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Best toys for 3-year-olds 2022

Here is our guide to the best toys available in 2022 for the Threenager in your life, as recommended by real parents. 

By Gemma Wilcock | Last updated Nov 25, 2022

Children playing with dinosaur toy on bed

Goodbye, Terrible Twos and hello, Threenage Years! This next year will be wonderful and challenging as your child makes significant physical, emotional and social steps forward. They're in the progress of developing their individual personality, which seems to involve limitless energy, curiosity, excitement and the occasional breakdown.

So, when buying three-year-old toys they'll love, it is understandable that it can feel like a bit of a minefield trying to work out which ones will engage and delight them and which ones will be destined to gather dust in a corner. What you want is a toy that ticks lots of boxes. It needs to be engaging, inspiring and educational to boot. When a child is learning so much about life and their bodies daily, an ideal toy for three-year-olds should help develop essential skills, such as fine motor, problem-solving and social skills. However, with the cost of living crisis and rising energy costs tightening our budgets, we know that the toys you buy need to be affordable, too, or at the very least, a high-quality investment. 

Children do the majority of their learning through play, even when it looks like they aren't - something to remember when you’re watching your little daredevil whizzing around on their scooter… Therefore having the right toys at the right time can have a significant impact. That's why our guide includes toys that will nurture your three-year-old creatively, physically, socially and cognitively at an appropriate level. Better yet, all of them are recommended by parents, trusted by experts and loved by children, guaranteeing our guide to the best toys for three-year-olds is honest, up-to-date and dependable. 

Searching for further gift-giving inspiration? Check out our Mumsnet swear-bys on toys for infants 0-6 months, babies 6-12 months, two-year-olds, four-year-olds and five-year-olds. For older children or teenagers, check out our guides to the best tablets and board games for kids. 

1. Best overall toy for 3-year-olds: Kinetic Sand Folding Sandbox

Kinetic Sand Folding Box

Price: £26 | Buy now from Amazon

“Things my three-year-old DS loves - Kinetic Sand. It's not messy and keeps him entertained for ages.” Namechanger20183110

Sand is a great sensory play experience to aid a child’s physical development. However, if your child loves sand but you don’t like the mess that comes with it, nobody’s judging you. Those teeny grains get everywhere, don’t they?  

Thankfully, Kinetic Sand offers the perfect solution. As the sand is stickier and more malleable than regular sand, it can be scooped up, shaped and moulded by little hands. It’s suitable for indoor play and is infinitely easier to clean up once playtime is over. Also, as Kinetic Sand never dries out, they’ll have hours of fun making different shapes, including kings, queens and castles, with the seven different moulds and tools. 

The box opens out as a play space and stores all the sand and tools away at the end of the day, so you get all the fun of sand with minimal mess. You can also buy different tools and sand colours to provide plenty of mixing and moulding fun.

  • Key skill: Creativity and building

2. Best budget toy for 3-year-olds: Galt Toys Water Magic

Galt Water Magic

Price: £6 | Buy now from Amazon

“Water painting books, particularly those by Galt, were a favourite birthday present!” Bettyboop82

Simple but effective, ‘magic’ water colouring is sure to delight most creative preschoolers. Containing six reusable pictures in a compact book, the Galt Toys Water Magic also comes with a special refillable water pen to provide mess-free fun both at home and on the go. 

Dinosaur fans will love making the pictures magically appear with just a touch of the water pen. There is also a range of other books too - including vehicles and animals - to suit different interests. Unlike a usual colouring book, once the page dries out the colours disappear so children can use it again and again. 

If you need something to entertain your little one on the go, it’s ideal. It’s also a great substitution for painting if you’re not in the mood to clear up endless splatters and paint posts. Like Kinetic Sand Folding Sandbox, it’s another mess busting toy that makes parents’ lives easier - amen to that.

  • Key skill: Creativity 

3. Best educational toy for 3-year-olds: Learning Resources Pretend & Play Calculator Cash Register

Learning Resources Cash Register

Price: £38 | Buy now from Amazon

“Last year I bought my three-year-old a cash register which she still enjoys playing with.” FantasticPhyllis

One for budding retail magnates, the Learning Resources Pretend & Play Calculator Cash Register has everything your child could need to role play shop. While they’re keeping busy and entertained, they’ll also be learning about maths and money as well as boosting their conversational skills. 

