22 of the best toys for 3 year olds

Our pick of the top toys for boys and girls aged 36 months and up

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best toys for 3 year olds

Your 3-year-old is now able to reason logically (though he or she may not always choose to do so!), which means there’s a new appeal in toys that require sorting or fitting together – either by working out what goes where or by following a simple sequence of steps.

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Your child’s improved dexterity also means she or he is also able to do much more fiddly-finger stuff: this is the age when playdough, puzzles and (sprawly, splashy) painting and drawing come into their own.

But perhaps the biggest winners of all are toys that spark off imaginary play – especially if it involves acting out roles (doctor, cook, teacher, train driver, astronaut). Your 3-year-old is fast becoming a proper drama king or queen!

Here is our pick of some of the best toys for 3 year olds…

1. Milly & Flynn Peppa Pig Wooden Clock, £15

Age: 3+

What it is: A chunky 26cm-diameter wooden clock with moveable hands and 12 coloured and numbered puzzle pieces to take out, sort and rearrange.

Why we love it: Well, it’s Peppa-themed, so it’s probably a winner before you start! Our child testers loved its colourful puzzle pieces and moving hands – and their parents really liked the high-quality wooden design and the cute, little illustrations underneath each puzzle piece (so the number 6 has 6 little yellow crowns underneath it, to count up). Your child may be too young yet to learn about time (particularly olde worlde analogue time) but this is a great toy for learning to recognise numbers. Won Gold for Best Educational Toy in our MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019.

Available from: Milly & Flynn, Amazon and John Lewis

2. LeapFrog Smart Sizzling BBQ Grill, £49.99 (£29.99 in this Black Friday deal)

Age: 2+

What it is: A 47cm x 19cm x 40cm ‘smart’ pretend-play barbecue set with a temperature dial that comes plates, utensils, sauces and 8 different food items that can be cooked on its interactive skewer. The grill recognises each food’s name and colour. Also plays music and sounds effects, makes grilling suggestions and says safety messages, such as ‘Careful: the grill’s hot!’ Also comes in pink/purple. Requires 2 AA batteries (not included).

Why we love it: Wow, what a lot of sounds and accessories! And that interactive skewer was a real hit with our child testers who were amazed that it knew what food they were cooking. We like the storage space inside the for stowing away all the accessories when playtime’s over. Won Gold in the Pretend Play category in our MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019.

Available from: Smyths Toys and Argos

3. Toniebox Starter Set, £69.95

Age: 3+

What it is: A soft-covered wi-fi speaker that starts to play when you put one of the hand-painted, collectible Tonie figures (bought separately) on top: each figure triggers a recording of songs or popular children’s books like The Gruffalo. The starter set includes a ‘Creative Tonie’, which you can record your own story, song or message on (for up to 90 minutes). Comes with a charging station, in a selection of different colours.

Why we love it: Our child testers understood the Toniebox’s screen-less controls straightaway: pressing the ears for volume control and tapping the side to skip tracks or fast forward – and they really enjoyed listening to the different audio tales. Their parents really rated the whole concept as a clever, innovative idea for bedtime/quiet times. Won Gold in the Best Interactive Toy in our MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019.

Available from: Tonies, Amazon and Prezzybox

4. Melissa and Doug Wooden Cutting Food Set, £14.99

Age: 3+

What it is: A 17-piece wooden play food set that includes 8 pieces of wooden food, a cutting board and a wooden knife you can use to ‘slice’ the food. Comes in a wooden crate that doubles as a storage box.

Why we love it: It’s beautifully made, and our child testers really like how the food makes such a realistic crunch when it’s sliced (thanks to the Velcro backing on each sliceable part). Nice price, too. Won Gold in the Best Wooden Toy category in our MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019.

