Best Gifts for 3-Year-Olds

Your 3-year-old is a complex person now, with thoughts, interests, and greater control of her body. She's also got a longer attention span, so she can focus on make-believe, games, craft projects, and more. Here, 12 great gifts for 3-year-olds that experts—and kids—love.

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Step2 874600 Rain Showers Splash Pond Water Table Playset, Small Pack, Multi-Colored
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon
01 of 13


KidKraft Chelsea Doll Cottage with Furniture
Courtesy of Amazon

Why she'll love it: You may make the rules on your house, but kids love having a playhouse where they're in charge. Add some play figures, and watch your kids go to town making up scenes and stories.

Why experts love it: "Preschool kids are quick to take on pretend roles and situations, and a dollhouse lets them do this," says Adair. "It also helps build social skills." Says Briggs: "The multiple heights of a dollhouse also make it fun for more than one kid at a time."

Our pick: With 3 levels, 5 rooms, and a balcony this detailed dollhouse filled with 17 pieces of furniture is perfect for some playtime make-believe.

Price at time of publication: $97

02 of 13


Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe Cookie Creations
Courtesy of Amazon

Why she'll love it: This soft, squishy stuff has been thrilling preschoolers for more than 50 years. Because it's open-ended, there's no limit to what your child will create with it.

Why experts love it: "Play-Doh has so many uses, especially if you add tools," says R. Keith Sawyer, Ph.D., a professor of psychology who studies creativity in children at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. "It uses fine motor skills and imagination."

Our pick: This collection is a rainy-day lifesaver with tons of tools and colors all for some fun cookie creations.

Price at time of publication: $13

03 of 13

Kid Magazine

National Geographic Kids
Courtesy of Amazon

Why he'll love it: How thrilled will he be to get something in the mail just for him? Just like you do with your US Weekly, he'll be keeping tabs on the mailbox for the next issue.

Why experts love it: "It's never too early to begin reading," says Rahil Briggs, PsyD, a child psychologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Children's Hospital at Montefiore, in New York City. "Interactive magazines will help to engage a preschooler."

Our pick: Just $15 for a yearly subscription, Nation Geographic Kids is perfect for your little animal lover.

Price at time of publication: $50

04 of 13

A Go-Play-Outside Present

Step2 874600 Rain Showers Splash Pond Water Table Playset, Small Pack, Multi-Colored
Courtesy of Amazon

Why she'll love it: The outdoors can be one big playground, especially if you have the right tools—and no inside voices necessary!

Why experts love it: "Three-year-olds are full of energy, and much of their difficult behavior comes from being bored and restless," says Briggs. "Playing outside helps avoid that."

Our pick: Splash around outside-—no pool necessary—with this pond water table set perfect for cooling off in the summer heat.

Price at time of publication: $90

05 of 13

Arts and Crafts Materials

ALEX Discover My Giant Busy Box
Courtesy of Amazon

Why he'll love it: Break out the glue! Kids love open-ended materials that they can put together in whatever way their imagination takes them.

Why experts love it: "Preschool kids use art as a way to express themselves," says Sue Adair, who oversees teacher training and development at Goddard Systems, the franchisor of the Goddard Schools, which emphasize learning through play. "They love freely choosing their own materials." Adds Briggs: "Many parents are reticent to teach their children to use safety scissors at this age, but it's an age-appropriate skill to learn through arts-and-crafts projects."

Our pick: This kit provides hours of crafty fun with buttons, dough, crayons, doilies, flowers, feathers, eyes, bags, pipe cleaners, frames, boards, stickers, paper, tissue, and a glue stick.

Price at time of publication: $45

06 of 13

Memory Games

Eric Carle Matching Game
Courtesy of Amazon

Why he'll love it: These days, your child can sit still for a bit longer and take turns—the perfect time to introduce him to board games like Concentration, which build memorization skills.

Why experts love it: "Children notice and ask questions about similarities and differences at this age, and they're also building problem-solving skills," says Adair. "This is the perfect time to introduce this type of game."

