Most Useful Gadgets –
Turning three is a big deal. The terrible twos are (hopefully) a thing of the past but changes are still happening apace in all areas of development.
From gross motor skills (think muscles and movement) and fine motor skills (hand and finger skills) to emotional and social development, a three-year-old is literally learning every day. And you know what they say about play – it’s a child’s work – so surrounding your three-year-old with toys and accessories that will help stimulate learning is key to healthy development.
“At three years old, playing with other children is becoming increasingly easier,” says Amanda Gummer, founder of Fundamentally Children.
Co-operation with sharing and turn-taking is starting to make sense, and a child’s level of understanding and their ability to abide by rules – essential skills to have before starting school – are growing.
Their concentration and focus is lengthening and their fine motor skills are becoming stronger. Arts and crafts are also starting to get more advanced. Dancing, role play and singing are popular with three-year-olds, especially in a group with other children.“
With this in mind, we’ve tried and tested a range of age-appropriate gifts that three-year-olds will enjoy. Everything on this list has been tested by children aged between three and five-years-old over a period of several weeks.
Only items that our little testers kept returning to play with have made the grade, and there’s something here to suit all budgets.
Most Useful Gadgets – Melissa and Doug fresh mart grocery store: £199.99, Argos
This free-standing play shop has a moving conveyor belt, a scanner that beeps, plus a card swipe machine and cash drawer. Our five-year-old tester has played with this every single day since it arrived a month ago, and shows no sign of tiring of it – so we think a three-year-old will get several years of fun from it. Despite the price tag, we think it’s excellent value for money as it’s seriously robust and sturdy.
It’s worth buying the Melissa & Doug grocery store companion set too, which comes with literally everything your child needs to stock the shelves and start shopping. From role play with friends to maths practice that feels like fun, this has provided hours of educational playtime. And yes, our tester’s mum might be enjoying playing shops even more than her daughter is.
Most Useful Gadgets – B’Twin 500 kids’ 14“ robot bike: £74.99, Decathlon
Designed for kids aged between three and four-and-a-half years old, this 14“ bike with stabilisers has a low step-through, so it’s easy for little riders to get on and off without much help. Our three-year-old tester didn’t take well to a balance bike, but found this much less daunting and more appealing as a gentle introduction to cycling.
Most Useful Gadgets – Little Scientist T-shirt: £16, Not Just A Princess
If you’d rather not fill the house with yet more toys, how about giving your little one the gift of smashing career and gender stereotypes whilst raising money for charity? Not Just A Princess make fun, inspirational gifts and t-shirts, and this immediately became our three-year-old tester’s favourite item of clothing.
Most Useful Gadgets – Peppa Pig’s camping trip playset: £22.49, Smyths
This is a big hit with fans of everyone’s favourite little porcine character. The camper van comes with four articulated family figures in camping outfits plus a tent, campfire and cooking pot. The best part is you can store Peppa and George’s bikes on the roof rack, and pack all the camping equipment in the roof box – where there’s even a hidden bed. Everything’s just the right size and robust enough for three-year-old fingers to get to grips with.
Most Useful Gadgets – PJ Masks mission control HQ playset: £29.99, Smyths
There’s lots packed into this playset and it passed the ultimate test in a houseful of toys – our tester kept returning to play with it independently again and again, weeks after it arrived. You can capture villains using the secret trap door and lightning bolt cage, deflect attacks with the built-in Gekko shield, or send Catboy and Owlet spinning down the corkscrew pole. You’ll need to buy the extra characters separately, which was a teeny bit disappointing for our tester, so we recommend adding these to your basket if they’re not already part of your collection.
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Most Useful Gadgets – Casdon Dyson toy cordless vacuum: £22, Very
Role-play isn’t just good fun when you’re three – it’s also important for development. This cute gadget is a replica of a real handheld Dyson vacuum cleaner, complete with simulated cyclone action featuring moving colourful balls and an accessible dust compartment. It also makes realistic sounds. If only it really worked – we’d have housework and playtime nailed in one go!
Most Useful Gadgets – ‘Baby Shark’ singing plush: £15, The Entertainer
Thanks to the YouTube sensation, the eponymous Baby Shark song isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And now little fans can cuddle their very own baby shark while singing and dancing along. Squeeze it once to play the music and again to shut it up. Er, we mean turn it off. Our testers adored this and took it with them everywhere, including to bed. Remove it once they’re asleep, unless you’re prepared to be woken by *that* song when your child rolls over it.
Most Useful Gadgets – Mindful Monster activity cards: £7.50, Scope
This is an excellent option if you want to give a non-toy gift to a child – and you’ll be supporting a good cause at the same time. For a monthly donation of £7.50, the disability equality charity Scope will send you a pack of seven activity cards designed to introduce mindfulness to your child. Along with monster stickers and a parent’s guide to the mindful monsters, each set covers four categories – concentration, relaxation, positivity and creativity – and there are 84 cards to collect in total. Our three-year-old tester loved receiving these in the post, and over the course of several weeks we found them a really useful way to connect and communicate in new, fun ways.
Most Useful Gadgets – 6V ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ quad: £89.99, Smyths
New to coincide with the release of the film How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, this is a four-wheeled electric 6V ride-on that looks just like Toothless. It’s easy to manoeuvre – there’s just one button for forward movement – and the dragon’s eyes light up, plus it plays dragon sound effects. Perfect for active, outdoor play that won’t exhaust little legs.
Most Useful Gadgets – Lego City barbecue burn out: £7.99, Lego
Chances are your three-year-old has amassed quite the Duplo collection, so how about making the progression to Lego to encourage the development of those fine motor skills – especially important for mastering holding a pencil. The Lego City sets are ideal for younger builders to get to grips with – our three-year-old tester mastered building this set with only minimal help.
Most Useful Gadgets – The verdict: Gifts for three-year-olds
The Melissa and Doug fresh mart grocery store is our hands-down winner. It’s the ultimate toy to encourage role-play and we love that it’s so well-built, with so much attention to detail. It rivals any toy we’ve tried for holding a child’s attention and sparking hours and hour of lively, imaginative play. The PJ Masks mission control HQ playset was the second most popular item with our testers, and for an affordable but thoughtful gift, we love the Mindful Monster activity cards.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
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