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23 of the best toys for 3 year olds

Our pick of the most exciting, educational and entertaining toys designed for boys and girls aged 36 months and up

best 3 year olds toys

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 a sequence of sorting or fitting together – either by working out what goes where or by following a simple set of steps.

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Your child’s improved dexterity also means they are also able to do much more fiddly-finger stuff: this is the age when fine-finger-control toys and kits that involve playdough, puzzles and (sprawly, splashy) painting and drawing come into their own.

But perhaps the biggest winners of all are toys that set the scene for a good session of 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!

We’ve tested and chosen the best toys across a range of budgets that are particularly brilliant for 3 year olds – because they’re great for stimulating brain and body development, problem-solving, practising social skills – and having lots of fun…

To save money on toys check out our best toy deals page to keep updated on the best toy sales.

How to choose toys safely

  • Look for the CE symbol as this is used by manufacturers to show the toy meets all the relevant regulatory requirements
  • Also keep an eye out for the British Toy and Hobby Association’s (BTHA) ‘Lion Mark’ – although this is a voluntary scheme, it means that the toy with this mark has met the BTHA’s safety requirements  
  • Pay attention to the age suitability of the toy
  • Avoid toys with loose fabric, hair that sheds easily or small parts that detach easily as these can be a choking hazard
  • Check toys over time for sharp points or edges or signs of wear that are potentially dangerous

Best toys for 3 year olds at a glance

  • Great toy for balancing skills: GOSWIFT Kinderkraft, £79.90
  • Great toy for creative and imaginative play: Hape Railway Bucket Builder Set, £44.99
  • Great toy for social skills and imaginative play: Peppa Pig’s Wooden Playhouse, £79.99
  • Great toy for matching sorting and role play: Woody Treasured Time!, £19.99
  • Great toy for pretend play and active fun: Casdon Dyson Toy Cord-Free Vacuum, £21.99
  • Great toy for sorting skills and manual dexterity: Jaques of London Noah’s Ark, £29.99
  • Great toy for snuggles and companionship: Moose Toys Bluey Jumbo Plush, £19.99
  • Great toy for role play: Learning Resources Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Fire Truck, £46
  • Great toy for pretend play and social skills: Little Tikes First Washer-Dryer, £49.99
  • Great toy for social and nurturing skills: Tiny Treasures Doll with Purple Outfit, £40
  • Great toy dexterity and role play: Bee Smart My Baking Cookie Set with Glove, £26.99
  • Great toy for bedtime and independent play: Toniebox Starter Set, £69.95
  • Great toy for fine motor skills and early numeracy: Jaques of London Kids Learning Clock, £16.99
  • Great toy for action-packed play: PAW Patrol Ultimate Construction Rescue Truck, £39.55
  • Great toy for role play and sorting skills: Melissa & Doug  Scoop & Serve Ice Cream Counter, £42.99
  • Great toy for active and imaginary play: Fabelab Shield and Sword, £35
  • Great toy for role play and fine-finger control: Learning Resources Pretend & Play Doctor’s Kit, £44
  • Great toy for imaginary play: VTech Toot-Toot Friends Kingdom Pirate Ship, £44.99
  • Great toy for social skills and pretend play: Le Toy Van Honeybake Cafe Machine, £29.95
  • Great toy for fun and imaginative play: VTech Toot-Toot Friends Moonlight Camper Van Playset, £36.99
  • Great toy for cuddling and dress-up fun: Our Generation Dolls, from £29.99
  • Great toy for role play and early maths skills: Tidlo High Tea Shape Matching Set, £35
  • Great toy for dexterity and early numeracy: John Lewis & Partners Wooden Fruit Set, £16

Here is our pick of the best toys for 3 year olds, as tested by children and rated by parents

1. GOSWIFT Kinderkraft, £79.90

– Great for balancing skills

Age suitability: 3 to 6 | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Gold, MadeforMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A lightweight 100% recyclable magnesium alloy balance bike with height-adjustable (33cm to 42cm) eco-leather saddle, handlebars with grips, large air-filled rubber tyres and spokeless 12in wheels with ball bearings. The handlebars have a limiter, so you can’t oversteer, and a turn-to-sound loud bell. It comes in yellow, pink or black. Some light self-assembly required.

