I first wrote a version of this guide in 2014, when Hailey was 3 and we were counting down to the Christmas holiday. Now, Hailey is 6 (how is that possible?) and it’s her little sister Kaitlyn who is eager and excited to see which gifts will be waiting for her under the tree.
My girls have very different personalities, and play in different ways. Hailey tends to be a bit more reserved and thoughtful (even at her birthday party, she opened one card and gift at a time, keeping everything orderly!). She loves to read, do art and help me in the kitchen.
Kaitlyn is a tiny little thing, full of sugar and spice, and the word feisty always comes to mind when I think of her. She is loud and funny and messy and a born performer (watch the video in this post and you’ll see what I mean).
Even so, there are some toys, games and other gifts that they’ve both loved, and that I love, too. Some are educational, in a sneaky way. Some allow them to explore their artistic sides. But most? They’re just fun.
So, this year, I have put together what I hope is your new go-to guide for shopping for a 3-year-old — I’ve included a lot of items that my girls like, but many would be great for boys too. I’ve also taken some of the recommendations readers have shared in comments here on the blog or on social media, and added in a few that we don’t yet have but are on my own shopping list this year.
Oh, and one final note? Each year, I try very hard to remember that less is more. We talk a lot at home and in homeschool about gratitude and giving back. So if you are looking to save some money or cut back on the tangible gifts this year, here are a few ideas:
- A reader shared this thought, which I love: pick one gift that your kids want, one that they need and one that’s something to read.
- Look on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or a consignment store to find local, gently-used items.
- This is a great age to give experiences, not just toys. So, that could be a membership to a local museum or aquarium, or vouchers for special days with Mom or Dad, just one-on-one.
If you have other ideas, I’d love to see them in the comments.
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Gifts for 3-Year-Old Girls
OK, on to the list! Please note that these include affiliate links, which means I get a small commission from your purchase, although you don’t pay any more.
Toys & Games
Magnatiles. These are always a huge hit, and not just for 3-year-olds, so I love that this is a toy that can grow with your kids. Their imaginations can run wild while their knowledge of geometry grows, as they build different shapes and towers.
Microphone. Even though she is sometimes shy about it, Hailey is really into singing and making up songs and at 3, started to give us little performances. Kaitlyn? She loves being in the spotlight. There are so many fun options, from hand-held to karaoke micrphones on stand. (I’m especially intrigued by this one that can be hooked up to an iPod or iPhone!)
“Kid”noculars. A friend of mine has these and they’re perfect for letting kids take a closer look at plants or animals or even at their older siblings’ sports practices and games. They’re also really sturdy and won’t break when dropped (plus, there’s a breakaway cord so it takes away any risk of choking). The same company makes this microscope, too!
Other great options:
For her first Christmas, Hailey received a Christmas Bear personalized book and loved it. And both my kids have had so much find finding the letters of their names in books, so having something just for them is a really special idea. I See Me! has some great options.
A few other favorites in our house:
- Gregory the Terrible Eater
- Berenstain Bear Books (with special mentions to Kindness Counts, The Trouble With Chores and The Joy of Giving)
- Leap Frog Books (that link takes you right to those that are most approriate for ages 2-4 but there are great options for older kids, too)
Stocking Stuffers/Under $25
Color Play Houses. We first discovered these when Hailey received one for her 3rd birthday — it was a huge hit then and is such a great option for this age. Kids can color the outside, the inside and play house with toys, too.
Board Games. At this age, it can be hard for kids to understand the rules or pay attention long enough to finish, but there are some really fun options for beginners. Candy Land will always be a classic!
Kid Aprons. Again, my kids and I love spending time together in the kitchen, and this is such a fun way to help them get involved and feel like it’s a really special thing. Plus, there are matching options for mom or dad!
More inexpensive but great options:
- This Fisher-Price Think & Learn Seek & Spell Penguin
- Melissa and Doug’s Shape-Sorting Wooden Dump Truck Toy
- An 80-Piece Mega Bloks set
- Base plates for building Lego towers
- Paper Bag Puppets
- Puzzles like this jumbo option or this fun alphabet version
Just for Fun
Dress Up Clothes. Imagination is really kicking in at this age and it’s so much fun to watch it run wild. Zulily is a great place to get discounts on costumes and fun items, so keep an eye on that. Plus, Amazon has some great options like this 4-piece set of capes and masks.
Speaking of fun clothes — my kids love twirly dresses like these, and not just for dress-up!
Jewelry Box. Along with the dress-up clothes, my kids love playing with jewelry. They have day time and night time rings that they will switch out as they get in and out of bed. They like bracelets and necklaces too. Having a place to keep their treasures is a great way to teach them how to take care of “precious” things, plus, it helps keep what could become a tangled mess fairly well organized. Pottery Barn has some of our favorites, but this one on Amazon is lovely, too.
Dolls. Classic and cliché for a reason, right? We love this sweet little baby doll and of course Bitty Babies too!
Fishing Pole. It may sound a little counterintuitive, but my girls love “fishing” off our back deck with her fishing pole. We help them cast it and they will reel the little plastic fish in over and over!
And these options are especially great if your kid gets the wiggles or needs to burn off some energy:
- A balance bike
- This hover ball (play soccer inside!)
- A Sit & Spin toy (remember these from when we were kids?)
Kitchen Knives. My kids really love being involved in the kitchen and at this age, they can really start developing some skills and help, rather than just play. These knives are sharp enough to cut some foods, but dull enough to be safe.
Sleeping bags. Whether it’s for an indoor slumber party or to take on a travel adventure, these kid-sized bags are great. This alligator version is adorable, but I know my kids would also love this ladybug option!
Life Factory Water Bottles. There are baby bottles, open cups and then these 16-ounce options that are BPA-free, easy to wash and come in a silicone sleeve so they’re easy for small hands to hold on to.
Kid Lunchboxes. Even though we homeschool, the kids and I often go on adventures and need to pack snacks and lunches that may be eaten hours later. There are some great options, including these Bentgo boxes (my friends love them!) and PlanetBox which is pricier but really nice. Plus, there are so many fun and colorful boxes, many of which fit into a backpack or have handles that make it easy for younger kids to carry.
What was the best Christmas gift you received as a child? What is your favorite gift to give to a child?