Toys

The 15 Best Educational Toys For 3-Year-Olds & 7 Factors To Help You Choose

Updated on 11 minute read

What Kind Of Toys Should A 3-Year-Old Have?

Plenty of 3-year-olds love to socialize and play with new friends, but don’t be surprised if your little one prefers to play on their own. Kids develop at different rates and have varied personalities.

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According to child development experts, preschoolers (3-4-year-olds) begin to develop their social skills at this age. When they notice other children playing, most are likely to readily join these other kids even if they don’t know them. (1)(2)

Toys for this age group are ideally those that can be shared and played with other children, such as jumbo building toys for little hands, simple board games, interactive toys for pretend play, and age-appropriate learning activities.

You might also notice that many developmentally friendly toys for 1-year-olds and 2-year-olds are still great for 3-year-olds. 

These toys can grow with your child, and you might be surprised that they’ll find new ways to play with these old toys. Older kids (5-7-year-olds) might even find these toys interesting, especially educational toys that continue to challenge their problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

 

Why Should You Choose Learning Toys For 3-Year-Olds?

Your child is getting ready for preschool or might already be in school at three years old. One way of encouraging them to learn is to make the experience fun.

The best learning toys can be used to develop their cognitive skills and learn basic math, science, and language concepts. 

That’s why STEM toys (science, technology, engineering, and math) are among the best learning resources and toys you can pick for your child.

These will introduce them to the basic concepts and let them develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills as they prepare for preschool.

 

Our Top 15 Picks For The Best Educational Toys For Three-Year-Olds

You can find our top 15 recommendations for the best learning toys for three-year-olds and other young children, grouped based on:

  • STEM & Montessori-inspired toys
  • Educational building sets & blocks
  • Words, ABCs, numbers, & colors 
  • Puzzles & matching toys
  • Imaginative play & role play
  • Musical toys
  • Toys for learning life skills
  • Creative & sensory toys for learning new skills

 

Continue reading to learn more about each toy below.

 

STEM & Montessori-inspired Toys

Monti Kids Program: Level 12

(source: montikids.com)

 

  • Price: $65 per month ($195 per level)
  • Pros & best features: Subscription program for Montessori toys, which includes a mystery box, number matching set, memory game, fraction circles, book, glue set, and a window-washing set
  • Product safety: Wood with non-toxic paint
  • Materials: Child-safe materials (certified safe for 0-3 years old)
  • Type of toy: Learning materials
  • Educational value: STEM toys, fine motor skills, cognition, pretend play, and memory
  • Recommended age range: 34-36 months
  • Extra features: Instructional videos and other support materials 
  • Certification: ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) International F-963 Toy Safety Standards, CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: These Montessori learning materials can be pricey.

 

Melissa & Doug My First Daily Magnetic Calendar

(source: melissaanddoug.com)

 

  • Price: $24.99
  • Pros & best features: Magnetic calendar with 80 magnetic pieces to teach kids the basic concepts of date, weeks, months, special events, and weather
  • Product safety: Free from lead and phthalates
  • Materials: Non-toxic materials
  • Type of toy: Learning materials
  • Educational value: Basic math and time concepts, 
  • Recommended age range: 3+ years (still ideal for up to 8-year-olds or even older)
  • Extra features: Fabric-hinged (sturdy cord), dry-erase boards (for the calendar template and magnet storage)
  • Certification: FSC, US, and EU (European Union) conformity certificates
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: Some complaints on Amazon about the magnets being too weak and the pieces easily falling off the board

 

Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit + Early Math Adventure

(source: playosmo.com)

 

  • Price: $119
  • Pros & best features: Introduces core kindergarten subjects (including shapes, counting, early literacy, language, and communication) with fun games for kids
  • Product safety: BPA-free (without bisphenol-A), dishwasher-safe items
  • Materials: Silicone
  • Type of toy: Learning material set designed for use with a compatible device (iPad or Fire)
  • Educational value: Fine motor skills, cognitive development, social-emotional skills, and early literacy
  • Recommended age range: 3-5-year-olds
  • Extra features: Learn 300+ words
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: The set can be pricey and requires a compatible electronic device.

