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.
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 hits 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…
Age: 2 to 5
What it is: A toddler-friendly LEGO DUPLO set consisting of 104 pieces, which helps your child build a tractor, barn and 25cm x 22cm farmhouse which comes with 3 DUPLO figures: 2 children and a farmer, plus 5 animal figures: sheep, cow, goat, rooster and rabbit. Easily combined with other DUPLO farm sets.
Why we love it: It’s no wonder this set took home Gold in our Best Toddler Toy in the 2018 category, as its packed with opportunity for imaginative play, developing building skills and learning about familiar animals, animal care, and life on the farm in general. Our child testers were particularly enthralled with the mini-toilet!
Available from: LEGO and Amazon
What it is: A preschooler-friendly robot that measures 33cm x 34.5cm x 14cm, with chunky wheels, a 360° turn and over 60 facial expressions. You press the light-up buttons on his head to get him to play fun but nicely educational games – or dance. Needs 4 C batteries (included).
Why we love it: A lot of robot toys are best suited for older kids – but not Movi! In fact, his colour co-ordinated games and fun sing-songs are perfect for younger ones. He’s quick on his feet, too. Great for getting tots off their bums and running around. Our mini toy testers loved it so much, they awarded it Silver in 2017’s MadeForMums Toy Awards.
Available at: Amazon and Smyths Toys
What it is: A brightly-painted 9cm x 13cm x 13cm mini replica coffee machine, with 2 wooden cups, spoon, ‘milk frother’ and a selection of coloured pods to place inside the removable filter.
Why we love it: In addition to being one of those toys you wish was for grown-ups (because it’s just so gorgeous, and classic), our 2017 Toy Awards judges gave it Gold, because they loved how engaging it was. Perfect for old-school, imaginative role playing games.
Available at: JoJo Maman Bebe and Cottage Toys
What it is: This Buzz Lightyear toy, brand new to coincide with the release of Toy Story 4, lights up, makes sounds and can walk. The noises he makes include a big jet and 3 blaster sounds. He says phases like: “Buzz Lightyear to the rescue!” and “We’re on a mission to find our friends!”. He measures at 18cm high. Batteries Required: 3x AAA (LR03) Alkaline (Not Included).
Why we love it: Buzz is back! And this time he can walk. He is tipped to be a Christmas favourite, especially since Toy Story 4 has just been released. We love the phrases he says – playing with him really brings all 4 movies to life.
Available at: Smyth’s Toys and Argos
What it is: This PAW Patrol truck has flashing lights, sounds, swinging wrecking ball and swiveling scoop. It measures 40.6cm x 17.8cm x 33cm. Included in the box is the Ultimate Rescue Construction Truck, 1 Mini Steam Roller Vehicle, 1 Rubble Figure, 1 Instruction Sheet, x 2 AAA Batteries.
Why we love it: If your little one loves PAW Patrol, they’ll love this! The lights flash, it has sounds and moving parts, and it comes with a PAW Patrol figure.
Available at: Smyth’s Toys and Amazon
What it is: A poppy red, white and blue 25cm x 39.5cm electronic till set with buttons they can 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. It needs 2 AA batteries, which are included.
Why we love it: Our child testers voted this toy Silver for Best Pretend Play Silver in our 2018 Toy Awards, because it’s perfect for imaginative children who like to invent stories and games, while acting out the things they see in real life. The card reader is particular is a big hit… because it’s rare many of us pay with cash, these days! The draw pops open, and also makes lots of noises as you open, close and scan items, which is brilliant for kids who like that interaction. We would like a few more items to scan, if we’re being picky, but given the price – we’d say it’s good value for money as is.
Available from: The Entertainer
What it is: 44 clip-in track parts that can be customised to build a modern, futuristic-looking monorail, and also can be added to any existing Magformers set. The set also includes a shuttle car, shuttle spinner, shuttle lift and stop/start track. Packaged it measures 43cm x 10cm x 60cm, but the size of the track depends on how you choose to build it. Requires 2 AAA batteries, which are not included.
Why we love it: The Silver winner in the Best Construction Toy category at 2018’s MadeForMums Toy Awards, this toy’s major appeal is its building power. You can build several versions of the track, as shown above, and this allows kids to develop a variety of skills: hand-eye co-ordination, problem-solving, concentration and focus. It’s also got play value as a train set in itself, especially when you think that the different track combinations… it’s like a new track each time.
Available from: Magformers and John Lewis
What it is: A large 22-piece floor jigsaw that turns into a play train track once you’ve fitted it together. Each of the 22 pieces measure 22cm x10cm. It comes with trains, people, stations, level crossings – and even a cow!
Why we love it: It’s great value for a train track, and it’s compatible with Orchard Toys’ other floor jigsaws – Giant Road and Giant Town. It was a previous Made for Mums Awards Gold winner – we love it because of how interchangeable it is, and how huge it is!