Why we love it: It’s light and stylish and can be assembled in 10 minutes, with no tools. We like the super-comfy seat and the handlebar limiter that guards against over-enthusiastic steering and we – and our child testers – absolutely love the bell. Our child tester Finley, 3, declared it to be “super-awesome” and his mum Lauren said it’s “absolutely worth the money: the perfect size for the littler legs and a very comfortable seat. It’s a massive hit.”

Available from: Kinderkraft and Pramworld

2. Hape Railway Bucket Builder Set, £44.99

– Great for creative and imaginative play

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3 | Batteries: None
Awards: Gold, MadeforMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 50-piece wooden railway set with a storage box that doubles up as (the hilly) part of the track. Comes with a free-wheeling locomotive, 2 carriages, 1 magnetic crane, 2 S-rails, 8 curved rails, 4 straight rails, 2 irregular rails, 1 mountain-shaped rail, plus trees, signs and other accessories.

Why we love it: It’s a good starter train set (and compatible with most other wooden sets) but it’s the way the storage box and lid become part of the track that’s so clever. We really like the crane, too, and the little chute it can drop the cargo down. Emmie, mum of Rishi, 3, said: “From a parent’s perspective, I can’t believe that it is toy and storage in one. I love that we can have a train set up that is so quick but interesting and it’s so portable, too. My little boy’s favourite bit was, well, ‘Everything!’ but especially the crane and the hills!”

Available from: Amazon, The Baby Farm and Toy Street

3. Peppa Pig’s Wooden Playhouse, £79.99

– Great for social skills and imaginative play

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: 5 x AG13/LR44 (included)
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 65cm x 50cm 3-storey playhouse, with 7 painted rooms and a hallway, themed around the home of every small child’s favourite cartoon pig. Made from FSC-certified wood and comes with wooden Peppa and George figures, and a selection of accessories and furniture including a bath, a light-up cooker and a bedside table that plays lullabies. Some self-assembly required.

Why we love it: It’s such a brilliant replication of Peppa’s house from the TV series – right down to Mr Skinny Legs in the attic and muddy puddles on the floor. And we love the 3 interactive pieces of furniture: how excellent that Mummy Pig’s computer lights up with the Happy Mrs Chicken game! Our child tester Finley, who’s just turned 4, said, “Look, look, it’s just like Peppa’s house! And George has left his scooter on the floor! Wow, a telescope to look at the stars! Peppa, George! Your bath is ready!” Do note that there are no Mummy and Daddy Pig figures (thought these can be bought separately) but, as Finley’s mum Donna said, “This is such a fantastic toy – well worth the money.”

Available at: Character Online, Smyths Toys and Very

4. Woody Treasures Cookie Time!, £19.99

– Great for matching, sorting and role play

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: An 18cm x 14cm 18-piece wooden cookie set that comes in a brightly coloured wooden biscuit box with lid. The cookies are all different designs and shapes and include 2 gingerbread men, wafers and heart-shaped jammy dodgers.

Why we love it: It’s a nicely designed, durable toy that presents all sorts of play-cooking and tea-party-hosting possibilities. And as Tenisha, mum of our child tester Kady, 3, pointed out, “You can match the shapes when putting the biscuits away in the box, too.” As for Kady’s verdict? “I love these cookies. My teddies think they are amazing!”

Available from: Woody Treasures and Amazon

5. Casdon Dyson Toy Cord-free Vacuum, £21.99

– Great for pretend play and active fun

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3 | Batteries: 3 x AA (not included)
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 71cm-high mini version of a Dyson cord-free with working suction and colourful balls that move around the cylinder in a simulated cyclone action. Can be used as a handheld cleaner or with a long handle.

Why we love it: There are a lot of toy vacuums around but not many that, like this one, actually suck up bits of paper and fluff and can be opened and emptied – just like the real thing. Our child tester Luke, 3, couldn’t wait to get his vacuum out of the box, saying, “Wow, look Mummy!” and fitting on the handle attachment. His mum Katie was impressed with how sturdy it is and thought it definitely worth the money.