Available from: Amazon and Bright Minds

battat dalmatian vet kit

5. Battat Dalmatian Vet Kit, £32.99

Age: 2+

What it is: A vet set featuring a plush dalmatian toy, a 21cm x 20cm x 26cm carry case and 13 BPA-free veterinary accessories, including a stethoscope, a syringe, a thermometer and a blood-pressure monitor.

Why we love it: It’s nicely sturdy and well-sized for 3-year-old hands. Our child testers thought the little dog was very cute and cuddly, and we’re impressed by the range and quality of the accessories. Bonus points for the dog being machine-washable! Won Bronze for the Best Role Play Toy in our MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019.

Available from: JoJo Maman Bebe, Halilit and Amazon

6. Xootz Bubble Scooter, £39.99

Age: 3+

What it is: A 3-wheeler scooter (max weight: 20kg) with anti-slip footplate, soft-grip handles, adjustable handlebar (64cm to 70cm) and a rear-mounted bubble machine. Requires 3 AA batteries (not included) and bubble solution. Choose from Blue/Green or Blue/Pink.

Why we like it: You should have seen our preschooler testers’ eyes light up at the sight of a scooter that blows bubbles – and not just a few bubbles but loads of them! It’s a pretty decent quality scooter for the price, and simple to assemble. Just be warned: everyone under 5 at the park will be scampering along in your child’s bubbly trail… Won Gold for our Best Scooter in our MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019.

Available from: Amazon, Littlewoods and Very

7. Peppa Pig Stage Set, £39.99

Age: 3+

What it is: A Peppa-themed stage playset (35cm x 37cm x 17cm) that comes with a removable sound box (that plays 12 different sound effects), 3 double-sided scene backdrops and a storage compartment you can pull out to extend the stage. Includes Peppa and George figures, theatre seating (but not the ‘audience’ in our picture) and props. Requires 2 AAA batteries (included).

Why we love it: It’s nicely made for the price, and our child testers found it easy to slot the cardboard cut-outs into the grooves on the stage.  The sounds effects box is great and one of our child testers really loved that fact you can slide an iPad into the stage area to turn the stage set into a cinema.

Available from: Argos, Amazon and Smyths Toys 

8. Kindi Kids dolls, £25 each

Age: 3+

What it is: A 25cm doll with glittery eyes, colourful hair, a wobbly head. Comes with clothes, shoes and a snack she can ‘eat’. Choose from Jessicake, Peppa-Mint, Donatina (pictured above), and Marsha Mello. They also have a YouTube channel where they all play together in their Rainbow Kindergarten.

Why we love it: The dolls are a good size for a preschooler and the ‘magic’ snacks are an instant hit. In all honesty, we were a bit spooked by their huge eyes but our child testers were so enthralled with them, we were won over. Won a special Editor’s Choice award in our MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019.

Available from: Argos and Smyths Toys

9. Petit Collage Wild Fishing Around Wooden Fishing Game, £25

Age: 3+

What it is: A simple wooden skill game: the challenge is to use a fishing rod to catch a fish by hooking its little elastic loop. Roll the dice to see which fish you have to hook but don’t get the old boot or you’ll miss a turn! Come with 12 differently coloured/patterned fish, 2 fishing rods, a dice and instructions. For 2 to 4 players.

Why we love it: It’s beautifully made, really gorgeously coloured (using non-toxic inks) and fun to play. And it’s excellent for improving hand-eye coordination, too: our child testers got really absorbed with holding and aiming their rods just so. Won Bronze in the Best Wooden Toy in our MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019.

Available from: John Lewis andHurn and Hurn

10. LEGO Duplo 10869 Farm Adventures, £54.99

Age: 2+

What it is: A 104-piece construction playset, from which you build a 16cm-high barn with a pulley and a 25cm-high farmhouse with a slide and upstairs toilet. Comes with a tractor, a farmer, 2 children, 5 animal figures and accessories including a trough,a  milk bottle, a hay brick and a pitchfork.

