Oh, the places they’ll go in their imagination when kids are 3 years old. We love to channel that boundless enthusiasm and curiosity with imaginative and creative toys, age-appropriate crafting supplies, and other well-made playthings that make wonderful birthday gifts for 3-year-olds. And as you can probably tell, we’re all for taking a little more time to find special toys that will hold up a little longer than the mass plastic stuff out there.
Of course, the gifts have to be fun too. Just like a 3 year old. Well, most of the time.
($158 at Manzanita Kids)
Ready for a special birthday gift for a 3-year-old? Manzanita Kids makes this spectacular-looking wooden treehouse toy, made even more fun with movable, modular building walls and ladders that let a child create his very own fantasy land. Just add your own play figures and accessories. The shop has some other playsets too, in themes like tall treehouses, rocket towers and a fairy house (above) that starts at just $88.
($42 at Pink Kitty Princess)
Of course kids can play birthday party any day of the year — and generally do — which is why we love this adorable handmade playset complete with six delicious slices and candles. Oh, if only our cakes turned out this nicely in real life.
($19.99 at Sew Plain Jane)
Our awesome birthday gift guide sponsor makes the kinds of handmade superhero capes we’ve been fans of for years, because they’re adorable, affordable, and you can customize everything from the letter to the colors of the cape, the lightning bolt and the initial. These happen to be made for more rough-and-tumble toddlers; but if you’d prefer a custom cape with a little more pizazz, check out their satin superhero capes, which are just $14.99.
Special Offer: Save 10% on your order with code CoolMomPicks10 through 4/10/17.
($29.99 at Amazon)
Beautifully merging hands-on play with learning, Tiggly Math has been a top preschool toy pick for us for the last few years. The four downloadable apps for the iPad are adorably fun, and the sturdy game pieces help kids grasp number concepts like counting, addition and subtraction, quite literally between their fingers.
($35.95 at Creatures & Features)
We get such a kick out of this monster t-shirt that kids can design themselves with the enclosed iron-on decals. Of course, don’t hand a 3-year-old the iron. But you know that.
($198 on sale at Land of Nod)
We’ve seen a whole lot of playhouses, but a favorite has to be this fun little retro camper that comes with curtains that roll up or extend out to form a canopy. Get ready to serve some s’mores for snacktime.
($30 at MoMA Store, $27 for members)
A beautiful crafted toy to manipulate or just look at, these interconnected wooden balls can be configured into endless shapes. Don’t be surprised if this is something the adults want to handle too–we’ve seen quite a few go from kids’ toy chests to adult work desks.
($29.99 plus free worldwide shipping from Lost My Name)
What could be better than cuddling up to read a book that happens to star the birthday child himself? We’ve seen plenty of personalized books, but this one is a big favorite of parents thanks to imaginative writing and award-worthy illustrations. And when the birthday child realizes that all the characters in the book are tracking down a lost name, letter by letter, that happens to be his? Pure magic.
($229 at P’Kolino)
Retro-modern furniture fans will love this cool table and chair set that’s built just for the smaller people in our lives. We particularly love how the table opens to be able to keep some of the clutter out of reach. And while the set will match with any Knoll or Eames you may own, it’s definitely not priced like it.
($80 at Ikuzi)
We recently discovered these gorgeous dolls which were created by a New Jersey mom after she realized how few great black baby dolls were available for her own daughters. There are dolls with different hair styles and three different shades of brown skin, each designed to help teach little girls of color to love who they are — although we know quite a few boys who’d love playing with them too. Ikuzi even offers dress sets made from traditional African prints. What a gift!
($39 at bonjour petit)
For your little modern art fan, the iconic graffiti artist’s work comes to life in vivid color on a set of 18 stackable wooden blocks from French toymaker Vilac. We love that they’re not just great for stacking and building, but we bet your kid could make some great stories out of the characters too.
******* About our sponsor
If you’re looking for a fun, wildly affordable birthday gift for a kid of any age, Sew Plain Jane is a wonderful mom-run business making handmade superhero capesour kids love. With basic capes starting at just $4 (yes, really!), they can be customized all kinds of ways to suit your super kid.
Also don’t miss their brilliant DIY cape decorating kits that make for fantastic birthday party crafts that become the coolest take-home favors.
($16.95 month and up, Kiwi Crate)
Parents and kids alike are huge fans of the thoughtful, age-appropriate Koala Crate monthly gift boxes that come filled with crafts and activities geared specifically for 3 and 4 year olds. We’ve always been impressed by Kiwi Crate’s attention to detail and the high quality of their materials. But it’s watching our kids jump up and down each month when a box arrives with their names on it, that really makes this a winning birthday gift for a 3-year-olds.
($129 at Land of Nod)
We know, we know… a lot of us are wishing they made this in adult sizes. What a fabulous birthday gift for your little speed demon. Just keep your phone charged for all the photo opps.
($42.50 at Scissor Mill)
Future Johnny Cashes of the world: we’ve found your gift. We’re so taken with this lovely, handcrafted guitar toy from a mom-and-pop based indie business in California. It’s not a real guitar but it is sturdy, which is a good thing; when kids see it laser-engraved with their own name, they may never put it down.
($20 at Uncommon Goods)
The soft, pliable, and totally safe Eco-Dough is a longtime favorite affordable birthday gift of ours. It feels so good squishing between kids’ little fingers and it’s nice to know it’s made from all-natural ingredients and colored with dyes made from fruits and vegetables.
($12 at Psychobaby)
Now that your toddler is out of a high chair and into a big kid chair, it’s nice to mark the occasion — and their place at the table — with this fun personalized placemat. Psychobaby has several styles but we have to love the Lichtenstein-inspired comic book art feeling of this one.
($3.50 ea at zooble)
Okay, so by now it’s pretty clear we love personalized gifts for kids of all ages. It’s such a simple way to make any gift even more special, as with these totally sweet peg doll gnomes. There are a variety of colors, and unless you’re ordering for a child named Maximillian or Francesca-Genevieve, they come at a really nice price, too.
($75/2 at the grommet)
The 3-year-olds of the world need all the chances they get to work out that energy! An awesome way to do let yours do it is with this pair of hilarious inflatable, wearable balls that let kids smash around like Sumo wrestlers. Supervised, of course.
($70 at Green Stripe Designs)
For the kid who has so many toys already, consider a cool birthday gift that amps up his room or playroom decor. This Etsy shop offers several faux taxidermy options, but our pick is this cuddly Triceratops.
($101 at Amazon)
An imaginative 3 year old may want to move into this colorful wooden dollhouse by Maxim. The thirty accessories alone make it fun, but we also like that the six rooms can be stacked or pulled apart to make nine different configurations, so it’s a completely new house each time.
($80+ at Miss Pretty Pretty)
There are tons of playhouses in the world, but how cool are these handmade felt playhouses that just pop over a card table? Instant fort! We love the artist’s colorful pirate ship (enter if you dare, arggggg), but check the shop for other intricately handmade-to-order themes like country cottages, vet clinics and schoolhouses.