The best toys for three-year-olds

toddler playing with toys three-year-old

by Samantha Ball |
Updated on

When toddlers turn three, their interests might begin to change as they start to mature. What better way to meet their needs than with some new fun and educational toys? We've shared our pick of the best toys for three-year-olds.

By three years old, your little one is probably talking and walking and they might be starting to name colours, play more creatively, follow short commands and understand counting or sorting. With their hand and finger skills improving as well, this means in terms of toys to improve their development, the possibilities are endless.

Best at a glance:

Best overall toy for three year olds: Melissa & Doug Super Smile Dentist Kit Play Set - Buy on Very
Best cooking toy for three years old: Melissa & Doug Pizza Toy Shop - Buy on Amazon
Best book for three year olds: I am Unique and Sedric Snail - Buy on Hug a Bug world

Now is the time when their personality starts to shine, even more, their imagination runs wild and that bond between you becomes even stronger.

What are the best types of toys for a three-year-old?

Problem-solving toys: Problem-solving skills are important and start being developed at around two-years-old. Examples: puzzles (12-20+ pieces), board games, memory games, flashcards and sorting toys.

Building and construction toys: Building structures and creating things are important at this stage. These toys promote an interest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). Examples: sand and water play toys, building bricks, colourful blocks, construction sets, magnets and gears.

Role-play/Imaginative toys: Role-play is an important way for them to learn language and imaginative skills. Examples: tea sets, food toys, child-sized kitchens, shop sets, pretend money, mini furniture, dress-up clothes and puppets.

Literacy: As your child's language and reading skills begin to develop they will be able to enjoy books with more words.

Creative toys: It is a good idea to start early and is a fun way to occupy their time (you might even get a crafty present at the end of it!). Examples: crayons, markers, paint/paint brushes, finger paints, coloured paper, chalk and chalkboards, modelling clay and playdough.

Musical and visual toys: Listening to different sounds and noises can be beneficial to your child's development and communication. Examples: Mini instruments, toys with lights and sounds, CDs and DVDs with music and videos.

Things to encourage physical skills: Your child is ready to get outside to explore more physical and outdoor play. Physical play helps them develop their muscles and hand-eye coordination. Examples: scooters, tricycles, balls for catching/throwing/kicking, plastic bats, bowling pins, targets and kids' workbench tools.

Interactive toys: It is never too early to introduce your kids to computers and software. Often technology is salvation for parents who need a quick and easy way to entertain their tots. Examples: tablets, mini-computers, basic coding kits and play mobile telephones.

Best toys for three-year-olds

Best three year olds toy for sounds

baby annabell
Price: £64.99 (was £69.99)

www.very.co.uk

With the must-have accessories you need to settle a baby, the Baby Annabell Leah Doll is incredibly soft to hold, and makes realistic sounds and movements, such as suckling on the dummy.

Mother&Baby writer, Mother of two, Samantha Ball, said: "Growing up I absolutely adored my Baby Annabell and to see how much better the dolls have gotten and to watch my own children play with their own is incredible. My son loves helping my daughter feed and dress the doll, while my daughter loves the realistic noises Baby Annabell makes!"

Pros

  • Baby Annabell Leah is the sweetest baby!
  • With realistic mouth movements and baby sounds.

Cons

  • Not suitable for children under 3 years

Best three year olds toy for creativity

melissa-and-doug-pizza-roleplay

Rrp: $64.99

Price: $34.66
Alternative retailers
Walmart$34.66View offer
Target$34.99View offer
Kohl's$54.99View offer
Wayfair$55.24View offer

With wooden accessories and food, this Pizza Toy Shop is a great way to encourage pretend play which can help with fine motor skills and imagination. Your child will have fun adding their own wooden toppings and pretending to cook in the oven.

Review: "Great purchase! My nephews adore preparing pizza for everyone - from taking their order, to preparing it, to delivering and cutting it. Teaches them a lot of valuable skills. Love that they are made of wood, too."

Pros

  • Allows children to get creative making and serving up delicious-looking pizza.
  • Includes pizza counter, play money, pizza paddle, rolling cutter, delivery box, prep instructions, reusable menu, wooden crust, cheese shaker, felt sauce, cheese and toppings 

Cons

  • Not suitable for children under 36 months.

Best three year olds toy for drawing

This portable and interactive drawing pad offers endless artistic possibilities. With its vibrant LED screen and easy-to-use stylus, aspiring artists of all ages can sketch, doodle, and bring their imaginations to life anytime, anywhere. It's easy to start a new doodle with a simple push of a button which erases the screen like magic.

