The 10 Best Toys to Buy for 3-Year-Olds in 2018

Put those tyke's energy good to use with these selections

Two young girls, twin sisters, holding hands, playing on a lawn.
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Our Top Picks

Best Creative: Button Art Mosaic Pegboard at Amazon

“Allows kids to express their creativity and create fun pictures.”

Best Princess: Disney Princess Dress Up Trunk at Amazon

“Includes everything that they need to dress up like their favorite princess.”

Best Tech: Game Smart Watch at Amazon

“Has capabilities that are fun, functional, and educational.”

Best Wooden: Melissa & Doug Nina Ballerina at Amazon

“Dress up Nina Ballerina in six different outfits.”

Best Coordination: Kids Golf Club Set at Amazon

“These clubs are safe enough for toddlers to use.”

Best Doll: Baby Alive Doll at Amazon

“Has over 80 real-life expressions, movements, and sounds.”

Best Active: Gymnic Rody Horse at Amazon

“Kids will love bouncing around on this inflatable horse.”

Best Fine Motor: Kinetic Sand at Amazon

“Can be used indoors or outdoors to hone their motor and sensory skills.”

Best Craft: Little Hands Paper Bag Monsters at Amazon

“Will provide tons of inspiration for puppet shows and other activities.”

Best Pretend Play: Melissa & Doug Parking Garage at Amazon

“Reviewers love that this set has a car wash which most sets don’t have.”

  • 01 of 10

    Best Overall: ETI Toys Original 101 Piece Educational Construction Engineering Building


    STEM (which stands for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math) is where it’s at when it comes to education today, and it’s never too early to start building the foundation. This construction set does just that while kids are having nothing but fun.

    In the set is everything they need to build 12 different toys plus limitless creations of their own design. It contains blocks in a variety of sizes and shapes, screws and nuts, plates, wheels, connectors, two wrenches and an idea sheet. All of them come in a nice, sturdy storage box to keep them all together when their creations are deconstructed. The pieces are easy to assemble, and kids can build anything from cars and trucks to animals and buildings. It’s all about problem solving, creativity and trial and error, but most of all fun.

  • 02 of 10

    Best Fine Motor: Fat Brain Toys Squigz Starter Set - 24 pc.

    This toy really sucks… in the best possible way. Squigz are crazy little doo-dads made of silicone rubber that come in a variety of shapes. Each has suction cups on its ends and can stick to and stack on one another to build amazing creations. They can also be stuck to windows, doors, refrigerators, high chairs, bathtubs or pretty much any solid, non-porous surface to make all sorts of gravity-defying patterns and designs. The award-winning toy lets their creativity drive how it’s used.

    To remove Squigz, you simply pull and off they come with a “pop.” And don’t worry, they won’t leave a mark.

    Squigz are a great way to develop fine motor and problem solving skills and are a lot of fun to share with a friend or sibling for collaboration. This starter set contains 24 Squigz, and additional sets can be purchased to up their building power.

  • 03 of 10

    Best Dinosaur: Dinosaur Take Apart Toys

    Take them back to prehistoric times with these take-apart toy dinosaurs. While the pack of six dinosaurs (featuring a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Brontosaurus, and a Triceratops) comes preassembled and ready for play, the real beauty of them is that kids can take them apart then rebuild them over and over again.

    It’s a great activity for kids who like to know how things work and much better that they take apart these dinosaurs than, say, your toaster. The set has 218 pieces in all and comes with kid-friendly screwdrivers to do all the work. No batteries are needed, just their hard work and problem-solving skills. For the budding paleontologist check out our best dinosaur toys roundup. 

  • 04 of 10

    Best Art: Crayola Inspiration Art Case

    Inspire great works of art with this amazing 140-piece art set. Budding little artists will ooh and ahh over this amazing array of colorful fun.

    There are crayons, colored pencils, washable markers and even paper— everything necessary to create enough beautiful artwork to cover all the refrigerators in town (or at least their own). All of the tools are neatly organized in one great case, so the perfect tool is always easy to find, and a handle on top makes it easy to take wherever inspiration may be found. So many colors and choices will provide hours of creative fun.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Best Active: Fisher-Price Bouncetastic Inflatable Castle Bouncer With Removable Mesh Walls

    Courtesy of Walmart.

    Instead of having them bounce off the walls with all of that three-year-old energy, this inflatable castle gives them a royally good alternative. It’s a great way for kids to bounce their sillies out and get in some awesome exercise at the same time. While it can be used outside as well, it’s perfect for playrooms and those days when going outside just isn’t an option.

    It measures 69" x 68" x 53", so it’s big enough for a couple little jumpers (it can hold up 188 pounds), but not so big that it takes up an entire room. It also has removable side walls with sturdy mesh fabric to keep them from bouncing out, and it comes with a repair patch kit in case it springs a leak. Let the bouncing begin!

