34+ Best Toys for Three-Year-Old Boys
Turning three opens up a whole new world in toys! It’s the age where most little ones are finally ready for all of the 3+ “big kid” toys, and all the little pieces that come with them. To help you choose the perfect gift, we’ve rounded up our picks for the best toys for three-year-old boys. My two boys are a bit older now (4 and 6), but these are the toys that were the clear favourites when they were three.
Children are developing rapidly at these young ages, and I found that three – in particular – was a year of massive developmental changes. They go from toddler to preschooler over the course of the year, and their choice in toys reflects that. What my boys were into as new three-year-olds was very different from what they were into at the end of the year.
If you’ve checked out any of my other gift guides, you’ll notice that this is the first one where I’ve separated boys and girls. I did this because I noticed that age three is when my sons started to gravitate towards different toys than their similarly aged female friends. This does not mean that the items on this list are not appropriate for three-year-old girls. I don’t believe in “girl toys” and “boy toys”, but I do recognize that they may naturally have different interests. I simply don’t have enough experience with three-year-old girls (yet!) to give personal recommendations – I’ll update with a three-year-old girl version when my daughter is three!
Missed our other gift guides?
- Best Toys for Babies
- 19 Best Toys for One-Year-Olds
- 25+ Best Toys for Two-Year-Olds
- 67+ Non-Toy Gift Ideas That Kids (and Parents!) Will Love
1. Play kitchen. Our play kitchen has been one of our best purchases. My kids have loved it starting around 18 months, and it continues to be one of the most consistently played-with items in our playroom. We went with the KidKraft Uptown Espresso Kitchen, and it has stood up well to five years of heavy use from three kids. I also love the look of the KidKraft Vintage Kitchen. If you watch the sales or the used market you can often score a great deal on these.
2024 Update: This kitchen lasted more than 10 years! I highly recommend a play kitchen – this is a toy that our kids came back to time and time again.
2. Dishes. To go with your play kitchen, you’re going to need some dishes. Ours have been cobbled together, but if I was starting over I’d go with Green Toys. If you’re near an Ikea, they have a great cookware set, and some fun kitchen utensils.
3. Play food. I highly recommend Learning Resources play food. We have this set, but any of their New Sprouts sets look fantastic. Originally I was going to go with wooden play food, but picturing my kids using the fruit and vegetables as projectiles made me change my mind. The Learning Resources sets are excellent quality – they’re made of a durable plastic that’s not going to get crushed or cracked like other play food sets.
4. Hide and Squeak eggs. I picked these up as part of my son’s Easter basket when he was a toddler, and was surprised by how much he loved them. They’re a great learning toy – teaching colour and shape recognition – and my kids have gotten countless hours of play out of them. They make them squeak, they match the shapes and colours, they hide the eggs (just like the Easter Bunny!), and they use the eggs in their “baking”.
5. Melissa & Doug Slice and Bake Wooden Cookie Play Food Set. We bought these because the set comes with an oven mitt, and my middle son was obsessed with oven mitts when he was younger. This set is awesome. Kids can “decorate” the cookies, “bake” them, and slice them. The decorations attach to the cookies and the cookies attach to the cookie sheet with velcro, which makes everything easy for little ones to handle. My only warning on these is that the cardboard tube for storage didn’t last long in our house – not a big deal because we store them attached to the cookie sheet. Also, apparently the cookie sheet does not fit in all play kitchens – it does fit in our KidKraft Uptown Espresso Kitchen.
6. Shopping cart. All of my kids have loved pushing around a shopping cart filled with their favourite toys and stuffed animals. We have this one, and have been very happy with it. I also love the look of the Melissa & Doug cart – but was nervous about what it would do to my walls!
7. Cash register. We don’t have this yet, but it’s on my list for Christmas. This one gets great reviews, so I’m hoping it will stand up to their (not-always-so-gentle) play. It’s a toy that I expect will have great longevity, as my six-year-old will be able to use it to practice basic math and money skills.
