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Best toys for 3-year-olds in 2021

Whether your preschooler is into building or bouncing, we have found the best toys for three-year-olds that will both entertain and aid their development.

By Gemma Wilcock | Last updated Oct 22, 2021

Children playing with dinosaur toy on bed

Goodbye Terrible Twos, hello Threenager! This age is a wonderful (if occasionally challenging) time in a child’s life as they make big leaps in their emotional development, form closer friendships, chat more and develop their own personalities. With boundless energy, they also start to learn new physical skills and interests.

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So, when it comes to buying a toy for a three-year-old, you want one that’s engaging, fun and educational. At a time when they’re still learning so much about life and their bodies, a toy should help them develop skills, such as fine motor, problem-solving and social.

Preschoolers love imaginary play, messy play, building, playing games, tackling puzzles and whizzing around on a scooter or climbing over play equipment.

To find out which toys are a hit with both three-year-olds and their parents, we looked to the Mumsnet forums to see which ones were recommended by parents the most, and consulted other expert review sites to find out which products scored highly.

From toy animals to trampolines, here are the best toys for three-year-olds that will aid their development and provide hours of fun. 

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

Kinetic Sand Folding Box

Price: £22.99 | Buy now from Amazon

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

If your child loves sand but you don’t like the mess that comes with it, Kinetic Sand offers the perfect solution. The sand is stickier than normal so it can be shaped and moulded, and is easier to clean up.

Sand is a great sensory play experience to aid a child’s physical development. 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

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

Galt Water Magic

Price: £5.97 | Buy now from Amazon 

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

With six reusable pictures in a compact book as well as a water pen, the Galt Toys Water Magic can provide mess-free fun both at home and on the go. 

Dinosaur fans will love making the pictures magically appear with the touch of the refillable water pan, but there’s 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. 

Key skill: Creativity 

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

Learning Resources Cash Register

Price: £28.89 | 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 shop owners, the Learning Resources Pretend & Play Calculator Cash Register has everything your child could need to play shop and also learn about maths and money.

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

Kids will love opening the drawer and hearing the realistic cash register sound. The calculator is solar-powered too, so you won’t be scurrying around to find batteries every week!

Key skill: Role play and imagination

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

Baby Annabell Doll

Price: £65.43 | 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

A doll that sucks on a dummy, drinks water and cries, Baby Annabell is just like a real baby. Inspiring children to use their imaginations, she can be rocked to sleep when she’s tired and tickled to make her laugh.

With a soft body, Baby Annabell is cuddly and even cries real tears. 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 even more role-play fun. 

Key skill: Role play and imagination 

5. Best toy pram for 3-year-olds: Mamas & Papas My First Toy Dolls Pram

Mamas & Papas dolls pram

Price: £20 | Buy now from Argos

“My niece is two-and-a-half and I've got her [a] dolls pram.” orangetriangle

If your child enjoys playing Mum and Dad, the Mamas & Papas My First Toy Dolls Pram looks just like the real thing. 

The hood folds up and down and the apron is removable so children can easily get their baby in and out. The spotty blue design with a touch of pink is super cute and the handlebar is the perfect height for children aged three and above to push their baby around.

If you’re short on space, the pram folds down so you can easily store it away or pop it in the car to take to the park. 

Key skill: Role play and imagination

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

IKEA DUKTIG Play Kitchen

Price: £60 | 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 wash up in the sink, just like a real-life chef. 

The hob even comes with realistic lights which can be easily switched on and off. With two leg heights, the kitchen will grow with your child too so they can get years of fun out of it. 

While it doesn’t come with any accessories, there’s food, utensils, pans and crockery available to buy for children to whip up their own culinary creations.

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: £10.80 | 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

Orchard Toys makes a range of floor puzzles, including dinosaurs and numbers, with large pieces that make learning fun. But the Giant Road Floor Puzzle is that little bit different in that children can enjoy both building it and playing 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 toy cars and figures to it as they please. The pieces feature characters and a road safety theme. For even bigger creations, you can buy more packs – although you’ll need some extra floor space.   

A puzzle like this encourages a child to be imaginative and is a toy that they can share with others or play independently. 

Key skill: Problem-solving and creativity

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

Tonie box starter

Price: £69.95 | 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.

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: Melissa and Doug Wooden Ice Cream Counter

Melissa and doug ice cream counter

Price: £37.99 | Buy now from Amazon

“The Melissa and Doug ice cream shop. Both our one-year-old and four-year-old play with it daily.” Tobebythesea 

A beautifully wooden play set, the Melissa and Doug Wooden Ice Cream Counter is one that children will play with again and again. 

They can take orders from the menu, make payments with the pretend money and create delicious ice-cream treats using eight scoops and six toppings. The set also comes with a scooper, tongues and a spoon all made from wood and to the same high quality we’ve come to expect from Melissa and Doug. 

Key skill: Role play and imagination

10. Best toy car garage for 3-year-olds: BRIO World Parking Garage

Brio car garage

Price: £46.95 | Buy now from Amazon

“This is the garage. It connects with the wooden roads which connect to the train sets.” ChessIsASport

With multiple levels, parking spaces and a ramp, the BRIO World Parking Garage can either be connected to a wooden train set or played with on its own. 

