As a parent, I know I’m constantly looking for ideas on how to keep my little ones occupied at home. During the past year, my kids and I spent a great deal of time indoors. When there was a COVID case reported in my daughter’s class, daycare would close for a minimum of 10 days. Or when daycare was closed for a week for Spring Break, Summer Break or Christmas Break, we just had to come up with activities for my kids to stay occupied. It’s either that, or lots of screen time which isn’t ideal.
For the longest time, I have resisted toy purchases because I do not like clutter, but we haven’t been very successful at this. When we started to accumulate some toys at home, my kids get bored of the same toys quickly, so we had to make smart purchases that will sustain their interest.
Here is my list of best 8 toys that are ideal for a 3-year-old. I hope this list will help you mix things up a little at home, or give you some ideas on what to gift a 3-year-old. I know many parents will thank you for gifting quality toys! My daughter has thoroughly enjoyed these toys and they keep her engaged for an extended period. I even got some quiet time and found time to respond to work emails while she entertained herself with these toys. I would still recommend some adult supervision when kids are using these toys though.
Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
This is the toy that is most well-played in our house and my eldest’s favorite toy. This is hands-down the best open-ended toy in my opinion. What is an open-ended toy? An open-ended toy is a toy that kids can play independently without much guidance, and there are many ways to play it. As the kids grows, the way they use it will also change. Open-ended toys usually foster creativity and critical thinking.
I usually like to rotate some toys, but I have never kept this ever since I introduced this set to my daughter. She could sit there for hours, just building whatever she can think of at that moment. My daughter has built houses with imaginary windows for her stuffy, vehicles on wheels and quite complex shapes in my opinion. Till today, she never ceases to surprise me with her ideas and construction.
We have the 100-piece Magna-tiles in our collection, and I’m even thinking of adding more because my daughters would sometimes fight over the pieces, and there can never be enough! These magna-tiles are pretty strong and durable. I even stepped on them a few times before, and so far they have held up pretty well.
Since my youngest is still about 1.5 years old, she is still working on her gross motor skills, but so far, she has learned how to piece some of the magnatiles together and it has been great!
There are other options when it comes to magnetic tiles. The Connetix Tiles are a good alternative and they are pretty strong and scratch resistant. They are definitely comparable to the Magnatiles.
2. Play Doh
I’m pretty sure every child will or has played with this at least once in their lifetime. This is just a classic toy that will keep you child entertained for hours! They are great for developing those hand muscles which are pretty important for handwriting skills. I would also consider this another open-ended toy as it allows kids to use their imagination to create anything that they want.
You can easily purchase these from Amazon or at any retail stores, but there are also plenty of recipes on the internet for you to make your home-made play dough.
For accessories, we use just about anything that we can our hands on. We use cookie cutters, plastic knives, and even our rolling pin. We have a couple of play sets that we bought. My eldest’ favorite is this Play-Doh Mini Doctor Drill n’ Fill Dentist Toy. She would pretend to be a dentist, and fill those holes with Play-Doh, followed by a little drilling with the hand-powered toy drill. She has now come to love her dentist visits as this has somewhere helped her conquer her fear.
Her other favorite is this Play-Doh Crazy Cuts where she would pretend to be a hair stylist. She has lots of hair to design! On some days, she would even be laughing at her crazy inventions and it is such a joy to eavesdrop on her own conversation. The only thing is, it gets a little messy but I do not mind this at all as she gets entertained for hours.
3. Kinetic Sand
You might think this is messy, but it is actually not. Kinetic sand is just like magic sand that sticks to itself, and conforms to any mold impressively. They do not stick to you hands, and it never dries out like PlayDoh. It provides excellent sensory experience for little kids!
We started with this Folding Sand Box with just 2 pounds of kinetic sand. It may not seem like a lot, but there was enough to get my daughters started. It comes with 7 tools with over 20 ways to play. The sand is so easy to store in the playbox. Snap it shut and you can even carry it to you next play date.
Drawing is another big activity that we encourage in our house and my daughters love doing it. Before we purchased this, we used to set out a standing art easel that comes with a dry-erase board and chalkboard like the Melissa & Doug Deluxe set. This option is great, but the only drawback is that constant adult supervision is needed as my daughters need my help with cleaning the boards.
The LCD Writing Tablet is great because it works with pressured-sensitive technology, and erasing is so easy with just a click of the button. It comes with a stick pen that is easy for tiny hands to hold and grasp.
This is especially useful for traveling because there is no mess to really clean up, waterproof, anti-fall and so portable.
This is great for preschoolers who are learning how to read. It comes with 30 puzzle pairs, which gives hours of fun as your kid picks the words that rhyme go together. The puzzles are self-correcting, so only cards with the correct answer will fit together.
As kids play independently, it teaches them problem solving skills and helps boost confidence as they get the correct pieces together. The cards are easy to grasp, which helps to develop the motor skills. Most importantly, they expand their vocabulary and they learn about rhymes!
This Melissa and Doug set teaches kids how to undo locks and latch them back together. It’s not as simple as closing and opening. Rather, kids need to learn how to turn, hook, snap, click and slide.
Just like other toys, this helps develop multiple skills like the gross motor skills, critical thinking skills and creativity. Each door comes with a number, so they can start to go in order if your kid can count.
My 3-year-old has managed to figure out how to open and close all the latches except for one of the houses, but I’m sure she will get there soon. Even so, she still enjoys locking and unlatching the doors.
In my opinion, this toy is worth every penny.
7. Duplo Set
This is another classic toy, and you won’t go wrong with the basic set. Your little one might be too young for Legos, but Duplo sets are perfect for their tiny hands. They can build anything under the sun, and exercise their creative juices to bring their imagination to life.
My daughter was first introduced a marble run when we were gifted a cheap plastic set which broke after a few weeks. We then invested in the Hape wooden set. This award-winning set has been recognized internationally and supports STEM learning.
In my opinion, this is not only appropriate for a 3-year-old, but also for an adult depending on how you play it. The set is amazingly high quality with perfect fitting pieces and great instructions. However, a 3-year-old might need some help initially, and once they get it, it will be endless hours of fun as they construct a run independently.
We have knocked over our set so many times, but so far it has held up pretty well. All in all, this is one of the best toys that we have invested in with no regrets.
What are some of you favorite toys for you 3-year-old? We would love to hear from you. Share you comment below!
Disclosure: Around The Clock Mom participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. Purchases made through these links will not cost you any extra, but will help support us in operating this website.