Pros

  • Compact and portable
  • Interactive LED screen
  • User-friendly stylus
  • No mess

Cons

  • Requires batteries

Best three year olds toy for puzzle solving

Little OMOLittle Omo

This 100 per cent wooden puzzle is simple beautiful. This is one of a range of inclusive puzzles, that come in all different skin tones and shades. This a fantastic way to help children of all ethnicities identify parts of their face and shape.

Mother&Baby writer, Mother of three, Hannah James, said: "When I saw this puzzle, the little girl inside of me screamed with excitement. Growing up, I would have loved a puzzle which looked like me, but more commonly it did not. So I couldn't wait to play with this with my own children. They loved putting the puzzle back together. They were able to correctly identify all of the features and where on the body they went. It is a brilliant present for all children, but especially those from the BAME community."

Pros

  • Includes: 8 pieces, organic-cotton bag
  • Educational features: hand-eye coordination, motor skills, memory development, shape recognition, problem-solving skills

Cons

  • Only suitable for over 3 year olds.

Best three year olds toy for thinking

With this dentist play set, young dentists-in-training can give cleanings, treat cavities, and even fit retainers and braces. Little ones can mark the pretend teeth with "cavity" stickers, then use the vibrating tool with interchangeable polishing and drill heads, and the toothbrush to clean.

Review: "A really lovely toy set which includes realistic items related to dental care. My daughter asked for it for her birthday and has been absolutely obsessed with it since, she has spent hours cleaning the teeth and applying the braces. The toy feels to be of very high quality and sturdy."

Pros

  • Realistic pretend play dental care essentials
  • Give cleanings, treat cavities, and fit retainers and braces

Cons

  • Not suitable for children under the age of 3 years due to small parts which could cause a choking hazard.

Best three year olds toy for art

VTech JotBot Drawing & Coding Robot
Price: $79.99

This smart robot has over 280 built in images which it can draw all at a touch of a button. It will provide hours of artistic excitement - he even sings while he draws!

Review: "VTech does what it does best create amazing toys, fantastic robot thats sure to keep your kids happy for hours on end. put in a pen and the robot draws for you , amazing quality."

Pros

  • This developmental toy lets you code JotBot using fun draw codes found within the colour-coded guidebook.
  • Provies hours of artistic excitement and interactive fun.

Cons

  • Batteries are not included.

Best three year olds toy for music

Classic Winnie the Pooh Music Box
Price: $37.71

A marvellous musical toy is great for the little Winnie the Pooh fan in your life. This traditional music box is relaxing for little ones. All you need to do is, wind up the music box and watch Pooh Bear and Piglet twirl around to the tune of Brahms Lullaby. This has been made from sustainable wood and has been painted with characters from the Hundred Acre Woods.

Mother&Baby writer, Mother of three, Hannah James, said: "This a beautiful timeless gift that can be enjoyed for generations. Winnie the Pooh is such an iconic and instantly recognisable character even children who haven't read all of the books can enjoy it. It has been beautifully crafted to such a high level. The music, unlike most children's toys, is wonderful. My children and I love listening to it."

Pros

  • Painted with non toxic paint, twist and watch it rotate to a wonderful melody.
  • Features a a woodland scene with Tigger and Eeyore.

Cons

  • Not suitable for children under 3 years. For use under adult supervision.

Best three year olds toy with storybook

Hug-A-Bug World encourages children to enjoy story books with their parents, develop an attachment to the tactical-themed toys and naturally grow their social and emotional skills through the repetitive play of Hug-A-Bug World’s affirming hearts. 

In the Hug-a-Bug World story of I am Unique, Sedric Snail wishes he was more like his friends until he realises how special and unique he really is.

Review: "I think this is such a wonderful concept for little ones and I find the psychology behind it really interesting, instilling positive self-worth and confidence in children."

Pros

  • Encourage self awareness.
  • Helps build self-esteem with this emotional well being package.

Cons

  • Not many colours to choose from.

Best three year olds toy for a performer

Janod-kids-wooden-toy-ukulele
Price: $34.95

We love this mini ukulele. This four-string guitar is perfect for little musicians in the making. This wooden musical instrument allows your child a chance to discover new musical notes and sounds.

Review: "Bought for my three-year-old granddaughter and she adores it. It's so colourful too and pleasing to the eye. Great purchase."

Pros

  • Perfect for little musicians.
  • Musical instruments develop a child's sense of rhythm, bodily ease and musical sensitivity. 

Cons

  • Ideal for 3 to 8 year olds.

Best three year olds toy for humour

Stretchy Worm is a great addition to your child's toy collection and a lovely companion for recreating scenes from the Super Worm book.

Review: "Such a fun stretchy toy. My son loves the book. This made the perfect surprise gift and at a great price. Very happy."

