Mother and Baby

13 of the best toys for a three year old

Section: Shopping Ideas

If your child is about to turn three then you are finally out of the terrible twos! You survived!

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

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. 

If you are unsure of what to buy your little one, we outline some types of toys that are ideal for a three-year-old. We then give you a gallery of wonderful examples that your toddler will surely love.

What are the best 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 is important at this stage. If you want your child to be interested in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) down the line then this is a good way to start. Examples: sand and water play toys, building bricks, colourful blocks, construction sets, magnets and gears.
  • Role-play/Imaginative toys: When children are developing their language and social skills, role-play is an important way for them to learn. Role-play is also a fantastic way for them to get used to the world around them. 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: When children go to school they will be expected to be creative and constantly making things. 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/paintbrushes, finger paints, coloured paper, chalk and chalkboards, modelling clay and playdough.
  • Musical and visual toys: Listening to different sounds and noises can actually 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 to parents who need a quick and easy way to entertain their tots! Examples: tablets, minicomputers, basic coding kits and fake mobile telephones.

The best toys to buy for three-year-olds:

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1) Melissa & Doug Shape Sequence Wooden Sorting Set, £9.99, Amazon

Key skill: Problem-solving

Recognising colour, shape and size, and sorting objects into groups are the "building blocks" of beginning math skills. What better way to explore these important concepts than with boldly coloured wooden blocks and frame! The durable wooden frame invites shape-fitting trial and error. The blocks promote colour and shape recognition and problem-solving skills whilst helping children differentiate between sizes and shapes.
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2) Look and Find..Number Jigsaw, £7.50, Amazon

Key skill: Problem-solving

Two number activity jigsaws in one box. After piecing together both the puzzles, children can use them together by matching the items shown on both to aid counting from 1-10, with a chunky piece for each number. This activity also helps to develop matching, discussion and observational skills, with collaboration between parent/adult and child. Children will love piecing together the colourful scene in this fun jigsaw puzzle, which helps make counting fun!

Gold Winner in the 2019 Mother & Baby Playtime Awards.
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3) LEGO DUPLO My First Deluxe Box of Fun, £99.99, Amazon

Key skills: Building and construction

This is a little more on the expensive side but it is an all-inclusive starter set for your little one. It is the perfect introduction to LEGO building fun, with a huge range of classic and special DUPLO bricks. 
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4) Waitrose Supermarket, £49, John Lewis

Key skills: Role-play and imagination

Just the thing for fun imaginative role play. This supermarket checkout comes with a built-in calculator, pretend credit card and Waitrose paper bags. And with lots of toy groceries including croissants, cereals, juice and fruits, there's everything they need for the weekly shop!
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5) LeapFrog Scoot & Learn Ice Cream Cart, £49.99, Early Learning Centre

Key skills: Role-play and imagination

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.

Bronze Winner in the 2019 Mother & Baby Playtime Awards.
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6) Welcome to Our World: A Celebration of Children Everywhere! £8.72, Amazon

Key skills: Literacy

Children all over the world are very different, but they also have much in common. In this beautifully illustrated book, young children can learn all about what people in other countries eat, wear and play, and how they speak and celebrate. From breakfasts to birthdays, cakes to clothes, and hiccups to hellos, there are so many ways to say and do things - but everyone shares a love of family, friends, food and fun. This delightful book teaches us that despite different languages, customs andtraditions, it really is a small world, after all.
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7) Play-Doh Classic Colours 4 Pack, £3.99, Argos

Key skill: Creativity

Explore open-ended creativity and make amazing creations with this Play-Doh variety pack! With 4 different Play-Doh colours to squish and mold, kids can create all sorts of wonderful 'crafterpieces'. It is packed with Play-Doh potential! This type of hands-on fun helps power imaginations.
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8) Chad Valley Giant Floor Piano, £18, Argos

Key skills: Musical and visual

Time to get creative. With the Giant Floor Piano they can create their own music to dance to. There are 14 demo songs and 6 animal sounds for them to listen to as they are inspired to create their own musical masterpieces.
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9) Toddler Musical Instruments, £25.99, Amazon

Key skills: Musical and visual

The complete wooden musical set unleashes your child's inner artist. This 15-piece percussion set is designed specifically for kids to enjoy exploring the world of music. Music gives your child a chance to experience learning in a whole new way. Your child can explore different instruments and sounds whilst also increasing attention levels, memory, motor and creative skills.
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10) Chad Valley Kid's 2ft Indoor Trampoline, £30, Argos

Key skill: Physical

Spring into action with this colourful 2ft 11inch trampoline. Brilliant for bouncing this kids trampoline is great for encouraging active physical play. The patented Stretch Tech material and design ensures the best weight distribution and padded edges for easier assembly and safer bouncing.
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11) Zycom Folding Z Trike, £70, Halfords

Key skill: Physical

If you're tight on storage this foldable trike is a must-have! Set over a wide, three wheel geometry, for extra stability and support, the Zycom Folding Z-Trike has large EVA treaded tyres. This will provide a smooth roll allowing your child to develop their co-ordination and judgment skills. Zycom have added a 'freewheel switch' to the front wheel. This allows the pedals to be locked into position so as the child can rest their feet on the pedals or power themselves along. When your child is ready, you can release the freewheel switch to allow the pedals to turn and your child to pedal themselves. 
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12) Fisher-Price Think and Learn Code-a-Pillar, £39.59, Amazon

Key skill: Interactivity

Code-a-pillar inspires little learners to be big thinkers by encouraging pre-schoolers to arrange (and rearrange) the easy-to-connect segments in endless combinations, sending Code-a-pillar on his path. This learning toy encourages experimentation while developing important skills like planning, sequencing and critical thinking. There's no end to the combinations kids can make - mix up the segments and put them back together to send Code-a-pillar in a different direction every time.
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13) Little Learning Pad, £15, Mothercare

Key skill: Interactivity

This fun tablet looks just like the real thing, but it's designed specially for little ones! There are eight different activities to discover. When each picture is touched, children can listen to music or learn about letters, numbers and animals. Great for encouraging language development and getting children to talk about what they are learning, the Learning Pad is ideal for teaching children about cause and effect, as they will be beginning to understand that when you press a button it will play a sound or tune. It's also a great toy to keep children away from the real thing and children will love mimicking Mum and Dad.


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Catriona originally joined the team as an Editorial Assistant to work on the 2019 M&B Awards. As a Digital Writer, she has written and updated hundreds of articles on the site from medical explainers to celebs news and shopping galleries.

Catch her running along the Thames or eating her way around London's restaurants.


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