As the tiny person in your life continues to grow and develop their skills, you might be wondering what kind of gift is appropriate for 3-year old boys and girls. Not a baby anymore and moving towards pre-school, 3-year-olds are active, communicative, and headstrong. They are learning to engage more meaningfully with a wider variety of people as well as flex their cognitive skills. What kind of gifts will help them learn to co-exist in the larger community and exercise their creative spirit (and also help them burn energy because, YIKES)? Toys & gifts for toddlers is not just mom gear, think toddler puzzles, stem toys and and educational toys for the 3 year olds.
Rashelle Chase, an early childhood educator, and KinderCare team member explains that 3-year-olds “learn the best through play, and optimal learning happens when children are relaxed, engaged, and having fun.” Gifts for the 3-year-old in your life should help them build foundational skills, Chase says. She recommends gifts that are open-ended like blocks, Play-Dough, and dramatic play materials as well as cooperative toys for building social skills and trikes and bikes for working on gross motor skills.
With all these recommendations in mind, Scary Mommy has curated the best gifts and toys for the 3-year-old in your life. These 3 year old birthday gifts can not be beat!
Dramatic Play Materials for Toddlers
“Maybe it’s one of Dad’s old shirts or perhaps it’s a favorite costume, but dress up and make-believe never go out of style. Combined with materials like play food and kitchens, dolls and stuffed animals, children can have a great time acting out endless scenarios,” Chase explains.
Forget the lemonade stand, your little one wants to open up their own food truck. Let your tiny chef do it all with this food truck playset that comes with 20 removable pieces. With its two sides of interactive play, this playset has everything your child needs to take on the lunch rush. Greet customers, work the magical cash register that can read all the menus, prep orders on the light-up grill, and more. Through Smart Stages, this playset comes with three levels of learning so that the set can grow with your child. In stage one, your toddler can explore hands-on fun like the light-up grill, bell and more. They’ll love hearing their food truck talk back to them. In level two, your child will be prompted to find things on the truck introducing them to sizing and sequence. Finally, level three introduces pretend play and encourages them to use their imagination to take pretend orders and ‘cash out’ their customers. Make sure you stop by this food truck on your lunch break, I hear they have really tasty food. Don’t forget to rate them on Yelp.
Forget those old school registers, this upgraded point-of-sale system is perfect for sliding in education with fun pretend play. Count on big fun with this magic register that counts, talks, and sings. It even comes with 20 items to be purchased at checkout. Ideal for toddlers ages 2 to 4, this cash register combines counting and imaginative role play with a register that comes to life with more than 50 fun phrases and educational songs that are sure to get stuck in your head, too. Shop for milk or eggs. Scan carrots. Insert the correct amount of coins or swipe your card to pay with debit or credit — no Apple Pay available. The total button tells you how many coins to put into the coin slot. The total set includes the cash register, 8 colorful food pieces, 10 coins, and a shopping card. Don’t forget to grab your reusable shopping bag before shopping at this store.
Do you have a sick stuffed animal? They might need to visit the Vet. This portable animal clinic turns your tiny tot into a Vet that’s able to make housecalls in order to heal the sick teddys and toy animals everywhere. Through imaginative play, your child will develop empathy and social skills. This set comes with 15 pieces including 1 plush puppy patient, 1 puppy crate, 1 stethoscope, 1 brush, 1 syringe, 1 thermometer, 1 food bowl for the patient, 1 medical tray, 1 pair of tongs, 1 mirror, 1 hammer, 1 blood pressure cuff, 1 pair of scissors, 1 ear examiner and 1 pair of tweezers — everything your child needs to give their toys a little TLC. There’s even a little carrying case for your four-legged friend, and everything fits inside the case to make this toy perfect to take on-the-go. The doctor will see the next patient now.
Does your toddler always try to sneak a sip of your vanilla latte? Kids always want what they can’t have but now, they can — at least they can pretend. This Melissa & Doug realistic wooden coffee maker set comes with a coffee maker, 2 coffee mugs, 3 coffee pods, sugar, creamer, a spoon, ice cube, and a menu card. The set encourages imaginative and open-ended play. The play coffee maker features lids that open and close and a dial that can turn to indicate size settings. Ideal for ages 3 to 6, now your child can add this pretend play to their morning routine. There’s nothing like a cup of Joe while watching your morning cartoons, or so I’ve heard. One happy customer said, “I bought this on a whim for my three-year-old for Christmas, based on all the five-star reviews. It kept her and my two-year-old nephew entertained for HOURS on Christmas day. (Don’t even ask me how many cups of coffee they made for us!) At first, I thought it might not have enough bells and whistles, but I think the simple design makes it easy to play with and fosters more independent play. Another hit from Melissa & Doug!!”
Cooperative Toys and Board Games for Toddlers
“Cooperative toys and games help children develop social-emotional and executive function skills like taking turns, sharing, and cooperation,” says Chase. “Board games, memory games, and simple card games help children develop their working memory, math, and fine-motor skills.”