Pros

  • Child-friendly very robust design, no sharp edges ideal for young children.
  • The Stretchy Superworm's agility and flexibility is ideal for realistic and fun game play

Cons

  • Not much left in stock.

Best three year olds toy for imagination

These blocks are easy to grip so that your child can easily pick up and build whatever their imagination lets them. They can even be used with Duplo blocks.

Review: "Fairly big block which is easy to assemble and disassemble. The quality of the material quit good. Most importantly it’s big enough for my kids, there is no chances for kids swallowing it. It’s safe and easy."

Pros

  • These large building blocks could be tranformed to a variety of shapes.
  • With the continuous construction of different cognitive objects, baby gradually recognizes these shapes.

Cons

  • Running out fast.

Best three year olds toy for exploring

Meet a cast of six hungry characters by inserting activity cards to explore colours, counting, flavours and numbers and play a creativity and stacking game. Your little one can follow the animals' instructions and test sequencing, memory and matching skills to build their orders. They can press the bell when the order is ready and pay at the magic till.

Tested by mum Danielle: "Both of my children were thrilled with this toy. It is brightly coloured and is very interactive. If the batteries run out, you can still use all the features. Being a busy mum, battery changing is low on my list of priorities."

Pros

  • This ice cream trolley is ideal for children to get started with role play,
  • An ice cream scooper, 18 "flavoured" ice cream scoops, with 3 different toppings, 6 hungry character activity cards.

Cons

  • Suitable from ‎24 months - 6 years.

Best three year olds toy for Peppa pig fans

Peppa Pig Magnetic Wooden Dress-Up Set
Price: $13.23
Alternative retailers
Walmart$13.38View offer

All children have a Peppa Pig stage, and this magnetic Peppa Pig dress up set with 26 pieces is perfect for children. It helps children learn how to match items.

Review: "My little girls loves this toy I actually bought another one for my older daughter because she also liked it too."

Pros

  • Peppa’s Magnetic Wooden Dress-Up set is made from FSC Certified Wood, and makes the perfect sustainable choice.
  • There’s 26 pieces in total, including outfits and accessories, and wooden Peppa Pig figure, base and tray.

Cons

  • To be used under the direct supervision of an adult.

Best three year olds toy for moulding

Explore open-ended creativity and make amazing creations with this Play-Doh variety pack! With four different Play-Doh colours to squish and mould, kids can create all sorts of wonderful 'crafted pieces'. It is packed with Play-Doh potential! This type of hands-on fun helps power imaginations.

Review: "Good value for money, classic playdoh which is perfect for my 3-year-old."

Pros

  • Squish it, roll it, shape and mould it!
  • Great for open-ended imaginative play

Cons

  • Not suitable for children under 36 months-small parts could prove to be a choking hazard.

Best three year olds toy for confidence

Your child will love learning to steer with this three-wheel scooter. This scooter has a gorgeous Gruffalo print and will be a sure hit with your little one. The best-selling book has become a firm favourite of pre-schoolers and parents alike. The easy steer will help your child to coordinate the scooter and learn how to master the skill of balancing. We love this scooter as it is great exercise and will help to build your little monster's muscles.

Mother&Baby writer, Mother of three, Hannah James, said: " My two sons absolutely love this scooter. It is much easier for them to manoeuvre than a traditional two wheel scooter. It think it is absolutely fantastic. The design is eye-catching and lots of people comment on the fact it has the Gruffalo pattern. The only issue we have is who is going to ride it."

Pros

  • An exclusive collaboration, The Gruffalo by Micro.
  • Colour pop anodised stem for extra protection against wear and tear.

Cons

  • Suitable from 2 - 5 year olds.

Best three year olds toy for engaging in storytelling

With over 100 felt shapes, children will be able to recreate their favourite scenes from the Gruffalo, sparking their imaginations and encouraging story telling in a fun way.

Review: "Helps to entertain the Granddaughter indoors on rainy days to start to make pictures without the mess with paints. She loves it."

Pros

  • Sparks imagination and story telling.
  • Encourages recognition, counting and sorting.

Cons

  • Not very bright in colour.

Best three year olds toy for budding pirates

This excellent kit from The Den Kit Company provides everything you need to make a den in your garden for budding pirates. In the kit, you get a sturdy canvas satchel, filled with pirate bunting, a 100 per cent cotton calico tarpaulin, a groundsheet, a wooden mallet, and other essentials for building a brilliant den.

Sophie Knight, mum to Eli (3), says: "I was gifted this for my little boy and it's just wonderful - it's really captured his imagination, and he has as much fun setting the den up as he does playing once he's inside. I've walked the plank many times since we got this kit. It's all of a really high quality and will last a long time - past when he's interested in pirates to when he just wants to escape his parents with his own space in the garden."

