advantage is that they are air-free which means no risk of flat tires, the trade-off is that they tend to get worn down if they’re used on rocky terrain or gravel roads. They do much better on smooth sidewalks, lawns, or inside the house.

If you would like a bike with genuine tires that can withstand rougher terrain, you might want to go for this classic Schwinn tricycle.

Skill Development

As the name implies, a balance bike is designed to help toddlers improve their balance. They can do this safely and at their own skill level thanks to the bike seat and the lack of peddles. This makes it a pushbike, which means it will never go faster than what your toddler can handle.

They can roam around as quickly or as slowly as they please and gradually build up their balance and coordination skills while they do!

Fun Factor

Kids will love cruising around on this push bicycle. The two-wheel design will make them feel like they’ve got a real, adult bicycle. Meanwhile, the compact size and push-operation means they can safely use it indoors as well since there’s little risk of crashing into furniture.

Pros

  • Adjustable seat and handlebars mean the bike grows with your toddler
  • Peddle-free, push design is safe for toddlers of all skill levels
  • Great way to improve balance and coordination
  • Lightweight design is easy for little ones to push and maneuver

Cons

  • Plastic wheels may chip or crack on rough terrain

12. Most Realistic Toy: Vtech KidiZoom Camera Pix

Vtech KidiZoom Camera Pix

Why we like it: Foster creativity and exploration in your children with this safe-for-toddlers camera that takes real digital pictures!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: Cognitive, Social, Physical
  • Messiness Rating: 1 of 5
  • Solo play

This soft-casing camera takes real digital pictures and comes with some toddler-friendly photo-editing software so they can play around with their pictures and get really creative. This is a great way to get your kid away from screens while still allowing them to develop some tech-savvy skills and encourage creativity.

Material & Construction

This real 2.0 megapixel digital camera comes inside a plastic casing that makes it durable enough to withstand being dropped or tossed around. It also includes built-in memory and a micro-SD slot if you want to add more memory to it. Overall, it’s built to be a great first camera for the budding photographer in your family.

The photo quality is certainly not crystal clear or top of the line. It is a toddler’s toy, after all. Most kids will likely not notice the image quality. If you happen to have a very tech-savvy toddler on your hands who would notice the quality, they might prefer this augmented reality globe, which also encourages exploration but offers high-quality tech and cartoon graphics.

Skill Development

Cameras encourage both creativity and exploration as your toddler wanders the world around them and captures moments on film. Operating the buttons and aiming the camera also help improve fine motor skills. Overall, it’s a well-rounded toy that will help with a range of cognitive, physical, and even social skills.

Fun Factor

Your little one will have tons of fun taking pictures of the people and things around them. Plus, when you go on a trip, they’ll have their very own camera to capture the moments that are most special to them. It’s a fun, creative toy that also happens to be an actually functional camera.

Pros

  • Toddler-safe plastic casing makes this a long-lasting toy
  • Real, functional camera
  • Includes child-friendly photo editing software
  • Built-in memory and optional memory expansion
  • Great for developing a full range of cognitive, physical, and social skills

Cons

  • Low image quality on the pictures

Shifu Orboot Augmented Reality Interactive Globe for Kids

Why we like it: Nurture that natural curiosity and sense of wonder by allowing your little one to learn about the world they live in!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: Cognitive
  • Messiness Rating: 1 of 5
  • Solo play

This geographically accurate globe works with your smartphone or tablet to create an augmented reality experience that will fascinate your toddler. They’ll learn about geography, wildlife, and cultures around the world.

Material & Construction

The 10-inch globe is mounted to a stand that allows your little one to rotate it like a real globe.  The set also comes with a passport, stickers, and stamp so your toddler can feel like a true globe trotter.

The augmented reality app is free to download and there are no in-app purchases required. It’s truly free with the purchase of the globe. It’s compatible with both iOS and Android. Apple devices that are 5th generation or later and Android devices with 3GB or more of RAM can handle the augmented reality app just fine.

Skill Development

This is a highly educational toy that will never for a moment feel like boring study time. With the augmented reality, your toddler can explore the geography, animals, food, and cultures of all the regions of the world. It even teaches other skills and crafts like origami. If skill development and education are your top priorities, then this is the toy to go with.

Fun Factor

The interactive and engaging augmented reality makes this high-tech toy a completely immersive experience. Your toddler will spend hours exploring the different continents and learning tons of fascinating facts about the world.

For parents concerned that their toddler is spending too much time with screens, this globe might not be the best choice. Without the augmented reality app, it’s not much more than a colorful decorative piece. So if you’d prefer an educational gift that gives your kids a break from looking at screens, consider this memory matching game. It also develops cognitive skills and can be used to teach children, all without any screens.

