50 Best Gifts for a 3 year old that he’ll love!
My son is turning four this week. What a year it has been! And I thought that, now that I still have his third year very present, I would put together a list of everything he has enjoyed the most as a three-year-old. It might be helpful for those researching ideas for gifts for a 3 year old – because it is always tough to figure out what they will like.
So I’ve compiled all the things he has enjoyed the most: all the toys, books, movies, and objects that have made him smile, learn, grow and create happy memories.
So, before we cross the 4-year threshold, here is this extensive list of all the things that come to mind that he has really enjoyed and have been great for his development during this past year. I am going to organize this list under the following categories:
- Outdoor toys
- Musical toys
- Arts & Crafts & Experiments
Although you can find most of these items internationally, some might be difficult to find exactly the same outside Europe. But bare in mind that the principle is the same, and you might probably be able to find a similar item from other brands that are local to you. I hope this list can be helpful to you. I’ll share links to Amazon where possible.
*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself, and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you; when you buy through the links, we may earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks!
- Bizzy Bear: Space Rocket – Benji Davies
Bizzy Bear, Rabbit, and Mouse are ready to go on to space in a rocket! It’s a short board book with mechanisms that any toddler that loves space will enjoy. My son loves the countdown: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – Blast off! The illustrations are lovely and full of color and details that keep them entertained, and the short rhymes will make it easy for them to know by heart. It’s a fantastic kids’ first book about space.
2. Oi Frog! – Kes Gray & Jim Field
Hilarious laugh-out-loud book. We discover a ridiculous seating system for animals that says they can only sit on things they rhyme with. The frog finds sitting on a log uncomfortable and would like to sit someplace else, but the cat says it’s not about being comfortable but about doing “the right thing.” It is an exciting read at another level; it opens the door to questioning why we do certain things, is “the right thing to do” really right or the only thing we can do? This read-aloud video is fantastic; I wish I could read it like that.
3. Odd Dog Out – Rob Biddulph
Oh my! I love this book. The illustrations and the story are just a masterpiece. The story of the Odd Dog Out leaves his town because he stands out. He finds somewhere where he fits in but then realizes from the odd dog out there that there was never anything wrong with him. That we must be who we are. What a lovely book about self-acceptance and realizing that being different is something we should be proud of. You must see this musical adaptation animation by The Magnard Ensemble of the Odd Dog Out. It is lovely, and your little one will love it. Want to read more books about dogs? Check out this post!
4. The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker – Katy Flint & Jessica Courtney Tickle
The Story Orchestra series presents the story and music of the beloved ballet, The Nutcracker. Like the other books in the series, it is great to introduce children to the plot and recognize bits of the most famous suites. A Christmas story where we meet Clara and the Nutcracker, live the battle with the Mice King, and after his demise, the Nutcracker turns into the Prince he once was, and together they visit the Land of Sweets and meet the Sugar Plum Fairy. Clara wakes up under the Christmas tree and can’t believe her wonderful dream, or was it a dream?
5. Elmer – David McKee
Elmer is a classic that you must read to your child. It is colorful, and the message is lovely. Elmer is a bit different because he is not the same color as the other elephants; Elmer is a patchwork and one of a kind. He wishes to be grey like the rest until he realizes that his being different makes everyone much happier. It is a lovely story about accepting & celebrating differences, diversity, and oneself.
6. The Smeds and the Smoos – Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
In a far of planet live the red Smeds and the blue Smoos. They are physically different, like doing different things, and enjoy eating different foods. Smeds and Smoos simply don’t mix or interact; they stay apart. But one day, Bill (a Smoo) and Janet (a Smed) meet in the wurpular wood and discover that they like being together even though their families want them to be apart. This beautiful story about diversity and accepting differences teaches that love has nothing to do with one’s skin color (and there are space rockets 😉 ). If you love Julia Donaldson, check out our favorite books from her.
7. Room on the Broom – Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
We love this brilliant book where kindness and friendship are at its heart. The witch and her cat fly on a broom high across the sky, but the wind blows away her hat, bow, and wand. Lucky for her, three animals help her find her lost items, and they ask to tag along, to which she always says “Yes!”. Unfortunately, their broom breaks as they encounter a Dragon who wants to eat the witch for tea. They all join forces to help her kind friend who is in need!