Available from: Very, Amazon and Argos

6. Jaques of London Noah’s Ark, £29.99

– Great for sorting skills and manual dexterity

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Bronze, MadeforMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 25cm-high wooden ark complete with 2 decks, portholes, removable deck-and-roof, a fold-out ramp, Noah, his wife and 7 pairs (of course) of animals. There are shape-sorter slots for 3 of the animals on one side of the boat (the side not pictured above) and for the birds in the roof windows. Painted with non-toxic paint.

Why we love it: This is a gorgeous take on a traditional toy (and arrives beautifully packaged and hand-tied with ribbon). We like the elasticated ramp door and the charming animals pairs, although we do with there were a shaper sorter hole for all  of them. Sammy, mum of our child tester Taran, 3, said, “Taran squealed in delight when he saw this. He instantly started singing The Animals Went in Two by Two and walking the animals over the drawbridge. He enjoyed putting the animals in pairs inside the ark and asked questions like, ‘Why do the lions look different?’, which sparked a good learning conversation.”

Available from: Jaques of London and Amazon

7. Moose Toys Bluey Jumbo Plush, £19.99

– Great for snuggles and companionship

Age suitability: 3 years+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A big (46cm-tall) soft toy, made in velboa faux fur, in the shape of the popular CBeebies character Bluey.

Why we love it: She’s a great size for hugging, nicely stuffed and super-soft – ideal for snuggles with any little Bluey fan. She’s a bit of an old school soft toy – no buttons to press or noises to make – but our child testers were all in raptures. Maeve, mum of our child tester Arlo, 3. “Bluey comes with us on most of our trips now,” she said. “Arlo has her doing lots of different activities: playing in the garden, going for walks, even brushing her teeth. He also loved watching the show with her on his lap.”

Available from: Argos and Amazon

8. Learning Resources Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Fire Truck, £46

– Great for role play

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: 3 x AAA (not included)
Awards: Editor’s Choice, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 16cm x 18cm x 33cm fire truck that comes with a play power drill for you to use to fix the wheels on (and take them off). Features a hinged ladder, 13 drilling spots, 24 bolts, 8 snap-on fire and water toppers, 2 firefighter figures and a little dog. The eco-friendly packaging is designed to be turned inside out and used as a burning building and fire headquarters.

Why we love it: The play drill is great fun – and adds loads more playability to a fire truck toy. It’s nicely designed and we liked the diverse skin tones of the firefighters. We also like the seat on the ladder although, oddly, you can only access the driver’s cab through the roof as the cab doors don’t open. Our child tester Casper, 4, loved playing mechanic and fixing the fire engine, as well as carrying out daring rescues. His mum Robyn said: “The box turning into a scene that can then be turned back into a box is genius!”

Available from: Amazon and Learning Resources

9. Little Tikes First Washer-Dryer, £49.99

– Great for pretend play and social skills

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: 4 x AA (included)

What it is: A chunky (40cm x 40cm x 20cm) pretend washer-dryer featuring dials that activate sound and light effects, a sliding detergent drawer, and a spinning drum. Comes with more than 10 accessories, including an (empty) detergent bottle, 3 stacking laundry baskets and teeny ‘clothes’ for washing. Some self-assembly required.

Why we love it: It’s just such a great role-play toy: our child testers were entranced, with one them, Maisie, 3, saying, “I love this toy for 1000 years!” It’s good quality, too, easy to assemble, has great accessories and beeps just like a real washing machine. It would be nice if there was an adjustable volume control but we’re probably being picky.

Available at: Amazon, Asda and ELC

10. Tiny Treasures Doll with Purple Outfit, £40

– Great for social and nurturing skills

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 44cm-high baby doll designed to look, smell  and feel just like a newborn, with soft hair, blinking eyes and a weight of 2lb 10oz (1.2kg). Comes in a cardboard, car-seat-style gift box with a birth certificate and hospital ID wristband.

Why we love it: “She smells nice. I like her curly hair,” our child tester Audrey, 3, said. “It can be hard to find dolls of colour,” her mum Christy added, “so it’s good to see a major brand being more inclusive. It’s also nice to see the packaging is meant to be played with, instead of going straight in the bin.”