Why we love it: This is pricey but worth it: a nice build, lots of lovely accessories and so much great detail: the pulley is brilliant and our toddler testers whooped with delight when they discovered the upstairs toilet! Won Gold in our 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards.

Available from: LEGO and Amazon

11. Le Toy Van Honeybake Cafe Machine, £29.95

Age: 3+

What it is: An brightly-painted, retro-looking mini (9cm x 13cm x 13cm) wooden coffee machine, with 2 cups, spoon, a milk ‘frother’, a removable filter and a selection of coloured pods to place inside.

Why we love it: It’s just so cute and chunky and colourful. And our child testers had loads of great role-play fun making Mummy and Daddy endless lattes and cappuccinos. This is the kind of long-lasting toy that your child will keep coming back to.

Available at: JoJo Maman Bebe and Cottage Toys and Amazon

12. Ultimate Walking Buzz Lightyear, £34.99

Age: 3+

What it is: An 18cm-high Toy Story 4 Buzz Lightyear robot toy that walks, lights up, makes sounds. Press the button under his arm to switch him on, then press the red button his left side to spread out his wings, hear him say phrases from the movie and make him walk and swivel his hips. Comes with a surprise to unlock to make Buzz do the moonwalk. Requires 3 AAA batteries (included).

Why we love it: This is definitely one of the best Toy Story 4 toys we’ve seen. This Buzz has a really good selection of phrases and, although he shuffles rather than walks, our child testers loved him, particularly when he walks backwards. It’s a shame you can’t make his helmet visor go down, though. Won Bronze in the Best Robot Toy category in our MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019.

Available at: Amazon, Smyths Toys and Argos

paw patrol ultimate rescue construction truck

13. PAW Patrol Ultimate Construction Rescue Truck, £39.99

Age: 3+

What it is: A 40cm x 18cm x 33cm PAW Patrol-themed truck with flashing lights, sounds, a swinging wrecking ball and a swivelling scoop. Comes with a mini steam roller and a Rubble figure. Requires 2 AAA Batteries (included).

Why we love it: The sounds on it aren’t too overbearing and it’s a really good, sturdy size. You only get only play figure, sadly (you can buy others separately). But that swinging wrecking ball is the business

Available at: Smyths Toys and Amazon

14. Busy Me Electronic Cash Register, £29.99

Age: 3+

What it is: A red, white and blue 25cm x 39cm electronic till set with buttons to press, a pretend barcode scanner, play cash (notes and coins), a card machine with play credit card, weighing scales, and some items to purchase, including ketchup, grapes and washing liquid. Requires 2 AA batteries (included).

Why we love it: We like how the drawer pops open (with added sound effects), and our testers loved the beeping as you use the scanner. We would like a few more items to scan, if we’re being picky, but overall, it’s a great little role-play toy. It won a Silver award in our 2018 Toy Awards.

Available from: Amazon and The Entertainer

15. Orchard Toys Giant Railway Jigsaw, £14.95

Age: 3+

What it is: A really big 22-piece floor jigsaw that turns into a pretend train track once you’ve fitted it together. It comes with stand-up cardboard trains, people, stations, level crossings – and even a cow! Compatible with Orchard Toys’ other floor jigsaws (Giant Road and Giant Town).

Why we love it: It’s great value and the jigsaw pieces are big and sturdy but best of all is how many ways a 3-year-old can fit them all together to make differently shaped tracks. A past MadeForMums Toy Awards Gold winner.

Available at: Orchard Toys and Amazon

16. VTech Toot-Toot Friends Kingdom Pirate Ship, £29.99

Age: 1+

What it is: An interactive 16cm x 45cm x 35cm pirate ship that has 3 light-up buttons that you press for pirate-y responses. Features a cannonball launcher, trap door, a spinning octopus and a MagicPoint that triggers fun phrases. Comes with 3 Toot-Toot characters. Requires 2 AA batteries (included).

