The Best Toys for a 3 Year Old


Three-year-olds are active, exploratory and hungry for excitement. With so many toys available, it can be challenging to know what types of toys are best for this age group. Whether you’re giving a gift or simply buying a new toy for your own three-year-old, there are many excellent age-appropriate toys.

Learning Toys

  • Learning toys provide fun for a three-year-old while teaching basic knowledge. A mock laptop toy, for example, can challenge a three-year-old to identify different colors or find an image that lights up on the screen, teaching your child to identify basic shapes, colors and numbers. Building blocks are also good learning toys, as they teach your child critical thinking and motor skills. A toy bank that teaches addition and the basic principles of saving money is another toy that will educate and entertain your child.


  • Puzzles designed for three-year-olds help develop and challenge the child’s decision-making and critical-thinking abilities. A three-year-old will not be able to put a puzzle together by herself. Puzzles that are appropriate for a three-year-old are puzzles with 20 to 30 large pieces. Most of these puzzles are best to build on a floor or large table. Choose a simple design and look on the box for age appropriateness. Smaller wood puzzles also work well that come with little nubs at the end of each piece. These types of puzzles are typically designed to teach children shape, number or letter identification.

    Assisting the toddler in the process of figuring out the puzzle may be necessary, but the adult should be aware you are only there to help, not to do the puzzle for the child. Ask questions that are obvious to you, but not so obvious to the child like, “Here’s the nose of the puzzle; where does the nose go?” Give the child an opportunity to think critically, analyze and conclude.


  • Three-year-olds love books. They love to be read to, and they love learning. Most books made for three-year-olds have colorful pages, big words and a learning objective. Find books that challenge and ask questions to teach the child. For example, find books that ask the child to perform or identify certain objects, colors or shapes.

Adult-Like Toys

  • Adult-like toys give the child the ability to do things mommy and daddy do, such as toy power tools, play kitchen sets and doctor's kits. Adult-like toys provide the child with something to do in order to complete the toy. For example, a toy power tool set will come with different shapes that need to be successfully matched to an opening in the tool bench. Another adult-like toy would include mini cleaning tools such as a play vacuum or small broom.


  • Playful toys have no other purpose but to create an active, playful opportunity. A playful toy for a three-year-old could be a small basketball set, a bike or a ball. Other creative playful toys are arts-and-craft sets, playdough, dress-up clothing, play pop-up tents, foam swords and train sets. These toys keep kids active while they practice their developing imagination, coordination and social skills.

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