8. The Color Monster – Anna Llenas
The Color Monster is feeling very confused. His emotions are tangled up, and the monster can’t quite make out what he feels – joy, sadness, anger, fear, or calm. Finally, a little girl helps him understand each emotion and sort them out. It is an excellent book about self-awareness, understanding five key emotions, and linking them to a specific color. It has been a great way to talk about how we feel in situations in our everyday life. It’s been a favorite in our house for two years.
Gifts for a 3 year old: Toys
9. Large 12 piece wooden rainbow – Grimm’s
The Grimms Rainbow is, for me, the most amazing toy ever. Every household should have it if they have the opportunity. It is a fabulous open-ended toy that invites creativity and lets our imagination fly. You can create vertical designs, stacks, and towers. You can also play with it flat on the floor and make animals, patterns, or ball runs. And you can use it in your small worlds as buildings, tunnels, beds, or even pretend they are phones. Anything is possible with the rainbow.
10. Rainbow semicircles – Grimm’s
The Grimms semicircles are a fabulous complement to the rainbow, or they are fantastic to play on their own. You can build towers, ball runs, caves, and tunnels with the rainbow. By themselves, they are perfect for creating miniature worlds, flat lays, and fantastic designs. We love it. You can see more ideas in this post if you’d like to see how we play with it.
11. Waytoplay roads
I had my eyes on this for some time, and it is as great as it seemed. It is fun, creative, open-ended, and brilliant for indoors and outdoors, and we’ll be taking them with us for the holidays. As they say on the box, “Let your imagination lead the way” and “Build yourself an endless adventure.” We got the “King of the Road” set with 40 pieces, which is a lot. You can also add more extensions. If you’d like to check out how we play, I wrote a post all about it, and have a look at our 25 road designs! You have many to create!
12. Oogi – Moluk
These wobbly characters with suction cups are just wonky and fantastic. They are so much fun. We’ve used them during bathtime and water play, taken them on trips, and played with them all over. It is one of those great resources to have in your bag. They can help them entertain at restaurants, on flights, and on car rides.
We’ve used them to experiment and tried to stick them on many surfaces, and we’ve asked many questions: why does it stick here and not there? Also, making figures combining the family characters has been very entertaining. We love our Oogis.
13. Connetix Pastel Magnetic Tiles Mega Pack – Connetix
Connetix tiles are fabulous. They are see-through magnetic tiles that allow light to come through beautifully and magically. It also allows playing with colors, shadows, and projections to capture your child’s attention. The magnets are the strongest we’ve tried, and the tiles are the most played toy in our playroom lately. It is a great open-ended toy that has endless possibilities and encourages spatial awareness, cognitive development, problem-solving, and mathematical thinking, among other things. Have a look at how we play with them here.
The Connetix ball run set is fabulous if you want to up your magnetic tile game. It comes with connector tiles (with a hole in the middle), eight wooden balls, and our classic clear ball run pieces and tubes. It is terrific to explore gravity and motion. Use it to build fabulous structures with ball runs, sensory tubes, slides for tiny dolls, mazes, loose parts shooters, or ramps for small cars.
If your child loves things that run, cars are a must in your playroom. We have many and many different styles. I love wooden cars: the waytoplay cars, Melissa & Doug race cars, Candylab cars, and Le Toy Van London specials. My son loves his mini cars from Cars or his Hot Wheels. Anything with wheels will keep him engaged for hours. (I always carry one or two cars in my bag, they are always handy).
16. Trucks & Diggers
If you go to the beach, a sand park, or have a sandbox outside, you need to invite some trucks and diggers into your life. My toddlers were fascinated by moving sand from one place to another. Load the truck, make it go down an imaginary road, and drop the pile of dirt in a new spot. He would repeat the operation countless times and had him engaged. It is a fabulous thing to have. We have a few; these are the ones he played most with (and he still does at almost four). I can’t recommend them enough.
17. Grimm’s Balls
This set of 6 wooden balls with primary and secondary colors is a must in our playroom. We’ve used them for many games and activities. They are a must during playtime, from color sorting and stacking to ball runs. You can check out how we play with them here.
He got this Space Rocket set, and he loves it. He’s played with it non-spot and slept with it so many nights that it has been a fabulous addition to his toy collection. It is sturdy and simple to put together for his little hands. My only suggestion would be to make both characters (boy and girl) with helmet, not just the boy. But it is fantastic toy.