Pros

  • Offering every child an outdoor experience whatever the weather
  • Designed to capture creative imaginations.

Cons

  • Not suitabe for babies.

Best three year olds toy for bedtime

This innovative audio player is easy for young children to use and will last them years. It has up to 7 hours portable playing time and you can even personalise messages to be read to your child, or singsongs for them (perfect if they're sleeping out and grandparents and love to hear your voice for a bedtime story!)

Review: "This was a great gift for my nephew for his 3rd birthday. Got the whole family to record stories and send them to me. Then I uploaded them and sent it to him so he could hear his Mam's side of the family, who he doesn't get to see very often. Have maintained access to the character (online account) so I can upload more stories from afar when I want to. He was thrilled to hear everyone."

Pros

  • Great for bedtime stories or as a kids' music box.
  • No complicated assembly and no over-stimulating flashing screens that are so common on kids toys today.

Cons

  • Not much left in stock.

Best three year olds toy for magnetic shapes

This smart board box looks just like a traditional book, however, it has a magnetic lid which your child can spend hours working on. This kit is full of magnetic shapes, words and letters that your child will enjoy sticking to the lid. This is the perfect toy for taking out and about because everything can be kept neatly in the board box.

Review: "Wonderful gift for a 3-year-old boy whose older brother (5) loves too!"

Pros

  • Sturdy board box with magnetic lid.
  • Magnetic shapes & pieces.

Cons

  • Suitable for over 3 year olds.

Best three year olds toy for problem solving

Magnetic Tiles
Price: $25.99

Magnetic PlayTiles is a fantastic toy for helping your child develop their creativity skills. It also helps kids build and strengthen their colour and shape recognition abilities, creative thinking, creative problem-solving skills and use of imagination.

Review: "Bought for my three-year-old granddaughter. She absolutely loves it and will sit for hours connecting, building, dismantling and rebuilding objects over and over again. It is great value for money and a great imagination-building exercise toy. Would recommend it without hesitation every single time. I am delighted."

Pros

  • Creative & Brain Development – Your child can create with this magnetic building blocks and tiles 3D geometric figures while they are playing.
  • Made of Non-Toxic and durable ABS plastic, food grade material.

Cons

  • Suitable for all ages (3+ and up).

Best three year olds toy for sustainability

Dantoy-Bio-Toy-Tipper-Truck
Price: $29.96

With so many plastic toys on the market, this eco-friendly truck is a breath of fresh air. This toy is ideal for outdoor play. Bioplastic is 100 per cent recyclable but is still designed for durable, long-lasting play. It is made with sustainable plants and thus reduces carbon emissions. 

Review: "This is a genuinely fantastic toy. It’s so sturdy, thoughtfully designed, environmentally friendly and rolls so smoothly. It’s been used inside and outside, carries stones, Pom poms, petals, building blocks and all sorts. Mechanism flawless and colours gorgeous. We’ve since also bought the tractor/digger version and are equally pleased with this - you won’t regret the investment!"

Pros

  • Eco-friendly locking tipper truck for hours of fun loading up and emptying the truck in pretend games.
  • Made with sugarcane, a sustainable plant that reduces carbon emissions.

Cons

  • Not many designs to choose from.

FAQs about three-year-old toys

Do I need to replace my child's old toys?

There's no need to throw out your child's toys or buy completely new ones if they still play with them. Instead, you can buy a few suited to their play needs now.

If you want to be more organised, you could try rotating your child's toys, keeping some stored away with these toy storage ideas, so that you haven't got toys everywhere.

What is the best toy for a three year old?

When it comes to toys, the best ones are those that are fun, but also have an educational element to them. This may be that they help develop your child's motor skills, fine motor skills and cognitive development. When choosing a toy for your three-year-old, before purchasing think — A) will they enjoy using it and B) will they benefit from it in anyway — if you answer yes to both of these, then they're probably a good buy. Don't forget, toys first and foremost are meant to be fun for your child, but if they can get additional benefits out of them to, then this is even better.

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How we write our articles and reviews
Mother & Baby is dedicated to ensuring our information is always valuable and trustworthy, which is why we only use reputable resources such as the NHS, reviewed medical papers, or the advice of a credible doctor, GP, midwife, psychotherapist, gynaecologist or other medical professionals. Where possible, our articles are medically reviewed or contain expert advice. Our writers are all kept up to date on the latest safety advice for all the products we recommend and follow strict reporting guidelines to ensure our content comes from credible sources. Remember to always consult a medical professional if you have any worries. Our articles are not intended to replace professional advice from your GP or midwife.