Mother and Baby

The best toys for a three-year-old

toddler playing with toys

If your child is about to turn three then you're finally out of the terrible twos. You survived! And as their interests change and they begin to mature, it might be a good idea to treat your little boy or girl to some new fun and educational toys. Here, we've rounded up some of the best toys for three-year-olds to give you some inspiration. 

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. 

Read more: Your baby's development milestones

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 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, mini-computers, basic coding kits and play mobile telephones.

The best toys to buy for three year olds:

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.

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!

This was the Gold Winner in the 2019 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Toddler Toy category

Tested by mum Jaspreet for the 2019 M&B Awards: "This toy is brightly coloured, visually attractive and wipe-clean. It's educational, it has two puzzles which encourage counting, manual dexterity by putting puzzles together and identifying animals and objects. The puzzle is compact, so it is transportable and easy to take with you."

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.

This won Bronze in the 2019 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Toddler Toy category.

Tested by mum Danielle for the 2019 M&B Awards: "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." 

Key skills: Role-play and imagination

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% 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."

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.

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.

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. 

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.

Key skills: Imagination 

I love Love Monster. He seems to suffer with a bit of social anxiety, which I have an affinity with; there's a lot of empathy and friendship discussed in what looks like a simple cartoon show. Playing with this plushy light-up toy will boost your child's imagination, bringing the cartoon to life once you turn the telly off. His little heart lights up, and he plays sounds and music (you might want to accidentally lose the batteries on Boxing Day, mind you). 


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.


Other contributors

Lorna White - Digital Writer
Sophie Knight - Contributing Editor

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