Why we love it: This little ship produces amazing sounds (though you can turn them off, when grown-up ears have had enough) and has lots of nice stuff to press and play. If our testers are any to go by, it’s the cannonball launcher that’s the absolute best bet. Requires some self-assembly but nothing very tricky. Won a Silver Award in our 2018 MadeForMums Awards.

Available from: Smyths Toys, Argos and VTech

17. Learning Resources Pretend & Play Doctor’s Kit, £29.99

Age: 3+

What it is: A pretend doctor’s kit stuffed with 19 (plastic) medical ‘instruments’, including a stethoscope, syringe, blood-pressure cuff, tweezers, phone and a fetching blue pair of doctor’s specs.

Why we love it: It may be on the pricey side for a doctor’s kit (and WHY is there a pic of a boy but no girl on the front of the case?) but, while this set has been around for a while, it is the best set of ‘instruments’ we’ve seen – and, according to our 3-year-old tester Isaac, the phone, pager and stethoscope make very cool noises indeed.

Available at: Amazon

bigjigs wooden dinosaur railway set

18. BigJigs Dinosaur Train Set, £54.99

Age: 3+

What it is: A 49-piece wooden prehistoric-themed train track that, once assembled, measures 61cm x 95cm. It comes with a volcano bridge, 3 trees, a dinosaur engine with 2 carriages and 9 dinosaurs.

Why we love it: Dinosaurs and railways: what a great combo! And this wooden set is great quality (and compatible with many other wooden toy train sets).

Available at: Wooden Toy Shop, Mulberry Bush and Amazon

19. Chicco Red Bullet Balance Bike, £34.99

Age: 2+

What it is: A 1.75kg 16-inch frame balance bike with adjustable handlebars (57cm to 61cm) and adjustable seat (33cm to 38cm).

Why we love it: It has a lovely glossy finish and is amazingly lightweight. Our child testers’ parents really rated it for value for money, especially as it’s so adjustable and easy to assemble. Won Bronze in our 2017 MadeForMums Toy Awards.

Available at: Argos and Amazon

20. Casdons Dyson Ball Toy Vacuum Cleaner, £20

Age: 3+

What it is: A scaled-down (63cm-high) replica of the Dyson Ball cleaner with sucking sound effects, a cyclone action that makes the beads inside it spin, and a twisting and turning motion like the real thing. Removal dustbin at back to empty debris – because, yes, it actually vacuums! Requires 4 C batteries (not included).

Why we love it: It’s a really well-made toy that looks very like the real grown-up thing – and definitely gets bonus points for having actual suction – not massively strong suction, mind (probably a good thing!) but enough to pick up little bits and pieces. Our testers really enjoyed the way the fan goes around and gets the coloured balls spinning, too. Awarded Bronze in our 2017 MadeForMums Toy Awards.

Available at: Argos and Amazon

21. Our Generation Doll, from £37.99

Age: 3+

What it is: Large (46cm-high) doll with a soft body, non-posable limbs, long hair and a change of outfit. Choose from a range of skin and hair colours.

Why we love it: It’s all about the size (big enough so that undressing and dressing is super-easy) and the hair (lovely and soft and easy to comb and style). Our tester loved her Talita doll so much she took it to bed with her. We have a soft spot for the April doll, who has auburn hair and glasses.

Available at: Smyths Toys and Amazon

22. Tidlo High Tea Shape Matching Set, £32

Age: 3+

What it is: A 2-tiered 25cm x 25cm x 29cm wooden cake stand that’s also a shape-sorter toy. It comes with 15 different wooden cakes, each one shaped to fit into a different hole on the stand.

Why we love it: It’s beautifully made and, to help your child get the right cake in the right slot, the little cakes each have a number on that matches a number on the cake stand. It’s educational and fun: it teaches shape sorting and numbers but is also just the thing for a teddy bear’s tea party.

Available at: Amazon, JoJoMamanBebe and Mulberry Bush

Images: Product websites

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