 

Skillmatics Educational Game: Be Curious Kit

(source: skillmaticsworld.com)

 

  • Price: $65
  • Pros & best features: Set of learning materials for different learning concepts
  • Product safety: Passed US child safety tests
  • Materials: Certified child-safe
  • Type of toy: Learning materials
  • Educational value: Reflective thinking, problem-solving, and sequencing skills
  • Recommended age range: From 3 years and 10 months
  • Extra features: Includes flashcards, write and wipe activity mats, and learning cubes
  • Certification: ASTM and CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act)
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: Some complaints over pieces that weren’t very sturdy

 

Educational Building Sets & Blocks

Dado Cube by Fat Brain Toys

(source: fatbraintoys.com)

 

  • Price: $29.95
  • Pros & best features: Hollow building blocks that can be connected using slits along the sides
  • Product safety: BPA-free
  • Materials: Durable, heavy-gauge plastic
  • Type of toy: Building blocks set
  • Educational value: Planning, engineering, visual-spatial skills, fine motor skills, creativity, experimentation, and self-esteem
  • Recommended age range: 3+ years old
  • Extra features: Deluxe pieces that add a twist to the classic building blocks
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: Some complaints about sharp edges

 

Soyee Magnetic Blocks (100 pcs)

(source: soyeeglobal.com)

 

  • Price: $36.99
  • Pros & best features: 100 magnetic block pieces with different shapes, number blocks, and alphabet blocks
  • Product safety: Non-toxic
  • Materials: 100% non-toxic ABS plastic
  • Type of toy: Building blocks set
  • Educational value: Architecture, STEM toys, hand-eye coordination, and physics spatial reasoning
  • Recommended age range: 3-6 year-olds or even older kids
  • Extra features: Ferris wheel components
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: Some complaints about weak magnets and missing pieces

 

Gigi Bloks 100 XXL Building Blocks

(source: amazon.com)

 

  • Price: $83.81
  • Pros & best features: Jumbo building blocks to create child-sized forts, castles, etc.
  • Product safety: Paper-based product without paint
  • Materials: Strong, durable, and finished cardboard made of unbleached soft wood pulp
  • Type of toy: Building blocks set
  • Educational value: Imaginative play, architecture, engineering, gross motor skills, and spatial awareness
  • Recommended age range: 3+ years old
  • Extra features: Paper-based materials that your child can draw or paint on
  • Certification: Certified food-safe
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: The blocks need adult assembly

 

Words, ABCs, Numbers, & Colors 

Lego Duplo My First Alphabet Truck

(source: lego.com)

 

  • Price: $24.99
  • Pros & best features: Building blocks set with 36 block pieces, a toy truck, and small people
  • Product safety: Non-toxic and BPA-free
  • Materials: ABS plastic (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), a non-toxic and scratch-resistant plastic
  • Educational value: Role play, cognitive skills, and learning ABCs
  • Recommended age range: 1½ years old and over
  • Extra features: Small people and a bear are included in the set
  • Certification: US and EU standards
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: Some complaints about duplicates or missing letters

 

Inchimals by Fat Brain Toys

(source: amazon.com)

 

  • Price: $36.95
  • Pros & best features: Blocks with 12 pieces that have exact inch segments and cute prints for the representative animals
  • Product safety: Meets US and EU product safety requirements
  • Materials: Wood
  • Type of toy: Wooden blocks and STEM toys
  • Educational value: Math and pre-algebra skills
  • Recommended age range: 3+ years old
  • Extra features: Comes with a write-on-wipe-off puzzle book with 100 puzzles
  • Certification: US and EU standards
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: Some complaints about the wooden blocks arriving with some paint already chipping

 

Puzzles & Matching Toys

Thames & Kosmos Robot Engineer (Level 1) by Kids First

(source: store.thamesandkosmos.com)

 

  • Price: $49.95
  • Pros & best features: Multi-award toy set with 53 pieces designed for STEM learning by making non-motorized but movable robots (with a matching storybook)
  • Product safety: With safety warnings for choking hazards for kids under three years old
  • Materials: Plastic
  • Type of toy: Building set
  • Educational value: Fine motor skills, visual-spatial skills, science and math skills, and reasoning and concept development skills
  • Recommended age range: 3+ years old (can also be ideal for 6-year-olds or older children)
  • Extra features: Storybook
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: Some complaints about the pieces not staying together like they’re supposed to

 

Educational Insights Design & Drill Take-Along Toolkit 

(source: educationalinsights.com)

 

  • Price: $34.99
  • Pros & best features: 60 big, colorful bolt pieces with three screwdriver bits to create different patterns on the board
  • Product safety: With safety warnings as choking hazards for children under three years old
  • Materials: Plastic
  • Type of toy: STEM toy
  • Educational value: Fine motor skills and creativity
  • Recommended age range: 3+ years old
  • Extra features: The screwdriver bits have different designs (flat head, Phillips, and socket) 
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: The screwdriver piece requires batteries, but some parents complain on Amazon about the toy not working even with fresh batteries.

 

Imaginative Play & Role Play Toys

LOVEVERY The Storyteller Play Kit

(source: lovevery.com)

 

  • Price: $120
  • Pros & best features: Montessori-based materials to introduce different learning concepts
  • Product safety: Water-based paint and finishes
  • Materials: Sustainably harvested FSC-certified wood
  • Type of toy: Learning materials
  • Educational value: Engineering, problem-solving skills, imaginative play, and real-life skills
  • Recommended age range: 40-42 months
  • Extra features: Puppet theater set and child-sized squeeze & spray mop
  • Certification: FSC
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: It can be pricey.