Available at: Argos

11. Bee Smart My Baking Cookie Set with Glove, £26.99

– Great for dexterity and role play

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 20-piece wooden role-play set that includes a mixing bowl, baking tray, rolling pin, spatula, whisk, brush, 3 cookie cutters, 5 cookies, 2 ‘breakable’ eggs and an oven glove.

Why we love it: It’s a lovely-looking, well-thought-out set (it even has a pastry brush!) Roxanne, mum of our child tester Evie-Rae, 3, was impressed by the high quality of the set and the small-child-friendly size and shape of the pieces. “Evie-Rae and her older sister have spent ages baking each other cookies,” she said. “It’s keeping them so well occupied. I’m very pleased with this toy!”

Available at: Bee SmartOnBuy and Amazon

12. Toniebox Starter Set, £69.95

– Great for bedtime and independent play

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None (charging station included)
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

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 such as 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 in a selection of different colours.

Why we love it: Our child testers understood the Toniebox’s controls straightaway: pressing the ears for volume control and tapping the side to skip tracks or fast forward. Their parents liked its screenless entertainment value. One tester’s dad, who works nights, used the Creative Tonie to record himself reading a bedtime story and other parents used their box after ‘lights out’, so their child could listen to more stories as they fell asleep. It’s an investment but could be a godsend for quiet times/bedtimes.

Available at: Tonies and Amazon

13. Jaques of London Kids Learning Clock, £16.99

– Great for fine motor skills and early numeracy

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A chunky 22.5cm-diameter wooden clock with moveable hands and 12 coloured and numbered shapes that fit into their matching slots on the clock. Comes with a threading lace (the shapes have holes for threading).

Why we love it: Your child may be too young to learn about time (particularly olde worlde analogue time) but this is a great toy for learning to recognise numbers and shapes. We particularly like the threading option – and that there are animals on the reverse side of the shapes, so your child can match each animal to their food (painted in the shape slots).

Available at: Jaques of London

14. PAW Patrol Ultimate Construction Rescue Truck, £39.55

– Great for action-packed play

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: 2 x AAA (included)

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.

Why we love it: The sounds on it aren’t too overbearing and it’s a really nice big, sturdy size. You only get 1 PAW Patrol play figure, sadly (you can buy others separately). But, from just a glance at our child testers, we can tell you that that swinging wrecking ball is the business

Available at: Amazon

15. Melissa & Doug Scoop & Serve Ice Cream Counter, £42.99

– Great for role play and sorting skills

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 32cm-high wooden tabletop counter that holds 8 wooden scoops of different-flavoured ice cream, 6 assorted toppings, 2 cones, a cup, an ice cream scooper, tongs and a wooden spoon. Comes with a reusable menu and 6 pretend banknotes.

Why we love it: It’s sturdy and compact, and the lift-and-release ice cream scoop works beautifully, which is great for fine finger skills). The tongs are a bit more fiddly for little hands, but will really encourage dexterity.  It’s a well-made wooden toy, and so comes with a price. “But,” said Laura, mum to our child tester Joni, 3,”I think it’s worth the money because it’s so well made and has so much role-play potential.”

Available at: Amazon and John Lewis

16. Fabelab Shield and Sword, £35

– Great for active and imaginary play

Age: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 30cm x 25cm shield and 25.5cm-long sword, both made from organic cotton. The shield has 2 thick straps across the back to make it easy to hold and the sword has a large handle that’s comfortable to grip. Ready for battle straight out the box. 

Why we love it: It’s a fantastic role-play toy that’s well designed for little hands and big imaginations. As it’s made from fabric rather than plastic, you can avoid any accidental injuries that could arise from a harder plastic shield. Plus, we love the attention to detail in the stitching around the dragon and going up the sword.

