The Best Toys for 3-Year-Olds Inspire Imaginative Play

From building blocks to baby dolls, these toys inspire imaginative play and more

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On the brink of getting ready to start preschool, 3 year olds are really fun to shop for when it comes to finding the right gift. Whether it’s for a birthday, holiday, or a just because celebration, most 3 year olds will have just as much fun unwrapping the gift as they will receiving it. 

Reviewed & Approved

The Kindi Kids Fun Time Friends is a sturdy doll sized just right for younger kids that comes with removable clothes and shoes, brushable hair, and accessories. If you want to splurge, we recommend the Blockaroo Magnetic Foam Building Blocks.

"Toys that allow them to make-believe and be imaginative are key as this is a growing interest in this age,” Justin Schreiber, DO, MPH, Co-Chair of the School Health Committee and Member of the PA Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, tells Verywell Family.

The best toys for 3-year-olds are age-appropriate, easy to play with, and fun. We carefully considered design, material, ease of cleaning, value, and toy safety when reviewing products.

Use this guide to find the right gift for your budget, lifestyle, and lucky 3-year-old in your life.

Kindi Kids Fun Time Friends

Kindi Kids Fun Time Friends

Courtesy of Kindi Kids

The Kindi Kids Fun Time Friends ranks high on our list because this oversized doll is fun, stylish, and makes for a lot of fun for pretend play. The sturdy doll is sized just right for younger kids and can withstand some rough and tumble play. Each doll comes with removable clothes and shoes, brushable hair, and accessories.

Bluey Plush Two-Pack

Bluey Plush Two-Pack

Courtesy of Bluey

If your kiddo is obsessed with the little blue dog from the outback, it is a no-brainer that they will appreciate this set. Cuddly and soft, your Bluey fan will love their very own plush two-pack. The 8-inch Bluey and Bingo dolls are perfectly plush, ideal for snuggles, story time, or pretend play.

Blockaroo Magnetic Foam Building Blocks

Blockaroo Magnetic Foam Building Blocks

Amazon

Just like magic, these soft foam blocks contain magnets, so they click together. Young builders will love the open-ended possibilities that these STEM toys provide. The foam is safe in the bath, so the fun can go anywhere your kiddo goes.

What Our Editors Say

"Some toys that are designed to be played in and out of water actually end up falling apart from being submerged. These blocks are made from a very lightweight foam-like material that dries quickly so they don't disintegrate over time. My son played with these in and out of the water and the magnetic pieces worked and the foam is still holding up" - Latifah Miles, Commerce Editor Verywell Family

Step2 Timeless Trends Play Kitchen

Step2 Timeless Trends Play Kitchen

Courtesy of Step2

A splurge-worthy gift that’ll get tons of use, this play kitchen has a neutral design and multiple kitchen stations. There’s room enough for a few kids to parallel play and plenty to do for solo fun as well. The set comes with decals for your kiddo to spruce up the design and 18 kitchen accessories to add to the pretend play.

John Deere Big Scoop Dump Truck

John Deere Big Scoop Dump Truck

Courtesy of John Deere

Get rolling in the backyard, sandbox, or playroom with this oversized dump truck that’s sure to keep little kids very busy. Free rolling wheels and the fully functional dumping action are fun indoors or out. Parents praise the well-made truck as long-lasting and tons of fun.

Kid Connection Baby Doll Stroller Set

4.5
Kid-Connection-Stroller-Set

Courtesy of Walmart

Perfect for soon-to-be older siblings or those that love to care for their dolls, this gift will encourage pretend play. This kid-sized set comes with a baby doll, stroller, outfit, bottle, and more.

Fat Brain Toys Waddle Bobbers Bath Toy

Fat Brain Toys Waddle Bobbers Bath Toy

Courtesy of Fat Brain Toys

Penguin party in the tub! These weighted penguin toys spin, wobble, and float in the tub. The set comes with six penguins, a slide, and an iceberg. Fully sealed, water will never get inside the award-winning bath toys.

Kido Magnatab

Kido Magnatab

Courtesy of Kido

Get a jump start on early writing and letter identification with this genius magnetic toy that features the full upper case alphabet. The built-in stylus pen pulls up the magnetic beads as kids are encouraged to follow the arrows and trace the letters.

Point Games Googly Tower Stacking Game

Point Games Googly Tower Stacking Game

Courtesy of Point Games

Fun and face-paced, this easy-to-learn game can be played with friends or alone. The stacking challenge helps young kids build hand-eye coordination along with the concept of gameplay and taking turns.

USA Toyz Pop Up Kidz Tent

USA Toyz Pop Up Kidz Tent

Courtesy of USA Toyz

Give young kids their very own private play space, even in the middle of the house. This easy-to-assemble pop-up tent has a tie-back flap door, mesh widows, carrying case, and can fit up to three kids.

The included projector toy showcases themed images to complete the fun. Choose from space or other themes that fit your kiddo’s interests.

Melissa & Doug Doctor Role Play Costume

Melissa & Doug Doctor Role Play Costume

Courtesy of Amazon

We all know how helpful doctors are, so it’s no wonder if your child wants to dress up like one. This kid-sized, well-made doctor costume comes with a jacket, mask, and essential doctor tools.

Micro Kickboard Mini Deluxe 3 Scooter

Micro Kickboard Mini Deluxe 3 Scooter

Amazon

Your mini-me will love to get rolling on this super popular three-wheeled scooter. Perfect for little kids, the adjustable and lightweight scooter helps kids master balance and movement while making sure they're safe on a wide and stable base.