  • 06 of 10

    Best Pretend Play: EverEarth Toddler Workbench with Tools

    It’s hammer time! This great wooden building set gives kids a hammer and so much more. Along with the nifty tool bench that serves as both a workspace and storage compartment for all the tools, it comes with a wrench, flat head screwdriver, saw and a bench vice. Then there are nails, screws, nuts and bolts and boards for getting down to work. Once they get the hang of the tools, they can even take apart and rebuild the entire tool bench.

    Gender-neutral colors make this a great toy for girls or boys, and it’s a great size (14.8" x 8.8" x 12.8") for smaller spaces.

  • 07 of 10

    Best Outdoor: OUTREE Kids Pod Swing Seat Hammock

    They can swing into fun with this awesome pod that can be used indoors or out. Part hammock, part swing, it’s a fun place for kids to curl up with a book or get active and soar into the air. It’s particularly great if you don’t have a lot of space for an entire jungle gym or just want to add a fun, active component to your child’s bedroom or playroom.

    Easy to assemble, everything you need to hang it is included. It can hold up to 170 pounds so they’ll get years of use from it. It’s also lightweight and easily portable so you can move it between locations or store it anytime you want. Most importantly — this pod will definitely get kids’ nod of approval because it’s fun. 

  • 08 of 10

    Best Bath: TOMY Bath Foam Cone Factory Toy

    Bath time might be both of your favorite times a day, but your toy selection can get a bit stale over time. Add some creativity to your routine with this clever cone factory set that uses bubble bath and water to help them make ice cream confections in the comfort of their own bath.

    This toy mounts easily to your bathrooms wall and includes three cones and a sprinkle shaker. Plus, besides the bathtub, you can also use this outside mounted on a glass sliding door for when the temperatures rise. 

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Best Paw Patrol: Paw Patrol - Ultimate Rescue Fire Truck

    If your kid is one of the millions obsessed with Paw Patrol this new fire truck set is sure to have them in awe. Marshall's fire truck has all the bells and whistles to put out fires, including an extendable 2-foot ladder! it also launches "water" cannons to help put fires out (these are plastic "water" cannons).

    This Amazon choice has top reviews from parents who say this toy kept their children's interest (both young and old)and still gets pulled out to play with daily even after months of owning.

  • 10 of 10

    Best Doll: Baby Alive Potty Dance Baby

    The fascination with dolls starts early for kids. If your child is really into dolls and babies you might want to try the new edition of the ever-popular Baby Alive dolls. This one might even help teach them to use the potty or keep their interests up.

    This doll speaks (50 different sayings!), drinks water, does the potty dance, and even goes to the bathroom when she is ready. Your little one will get a thrill taking care of their own baby girl and learn more about going on the potty. As the doll gets better at "going to the potty" by herself your child can help track their progress (just like them!).

    Parents say this doll is a winner with many saying it has helped reinforce and teach healthy potty behavior at home. A win-win for children and parents.

Products Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 21 hours testing one of the most popular toys for 3-year-olds. To get the most thorough feedback, our testers took this toy home to and had their own kids play with it. We asked our reviewers to consider this toy’s most important features — from its safety to its educational value — and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Toy for a 3-Year-Old

Safety While three-year-olds are quick learners, some still tend to put toys in their mouths — which is why you should consider safety when shopping. Make sure the toy you’re considering is approved for toddlers, and double-check that there are no small pieces that could be a choking hazard.

Engagement The best toys for three-year-olds are ones that keep them engaged. If they figure out a puzzle too quickly or blaze through all the features of a toy, they may get bored. Consider how engaging a toy will be when you’re shopping — is there more than one way to play? Will it encourage them to be creative? Will it get old quickly?

Educational Value Three-year-olds are in the process of learning so many new things: walking, talking, sharing, fine motor skills, and more. For this reason, many toys for children this age encourage them to learn new things while having fun. Consider educational value when shopping for toys — just don’t sacrifice entertainment along the way.

Test Results: ETI Toys Original 101 Piece Educational Construction Engineering Building (Best Overall)


What We Like

  • Engaging

  • Durable

  • Fun

What We Don't Like

  • No hard copy of figures and instructions

ETI Toys Original 101 Piece Educational Construction Engineering Building
ETI Toys Original 101 Piece Building
ETI Toys Educational Construction Engineering Building
ETI Toys

This toy was a major hit with one of our tester's kids. “They loved it,” she gushed. “They really enjoyed creating different things like robots — and they would play with what they built afterward.” The toy's durability was also a plus. “The storage box the pieces come in is very sturdy,” one reviewer noted. “My son loves to travel with it to his grandmother's house, and he carries it himself.” However, our testers did wish this set included a physical copy of the figures and instructions in addition to an e-book.