Boys who are three are full of energy and inquisitiveness. They’re starting to develop more skills, and their attention span is increasing a bit. Buying a gift for them is a lot of fun because they’re typically more aware that toys don’t just magically appear out of nowhere, but are a special treat.
They’re also starting to discover their own passions, be it a favorite television character, sport or color, and getting them a gift that feeds that passion will delight them. From those that burn energy to those that educate and inspire imaginary play and creativity, here are the top toys for 3-year-old boys.
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Best Overall: Prextex Pack of 2 Cartoon R/C Police Car and Race Car Radio Control
Gentlemen (or, er, preschoolers), start your engines. These little remote control cars are a perfect gift for those little boys with a need for speed. The pack comes with two vehicles—a police car and a race car. Each also comes complete with not one, but two, removable action figures to take the wheel, so if you lose one, you have a double. The cars have flashing headlights and make lots of great sounds—honking and racing sounds for the race car and a police siren on the police car. (Sorry, Mom and Dad).
Each car has its own remote with a separate frequency so the cars can be raced against each other at the same time. You will need to buy some batteries though, as they’re not included. Each vehicle requires three AA batteries and each remote requires two double AA batteries. On your mark, get set, go!
See more reviews of our favorite electronic toys available for purchase.
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Runner-Up, Best Overall: Educational Insights Design & Drill Activity Center
Power up the fun with this great activity set. The handy little man will love his own power tools —just like dad’s, only a lot more fun! It comes with a reversible power drill, a screwdriver, a combination wrench, two drill bits, and 120 colorful plastic bolts. The workspace is a sturdy activity board with holes in it, which the bolts can be driven into for a variety of patterns, pictures, and other creations. They can use one of the 20 accompanying activity cards to aid in their design or freestyle all by themselves.
Winner of several toy awards, the set encourages STEM learning, creativity, coordination and a whole lot more. It requires three AA batteries, which aren’t included, so you may want to have some on hand as this is one gift they’ll be chomping at the bit to use.
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Best Retro: The Original Stomp Rocket Jr. Glow, 4 Rockets
He’ll be soaring high when he receives a Stomp Rocket. The kit comes with one stomp launcher and four rockets. Kids simply run, jump and stomp as hard as they can on the soft launch pad, and send the rockets soaring up into the sky. And soar they do! Rockets can reach heights of up to 100 feet depending on just how hard the stomp. Even better, these rockets glow in the dark, which makes them great for day or night.
It’s easy to put together, and no batteries are required either. It’s all kid power that makes the rockets take flight, meaning kids are getting lots of good exercise while having fun. This is one award-winning gift that you can’t go wrong with, no matter the little guy’s interests. Stomp rockets are always a blast for the entire family!
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Best Musical: VTech KidiBeats Kids Drum Set
Here’s a rockin’ gift for a cool little dude—a drum set. He’ll just want to bang on the drum all day as there are three drum pads and a cymbal to make a variety of noises. Drumsticks are included, and it lights up as well for extra rockstar action.
Not only can he bang out some awesome tunes, but he can learn a thing or two while doing so. The drum set has four modes to select from: free play, letters, numbers and follow along. By following lights and tapping along, he can learn the alphabet, counting and so much more.
It runs on three AA batteries. While a demo set is included, you’ll want to have some others on hand for regular use so the beat can go on and on and on.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Best Splurge: Magna-Tiles
Yes, Magna-Tiles are worth it! These cool building blocks of sorts lets kids dream up whatever they want as they magnetically stick together. While they come with a hefty price tag, your kid will spend hours with these as they work on their STEM skills which will help them learn in the math and science fields. These tiles are also built to last so they will last your family for years to come.
These tiles also help your child work on their fine motor skills as they have to figure out how to put them all together. Parents agree that these are really worth the price tag, with many saying these are a quality product that is fun for the whole family. One reviewer even said this is the best toy they've ever bought.