2024 Update: The cash register was a hit! We’ve had it for years now, and the kids still play with it.
8. Wallet. My little kids love pulling all of the cards and money out of my wallet – this is a much better option! The paper money is realistic (note that if you’re in Canada, it does come with American money), and my kids love having “credit cards” of their own. It comes with too much money to fit comfortably in the wallet (if only we all had that problem!), but I just put the extra aside.
9. Doctor’s kit. A doctor’s kit continues to be a hit for three-year-olds. Doctor’s kits are not only fun to play with, they can also help make doctor’s visits a little bit easier. I’m convinced that part of the reason my middle son had an easier time at the doctor is because he was so used to being the “patient” for his older brother! I looked at a bunch and settled on the Fisher-Price medical kit, which has been a hit with all three of my kids.
10. Dress-up clothes. Continuing the theme of imaginative play, dress-up clothes are HUGE for three-year-olds. The Melissa and Doug dress-up sets are great. There are tons of them (doctor, construction worker, firefighter, etc.), and they come with all of the accessories you need. These are designed for ages 3-6, so they will likely be big at first, but they’ll fit for a few years. You can also score some great deals on dress-up clothes by picking up costumes when they go on sale after Halloween. If you have a superhero fan, another hit in our house has been the Great Pretenders reversible Spider/Bat cape.
11. Broom and vacuum. I don’t know what it is about these, but kids love them! My daughter wants to sweep the floor every day, and when my son was in the toddler class at his daycare, they had three vacuums (for 12 kids!) because they were the highly sought-after toy. We went with a basic broom and dustpan, which has lasted for 5 years through three kids – the Melissa and Doug set looks fun too. We don’t have a toy vacuum yet, but I’m eyeing this one for my daughter’s Christmas list.
12. Tool set. We bought the full tool bench and found that the kids much preferred the tools themselves to the tool bench. I suggest skipping the toolbench and buying a self-contained set like this one.
13. Doll. I’m a big fan of buying dolls for both boys and girls – especially if a new sibling will be arriving shortly! Finding baby boy dolls can be a bit trickier, but this is an adorable option from Manhattan Toy’s Baby Stella collection. The magnetic pacifier that comes with this one is a hit.
14. Play-Doh. Play-Doh is an excellent toy to exercise little hands and imaginations. Watch for sales on this – I often pick the small kits up at a great price.
15. Art supplies. Age three is when my boys started to be interested in sitting and working on art projects for longer than 5 minutes. If you don’t have them already, this is a great age to pick up some markers and/or crayons – make sure they’re washable! My boys also loved watercolour paints beginning at this age, and these incredibly fun Do-a-Dot markers.
16. Easel. Art is even more fun standing up! My kids love this easel, and I love the fact that two of them can create at the same time – without intruding on each others’ space. This is an outdoor toy for us, because it can get messy, but it’s a great toy for inside or outside.
Related: 16 Best Outdoor Toys for Toddlers
17. Melissa and Doug Water Wow!. For mess-free creativity, I highly recommend the Melissa and Doug Water Wow! books. These reusable books allow your child to “paint” with water only, and are great entertainment on-the-go for airplanes or restaurants.
18. Melissa and Doug Reusable Stickers. My older son would sit and play quietly with these forever! My only caution is that they’re quite large, so unlike the Water Wow! books they’re not the best for airplanes or restaurants. They are, however, a great activity to occupy an older sibling while you’re busy feeding a new baby.
19. Table and chairs. A child-sized table and chairs is the perfect place for art projects, Play-Doh, and snacktime. IKEA has a ton of options for durable, pint-sized furniture – we have the Sundvik table and chairs.
20. Lacing beads. My boys loved these lacing beads. In fact, they’ll still pull them out and make (incredibly heavy!) necklaces from time to time. These are a fun way to practice those fine motor skills.
22. Duplo. In terms of bang for your buck, you can’t beat Duplo! If you’re keeping track, you’ll notice that I’ve recommended it on my gift guides from age one up. Even my six-year-old still plays with it. Start with a basic set, and if your child enjoys it, there are tons of different sets to build their collection – some even feature their favourite characters.