The garage comes with two cars and a transporter that can be wound up the lift, released from the ramp and dropped through a trapdoor. When connected to a wooden train or road track, children can create an even bigger world providing endless fun.  

It may not have as many levels or accessories as other car garages, but the BRIO World Parking Garage is multi-functional, looks nice and won’t take up much room in your home. 

Key skill: Imagination

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

Micro Mini Scooter

Price: £75.95 | Buy now from John Lewis & 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

For outdoor adventures, young children can whizz around on the Mini Micro Deluxe Scooter. Available in bright, fun colours, it’s lightweight and has three wheels to help with balance and steering.

Suitable from age two to five, the handlebar can be adjusted to grow with your child. It’s robust to protect against wear and tear and has a gripped footplate to ensure they can safely pick up speed. 

It’s pricier than other similar scooters, but will be a good investment for your child and, if anything breaks, every part can be replaced.  

Key skill: Physical

12. Best craft toy for 3-year-olds:Melissa and Doug Deluxe Standing Art Easel

Melissa and Doug Art Easel

Price: £69.99 | Buy now from Amazon

“An easel and a box of art supplies. She still uses it a year later.” Mylittlepony374

Aspiring young artists can draw, paint and play with the Melissa and Doug Deluxe Standing Art Easel. It has a dry erase board on one side and a chalkboard on the other, with a locking paper-roll holder so children have plenty of options for bringing their imaginations to life. 

There’s also a child-safe paper cutter and four easy-clip grips. Each side of the easel has a plastic tray that’s large enough to store pens, paints and brushes. Although it’s quite large, you can adjust the height for growing children and it can be folded flat for storing away.

Key skill: Creativity 

13. Best active toy for 3-year-olds: Chad Valley 6ft Trampoline

Chad Valley 6ft Trampoline

Price: £100 | Buy now from Argos

“I bought a trampoline for my DS. Just pre-warning everyone that it took me four hours to build and my back is in agony today, but well worth it to keep my DS entertained. Chad Valley 6ft Trampoline with an enclosure.” YappityYapYap

What better way to let your child burn off some of that boundless energy than on a trampoline? The Chad Valley 6ft Trampoline provides somewhere safe for your child to bounce in your garden. 

Getting outside for active play time is great for children as it helps them learn new physical skills and build up muscle strength. The trampoline has a strong frame for tackling all that bouncing and has a safety enclosure to stop them from falling off.

Made from strong weather-resistant material and with a maximum weight of 45kg, your child should get years of use out of it. Parents advise that more than one pair of hands is needed for building though. 

Key skill: Physical 

14. Best animal toy for 3-year-olds: Schleich Farm World Farm House

Schleich Large Farm House

Price: £76.41 | Buy now from Amazon 

“Schleich toys are great! Kids love them!” Helen1218

“Mine loves her Schleich farm toys.” Huntawaymama

When it comes to animals, Schleich comes up again and again on the Mumsnet forums. Realistic and high-quality painted figures, the animals help children to learn through play. 

The Schleich Farm World range includes all your typical farmyard animals, with the Farm House at the centre of it all. It contains two farm workers, Paul and Laura, seven animals, including a cow, a pig and a dog, as well as lots of fun lifelike accessories. 

Children can move the hay around the stable using a winch and massage the cows with a moveable brush. The house comes complete with a table and chairs, a sink and a bed, among other fun features. It’s suitable for children aged three to eight and can be easily dismantled for storage.

For animal lovers, you can buy more sets from the Farm World range to make an even bigger farm. Schleich also makes other ranges such as wildlife, horses and dinosaurs.  

Key skill: Role play and imagination

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

Magna-Tiles Stardust

Price: £19.99 | 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.

Playing like this offers great sensory play, while helping children to develop engineering skills and learn about shapes and colours.  

Key skill: Creativity

16. Best pretend play toy for 3-year-olds: Theo Klein Bosch Tool Kit

Bosch Toy Tool Box

Price: £22.19 | Buy now from Amazon

“The Bosch tool set is really good - it comes in a tool box and the power drill has batteries. We can use it with some of our BRIO building bits for tightening things also which is good (it comes with two plastic pieces of ‘wood’ and large screws).” Blueberryblueberry

Children can make like Bob the Builder with this Theo Klein Bosch Tool Kit. The tool box comes with all the usual tools including a hammer, saw, spanner and nails.

The cordless screwdriver has lots of fun features, with a rotating drill bit, interchangeable parts, and light and sound functions which children will love. There’s even two strips of wood and screws with nuts for practicing some home DIY. 

As all tools are toy replicas of the real thing, children will be able to fix things just like Mum and Dad – encouraging role play and helping them to learn about the world. 

Key skill: Role play and imagination

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

Asda Light Up Dolls House

Price: £66.90 | Buy now from eBay

“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 with lights up to make it even more realistic. 

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.

Key skill: Role play and imagination 

What are the best types of toys for a 3-year-old? 

1. Role play – this include 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 all great 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 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  

Most of our recommendations for toys for three-year-olds came from Mumsnet users themselves. We searched the Mumsnet forums for posts about which toys Mumsnetters really rated. We also researched various review sites to find out which toys performed well across the board.

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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.