Gifts / Toys

Gifts for 3 &4 Year Old Boys: 20 Toys & 15 Fun Non-Toy Ideas!

As we approach our son’s third birthday (3?! already?!), here are some toys and gifts that are on our little guys list this year. A few things we’ve been enjoying recently, a couple things we are looking to buy, and a few things that I know he would love! And a fun thing about having a fall birthday, we can just recycle this birthday list for a Christmas wishlist in a couple months! Note: this list is not just for boys, it’s really gifts for 3 year old boys and girls, in general, but since I have a boy, this is the stuff I know he’s interested in right now!

Three year old gift ideas are a little trickier than two was, as they’re becoming more themselves. Of course, some toys are universal, but at age three he’s really starting to come into his own in terms of his interests. We’re still firmly rooted in the “things that go” category, building, creating, and music. It will be fun to see how that shifts in his third year as we approach four!

I’m breaking this list down into two sections:

Gifts for 3 year olds - toys and not toys

Toys for 3 & 4 Year Olds:

First, up real toys! Active toys, building toys, and things that go. Our three year old loves anything vehicle, construction, and things that go in general (cars, balls, bikes, ramps etc). So anything that combines any of those elements tops our gift list.

Building Toys

Magna Tiles Metropolis Set: 110 pieces

Magna tiles Metropolis

We’ve played with the Magnatile sets for years with friends and family. But we still haven’t gotten any! We got a small set of the Tegu wooden magnetic blocks when he was around one. And those have been fun, but there’s just something about the clear magnetic tiles that are ridiculously fun for the whole family. We borrowed a set from a friend recently and that’s really zoomed this toy up our wishlist of deciding between Magna-Tiles vs PicassoTiles! (Amazon $130 or $50 for 28-piece Magna Tiles House set)

LEGO Friends or LEGO City Set

LEGO Street Sweeper

We have been loving Duplos since around 18 months. And we have a few different small play sets as gifts and hand-me-downs from friends. I think in the next year that he’ll be ready and interested in some of the younger LEGO sets. Probably the ages 4+ sets like the LEGO Friends editions. Maybe the LEGO Friends Puppy Playground, LEGO City Ice Cream Truck, Monster Truck, or Street Sweeper (Amazon $9+). lol oh boy, here we go into LEGO land. He also saw a picture of the IKEA Bygglek LEGO box sets and said he wants one of those for his birthday.

IKEA Train Add-ons

For his second birthday, we got him the IKEA battery operated train to upgrade his train obsession. Seriously the best $8 gift I’ve ever found. He really doesn’t need anything else train related, but I did snag one of the $7 LILLABO three piece train sets at the beginning of quarantine (actually 9 pieces to make three trains in different configurations) and the LILLABO turntable ($5). I thought I’d pull it out on a rainy day or a day we really needed a distraction. But we’ve spent so much time playing outside this summer, that it’s still hiding in a cupboard! Maybe I’ll use it as a Christmas stocking stuffer. (IKEA, from $7). Or t he

Stanley Jr Cement Mixer Building Kit

I first found one of these Stanley Jr kits at a craft store. We did the crane set last winter (at 2.5 years old), and then the catapult truck during COVID times. I bought the cement mixer kit at the same time as the catapult truck, since shipping was going to be extra, but it’s another of those items I have waiting for a proverbial rainy day. Maybe it will rain on his birthday. :P Note: these kits say for 5+, they definitely require a grown-up. But depending on your kids interest, it ‘s a really fun project and they have a toy to play with after. (Amazon $25)

Steel Tonka Dump Truck

We had this on our two year old list, and he almost got it for Christmas last year, but then he received a three pack of smaller trucks. So we held off on getting this big steel dump truck. I think he would still love this for years to come for backyard play. So keeping it on the list. (Target $25)

Parking Garage Set

I know my son would flip over any of these parking garage sets. But I really want to narrow it down to one that doesn’t take up a ton of space and that will last him a while to use with other things. So I think this BRIO Train Railway Parking Garage set would be great for car and train play. (Amazon $65)

Alternates: Almost anything vehicle-related are great toys for 3 year old boys. Green Toys parking garage (Amazon $38) probably would have been great for slightly younger age. Melissa & Doug Service station (Amazon $26), Top Bright 3 level garage ramp with elevator (Amazon $28), Hot Wheels stunt garage (Target $20) or Matchbox Downtown Demolition (Amazon $16).

Magnetic Dress Up or Play Set

There are a few different options in this category. I like the idea of getting one of the dress up doll ones kind of like paper dolls but magnetic that come in a little tin or this city one. Petit Collage animal band, robot, or little travelers and Melissa and Doug. He hasn’t been too interested in dolls, but loves his stuffed animals. So I think an animal themed one might catch his attention. I know he would love the transportation magnetic (Amazon $16) one from Melissa and Doug as well, but I’d like to branch out some interests. (Amazon $15)

Active Toys

Woom 2 Pedal Bike

Woom 2 pedal bike big gift idea

Our son started on the Strider balance bike around two years old. We’d had it since 18 months, but he wasn’t interested in it until about his 2nd birthday! In the last year, he’s gone from snail pace to speed racer. So next up is a pedal bike. After comparing all of the pedal bikes (no really, it’s been a real rabbit hole, lol), we settled on the Woom 2 (update: here’s our Woom review!). We’re still on the wait list so it won’t get here in time for his birthday, but maybe Christmas. The Woom bikes are pretty spendy, but they have great resell value and are a good option for smaller toddlers since he’s young. (Woom Bikes, $359). If he wasn’t already a balance bike pro I would get him the Strider 14x! (Amazon $150). Next up, a bike basket!