 

Musical Toys

Hape Learn With Lights Electronic Ukulele

(source: amazon.com)

 

  • Price: $43.99
  • Pros & best features: Playable ukulele with flashing lights as a guide to teach your child how to play music
  • Product safety: Passed all toy safety tests (sharp point, bite force, tensile, small parts, drop, and chemical tests)
  • Materials: Plastic
  • Type of toy: Musical toy
  • Educational value: Pretend play and musical learning
  • Recommended age range: 3+ years old
  • Extra features: With instruction sticker, booklet, and handle for easy carrying
  • Certification: ASTM
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: Requires batteries

 

Toys For Learning Life Skills

The Big Dig Sandbox Digger Excavator Crane

(source: thebigdig.com)

 

  • Price: $49.99
  • Pros & best features: Working crane designed for little hands to shovel and move dirt, sand, snow, etc.
  • Product safety: Base with capped ends
  • Materials: Metal
  • Type of toy: Pretend play
  • Educational value: Logical thinking, reasoning, imaginative play, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills
  • Recommended age range: 3+ years old
  • Extra features: Seat for your little worker
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: Some complaints about the metal being too soft and easily bending

 

Creative & Sensory Toys For Learning New Skills

Step2 Flip and Doodle Desk With Stool & Easel

(source: amazon.com)

 

  • Price: $109.99
  • Pros & best features: Activity center with medium and large-sized bins for art supplies
  • Product safety: Free from heavy metals and phthalates 
  • Materials: Polypropylene and/or polyethylene plastics
  • Educational value: Fine motor skills, creativity and visualization, self-expression, and coordination
  • Recommended age range: 2+ years but also ideal for 3-6-year-olds
  • Extra features: Easel flips down to turn into a desk
  • Certification: ASTM
  • Product recall: None
  • Cons: Requires assembly 

 

How To Choose The Right Educational Toys For Three-Year-Olds?

Here are seven factors to consider in choosing your little one’s toys:

 

Recommended Age: What Does A 3-Year-Old Need?

Although kids develop at different rates, most toys tend to be ideal for different ages. Three-year-olds (or around the same age) need education toys and learning materials to introduce them to the basic learning concepts while they’re having fun.

Child development experts acknowledge that kids can learn a lot through play. Your child can develop any or a combination of the following: (3)

  • Social skills
  • New vocabulary
  • Cognitive skills
  • Literacy skills
  • Physical abilities

 

Learning Ability, Interests, & Skills

It’s good to pick toys that fit their developmental milestones, learning abilities, skills, and interests.

Developmental milestones for 3-year-olds include the following: (1)(2)

  • Running and jumping easily
  • Stacking 10+ blocks
  • Walking upstairs unassisted
  • Easily drawing straight lines or copying circles
  • Concentrates on tasks for 8-9 minutes
  • Say around 500-900 words
  • Makes two or three-word sentences
  • Names colors
  • Knows some numbers and letters
  • Joins other kids in play

 

Kids also have different interests, sometimes depending on their gender. For example, some toys for 3-year-old girls might not seem interesting to boys of the same age.

 

Skills Development & Benefits

Kids this age might already recognize colors, shapes, numbers, and letters quicker than younger ones. These new skills can make them more interested in educational toys.

Note that many educational toys for 2-year-olds can still be a great option for 3-year-olds and older kids.

 

Safe To Play

Although most toys with small parts have warnings that indicate they’re unsafe for children under three, avoid choosing them if your child still loves to put things in their mouth even at 3+.

Choosing toys made of child-safe materials free from toxic chemicals like lead and other heavy metals, phthalates, and BPA is also good.

 

Engagement & Fun

It’s tempting to give “advanced” toys to help your kids learn more. However, toys that offer too much information or have many different things going on might seem too complex for your child.

They could lose interest if they don’t grasp the essential elements of a certain activity. (4)

Sometimes, it’s best to pick fun and engaging toys that are simple and fit for their age but let them use their imagination.

 

Educational Value

Consider offering your child toys with different educational values so they can develop various learning aspects and find new ways to have fun.

Building toys, musical instruments, crafting kits, and other learning materials can let them learn without sacrificing entertainment.

 

Value For Your Money 

Will your kids outgrow the toys after just a few months? Thankfully, that might be true for some toys for 1-year-olds, but many educational toys for older children might still be interesting as they grow older.

It’s also good to check for the toy’s quality because some toys might be cheaper but can be unsafe or easily break and get damaged.

 

FAQs

What Can I Buy My 3-Year-Old Daughter?

Dolls and toys for imaginative play are popular for 3-year-old girls, but you can also pick building blocks, musical instruments, learning sets, cooking sets, and other unisex toys.

If unsure, you can always ask them to pick the ones they like before you checkout.