The till has a calculator with big bright buttons and a display screen to help children practice sums. With 44 money pieces, including £50 and £20 notes, 1p, 50p and £1 coins, and a notepad and credit card, it’s great for encouraging pretend play. 

There’s no doubt that kids will love opening the drawer and hearing the realistic cash register sound. Rather brilliantly, the calculator is solar-powered too. This means you won’t be scurrying around to find batteries every week and one less thing on your ‘to do’ list is always a bonus.

  • Key skill: Role play and imagination

4. Best doll for 3-year-olds: Baby Annabell 43cm Doll

Baby Annabell Doll

Price: £65 | Buy now from Amazon

“We got baby Annabell dolls last year which were a hit, and meant relatives could buy things like clothes, a pram etc for that.” sleepismysuperpower1

Inspiring children to use their imaginations through role play, this little lovely can be rocked to sleep when she’s tired and tickled to make her laugh. First things first; there’s no denying that there are much cheaper baby dolls on the market. If you’re looking for a doll to be dragged to the playground and back by your preschooler then this might be too much of a budget stretch. 

But if your little one will treasure and take care of their doll, it’s well worth the money for all the extra features. A doll that sucks on a dummy, drinks water and cries tears, Baby Annabell is just like a real baby.  She also has a soft body for lovely cuddles. Playing with a doll can teach a child social skills and empathy, as well as helping them to learn about responsibility. 

She comes with a bib, bottle, dummy and charm, but you can also buy other Baby Annabell accessories and clothes for more role play fun. 

  • Key skill: Role play and imagination 

5. Best toy pram for 3-year-olds: Mamas and Papas Elite Folding Dolls Stroller

Price: £39 | Buy now from Argos

“A baby doll and pram were popular with mine and are still used 4 yrs later.” isthistoonosy

If your child enjoys playing Mum and Dad, the Mamas & Papas Elite Folding Dolls Stroller looks just like the real thing and is ideal for taking Baby Annabell on a walk.

In stylish grey with Mamas and Papas branding, it features easily gripped foam handles and double wheels for smooth steering. When it's time to pack away, this mini umbrella fold buggy’s chrome frame collapses down and can be stored flat or flung in the car boot - a great space saver. 

There’s also an adjustable three tier hood and underseat basket for all your little one’s essentials. Ideal for role playing and allowing your child’s imagination to flourish, it’s a great toy that’s sure to entertain them.

  • Key skill: Role play and imagination

6. Best imagination toy for 3-year-olds: IKEA DUKTIG Play Kitchen

IKEA DUKTIG Play Kitchen

Price: £89 | Buy now from IKEA

“We got an IKEA kitchen at around that age that’s still present and used by my six-year-old, and sometimes by my eight-year-old. I think the trick to longevity is making sure you have decent pans and toy food.” Stompythedinosaur

A Mumsnetter favourite, the IKEA DUKTIG Play Kitchen is a great toy for encouraging role play and helping children learn about life skills such as cooking, cleaning and organising. They can cook on the hob, bake in the oven and do the washing up, just like a real-life chef. 

The hob comes with realistic lights which can be easily switched on and off. At £89 it’s more expensive than some toy kitchens on the market. However, with two leg heights, the kitchen will grow with your child too so they should get years of fun out of it. 

While it doesn’t come with any accessories, Ikea also stock toy food, utensils, pans and crockery so your mini cook can whip up their own culinary creations. As with many things Ikea, this product comes flat packed but assembly is deemed to be pretty easy by online reviewers.

  • Key skill: Role play and imagination

7. Best puzzle for 3-year-olds: Orchard Toys Giant Road Floor Puzzle

Orchard Toys Giant Road Puzzle

Price: £15 | Buy now from Amazon

“Orchard Toys does a lovely road puzzle. We have two sets as it's a big hit with our three-year-old.” Tonkerbea

On rainy days and lazy weekends, you can’t beat a good jigsaw for keeping little ones entertained. Orchard Toys makes a range of brilliant floor puzzles, including dinosaurs and numbers, with large pieces that make learning fun. The Giant Road Floor Puzzle is even more special because not only can children enjoy building it, they can then play with it afterwards.

The 20-piece puzzle can be built into a different layout each time so kids can create their own world, adding their own toy cars (such as the colour reveal Hotwheels at number 9 on our list!) to it as they please. The pieces feature illustrated characters and a fun but educational road safety theme. 