This matching game promotes visual recognition and memory skills. It’s the perfect pre-school set with large, fun-shaped pieces, ideal for little hands. Match 24 cards to make 12 pairs of sparkly ice pops. This matching game helps your toddler increase their visual recognition and memory skills. Designed with the health of the children and planet in mind, this matching game is made with recycled paper printed with non-toxic environmentally friendly vegetable-based inks, just in case you have a kid that puts everything in their mouth. Be warned, playing this memory game may give your little one a sweet tooth. Who can resist ice cream? One reviewer said, “I used these as a party favor for my son’s party (as a means to avoid plastic). The game is extremely good quality, the box holds the perfect amount of pieces for a three-year-old to remember and the perfect size and weight for them to handle.”
This Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Toddler & Preschool Board Game is easy to understand and play. The game reinforces color learning, develops matching skills, strategic thinking, sharing and turn-taking, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills. There’s a lot of learning packed in one game, it’s no wonder that this game has won multiple awards including Parents’ Choice Award and Good Housekeeping Best Toy. So how do you play? Your hungry forest pals need help to find their acorns. Spin the spinner and pick up the matching acorn with your squirrel squeezer, placing it in your log. The first to collect 5 acorns, wins. “Great board game to initiate young players to the turns and rules, as it moves fast and it has very few rules. The aim of the game is to collect 5 acorns of the 5 different colors. Spinning the wheel allows to add a color acorn to one’s collection, picking one or two acorn of the color of one’s choice, stealing an acorn from another player (the children love the mischievous part of this) or lose everything in a storm. It flows easily and fast,” said one reviewer.
Old MacDonald had a farm but he didn’t have this Uno game. It’s the preschool version of the beloved Uno card game. The animals are out to play. Time to round up the cows, pigs, skunks, chicken, dogs, sheep, and farmer characters by their type or colors. When you’re down to one animal, shout “UNO Moooooooo!” One happy customer said, “My kids 2, 5 & 7 all enjoy this game. Great intro to the real Uno game, learning colors, animals, etc. I did notice that they got rid of the little brown fences that used to keep your pieces hidden from other players, so that is kind of a drawback when playing with the older kids (who cheat & look at your pieces before playing). But, what else is new? Everyone is making everything cheaper and with less pieces these days.” Your little one will grow up loving UNO just as much as you do. In a few years, they can graduate to the card game — that’s when things get real.
This nostalgic toy is back to entertain a new generation. Toss the colored balls into Mr. Bucket as he spins around on the floor spitting the balls back out! It’s a classic fun action game that will keep your little ones up and moving. With barely any instructions, kids can start playing almost immediately after popping open the box. Perfect for 3-year-olds and older. Even better, you can have up to 4 players which makes it a great group activity for playdates while promoting color matching and developing fine and gross motor skills. “My 3 year old loved it, even me. It’s a good physical exercise for kids as it rotates in all directions. playing this game includes running, jumping in order to collect the ball, that’s what a kid wants to do, especially during winters when there is not many indoor activities are there. I would highly recommend this game,” said one satisfied customer.
Stem Toys for Toddlers
“Trikes, balance bikes, scooters, and balls give children an opportunity to burn off energy while refining their gross motor skills by pedaling, balancing, negotiating space, as well as exercising hand-eye coordination,” Chase says.
Does your toddler have a green thumb? Well, do they like to play in the dirt? That’s close enough. This Little Tikes Go Green Cozy Truck offers a cool ride and pretend play activity for your little one. Kid or parent powered, this truck is easy to steer with front tires that spin 360 degrees which makes steering a breeze. Parents can push the kids around or remove the floorboard so the kids can scoot themselves. The truck comes with a drop-down tailgate, a removable trailer for extra storage, and a built-in tool rack. The best part is that this toy is made from 100% recycled plastic and can be recycled again when your toddler is done with it. There’s even cupholders to hold a few juice boxes or snacks. You’ve been looking for someone to gather up the leaves in the front yard, have your mini do it with their rake and shovel. Hopefully, they won’t charge you an arm and a leg.
Micro Mini’s 3in1 Deluxe offers three rides in one box that supports toddlers and small children as they master balance and coordination. This lightweight gift is perfect for young children and grow with them as they grow (up to 75lbs). The scooter is built with non-marking wheels so it can be used indoors and out. The first stage of this scooter comes with a ride-on seat. Next, you can remove the seat for a stand-on scooter with a short O-bar. At the last stage, replace the O-bar with the T-bar to convert the scooter to the original Micro Mini Scooter. Minimal assembly is required (thank God). Simply attach the seat with the Allen key and you’re ready to ride! The scooter is available in all sorts of colors so if you have multiple children, they can each have their own unique scooter, so no one has to fight over which one belongs to whom. Perfect for strolls around the block or along the waterfront — this toy is a nice investment.
Your little BMX rider will love this Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike. This bike is designed for toddler boys and girls to have a bike they can grow with as they get older. The seat and handlebar heights adjust to accommodate the size of your child. Children as young as one can experience the thrill of riding without using training wheels. The mini grips are designed with tiny hands in mind so your child can easily take control of their ride. This bike gives your tot a taste of freedom, power, and responsibility. Now, all you have to do is keep up! Mama Rosa said, “This should be every child’s 1st bike. This is our 2nd bike. My 3-year-old son road his first bike very hard daily. That’s 9 months heavy use. The wheels bearings wore out as to be expected with such heavy use. I chose to replace the bike instead of replacing just the wheels. Bike 2 was also ridden very hard. Wheel bearings also lasted for about 9 months. My son got a new bike but still would rather ride his old bike with wobble wheel. A+++”
One down, five more to go? Check out our other mom curated gift guides by age.