Pros

  • A highly educational toy
  • Interactive and immersive play experience
  • Encourages curiosity and exploration

Cons

  • Requires a smartphone or tablet which won’t help if you want to cut back on screen time

14. Safest Indoor Exercise: Playskool Sit ‘n Spin

Playskool Sit ‘n Spin

Why we like it: This sit ‘n spin is the perfect way for your toddler to let out pent up energy without destroying the house when they aren’t able to go outside!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: Physical
  • Messiness Rating: 1 of 5
  • Solo play

This sit ‘n spin from Playskool is an exhilarating way to get some exercise into your child’s routine, even if they can’t get outside. It’s safe for your child and compact enough that it won’t clutter up your home.

Material & Construction

This toy is all plastic with no sharp edges or small components that could injure your little one or present a choking hazard. It’s durable enough to support up to 42 pounds of weight. Although you can likely get away with a higher weight limit, you’ll sacrifice some speed on the spin. There’s little risk of breaking the toy.

Skill Development

Operating the toy helps develop balance and coordination. Your toddler has to hold their torso upright against the momentum of the spinning and use their hands to propel themselves with the wheel at the center.

It’s great for developing these physical skills as well as just giving your kid a break from screens or more stationary forms of play. They’ll get up and active even if they can’t go out or don’t want to go outside.

Fun Factor

Sit ‘n spins have been around for nearly a century. They’ve endured the test of time because it’s just plain fun for kids to spin around as fast as their little arms can spin until they get dizzy. It’s all about the simple pleasures, after all.

The main downside is that it’s only really suited for one child at a time. If you’re in a multi-family home, you might have to deal with some fighting over taking turns if you don’t get one for all the toddlers in the house.

For a more shareable toy that still gets your kids off the couch and active, check out this basketball set that’s also safe for indoor use.

Pros

  • Great for balance and coordination skills
  • Provides an opportunity for safe indoor exercise
  • Durable and child-safe construction

Cons

  • Not suited for more than one kid at a time

15. Best for Academic Prep: My First Learn to Write Workbook

My First Learn to Write Workbook

Why we like it: This large workbook prepares your toddler for preschool and nurtures their desire to learn!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Skills developed: Cognitive
  • Messiness Rating: 2 of 5
  • Solo play

This workbook is designed to teach your toddler how to read, write, count, and do tons of other things that they’ll need to do when they start going to school. It’s the perfect way to get them excited about school and give them a bit of a head start before they get there.

Material & Construction

This is a jumbo-sized workbook with large print and colorful designs to keep your toddler’s attention. It’s not built to withstand long-term wear and tear like those board books you sometimes find for toddlers. However, it’s a one-time use workbook so it doesn’t really need to be durable.

Skill Development

This workbook was designed for kids between the ages of three and five as a way to give them a head start on the key skills they will need as they enter kindergarten. It includes exercises to help start the processes of learning to read, write, and count.

Above all, they’ll be developing core fine motor skills like line tracing and pen control. They’ll also be developing a familiarity with the kinds of worksheets they’re likely to see when they start school.

Fun Factor

You might be skeptical about a gift with the word “workbook” in it. But, trust us, toddlers will really enjoy practicing these important academic skills. At three years old, your toddler is probably eagerly awaiting the day they can start kindergarten and join all the “big kids” who go to school.

With this workbook, they can feel like a big kid and start early on the important skills they will need to succeed once they do start school.

The main downside of this workbook is that it doesn’t have erasable pages. Once your child has gone through all the pages, it’s done. So, there is a short life span on this gift. If you want something that your toddler can get much more use out of, check out this set of blocks. They also help develop a range of cognitive skills but they’re fully reusable and provide more open-ended play.

Pros

  • Teaches essential reading and writing skills
  • Great prep for kindergarten
  • Packed with engaging exercises that are tailored to a 3-year-old’s skill level

Cons

  • Not reusable

Final Word

It can be a struggle identifying toys that are appropriate for your little one’s current developmental stage. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the best toys and gift ideas for 3-year-olds. They strike that ideal balance of being challenging enough to stimulate their young minds but not so difficult that they’ll become frustrated and give up.

As you shop for your toddler, you might think about what developmental area your child might need a little extra help in. Maybe they’re talking a mile a minute but their hand-eye coordination is a little weak. In that case, this basketball set or another fun toddler-sized sport set can help them improve coordination and motor skills.

If their coordination is great but they’re struggling to empathize and understand how their actions affect others, toys that encourage nurturing and caring for others, like this vet set or this doll can be a great way to help them develop those important social skills.

Above all else, these gifts are fun. They’ll get hours of joy out of every one, and you’ll get the same pleasure watching them – or maybe even participating yourself! Enjoy finding a gift for your little one.