23. Lego Juniors. Age three is when my boys started getting into “big kid” Lego (much to the delight of my husband!). If you’re not familiar with Lego Juniors, it’s the same size and completely interchangeable with regular Lego. The only difference is that the designs are simpler, so it’s better suited to younger kids. The recommended age for Lego Juniors is 4-7. I found that it wasn’t suitable for new three-year-olds, but by the end of the year my boys were quite capable of following the instructions and assembling the kits (with assistance).
24. Magnetic tiles. You’ve heard me sing the praises of this toy before. We absolute LOVE PicassoTiles in our house. They’re a pricier toy, but in my opinion they’re worth every penny. We bought them for our kids last Christmas, and have since bought another 100-piece set. My only regret is not buying them sooner! This is one of the very few toys that my 1.5-year-old, 4-year-old, and 6-year-old will all sit down to play with together.
25. Trucks and cars. My boys’ truck obsession continued through age three. Construction vehicles, garbage trucks, busses, cars – you name it, they loved it! Some of our favourites are this recycling truck, this skid steer loader, this car transporter, and the CAT trucks. They also loved Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, and the Tonka Metal diecast vehicles.
26. Trains. Our train table has been a fixture in our house since my oldest was two. We have a very similar model to this one. The train table was fun, but it took up a LOT of space, so give some serious thought to whether or not you have the room before you buy it. My kids went through stages where they played with it constantly, then would neglect it for months at a time. On the plus side, it makes a great Lego table, so I don’t see us getting rid of it any time soon. If I was doing it again, I think I would go with a train set, but not a table. Setting up the tracks seems to be half the fun, and that’s not as easy to do with a train table. Ikea sells a basic train set that would make a good starter set and a good way to figure out if it’s worth investing the money in a larger set.
27. Little People. Little People continue to be a hit with three-year-olds. That said, this is the last year that I would recommend buying them, as I found that my boys didn’t play with them as much once they turned four. At this age, the Wheelies toys were the biggest hit.
28. Games. Three-year-olds are the perfect age for some beginner games. Sneaky Snacky Squirrel was a favourite with my boys. My oldest also loved Memory, and could beat his Mom and Dad at an embarrassingly young age! See my full list of our favourite board games for toddlers and preschoolers here.
29. Puzzles. At age three, your child may be ready for increasingly difficult puzzles. The Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles are fantastic. Their 24 piece puzzles are perfect for this age, and if they’re ready for an added challenge, the 48 piece puzzles can be a good activity to work up to (with some help from Mom or Dad).
30. Battat Take Apart Airplane. There are a few different models of this toy, and I’m sure they’re all great, but I can personally speak to the Take Apart Airplane being awesome! It includes a real working drill (which is cool in and of itself!), and kids can assemble and take apart the airplane over and over again. They’ll need help at first, but it wasn’t long before my boys were able to do this completely on their own.
31. Outdoor toys. There are so many wonderful outdoor toys for toddlers that I wrote an entire post about it! Check out my picks for the 16 best outdoor toys for toddlers here. At age three, the jump rocket and balance bike were two of our most played-with outdoor toys. My younger son also LOVES his PlasmaCar.
32. Trampoline. This trampoline is a fantastic way for three-year-olds to burn off energy, especially during the winter months when they’re cooped up inside. Ours is a permanent fixture in our living room (unfortunately!), and all of my kids will wander over and jump on it often.
33. Animal Figurines. Animal figurines are another toy with serious longevity in our house. We started getting them for our oldest at age three, and have now amassed quite a collection. At any given time, you are almost guaranteed to find an elaborate PicassoTile creation housing a collection of animals somewhere in our house! The Schleich animals are excellent, and we were also impressed with the quality of this tub of dinosaurs.
34. Character toys. Finally, I cannot write a toy list for three-year-olds, and not include their favourite character toys! Whether your child is into Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig, Bluey, Rescue Bots, superheroes, or something else altogether, you can’t go wrong with a toy featuring their favourite character.
Phew! Writing this post has convinced me that my children have way too many toys! I hope that this list helped you come up with some gift ideas for the three-year-old in your life.