A puzzle like this encourages a child to be imaginative and is a toy that they can share with others or enjoy independently. For even bigger creations, you can buy more packs – although you’ll need some extra floor space of course. 

  • Key skill: Problem-solving and creativity

8. Best musical toy for 3-year-olds: Tonies Toniebox Starter Set

Tonie box starter

Price: £70 | Buy now from Amazon

“I can vouch for the Toniebox. DD has had one for ages and it's great. She loves it, it's sturdy and I've been very impressed.” Purplebatbear

Forget Alexa! Children can dance, sing and listen to stories on their own Toniebox - a children’s music box that works as a portable speaker and audiobook, you can even record your own bedtime stories. It’s an investment buy but one that your child is sure to use for years to come.

The Toniebox Starter Set comes with a Tonie character, but children can add other ones, such as The Gruffalo, Peter Rabbit, Paw Patrol and In The Night Garden. Simply place the character on the cube and it starts to play the stories, stopping when the character is removed or the audio finishes. It can play for up to seven hours. 

The box is robust and easy to use, even for preschoolers, with ears that change the volume and sides that change tracks. Download the Tonies app to record your own stories for them to listen to at bedtime or when you’re not around. 

  • Key skill: Musical and listening

9. Best Melissa and Doug toy for 3- year-olds: Hot Wheels Color Reveal

Price: £10 | Buy now from Amazon

”My 3yo loves hotwheels cars.” StrawberrySanta

“My DS is 3.5 and has been obsessed with Hot Wheels for a couple of years. We've got loads of cars and some playsets, including the Ultimate Garage. We had Toot Toot cars/track when he was younger but he's always preferred HW.” CoodleMoodle

You can’t beat Hotwheels - a design classic when it comes to toy cars, these nifty little creations are the ideal size for little hands so your mini racing driver can zip them around to their heart's content. Compact and streamlined, they stash easily in a pocket or rucksack too. Constructed from hardy metal with a myriad of different designs and colours, Hotwheels are a collector’s dream. 

With this barrel drum pack containing two cars, there’s added interest and excitement because each car is encased in a colour reveal coating. Using the reusable barrel packaging as a dunk tank, your child can fill it with cool water, and swirl the car in it then watch as the water changes colour and a new decoration is revealed on each vehicle! It can be changed back with warm water making it an ideal bath time toy too.

  • Key skill: Problem-solving

10. Best dolls house for 3-year-olds: ASDA Wooden Light Up Dolls House

ASDA Wooden Light Up Dolls House

Price: £65 | Buy now from ASDA

“The wooden ones from ASDA I find are absolutely brilliant. My daughter got the two storey one when she was two and it's been played with to death so I've got her the next size up for Christmas. They're not very expensive and lovely in my opinion.” anotherrainydays 

A classic addition to any toy collection, a dolls house provides plenty of imaginative play. The Asda Wooden Light Up Dolls House is beautiful and it even lights up to make it even more realistic. Many wooden dolls houses on the market will cost the best part of £100 but at only £65, ASDA's offering is utterly charming and ideal for preschoolers. 

The traditional style house has cute shutters which open out and four floors of rooms for filling with dolls and furniture. This house comes with stairs, but doesn’t include any accessories so these will need to be purchased separately. You’ll also have to provide your own dolls. But for old-fashioned timeless childhood fun, a dolls house really can’t be topped.

  • Key skill: Role play and imagination

11. Best ride-on toy for 3-year-olds: Mini Micro Deluxe Scooter

Micro Mini Scooter

Price: £76 | Buy now from John Lewis and Partners

“I think the Mini Micro scooters are worth paying extra for. They are really robust and smoother riding and steering than cheaper alternatives.” NannyR

”The micro ones are really good, mine use them loads. It seems a lot when you first buy it but when you consider he’ll use it for about 4 years and probably use it quite a lot when he’s a bit bigger it’s less then £20 a year for something they use a lot.” Hadenough21

While bikes are great, they can be bulky and impractical on days out and not at all fun if you’re the one left hauling them around when your kids decide to dismount. Scooters are a great alternative for young kids who can happily whizz around on the Mini Micro Deluxe Scooter. Available in bright, fun colours, this modern design classic is lightweight and has three wheels to help with balance and steering.

Suitable from age two to five, this scooter has a handlebar which can be easily adjusted to grow with your child. It’s robust to protect against wear and tear and has a gripped footplate to ensure that your little one can safely pick up speed. 