Antsy Pantsy Stepping Stones

Stepping stones

I wrote about these in my recent post about active toys for indoor play. I snagged these $20 stepping stones at Target, and they’re a great size for toddlers and preschoolers. I’m really happy with them so far as an alternative to the Gonge stones (Amazon $80+) for both price and size, for smaller living space storage. (Target $20)

Side Winder Curved 5′ Slide or Indoor Climbing Tower

This is another one of those gifts where you’re like is this a gift for me or him? Hmm… I’ve been wanting to add a slide to our back deck for awhile. And now that playgrounds are still closed in our area, this might be the time to do it. Or maybe we’ll wait until spring. Either way, I think this slide would be perfect! (Wayfair, $190). There are also some great looking wooden indoor slides, but they’re a bit pricier.

I also put this Eezy Peezy climber toy on my active toys round up and I’m still considering it for the long and socially distant winter months here in the rainy Pacific Northwest. It might be worth filling half his room or the office with this if it gets enough wiggles out to keep those naps going! Ha! (Walmart $157)

Active Play & Toys We Already Have and Love for Ages 2 & 3:

  • Remote control toddler race car (Amazon $15)
  • Duplo sets – construction, tow truck, plane, and bunkbed one (Amazon, from $10)
  • Lego/Duplo table (this IKEA hack DIY total cost is about $65)
  • Car transporter / carriers – we have an old steel one from past generations, but the Melissa and Doug and Green Toys ones looks fun (Amazon)
  • Take apart race car with drill (Amazon $18)
  • Micro Mini Deluxe Scooter, 3 wheel ages 2-5 (Amazon $90)
  • Little Tikes basketball and t-ball set – check your local Buy Nothing group, or Facebook marketplace for these. Used is great for the backyard! (Amazon, $35 or Tball $16)
  • Crocodile Creek Playground Balls – 5″ and 7″ (Amazon $10+)
  • Burton Riglet toddler snowboard (Burton $105)

Non-Toys: Art, Books, Music, Pretend Play, & Puzzles

Next up, “not toy” toys. This category can be tricky! My toy philosophy is that Play is Learning. So self-proclaimed “educational toys” aren’t really our style. My child will learn more about life and physics and creativity using a building blocks set of some kind way more than pressing buttons on a light up battery-operated kids “laptop” educational toy or app. (stepping down off my soap box). So in the “non-toy” category I would put books, music, art supplies, puzzles, pretend play, and practical life learning. Still play, it’s just a different category of toy, in my opinion, thus the quotation marks. Kind of like the Montessori approach to toys, but I would only consider us Montessori-ish. Here are our ideas…

IKEA Play cash Register

IKEA play cash register

I have had this toy on my “wishlist” since his first birthday. I love that it has a working calculator on top. And is great for imaginative and pretend play. This year seems like the right time that he would actually be ready and interested in this toy. So if not birthday, then maybe a Christmas gift. (IKEA, $18)

Puzzles: 24-48 pieces

We went through quite a puzzling stage around age two. We haven’t really gotten any new puzzles since. And he hasn’t been really into puzzles much lately. But maybe that’s related, and he needs a new challenge! The next puzzle stage for him will be the 48 piece ones, like the Melissa & Doug space or horse ones. I’ve also found for most kids that the topic of the puzzle has to be really interesting to them. Puzzles with vehicles – he’ll go to town on. So maybe the space puzzle and I know he would go crazy for this city urban puzzle. It’s 100 pieces so probably the next step up from where he’s at, but the theme would probably motivate him more than the 48 piece ones I’ve found so far. We also haven’t tried any of the layered or 3D type puzzles yet. (Top Bright 48 piece Construction Amazon $12; Transportation 100-piece Amazon $16, Melissa & Doug Space 48-piece Amazon $10)

Music Making – Keyboard

a toddler kids keyboard 32 key piano

Our son is really into music so far in life. He already has a ukulele, a REMO hand drum, and some miscellaneous musical stuff. I’ve been thinking this kids keyboard might be a nice step up from his 8-key baby piano. Amazon $20

IKEA Doll house

IKEA doll house

I love this IKEA Flisat doll house for it’s simplicity and that it can also be a wall shelf as they get older. It’s also nice to see a more unisex doll house toy. IKEA also sells a few little sets of doll furniture. Although in our current phase, I’m guess he’d just move the people out of the house and use it as a car garage. Note: also pictured above is the LUSTIGT wall shelf with ladders and it’s only $8.

Usborne Wipe-Clean Books

I think he’s finally hitting the age that he would be interested in these wipe clean activity books. Both the space and dinosaur themes look fun for 3 year olds. (Amazon $10)

Art, Books, & Music Items We Have & Love for Ages 2 & 3:

And there you have it! My epic idea list of gifts for 3 year old boys.

Do you have any gift ideas for 3 year olds?

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