 

What’s The Best Gift For A 3-Year-Old Baby Girl?

The answer will usually depend on the child’s interests. But because kids this age are getting ready for preschool, you can never go wrong with picking educational toys.

 

Is A 3-Year-Old A Toddler Or Preschooler?

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 3-year-olds are preschoolers. Toddlers are kids starting from 1-year-old until they turn three. (5)

 

Can 3-Year-Olds Write?

Although some can already write a few letters or numbers, most 3-year-olds can’t do that yet. However, many might show interest in holding a pencil or any writing material to create lines. (6)

 

How Far Should A 3-Year-Old Count?

Most 3-year-olds can count up to four objects, while some can reach up to 10. (2)

 

What Should A 3-Year-Old Draw?

Kids this age can draw straight lines and copy circles. (2)

 

How Do Educational Toys For 3-Year-Olds Differ From Those For 2-Year-Olds?

Many learning toys for 3-year-olds can have more numbers, letters, or features than educational toys for 2-year-olds

Toymakers might also design these toys for sharing and socialization because 3-year-olds are developmentally ready to improve their social skills by sharing and playing with others. (1)(2)

Other Toys We Recommend For 3-Year-Old Boys & Girls

  • 2-in-1 LeapTop Touch by LeapFrog
  • 3d Feel & Find By Guide Craft 
  • Bath Letters and Numbers by Munchkin
  • Bears in Pairs
  • BigShu Magnetic Tiles Building Blocks
  • BlissLights Sky Lite 2.0 LED Laser Star Projector
  • Blue Horse Hopper
  • Brain Spark Digit blocks Magnetic Building Blocks
  • Bravokids Toys LCD Writing Tablet
  • BRIO World Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel Circle Set
  • Calico Critters Tuxedo Cat Family
  • Clixo Rainbow 42 Piece Pack
  • Coding Critters Ranger & Zip
  • Creative Teaching Materials Rhyming Words Match & Learn Puzzle
  • EHO Preschool Learning Math Flashcards
  • Fat Brain Toys Squigz Starter Set
  • Flybar My First Foam Pogo Jumper
  • Flying Seeds Wooden Stacking Toys
  • Free To Fly Take Apart DIY Dinosaur Toys
  • Funshpiel Toy Violin
  • Haba Number Maze Magnetic Game
  • HahaGift Matching Letter Game
  • Hape – Eggspressions – Game Of Feeling
  • Hide N Side Play Tent and Tunnels 
  • KidKraft Uptown Espresso Kitchen
  • Kids to Discover Cartoon Remote Control Cars
  • Kodo Tins Set
  • Lauri Tall-Stacker Pegs Building Set
  • Likee Wooden Pattern Blocks Set
  • Little People, BIG DREAMS: Black Voices by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Lisbeth Kaiser
  • Little Tikes Easy Hit Golf Set
  • Little Tikes Inflatable Jump ‘n Slide Bounce House
  • Lucky Doug 236 PCS Construction Race Tracks
  • Magna-Tiles
  • Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow!
  • Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards
  • Melissa & Doug Pet Vet Play Set
  • Melissa & Doug Wooden Magnetic Dress-Up Dolls
  • Melissa And Doug See And Spell Wooden Educational Toy
  • Might Mind
  • Montessori Cooking Together Kit
  • Niskite Bluetooth Karaoke Microphone for Kids
  • PAW Patrol Mighty Pups Touch & Teach Word Book
  • Peg Perego John Deere Ground Force Tractor with Trailer
  • PlanToys The Green Dollhouse
  • Plus-Plus BIG Tube
  • Prextex Pack of 2 Radio Control Cars
  • Seckton Upgrade Kids Selfie Camera
  • Skyfield Wooden Animal Puzzles
  • SUNLIN Dance Mat
  • The Original PlasmaCar
  • The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game
  • This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe
  • Tonie Superhero Creative-Tonie
  • Tonies Toniebox Playtime Puppy Starter Set
  • Toyk Aqua Magic Mat
  • ToyVelt Dinosaur Take Apart Toys
  • VTech Explore And Write Activity Desk
  • VTech Switch & Go Dinos Blister The Velociraptor Dinosaur
  • Wikki Stix Numbers And Counting Fun Cards For Learning
  • Wooden Latches Board by Melissa and Doug

 

 

 

References

(1) https://www.understood.org/en/articles/developmental-milestones-for-typical-3-year-olds

(2) https://www.choc.org/primary-care/ages-stages/3-years/

(3) https://www.unicef.org/sites/default/files/2018-12/UNICEF-Lego-Foundation-Learning-through-Play.pdf

(4) https://montikids.com/montessori/what-makes-toy-montessori/

(5) https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/preschoolers.html

(6) https://www.pbs.org/parents/learn-grow/age-3/literacy/writing

 

 

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