There are no two ways around it; this scooter is pricier than other similar scooters. However, parents on our talk boards rate it for design and durability making it a sound investment buy. Also, if anything breaks, don’t fret because every part can be replaced.  

  • Key skill: Physical

12. Best building toy for 3-year-olds: Magna-Tiles Stardust 15 Piece Set

Magna-Tiles Stardust

Price: £20 | Buy now from Amazon

“Magnet-Tiles! My three-year-old got them and then I gave some to my niece. They're fab and can be very versatile and played with for years.” Littlehouseinthebigcity

Young children love to build and create and, with the Magna-Tiles Stardust 15 Piece Set, they’ll be able to combine creativity with learning about maths and science.

The 3D magnetic triangles and squares come in different colours with a glitter and mirror effect for building and stacking to make different structures. The set offers the chance for sensory play as well as aiding fine motor skills and also helps children try out engineering skills as well as learning about different shapes and colours. 

While this type of play will appeal to young children, it’s the sort of thing that will keep older ones busy too so it’s a great value toy that should last years.

  • Key skill: Creativity and building/construction

What kind of toys should a 3 year old have? 

When you’re choosing a toy for a 3-year-old, consider the skills that you’re looking to develop. These vital skills include:

  1. Role play – this includes dressing up, toy kitchens, dolls houses, pretend food and tea sets which encourage imaginative play and are a fun way for children to learn. By copying Mum and Dad or acting out their dream jobs, such as a fireman or builder, children can develop their language and social skills, and build confidence and creativity. 
  2. Problem-solving – children develop their problem-solving skills through trial and error, and this is an important part of their development. Toys that can help with this include board games, puzzles, memory games and sorting toys.
  3. Building/construction – from LEGO Duplo sets to magnetic tiles, construction toys encourage skills like fine motor, logical thinking and creativity. Building structures and knocking them down again is not only great fun but can also help children learn about STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).  
  4. Creative – crafting such as drawing, painting and modelling are lots of fun and encourage creativity in children. Look for paints, chalk, pens and easels that will inspire them to make something or create their own masterpiece. Toys like play sand and playdough are also great for sensory play. 
  5. Musical – toys that play music and sounds aid sensory development and can help a child to learn. They’ll enjoy dancing, singing, playing and listening with toys such as music boxes, interactive toys, and musical instruments, which can also aid fine and gross motor skills. 
  6. Physical – kids at this age love to be active so ride-on toys or toys that they can climb will get plenty of use. Physical play helps strengthen their muscles, build up confidence and develop hand-eye coordination. Toys you can buy include scooters, bikes, slides, climbing frames and balls. 

What is the best educational toy for a 3 year old?

The best educational toy for a 3 year old is the Learning Resources Pretend & Play Calculator Cash Register. While your child is playing shop, they’ll also be learning about maths and money. 

What do 3 year olds like to play?

While three year olds often engage in parallel play - playing separately without interacting much - they may also start with associative play - still playing separately but interacting with their peers through conversation and cooperation. For instance, they may chat about the colour of their toy cars or the shape of the building they are constructing with magnetic pieces. They may also try out imaginative play together such as role playing with a baby doll and buggy

What can I give to a 3 year old?

Each child has their own particular likes and dislikes - they may gravitate towards a magic painting set or a toy kitchen. A good toy for a 3 year old will not only keep them entertained but will also aid their development and education in some way such as the Orchard Toys Giant Road Floor Puzzle which encourages problem solving and creativity.

What is the best toy for a 3-year-old?  

We think the Kinetic Sand Folding Sand Box is the best toy for a three-year-old. Sand that can be shaped and moulded for children to make their own creations, it never dries out so they can play with it again and again. It’s stored and played with in a folding box providing plenty of sensory and creative play without making too much mess.  

How we chose our recommendations  

All of our recommendations for toys for three-year-olds came from Mumsnet users themselves. First, we searched the Mumsnet forums for posts about which toys Mumsnetters really rated for both entertaining and educating preschoolers. We also researched various review sites to find out which toys performed well across the board.

We collated all that and also looked at other online reviews to see which were the bestsellers and which received rave reviews after purchase.

We then cross-referenced all that information to find the toys for three-year-olds that were rated highest to bring you a selection of the best toys for preschoolers at various price points. We think there’s something here to entertain every three-year-old.

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.