At the age of three, your child’s favorite play activities almost all involve pretending: immersing herself in a delightful fantasy world. Don’t worry, she knows it isn’t real even if she insists that it is (in one study, 40% of children interviewed about their imaginary friends spontaneously told the researcher that their imaginary friend was just pretend); it’s all part of the game.
Imaginative role-play lets kids rehearse real-life situations, explore the roles that are modeled for them, express their feelings, enjoy a temporary sense of power (by pretending to be a mommy, a princess, or a police officer), improve their language skills, and learn empathy. Providing kids with everything from dollhouses and action figures to big empty cardboard boxes will give them plenty of room to explore, and this list of excellent birthday gifts for creative three-year-olds gives them plenty to work with!
Dress-up and role play
Toys that facilitate creative role-play can be as immersive as full costumes or as simple as the right prop. For instance, a child who wants to pretend to be a mommy (or daddy) just needs a doll and some basic props: the Corolle Mon Bebe Classique Dodo is an even better gift paired with a matching Corolle doll carrier!
As for full-fledged costumes, we’ve got tons of great options, with some real crowdpleasers from Melissa & Doug: so if you have a kid who you know is going to want to dress up as a Fire Chief, a Witch, or a Flower Fairy.
Dollhouses and other play environments
Looking for a super-deluxe birthday gift? At age 3, kids are ready for their first play kitchens, pretend tool benches, and play tents and play houses. (If you’re not buying these as a birthday present for your own child, Mom and Dad if there’s room first, of course.) The Schylling Combo Tent & Tunnel Set is a more open-ended variation on the same theme: it can double as any kind of fort or castle, and the crawl-through tunnel adds a novel sensory aspect to the experience.
For a smaller but no less thrilling gift, dollhouses and other similar playsets also make great environments for creative play. You can go abstract with the unique modular PlanToys Chalet Dollhouse, or detailed with something like the Calico Critters Cloverleaf Townhome. (Either house makes a great habitat for Calico Critters! And I am personally obsessed at the moment with the adorable Calico Critters Rabbit Grandparents.)
Finally: trains, planes, and automobiles are all surefire birthday gifts for a busy preschooler, who will love zooming toy cars and toy trucks around the playroom. This is the age at which you may find your child obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, or with trains in general – most Boston-area kids will absolutely lose their minds when you give them their own authentic MBTA trains from Wardmaps, which are compatible with Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway, Melissa & Doug, and Brio trains and tracks.
Age 3 is basically the sweet spot of our toy selection, so really, the only problem you’ll have shopping for a third birthday is narrowing down all of your great options: there are over 400 toys for three-year-olds in our Shop By Age section. So if you don’t see the birthday present that you think will make their heart sing – ask us! If there’s anything our Toy Whizzes love, it’s matching up the right kid with the right toy. We could talk about toys all day long, and on our best days in every Magic Beans store, we do!