Do you like shopping for the toddler in your life or do you find it stressful? Either way, this list is a great one-stop shop for all the best educational toys for a 3-year-old. If you need a gift for a toddler that has everything, look no further because this list is full of unique ideas. Plus, all the presents are engaging and fun. I hope you find exactly what you are looking for!
What kind of toys should a 3-year-old have?
Above all, three-year-olds need toys that are fun and engaging. You might have the best-made, most educational toy on the planet, but if your child thinks it’s lame, none of that matters! All the toys on this list are fun so that your toddler will get to learn new skills, without even knowing it!
Educational toys for a 3-year-old should be developmentally appropriate. We don’t want to give our toddlers something meant for babies that is fart too simplistic for them, but we also don’t want them to have something made for 8-year-olds. Giving your child toys that are too simple or too complex will result in boredom or frustration. It’s important to find toys that are just right for them. All the toys on this list are appropriate for 3-year-olds.
What makes a toy “educational”?
There are five main categories that early educators focus on when assessing a toddler’s skills. So good, educational toys for a 3-year-old will hopefully help develop one or more of these skills. Here is a brief description of each category.
- Cognition: Cognition seems broad, and includes learning, thinking, and problem solving. At this age, kids are working on pretend play, being able to draw or copy basic shapes, building block towers, and playing with toys that have buttons and levers.
- Language: Language skills include both what children understand and what they can say. By three, children can follow 2-3 step directions, understand prepositions like “in”, “on”, and “under”, can hold short conversations using full sentences, and can name most familiar things.
- Motor (Fine and Gross): Motor skills refer to movement. Fine motor skills are when you use your hands and fingers, and gross motor skills are big movements like walking, running, and jumping. As a 3-year-old, your child should be able to climb, run, and screw and unscrew lids on jars.
- Social/Emotional: Social skills are how your child interacts with others, and emotional skills are how your child interacts and deals with feelings. At this age, your child should be able to take turns in games, show affection to friends and family, express lots of emotions, and copy others.
- Adaptive: Adaptive skills are basically just what your child can do on their own. By now, your child should be able to separate from caregivers in a familiar place, dress, and undress by themselves, and use buttons and snaps.
Best Educational Toys for a 3-year-old:
This little ladybug memory game is perfect for 3-year-olds! It’s a great introduction to rules, games, and how to play with something that has its own structure. It also happens to be from my favorite store ever, Fat Brain Toys! It’s a classic memory game but is more interactive with the 3D ladybugs. There are multiple cards that you can switch out to keep the game fun. Each card has different objects and colors, making it perfect for learning new concepts and words.
Have you ever heard of the Elephant and Piggie books? I am so in love with them! They are so silly and often teach sweet little lessons in a silly way. Mo Willems has tons of these books, so if you like “My Friend is Sad” check out the rest of his collection. Books are a GREAT way for children to learn! They learn new words, gain life lessons, and work on pre-literacy skills just by being read to. There are so many benefits. (If you want more info on picking out books with your toddler, check out my article here.)
Magnet tiles are one of my favorite items on this whole list! I first discovered these when I worked in preschool classrooms. Kids love them and so do adults (for real, they are the best!). Children learn to build and create while working on their fine motor skills and learning about magnets. I highly recommend these fun toys.
This race car track has some extra cool features like levers and cars that come with it. There are fun little “challenges” involved in moving the cars and working the levers. This unique toy helps with problem-solving, fine motor skills, and cognition.
This cute baby doll comes in a variety of skin tones and has a soft body. Baby dolls are perfect for when your little one is working on their pretend play. It’s also a great way to help your toddler when they are going to become a big brother or sister. We use ours all the time! My oldest would imitate what I was doing with her baby sister using her sweet doll. Baby dolls help your child learn about empathy, responsibility, and problem-solving.
Up your little one’s pretend play with some fun baby doll-sized bath accessories. Children love to pretend and if they have toys to help them do real-life things, it’s a big bonus! I love this set because it’s by a trusted brand (Melissa and Doug) and it has super cute accessories. Your child will learn new vocabulary words, work on empathy, and improve problem-solving.
Let your child learn and grow by making their own creations with this colorful, varied Magnetic Creation Station. You can help your child learn about spatial awareness, problem-solving, and basic math concepts as they try to match the shapes to the pictures. You can also work on new vocabulary words as they explore all the fun ideas in the book. It’s a perfect toy that will keep them engaged and learning for a long time!
Little Blue Truck is beloved by many for lots of reasons. The book follows the Little Blue Truck and lots of farm animals. Little Blue Truck has great rhyme writing that is so easy to read you might start singing it! The author uses fun language and works a lot on sounds (animal sounds and truck noises too!). The storyline is about helping the truck, and how he ends up helping his friends in return. This is a good read for all kids! It is the first title in the series, but there are tons more of these books from Alice Schertle.