19. Play tray – Inspire my Play
We got this beautiful and unique tray some months ago, and it has been a fantastic addition to our home. You can use it for sensory play, organizing arts & crafts materials, planning experiments, creating mini-worlds, and so much more. I love that you have a deep tray, six removable compartments, and a shallow tray (lid). This tray has allowed us to play outside and all over the house, and it is fabulous to create setups to invite them to play on their own.
20. Flisat Sensory Table – Ikea
I do not know why we had not bought it sooner! This table is amazing! You can do many things and plan many activities with this table. Of course, they can paint and draw, and you can store paper and crayons in the trays if you want, but you can also do a lot of sensory play and experiments. It’s been around for a year now, and we love it. I really, really recommend it.
21. Lola – Grapat
The first time I laid eyes on the Lola set, I was mesmerized. It is wonderful. The wood, the simple shapes, and the vibrant colors are lovely. It’s beautiful to the eyes and fantastic to the touch.
The Lola set by Grapat is a set of 72 pieces, a combination of tubes with little people – the Lolas- that nest into each other in 12 colors of the rainbow. When you open the box, you find this magnificent setup of cylinders in 6×6, all organized as the rainbow.
Stacking was my daughter’s first instinct. So she took out the tubes and cylinders and created this wall. You can stack them side by side as towers, like a wall, just the cylinders, just the Lolas, combine them, and even try to make the tallest tower.
Flockmen are a flock of tiny wooden people made in Latvia. I had been seeing them on Instagram, and they caught my attention because of their simplicity and versatility, and they are simply fantastic. They are a set of carefully crafted 100% natural wooden figures ideal for open-ended play. They have not been treated with chemicals and are created from robust Baltic Birch timber. You can stack them in so many different ways! You can build towers, monuments, and all kinds of constructions. Check out how we play with them here.
Most children love an excuse to let their imaginations fly. They pretend they are a superhero one day, an astronaut, or a ballerina the next. Costumes, capes, play silks, wands, and masks help them get deeper into the role and believe that what they imagine can be real. They just love them.
He was so excited when he saw this! It is a very simple track with two cars, Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramirez from Cars 3. You place the cars on their track, and by pressing the remote, they just go. Extremely simple but such a novelty for them! He can be there 15 minutes just looking at them go round and round.
But if you want a bit more fun, just play the race at the beginning of the movie Cars, and he just feels he is racing in it. So sweet. I prefer the Waytoplay tracks because you can build without limits or constraints, but he likes to see the cars go around on their own every now and then.
25. Water beads and sea animals set – Ainolway
What a fantastic discovery! I hadn’t ventured to do these things until we got the Flisat table from Ikea, and I can not believe we did not do it before. I do not think I’ve seen him so invested in something for so long. I’m talking 2 hours of play, moving water beads from one tray to another, making the animals have conversations, and we read a book about sea animals that has animal sounds, and he was obsessed. We’ll be playing with more of these for sure!
My son loves superheroes. Any figurine or action figure he has received that was a superhero he has loved and cherished deeply. He has created worlds for them, sent them on adventures, taken them to the playground, and even slept with them. He loves playing with them.
27. Lubulona city
Lubulona’s wooden houses are ideal for building cities and towns. You can easily stack them and create different structures. We’ve only used them for small-world play, and they caught my three-year-old son’s attention straight away. Of course, the more sets you have, the more you’ll be able to stack and create. You could build the tallest skyscraper in the world! Wouldn’t that be something?
28. Calm Color Monster plush toy
The Color Monster book is very loved here at schools in Barcelona. It is the book with which they start talking and learning about emotions when they are 2 and 3 years old. Being three is complex, and managing emotions has not been simple this year. There have been many tantrums, and my son has been overcome with emotions throughout the year.
To help him understand, cope, and manage them, one of the resources we used was to get him the Calm Monster plush toy. So when he was feeling overwhelmed, he could go to his quiet corner, relax, and then put a name to what he was feeling and come back and solve whatever caused it. We are still learning to regulate, but the monster is helping him greatly.
29. Drill & Screw Driver tool set – Haptime
This screw box with drill and screwdriver has been great. It has helped him work on his fine motor skills, create designs, color match, and simply learn how to use the tools. Seeing him concentrate and patiently learn how to do it has been wonderful. This was gifted to him on Christmas, it would have been even better if it was made of wood or more sustainable materials, but it has helped him a lot.