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Best Bath Toy: Munchkin Fishin' Bath Toy
Let’s face it, 3-year-old boys can be a sticky, messy sort, so scrub-a-dub-dub time in the tub is a frequent necessity. There will be no need to lure him in anymore; this fishing game will have him begging for bath time.
It comes with a magnetic fishing rod made for little hands and three adorable sea critters that float. He can reel them in over and over again—no bait, required. This game also works well in a swimming pool, in the kitchen sink, or even on dry land, and promotes hand-eye coordination. Of course, don’t forget that children this age must be supervised near water at all times.
The price on this cute gift is right (inexpensive, that is), and it’s sure to provide a lot of good, clean fun.
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Best Dress-Up: Melissa & Doug Fire Chief Role Play Costume Dress-Up Set
Fire up his imagination with this fire chief dress-up set. He can jump into hero mode by donning this dapper uniform. It comes complete with a bright red jacket, sturdy adjustable helmet, official-looking badge, and reusable name tag so he’ll look just the part. Even better, it also comes with accessories that include a fire extinguisher and a bullhorn that makes sound effects (Note: The bullhorn requires two AA batteries, which aren’t included). Both of them fit into the jacket’s built-in utility belt, so he has everything he needs to save the day right at his fingertips.
The jacket is machine washable, so mom’s biggest problem may be getting him out of it long enough to wash it once in awhile. Bonus: Beyond everyday fun, it can do double duty as a Halloween costume. This is one hot gift.
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Best Train Table: KidKraft Train Set and Table
All aboard for fun! If you’re looking for a big gift that’s going to be a big hit, you’re on the right track with this train set and table. It comes with 100 pieces for an amazing array of adventures. Included are everything from wooden train tracks to trains, airport, helipad, trees, people, streets signs, police car, and more. They’re so much to see, do, build and imagine.
They play area is 49" x 34", which means there’s plenty of room for lots of little engineers to play. There are also two plastic bins under the table that slide in and out to store all the extra trains and pieces when they’re not in use.
This train table and set are sure to provide years and years of fun.
Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best toys for toddler boys.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Best Puzzle: Zoostliss Early Education Colorful Wooden Tetris Block Intelligence Puzzle
If you’re puzzled about what to get the 3-year-old on your list, look no further. This great puzzle set solves that problem. Different from traditional puzzles, there’s more than one way to solve this one.
It comes with 40 pieces made of beech wood and non-toxic paints, and the goal is to fit all of the blocks back together on the board with no spaces. There are many different ways to do it, making it a new and exciting challenge over and over again. The blocks come in eight colors (there are five of each), which also makes the puzzle great for learning shapes, colors and how to think creatively when faced with a problem.
While it’s geared toward kids ages 3 to 10, adults will have fun trying to solve it as well. Set a timer and see who can solve it the quickest. If you need an extra challenge, this puzzle is a great alternative to electronics and video games.
Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best wooden toys.
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Best Active: Little Tykes Jump & Slide Bouncer
Every parent of a 3-year-old knows—tire them out and bedtime is a breeze. Add bouncy fun to the mix and you are the parent of the year. This bounce house is made to be puncture resistant and includes a built-in blower for constant inflation during use. Slides and safety mesh make for easy on and off and parental supervision.
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Best Hands On: Kinetic Sand
Kinetic Sand is all the rage and it is easy to see why. This fun sand lets kids (and adults) craft up castles, designs, and more with no need to worry about a sandy mess being left behind. The sand all magically sticks together so clean up is a breeze. The sand will never dry or harden so you'll get a lot of miles out of this 3-pound pack.
Parents agree that this sand is really that cool. They love that it is a toy that will last a long time, doesn't cost a lot, and helps inspire their child's creativity with no annoying sounds blaring.
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Best Car Toy: PAW Patrol - Ultimate Rescue Fire Truck with Extendable 2 ft. Tall Ladder
If your kid is into Paw Patrol, this cool fire truck will inspire their pretend play. The 2-foot ladder extends so they can have their characters "climb" up and rescue the day. "Water guns" also help them put out any fires that arise as they shoot out of the fire truck.