Do you want your preschooler to have fun learning and building? This unique toy, Joinks is a great way to let your child work on problem-solving, creativity, and engineering skills. If you are wanting your 3-year-old to turn into a STEM genius, this is a great start! This is a wonderful gift idea for any curious toddler!
The book, “Be Kind” by Pat Zietlow Miller is such a sweet book for so many reasons. I love it because it teaches children about kindness and touches on empathy, too. It has beautiful pictures with a diverse group of characters included. If you’re looking for a great book for your toddler, look no further!
We absolutely love board games at our house because they are a fun way to involve the family and be silly together. I was so excited when I found out that Candy Land is for ages 3 and up! This game teaches you about colors, counting, and social skills, all while having fun.
Pretend play is a super important part of a child’s development. I love this incredibly detailed, realistic version of a pretend airport. Pretend play helps kids learn empathy and develop imagination. They work on problem-solving and learn new words when you play with them.
Help children learn about different kinds of jobs and learn new vocabulary with this fun firefighter costume. Your child will love pretending to come to the rescue. Three-year-olds are at a perfect age for dress-up and imagination.
Unusual/Unique Toys for a 3-year-old:
This is such a unique gift that is great for families and toddlers who travel because it zips right up into an easy-to-carry case. The busy bag is easy to take with you in the car or on the plane, and it’s a great toy to work on fine motor skills. Children learn to problem solve and they become more independent with this unique toy!
This Magnetic Puzzle Maze is so fun. It’s another toy that would be great for a toddler when traveling because it’s a single piece and interactive. Your 3-year-old gets to work on fine motor skills, matching colors, and vocabulary as they play with this fun toy.
Someone recently got this for my little girl and she just loves it! It is just a whole bunch of leaves and flower parts that you put together however you want. You can stack the flowers high or just make beautiful color combinations. The flowers have all the real flower parts, so you can teach your child about plants and how they grow. You can also work on their colors. (Check out my article here all about helping your child learn their colors).
Cooking with your toddler is so much fun! And your child can learn so much in the kitchen when they get to make food right alongside you! They learn about basic math skills, problem-solving, and a little bit of science. All the scooping, stirring, and dumping targets fine motor skills, too. I love this cookbook because it has tons of bright pictures and some fun recipe ideas. (If you want to know more about how to go about cooking with a toddler, check out my article about it right here.)
Snail’s Pace Race is such a cute little game. It is easy to set up and easy to understand. As I said with Candy Land I think there is a lot of great learning that comes with board games. In this game, kids learn colors, counting, and rule-following. It is a fun way to engage with your kids and talk about playing fair.
Outdoor Toys for a 3-Year-Old
When it’s nice out, it’s so great to be able to get outside and let your little one roam! Give them something to do with this two-in-one toy that is both a bean bag toy and a little target. Your toddler will be able to practice their gross motor skills and focusing abilities. An added bonus is that they will also be able to learn about all the sweet animals that are pictured on this colorful toy.
Have you heard about balance bikes yet? They are so cool! Some genius figured out that kids should have no pedals and learn how to balance the bike rather than add training wheels! I love this concept. My niece loves her balance bike and I’m hoping to get one for our toddler this year, too! Balance bikes promote independence and excellent gross motor skills.
Of course, if you are going to get your child a bike, they need a bike helmet. This one comes with great ratings and lots of different colors. You want to make sure you have that growing brain nice and protected!
I am NOT a green thumb. I would go so far as to say I was terrible at gardening until the last few years. I got motivated to start gardening and let my toddler learn right alongside me. And let me tell you, it has been AMAZING! I love it and so does my toddler! But a real toddler gardener needs real gardening tools. It’s the perfect activity because my child is learning about working hard to get something you like (yummy food!). We also talk about how plants grow, and she loves to try the foods from the garden that we harvest, even if they aren’t typically something she would try. It’s a win/win!
I have fond memories as a kid playing tee-ball, and why not start practicing and playing in your backyard? This tee-ball set is a fun toy that will help your child work on their gross motor skills and their overall hand-eye coordination.
This little picnic table with an umbrella looks so fun! I love that toddlers can enjoy it with their friends or siblings while they eat or just play. It’s a perfect size, and I like that it has protection from the sun! This kid-sized table promotes social interaction since it’s perfect for little ones to gather around together. And since an adult would barely fit there, your toddler can become more independent as they do activities by themselves or with friends.
I’d love to hear from any of you who have one of these toys and your experiences with them. Or are there educational toys for a 3-year-old that you love that I didn’t include?? Drop a comment below!