Available at: Kidly and Liberty

17. Learning Resources Pretend & Play Doctor’s Kit, £44

– Great for role play and fine-finger control

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: Stethoscope cell battery (included) and 2 x AAA for phone (not included)

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: A slightly more expensive doctor’s kit but worth the money – this is the best set of ‘instruments’ we’ve seen (although a shame there’s a pic of a boy but no girl on the front of the case). We love the interactive stethoscope that you press to hear a beating heart, and the blood pressure cuff with a red dial that moves. According to our 3-year-old child tester Isaac, the phone, pager and stethoscope make very cool noises indeed. 

Available at: Amazon and Learning Resources

18. VTech Toot-Toot Friends Kingdom Pirate Ship, £44.99

– Great for imaginary play

Age suitability: 12 months+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: 2 x AA (included)

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.

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 features to press and play. Although it’s marked as suitable for 1 year plus, you really need the dexterity of a 3 year old to enjoy it properly – especially if you’re going to make the most of that cannonball launcher! You get 1 black and 1 white pirate, plus a cheeky monkey character so it’s great for acting out adventure stories at sea and on land.

Available from: Smyths Toys, Hamleys  and VTech

19. Le Toy Van Honeybake Cafe Machine, £29.95

– Great for social skills and pretend play

Age suitability: 3+| Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

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

Why we love it: It’s just so 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: Le Toy Van,  JoJo Maman Bebe and Amazon

20. VTech Toot-Toot Friends Moonlight Camper Van Playset, £36.99

– Great for fun and imaginative play

Age suitability: 18 months+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: 2 x AA (included)

What it is: An 22cm-high, light-projecting interactive camper van that opens up to reveal an interior with sofa, fold-down table and campsite accessories. The 3 play figures can be placed into special MagicPoint locations to trigger songs and phrases about the great outdoors.

Why we love it: Our child testers (who were all 3 year olds; even though this toy is marked at suitable for 18 months and up, we think it’s best enjoyed by older toddlers) were thrilled by the working wheels and the colourful starry lights that shine from the camper’s roof, and we love the little campfire and the frying pan the comes complete with fried egg. Our tester parents all liked the singalong songs and how the playset reminds you (a little bossily) to close the campervan door before you wheel it away.

Available at: Amazon, Smyths Toys and John Lewis

21. Our Generation Dolls, from £29.99 each

– Great for cuddling and dress-up fun

Age suitability: 3+| Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 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, including a white, dark-haired boy doll called Franco.

Why we love it: It’s all about the size and the soft body: these dolls are big enough for a good cuddle and their large soft body makes dressing and undressing super-easy – although some of our child testers did struggle a little with the dolls who have tights. Their hair is also lovely and soft – and generally very long – and easy to comb and style. One of our child testers loves her Riya doll so much, she’s still taking it to bed with her every night. And we have a sneaky, soft spot for the April doll (pictured above, far right) who has auburn hair and glasses.

Available at: Our Generation and Smyths Toys

22. Tidlo High Tea Shape Matching Set, £35

– Great for role play and early maths skills

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Age: 3+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 2-tiered 29cm-high wooden cake stand that’s also a shape-sorter toy. It comes with 15 differently decorated 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. Our child testers’ parents rated it for being both educational and fun: yes, it teaches shape-sorting and numbers but is also just the thing for a teddy bears’ tea party.

Available at: Amazon, JoJoMamanBebe and Mulberry Bush

23. John Lewis & Partners Wooden Fruit Set, £16

– Great for dexterity and early numeracy

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+Batteries: None

What it is: A set of 6 wooden fruits in halves, plus a 16cm-wide wooden chopping board and knife. Each piece of fruit is joined together with Velcro to allow for easy ‘chopping’.

Why we love it: We like how colourful and robust this little set is. And our toddler testers looked so thrilled to be ‘slicing’ the fruits in half – although 1 was quite perplexed that you couldn’t peel the banana!. The Velcro can get a bit full of fluff over time – but you can easily rub it off.

Available at: John Lewis

Images: Product websites

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About the author

Helen is Deputy Editor of MadeForMums, the author of Parenting for Dummies (Wiley, £17.99) and the Head Tester for our MadeForMums Toy Awards. She has written about parenting for Mumsnet, Pregnancy & Birth, Prima Baby, Boots Parenting Club and She Magazine and she’s also been Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby. She has 3 boys and a heavy-duty washing machine.

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