Gifts for a 3 year old: Games
30. Where is the Cheese? – Londji
This fantastic observation game from Londji is excellent for the whole family. You must help your cook find the ten ingredients needed for preparing dinner quickly. The game takes about 10 minutes – so it is fantastic for little ones. They recommend it for ages three and up, and 2-6 players can play. We play it almost weekly (sometimes more than four times 😅). That’s how much he loves it.
We love puzzles at home. When he was two, his teacher hinted he might have difficulty concentrating and suggested that doing slow activities requiring concentration would benefit him. So we bought him a puzzle, and he loved it. We bought puzzles of things he might enjoy, like superheroes, Peppa Pig, and space, and the more invested he is in the subject, the more times he wants to do the puzzle. He loves them. And ages on the boxes are just suggestions… if your little one does 24 pieces quickly, just go up regardless of the age on the box. This worked for us, and he is enjoying them a lot.
32. Three little pigs – Galt
This game has been a fantastic discovery! On the first day, he asked us to play together nine times! It’s a collaborative game; we all try to get the 3 Little Pigs Home before the Big Bad Wolf. It is more complex than First Orchard, so start playing with that one so they get the gist of rolling the dice and turn-taking. Because once they have mastered that one, you will enjoy this one. You will have a perfect time! (More info on the Little Orchard game in this post)
33. Scooter – Micro
My daughter had a scooter, and my son seemed interested in it. So we got him the evolve version from Micro so he could enjoy it sooner and grow with it (the handle evolves). It was particularly helpful for us when we didn’t want to take the pram/buggy but still wanted to know where he was and not have to carry him ourselves when he got tired. So now it is just a scooter, and they enjoy it a lot when they go together. He still uses it today.
This one will sound very obvious. Playing with a ball – any ball – has many benefits for children this age. It helps them develop eye-hand coordination, grasping skills, and tracking. There are so many fun ways to play with them, and it is fascinating for them to discover that they bounce, roll, you can throw them, and that it is not easy to keep them still because of their shape. Great for boys and girls alike!
Arts & Crafts & Experiments
35. Mix & Measures set – Learning Resources
I am a big fan of Learning Resources. If you do not know the brand, you should check it out. They have so many tools, resources, and games that make play a fantastic learning opportunity. We already had the Experiment set, which we’ve used a lot, and we plan on playing and experimenting with combining the sets.
Chalks are wonderful. They are an incredible creative outlet and so easy to clean after. Just wipe or through on some water, and they are history. We live near a park with the most fantastic pavement to draw on, and they’ve enjoyed it so much! Being creative outdoors is a lot of fun. We bought some more chalks for his birthday party, and it was an excellent activity for the kids to grab some, doodle, and draw. These are particularly great because they state they are Gluten Free and for our family this is very important feature.
Playdough is a fabulous resource to help them improve their dexterity and hand-eye coordination. It is a creative outlet but also helps them build strength in their hand muscles that will be useful when they start writing. Have them create things in 3D, roll it out, stamp on it, experiment with them, cut it, and trace letters with it. It is a very useful material for them. My daughter has celiac disease, so we either make it at home or buy specific brands that are gluten-free, and safe for all, like SES Creative or Jovi. (NEVER Play-Doh – it’s made with wheat).
A whiteboard is also a fantastic thing to have around. It is very attention-grabbing, and even though they may do on it what they would do on paper, the new surface offers new possibilities (like being able to erase very easily after doodling on it). So we have a few and play games, write practice lines, and whatever we can come up with together. This one from Hape is great because it coubles as a blackboard as well.
Like the whiteboard, this is a fun surface to make markings, doodles and letters. My children love experimenting with it, taking a baby wipe, and cleaning after. They feel more grown up and simply love it. We got this version from Zara Home that is like a computer. As you can see, my son is Facetiming me 😉
40. Writing tables
I bought this set of writing tables to practice and have fun at home (I know these things are done at school, but I found him curious and thought he might like them). He really did. We don’t use them regularly, but it is a fantastic resource to practice gestures, numbers, letters and shapes that he can then try on boards or paper. I’m very pleased with them. I couldn’t find the exact ones on Amazon, but these look very similar and have great reviews.
Movies a 3 year old will like
41. Zog and the Flying Doctors (26m) – Amazon Prime / 6.9/10
We fly with Zog, Princess Pearl, and Gadabout the Knight in this story and see them taking care of magical creatures everywhere. But when they visit Princess Pearl’s uncle one day, he captures her and doesn’t let her leave because he feels princesses shouldn’t and can’t be doctors. But Pearl, with the help of her friends, will prove him wrong! Princesses can be doctors and anything they put their hearts into. We love how this story goes against traditional stereotypes.