Our pick: Your kid's probably already fascinated by animals, so she'll love this game. Start with only a few pairs to avoid frustration, and add more as she gets older. She'll love it when she beats you!

Price at time of publication: $10

07 of 13


Kids Play Tent for Boys and Girls
Courtesy of Amazon

Why she'll love it: Whether you build a fort out of cushions or set your kids up with a pre-fab structure, they'll get a kick out of having a place to call their own—no parents allowed!

Why experts love it: "Children at this age are developing their own ability to self-soothe and regulate, and often need a bit of a retreat," says Briggs.

Our pick: Resembling a spaceship, this tent is as easy to move as it is to take down and offers a calm place for your little one to hang out and read or play games.

Price at time of publication: $55

08 of 13

Doctor's Kit

B. toys by Battat B. Dr. Doctor Toy
Courtesy of Amazon

Why she'll love it: Now that kids understand more, they also fear more. Not only is a doctor's kit a wonderful tool for make-believe, it can help them feel more in-the-know and in control at the pediatrician's office.

Why experts love it: "Playing doctor can help relieve anxiety about a doctor's visit," says Briggs. "Kids also learn about giving care to others by attending to their baby dolls."

Our pick: Go ahead—let her take your temperature or listen to your heartbeat. She'll play for hours with the pretend beeper, fake thermometer, and stethoscope.

Price at time of publication: $23

09 of 13

ABC Help

Stupell Home Décor Boho Animal ABCs Wall Plaque Art
Courtesy of Amazon

Why he'll love it: He's mastered the song, and now he's learning letters by sight. He's also figuring out that you put letters together in different combinations to make words—a crucial pre-reading skill.

Why experts love it: "It's important to provide a print-rich environment for preschool kids," says Adair. "They're beginning to understand that writing is a system of communication."

Our pick: This mod print doubles as a cool piece of wall art, and capitalizes on the universal kid interest in animals to help them master their letters.

Price at time of publication: $30

10 of 13


Radio Flyer My 1st Scooter
Courtesy of Amazon

Why she'll love it: She'll feel like a big kid on a scooter—and it provides a nice solution to that in-between stage when they're getting too big for a stroller but aren't ready for long walks on their own.

Why experts love it: "Scooters are excellent for developing motor coordination skills and reducing the time it takes to go somewhere," says Briggs.

Our pick: With its anti-slip coating and three wheels to make it more stable, this scooter safely introduces your child to the freedom of his own wheels.

Price at time of publication: $35

11 of 13

Floor Puzzle

Floor Puzzle

Why she'll love it: Puzzles can be a 3-year-old's obsession as they get better and better with practice.

Why experts love it: "Preschool children are starting to show persistence in tasks," says Adair. "Kids enjoy floor puzzles because the pieces are large yet putting them together hones fine motor skills."

Our pick: This wonderfully illustrated circular floor puzzle comes with 48 pieces and introduces kids to different cultures. She'll love seeing how it all fits together, as well as what kids around the world look like and wear.

Price at time of publication: $15

12 of 13

Books With a Message

Book With a Message

Why he'll love it: Your 3-year-old has probably demonstrated some not-so-lovely behavior like hitting and biting—and might pick up even more with the start of preschool. It's time to really focus on nipping antisocial behaviors in the bud.

Why experts love it: "Books can help children understand others' feelings, and encourage the development of empathy," says Nuner.

Our pick: Most kids will have a biting incident in their preschool life. This book will soothe both the biter and bitee by giving other options (the book helpfully suggests that teeth be used for smiling instead).

Price at time of publication: $9

13 of 13

Gifts for Other Ages

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Pound-A-Peg Toy With Hammer
Courtesy of Amazon

Shopping for other little ones? Browse more of our great gift recommendations by age group:

29 Fun First Birthday Gift Ideas

2-Year-Old Birthday Gift Ideas

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