Your 3-year-old will enjoy playing with all of the bells and whistles on this toys. Just be sure to have two AA batteries on hand when opening the package.
Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best toy cars for kids.
Products Tested by The Spruce
How We Tested
We bought four of our readers’ favorite gifts for 3-year-old boys that our reviewers tested for 18 hours. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these gifts, from their complexity to their age appropriateness. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
What to Look for in a Gift for a 3-Year-Old-Boy
Age Check the age recommendations on a gift’s packaging, but remember this isn’t an absolute — it’s just a guideline based on average maturity, motor skills, and cognitive development.
Complexity Books, wooden toys, and other single-function toys can be lots of fun. But also consider a gift with more than one function — toys that light up, make noise, move, or have interactive features tend to hold a child’s attention for longer periods of time.
Type Avoid stereotypes when shopping! Not all boys love cars and tools. Rather than defer to gender norms, think more carefully about the personality of the 3-year-old boy you’re buying for.
Test Results: Prextex Pack of 2 Cartoon R/C Police Car and Race Car Radio Control (Best Overall)
What We Like
Helps with fine motor skills
What We Don't Like
Replacing batteries is expensive
No volume control
One of our testers reported that both her 3- and 5-year-old kids “had a blast” playing with this toy: “It was also great for helping with motor skills since you have to drive the cars using a remote,” she explained. Durability was also a plus, according to one reviewer: “The toys were driven on floors, floor mats, tables, and other furniture,” she said. “Even though they dropped and rolled at times, they didn't break and continued to work well.” One of our testers, however, didn’t like that the cars and remotes needed AA batteries: “Unless you own rechargeable batteries, it becomes a little costly to get new ones.” Some online reviewers also felt that the car’s sounds were too loud and wished there was a way to control the volume.
Test Results: Educational Insights Design & Drill Activity Center (Runner-Up, Best Overall)
What We Like
Helps with fine motor skills
Requires little setup
What We Don't Like
Difficult to clean up
Our testers found that this toy kept their 3-year-olds entertained and also incorporated useful skills. “It's nice to know [kids’] playtime can be somewhat educational and inspirational from both an artistic and mechanical perspective,” one of our reviewers observed. Our testers also liked that it required little setup on the parents’ part and was quiet. One of our reviewers noted, “I really like how this simultaneously engages their imagination and fine motor skills but doesn't inundate them (and me) with bright flashing lights and obnoxious, repetitive songs.” On the other hand, cleanup and storage of all the tiny pieces proved both difficult and time consuming, according to our testers.
Test Results: The Original Stomp Rocket Jr. Glow, 4 Rockets (Best Retro)
What We Like
Teaches hand-eye coordination
Exciting to launch
Requires no batteries
What We Don't Like
Glow-in-the-dark feature didn’t work
Our testers thought this toy was exciting, quiet, and educational. “In addition to the excitement factor, there is the opportunity to teach simple science terminology, like trajectory, angle, force, and so it's simultaneously a hands-on active toy, but also educational,” one of our reviewers remarked. In terms of downsides, one of our testers was disappointed that it did not glow in the dark as advertised. Our reviewers also felt it wasn’t very stable and the base of the launcher needed to be reset often. As far as the kids were concerned, though, the toy seemed to be a winner: “It did bring my sons great joy and excitement when they launched the rockets outside (and inside off the ceiling and up a flight of stairs),” concluded one of our testers.
Test Results: VTech KidiBeats Kids Drum Set (Best Musical)
What We Like
Entertaining lights and noises
Freestyle mode lets children experiment
What We Don't Like
Doesn’t foster prolonged play
With all its flashing lights and sounds, the VTech KidiBeats Kids Drum Set is entertaining for children, but can quickly become annoying for parents, according to our testers. Our reviewers particularly liked the “freestyle mode where children can play and experiment on their own” and the “frustration-free packaging.” However, while “initially entertaining and alluring to small children,” one of our testers warned, “It’s overly complicated and overly stimulating with its various noises and sounds, encouraging passivity rather than prolonged play and exploration.”