42. The Tiger Who Came to Tea (23m) – Amazon Prime & DVD – 6.8/10
Based on Judith Kerr’s classic famous book, this movie is terrific. This is a timeless English classic story that has been around for over 50 years. The film was released in 2020. Sophie hears a knock on the door and is surprised by a prominent stripy visitor. They invite him in for tea (dinner), and he is very, very hungry. It is sweet and fun. It is voiced by famous voices like Dave Oyelowo as the Tiger, Benedict Cumberbatch as the Daddy, Tamsin Greig as the Mummy, and David Walliams as the narrator. There is a very catchy song by Robbie Williams, “Hey Tiger!” that we love and that you’ll be singing all day long.
43. Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Scroll (23min) – Netflix & DVD – 7.1/10
This is the origin story of the Furious Five and how five different animals combining their special and unique skills can make a fantastic team. It is a story about accepting yourself and how what you would consider weaknesses can turn into your more significant strengths. It also shows how mentors (parents) might be surprised by what their children can do if we let them find their way instead of forcing them into what we think is the right way of doing things. There are some fighting scenes, but we love the lessons we gain from it. On DVD You can find it in this pack.
44. Stick Man – Amazon Prime – 7.2/10
Stick Man is a family stick man who lives in a tree with his stick lady love and his stick children three. But one day, Stick Man goes out for a jog, and after he is fetched by a dog, he embarks accidentally on an adventure that takes him farther and farther away from home. Finally, after the seasons pass and being constantly confused with a stick, the story has a happy ending on Christmas eve.
45. The Snail and the Whale (27m) – Amazon Prime – 7.4/10
This is a tale about friendship, dreaming big even if you are small, and a tale about helping one another. It is a fantastic book with beautiful illustrations. Friends come in all shapes and sizes; ask the Snail and the Whale 😉
46. Paw Patrol: The Movie – Amazon Prime – 6.1/10
Ryder and the pups are called to Adventure City. They must help stop Mayor Humdiger, who is taking over the city and generating chaos with every decision he makes. With the help of city dog Liberty, they will do their best to stop his plans and bring order to the city.
Other gifts for a 3 year old
When our children ride their scooters or bikes, we always want them to wear helmets. Because you never know what could happen. Accidents are always unexpected, and it’s best to be safe and prepared. So we bought them a helmet that matched their scooter so they would always wear it when riding it. We’ve been lucky, and they’ve never hit their head, but they’ll keep wearing them just in case. Safety first.
Having a life-vest was terrific during the summer when he was two, and we used it the summer he was three. (We’ve now bought him a larger one since he’ll be turning four). It gave us peace of mind at the pool and the beach. Luckily we’ve had no accidents so far, but he enjoyed wearing his life vest and didn’t want to go near the water without it. It allowed him to float independently and helped him build confidence when in the water. What is also great is that it has a safety buckle that goes between his legs so he won’t slip and go underwater. It is excellent to enjoy being together around the water.
49. Giant clips
These clips are fantastic for indoor or outdoor play. For example, my children sleep in Montessori beds with wooden frames (one is a house and the other a teepee). I bought 2 meters of different clothes, and we’ve made tents, houses, and dens thanks to these giant wooden clips. It can be so much fun!
50. Back pack
Having a backpack to carry their things has helped my son build his confidence and feel more independent. He loves packing some of his toys and water bottles when we go out on a day trip or away for the weekend. We love that he feels more responsible for his things and wants to carry it himself.
Best Gifts for a 3 year old – considering what our son has loved most
My son has enjoyed these top things while being 3. I hope they inspire you and help you find something your little one will enjoy. I know that when I look at these objects, I’ll have many memories of his toddler years.
Once again, I wanted to mention that most of these items can be found internationally, but some might be difficult to find the same outside Europe. But bare in mind that the principle is the same, and you might probably be able to find a similar item from other brands that are local to you. I’ve put links where I thought it could be useful. So I hope this list can be helpful to you.
I would love to hear if you have enjoyed any of these or have other gift suggestions that have worked wonders for you and your family. Please share with me in the comment section below! We are always interested in discovering new things!
Happy threes! *