WoodilyToys Wooden Name Puzzle

Wooden Name Puzzle

Courtesy of Etsy

A lovely gift, especially for kids with unique names, this all-wood puzzle will help kids with letter recognition and hand-eye coordination. Choose from a wide variety of color and style options for a one-of-a-kind present.

LEGO DUPLO Town Airport Set

LEGO DUPLO Town Airport Set

Courtesy of LEGO

Jumbo-sized for the preschool-aged crew, this DUPLO set includes 20+ pieces that’ll turn into an airport, plane, and characters. Use this toy to build excitement and ease worry for any first-time flyers.

Melissa & Doug Froggy Kickball

Melissa & Doug Froggy Kickball

Courtesy of Melissa & Doug

Give a young kid their very own oversized kickball and watch how much fun they’ll have. Decorated with a cute frog, this ball is perfect to kick, bounce, throw, roll, and play with. 

Power Wheels Dune Racer

Power Wheels Dune Racer

Courtesy of Power Wheels

Wow your kiddo with their very own dune racer vehicle. With room for two (weight maximum is 130 pounds), the dune buggy drives forward at either 2.5 or 5 miles per hour (parent-controlled) and in reverse at 2.5 miles per hour.

First 100 Stickers: Animals: Over 500 Stickers

First 100 Stickers: Animals: Over 500 Stickers


Kids will love learning about animals, building vocabulary, and focus on hand-eye coordination as they are challenged to find matching stickers and place them in the correct spot. With 100 animals and over 500 stickers, this book is sure to be well-loved.

Jellycat Fuddlewuddle Elephant Plush

Jellycat Fuddlewuddle Elephant Plush

Courtesy of Jellycat

Cozy up to Jellycat’s incredibly soft stuffed elephant. Machine washable, this stuffy is sure to be well-loved, but if elephants aren’t your thing, pick from Jellycat’s wide array of super soft stuffies.

Little Likes Kids Joyful Carousel Jumbo Puzzle

Little Likes Kids Joyful Carousel Jumbo Puzzle

Courtesy of Little Likes Kids

Not only is the artwork on this puzzle inspiring with its depiction of multicultural families, but the oversized pieces are sized just right for little hands. Fun alone or with a friend, a puzzle is a smart addition to the playroom.

Final Verdict

There are so many great toys out there for 3-year olds. For affordable options that are fun again and again, a Melissa & Doug Froggy Kickball (view at Amazon), Melissa & Doug Water Wow Book (view at Amazon), or Little Likes Kids puzzles (view at Amazon) are all great picks.

If you’re looking for a splurge that’ll get lots of use alone or with a friend, a Step2 Play Kitchen (view at Amazon) or Micro Kickboard Scooter (view at Amazon) is always fun.

What to Look for When Shopping for Toys for 3 Year Olds

Imaginative Play

The more toys you can find that offer opportunity for imaginative play, the better. In an interview with VeryWell Family, Justin Schreiber, DO, MPH, Co-Chair of the School Health Committee and Member of the PA Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says “Pretending is…a very important area of growth” for 3-year-olds. “Toys that allow them to make-believe and be imaginative are key as this is a growing interest in this age.”

Some examples of good imaginative play toys include dress-up/costumes, dolls, or miniature versions of things you use every day. “Playhouses or kitchens are a lot of fun [for 3-year-olds],” says Dr. Schreiber. Additionally, he suggests looking for toys and games that allow them to play pretend with someone else, like a friend or parent, as kids start moving away from parallel play and into collaborative play around this age. 

Motor Skill Development

It’s important to support a 3-year-old’s gross and fine motor skill development, and one way to do that is through the toys they play with. “In terms of gross motor skills, they should start to be able to pedal,” says Dr. Schreiber, “starting to think about a tricycle or pedal bike with training wheels might be a good option.” Additionally, according to the CDC, by three years old kids are typically pretty strong climbers, so toys that allow them to safely climb will help them master the skill and strengthen their gross motor skills all the more. 

As for fine motor skill development, Dr. Schreiber suggests “encouraging coloring and drawing with crayons and colored pencils.” This will not only help strengthen their fine motor skills but also help them as they learn how to draw and write with control. Other ideas include Play-Doh, modeling clay, lacing toys, or anything else that has them making small movements with their hands and fingers. 

Milestones 

As with any age, milestones are still very important for 3-year-olds, and toys are a great way to help support kids as they work to reach and master these skills. Here are some milestones to be on the lookout for, as well as toys that can support them:

  • Takes turns when playing games: The Point Games Googly Tower Stacking Game (view at Amazon)
  • Learning how to dress and undress themselves, which Dr. Schreiber says can be supported with a doll with changeable clothes like the Kindi Kids Funtime Friends doll (view at Amazon)
  • Collaborative play: Bluey Plush Toy Two-Pack (view at Amazon)

Why Trust Verywell Family?

Maya Polton is a former marketing manager and current freelance writer who covers food, home, and parenting. She's also the mom of a 10-year-old son, 6-year-old son, and 2-year-old daughter. In her house, a scooter and a personalized cape are an official sign of being 3 years old (and of course they must be used together). 

Additional reporting by Ashley Ziegler.

Ashley Ziegler is a lifestyle writer specializing in motherhood, family health, and consumer products. She has written for Romper, Femestella.com, InspireMore, Moms.com, Introvert Dear, This Is My Brave, and various other publications. As a lifestyle writer, Ashley publishes content on everything lifestyle, from home, family, and kids, to fashion and beauty.

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Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. CDC. What developmental milestones is your 3-year-old reaching? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.