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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Verywell Family / Lecia Landis

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.

Fat Brain Toys Squigz Starter Set - 24 pc.

4.8
Squigz

Fat Brain Toys

 

Squigz are brightly-colored doo-dads that can be stacked into an endless array of configurations or stuck to any flat, non-porous surface. The set comes packaged in a reusable plastic case, which keeps all the pieces in one place when you're on the go. Made from BPA- and latex-free silicone, the pieces won't leave residue or marks on your surfaces and are the perfect toy for some bathtub fun. 

Our tester loved that her little ones instinctively practiced categorizing the Squigz by color as they played and noted that they were endlessly entertained by the satisfying pop each piece made when pulled off a wall or window. 

What Our Testers Say

"Squigz are deceptively simple and incredibly portable. This single set can be a great bath time toy or an activity while making dinner (our son loved sticking these to the fridge)."—Shannon Wells, Product Tester

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.

Toomies Bath Foam Cone Factory Toy

Ice cream toy

Toomies 

Add some creativity to bath time with this clever cone factory set that uses bubble bath and water to help kids make ice cream confections in the comfort of the tub. This toy mounts easily to the bathrooms wall and includes three cones and a sprinkle shaker. Plus, besides the bathtub, this can also be mounted on a glass sliding door for when the temperatures rise. 

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.

KidKraft Uptown Espresso Kitchen

4.8
KidKraft Uptown Espresso Kitchen

Amazon

This is one sleek, cool kitchen set. It has the look of granite countertops and a tile backsplash as well as tons of shelves to store pots and pans. Kids will love turning and clicking the stove buttons or doodling on the chalkboard exterior of the fridge.

Hide N Side Ball Pit, Play Tent and Tunnels

Hide N Side Ball Pit, Play Tent and Tunnels

Courtesy of Amazon

Need a toy your toddler can enjoy for hours? This ball pit just might be the solution. The pop-up pit is easily portable whether you choose to set it up in the house, the backyard, or while on vacation. Kids will enjoy crawling through the tunnels, camping out in the tents, or trying to score a few baskets in the hoop. Just note: the balls are sold separately.

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.

Melissa & Doug Examine and Treat Pet Vet Play Set

Melissa & Doug Examine and Treat Pet Vet Play Set

Courtesy of Amazon

Watch your children become veterinarians with this detailed and engaging play kit filled with plush animals and tools to help their "patients" feel better. The different pieces will keep little ones entertained for hours as they play and learn at the same time.

Little Tikes TotSports Easy Hit Golf Set

Little Tikes TotSports Easy Hit Golf Set

Amazon

Little ones are on their way to the Masters Tournament with this starter golf set. With three balls and two clubs, the set allows 3-year-olds to play together and putt over and over again. This set is perfect for the backyard or the living room on rainy days for practice and play all year round.

Reeves International The Big Dig Sandbox Digger Excavator Crane

5
Sand toy digger

Reeves International

 

Bring this to the beach, sandbox, or use it in your backyard. No matter where you use the crane, your kid will try and dig up whatever they can, all while honing those gross and fine motor skills. The toy rotates 360 degrees and can reach up to 33 inches—basically, it does a solid job digging and what kid wouldn't want to try that? This toy is suitable for children ages 3 and up and can hold 110 pounds.

Flybar My First Foam Pogo Jumper

Flybar My First Foam Pogo Jumper

Amazon

This foam pogo jumper is the perfect introduction to the fun and excitement of a pogo stick, without the squeaky thudding noise that traditional pogo sticks have. The foam and bungee material makes this jumper perfect for indoor and outdoor use, and toddlers can jump without noise as they conquer their fears and hone their skills.

Sesame Street Love to Hug Elmo

love-to-hug-elmo

Courtesy of Walmart

Most 3-year-olds are excellent huggers, so why not let them practice their skills on this fun version of Sesame Street's beloved red monster? "Love to Hug" Elmo can speak English and Spanish, and lift his arms to ask for an embrace. When kids put their arms around him, he answers with kisses, songs, and phrases.

This award-winning wooden building set gives kids the opportunity to build and fix things on their own. Along with the nifty tool bench that serves as both a workspace and storage compartment for all the tools, it comes with 32 different pieces including a hammer, screwdriver, wrench, and saw. Then there are nails, screws, nuts, and bolts for getting down to work. Once they get the hang of the tools, they can even take apart and rebuild the entire tool bench.

