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The Best Toys for 3-Year-Olds — That Even Your Angsty Threenager Will Love

More needs to be said about the complexity of 3-year-olds. While 2-year-olds get that “terrible” rap, many kids are absolute joys until they reach age 3. That’s when they’re a little more verbal about what they want, making their tantrums all the more maddening for both them and their caregivers. But on the other side of that coin, when your threenager is behaving nicely, you want to reward them with all of your cuddles. And that is where we come in with this guide to the best toys for 3-year-olds in 2020.

“Three-year-olds are really starting to put things together,” Dr. Jack Maypole, a pediatrician and educational advisory board member at The Goddard School for early childhood development, told SheKnows. “They’re actually able to articulate some of what’s sort of swirling around their head. … It’s kind of like something coming out of the fog.”

At the same time, 3-year-olds aren’t necessarily able to regulate themselves any better than 2-year-olds, he said.

“They can they can deliver really fully mature volcanic tantrums that can bring a store to a halt or block a sidewalk and turn heads a mile away. They probably need they need to nap more than they than they actually do, and so they’re always kind of like semi-psychotic if they didn’t have a snack and or a nap. So they can be fragile, but they can also be utterly delightful usually in the same minute.”

While they’re well on their way to becoming little people, kids this age still don’t have very long attention spans. Maypole suggested that parents not necessarily present them with a room full of all the best toys for 3-year-olds at once.

“If we over-stimulate or over-indulge them with devices and items and variety, they might tune it out and have a hard time focusing,” he said. “So you have to give them a pre-fixe menu [of toys] and not a diner menu, which is 24 pages long and in fine print.”

If parents and caregivers are going to select a limited menu of the day, how should they pick the best toys for 3-year-old boys and girls to keep up with all the appropriate milestones for their age? Maypole emphasized the importance of open-ended toys that allow for imaginative play. That includes everything from blocks and LEGO bricks to dolls, stuffed animals, and action figures. There are also lots of toys and games that will help them along in developing their gross and fine motor skills.

(Incidentally, if you’re also shopping for younger kids, here are our expert-advised lists of the best toys for babies’ first year,  the best toys for 1-year-olds, and the best toys for 2-year-olds.)

Kids will start to imitate adults, pretend to be characters from their favorite TV shows and movies, and develop their own worlds at this age. At the same time, they also sometimes need guidance and participation from adults and older kids.

“Some kids just go loose — they’re creative and just go gangbusters, and other kids may really need some prompting because they’ve lived in a very structured existence,” Maypole explained.

In other words, you’re going to want to play with your kids at this age, not just give them a handful of toys and expect them to entertain themselves. But eventually, they will do just that.

“Play is where kids figure out the world, so this is their dress rehearsal for problem solving,” he said.

Read on for more about how specific types of toys might be well-suited for your 3-year-old.

Our mission at SheKnows is to empower and inspire women, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.

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