Available at: Orchard Toys, Amazon and Argos
Age: 1 to 5
What it is: A pirate ship playset that’s full of treasure. It also has a cannonball launcher, a seesaw platform, light-up buttons and Toot-Toot MagicPoint locations. Comes with 3 Toot-Toot characters: Monkey, Sailor Stanley and Captain Monty. The set (unboxed) is 6.5cm long, 45.8cm wide and 35cm tall. Requires 2 AA batteries, which are included. You’ll still need a screwdriver handy, though.
Why we love it: The Pirate Ship is colourful and produces tons of amazing sounds, especially when you place your 3 characters on the MagicPoint locations. Fortunately, you can also turn the sounds off when the fun just won’t stop – and your little one’s toys are starting to get on your nerves (it happens!). It’s sturdy, yet easy to put together, as the pieces click into place nicely. Parents have called it a win for creative play, with lots of interactive features. Oh, and this set was voted Silver in our Best Playset category at the 2018 MadeForMums Awards, which means it’s got the approval of our trusted child toy testers.
Available from: Smyths Toys, Argos and VTech
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 this one has 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. Isaac’s dad says, ‘There’s lots of great little toys in this set – hours of fun for make-believe play and some great learning opportunities with some of the components.’
Available at: Amazon
What it is: A 49-piece wooden train track that measures 61cm x 91cm x 20cm. It comes with a prehistoric landscape – trees and volcanoes – dinosaur passengers and a dino railway engine with two carriages. It is compatible with all other Big Jigs train toys.
Why we love it: You can’t go wrong with trains or dinosaurs for a 3-year-old! Our child tester Mia loved it, it kept her occupied for an hour at a time (a long time for a pre-schooler). It is really well-made and Big Jigs wooden tracks are compatible with Brio and Ikea wooden tracks, among others, too.
Available at: Bigjigs Toys
Ages: 3 to 5
What it is: A metal-framed balance bike with handlebars that adjust from 57 to 61cm and a seat that adjusts from 34 to 44cm.
Why we love it: Balance bikes are the perfect toys for adventurous little ones, who are active and ready to feel a tiny bit more independent. This one won was a hit with children and parents at the MFM Toy Awards 2017 because it’s great value money-wise, and it’s adjustable, so you can make sure the handlebars fit to your child’s height perfectly.
Available at: Argos and Amazon
What it is: A Play-Doh ‘ice cream making’ set that comes with pretend popsicles, silly ice cream sandwiches, cutters and stampers, 7 pots of different colours of Play-Doh, and a stand for displaying your creations.
Why we love it: Rolling, squashing and cutting out playdough is pretty much guaranteed 3-year-old fun, and combining that with pretend ice cream making makes this set a surefire hit. Molding and rolling Play-Doh is also a great way to help them improve their gross motor control, too, as it strengthens the muscles in their hands.
Available at: Amazon and Asda
What it is: This 26cm x 104cm x 99cm toy kitchen has a double burner stove top, oven, dishwasher, microwave and a fridge with an ice dispenser. There’s also a washer and dryer. The kitchen set comes with 11 accessories, including a basket, spice jars and pots and pans. It is self-assembly but doesn’t require any batteries.
Why we love it: It might be pricey, but this kitchen comes with every accessory and appliance you can think of! The endless play options should keep little ones busy for ages.
Available from: Little Tikes and Amazon
What it is: A scaled-down 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! Stands at 63cm tall and requires 4 C batteries.
Why we love it: For one, it doesn’t require us to do any actual vacuuming 😂 but it does let your little one suck things up. It even has a removable bin. The potential for hours of role-playing fun is great. Also, maybe it’ll convince them that real-life chores are actually fun? We live in hope… It certainly does something right, as it was awarded bronze in our Best Toy for Role Play category at the 2017 MadeForMums Toy Awards.
Available at: Argos and Amazon
What it is: The Our Generation range of dolls from John Crane come in a range of skin colours and hair colours. They’re large (46cm high), easy to dress and undress, and each comes with a different outfit.
Why we love it: To say our tester Jaime quite liked her Sienna Our Generation doll is something of a serious understatement. ‘From the moment she saw her in the box,’ says her mum, ‘it’s been a bit of a love story. Jaime has put her hair clips in Sienna’s hair, tied it up how she wears it, dressed her, undressed her – and slept with her in bed last night! The doll is so beautifully made, from the packaging (totally environmentally friendly) to her clothes to her hair. This is a dolly your child will keep and play with forever. Top marks!’
Available at: Smyths Toys
What it is: A two-tiered 25cm x 25cm x 29.5cm wooden cake stand that is a shape sorter toy. It comes with 15 different wooden cakes. Each one fits into one of the stand’s differently shaped holes.
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 can also be used to have a teddy bear’s tea party.
Available at: Amazon
Images: Product websites