Tonies Toniebox Playtime Puppy Starter Set

Toniebox Playtime Puppy Starter Set

Tonies

If you're looking for a toy both you and your little one can enjoy, be sure to consider the Toniebox Playtime Puppy Starter Set. The audio system will play classic sing-alongs that'll entertain the 3-year-old in your life for hours.

The audio box is available in six colors and is made of a material that's soft enough to hold, but durable enough to withstand any rough play. The set, which includes a charging station, features a collection of popular children's tunes, from Wheels on the Bust to Baby Shark and beyond, that'll be a treat for the whole family.

ToyVelt Dinosaur Take Apart Toys

3.4
Dinosaur toys

ToyVelt

 

Take them back to prehistoric times with these take-apart toy dinosaurs. While the pack of six dinosaurs (featuring a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Brontosaurus, and a Triceratops) comes preassembled and ready for play, the real beauty of them is that kids can take them apart then rebuild them over and over again. The set has 218 pieces in all and comes with plastic screwdrivers to do all the work.

What Our Testers Say

"If he has all six dinosaurs out and he isn’t parent-directed, it quickly turns into a demolition derby situation, which is a blast for him. It should be noted that even though the dinosaurs feel flimsy, they’ve withstood all the crashes.  "—Shannon Wells, Product Tester

Osmo Genius Starter Kit

4.7
Osmo's Genius Kit

 OSMO

The genius behind the Osmo Kit for iPad is that rather than simply getting stuck behind a screen, kids are encouraged to use both technology and the compatible game mat to physically practice different skills. They might try forming letters with sticks and rings, dressing a doll using cardboard pieces, creating squiggle pictures (that can then be animated), and solving problems as they listen to stories.

Play-Doh Stamp 'n Top Pizza Oven Toy

toy kitchen

Play-Doh

This detailed, pizza-themed Play-Doh set comes with a pretend oven that stamps and spins the pizza crust, as well as a cheese grater and molds for creating different toppings like vegetables and pepperoni. A pizza pan, cutter, and stand are also included for children looking to play restaurant and show off their masterpieces.

Ryan’s World Vending Surprise

Ryan's World Vending Surprise

Ryan's World

Ryan's World Toys are inspired by Ryan ToysReview, a YouTube channel named for its young star who's become famous for his videos reviewing products. This operational vending machine has surprises galore. Simply insert a coin to receive a toy that might have slime or a toy figure hidden inside. The machine has bright lights and even features phrases from Ryan.

Kindi Kids Snack Time Friends, Marsha Mello

kindi-kindi-doll

Courtesy of Walmart 

Made by the creators of Shopkins, the colorful, glittery Kindi Kids dolls are aimed at preschoolers. Marsha Mello comes with a cake pop that can be fed to her, as well as a realistic-looking babycino with marshmallows that move up the straw. Kids will love taking her outfit and shoes off and on, as well as playing with fun details like her marshmallow ponytail holders.

Paw Patrol Mighty Pups Super Paws Lookout Tower Playset

Paw Patrol

Nickelodeon

You might need to KonMari your kid's toys before ordering this fabulous-but-giant playset, which stands almost three feet tall and will be a guaranteed hit. Kids will stay busy for hours playing with the elevator, zip line, and six vehicle launch areas (note that the set only includes the Chase vehicle and pup, but others can be bought separately). Just like on the show, the tower has lots of flashing lights and sound effects, including Ryder's famous control-tower missions. 

Intex Playhouse Jump-O-Lene Inflatable Bouncer

Jump-o-lene

Intex

 

Instead of having them bounce off the walls with all of that three-year-old energy, this inflatable castle gives them a good alternative. While it can be used outside as well, it’s perfect for playrooms and those days when going outside just isn’t an option. It's big enough for a couple of little jumpers (it can hold up to 120 pounds), but not so big that it takes up an entire room.

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.

How We Selected the Best Toys for 3-Year-Olds

We studied the features and design of more than 50 products on the market to determine the best toys for 3-year-olds. Additionally, we researched reviews from customers and competitors, while also considering size, ease of use, age recommendations, and value when deciding our picks. For additional information, we spoke to Justin Schreiber, DO, MPH, Co-Chair of the School Health Committee and Member of the PA Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and reviewed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on developmental milestones.

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.

2 Sources
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 is a developmental milestone? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  2. CDC. What developmental milestones is your 3-year-old reaching? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By Maya Polton
Maya has more than 15 years of experience in digital media and communications and specializes in writing about family, food, and lifestyles. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Tufts University and a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University.