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.
The Cool Mom Picks Ultimate Birthday Party Gift Guide is brought to you by the cool cakes in your grocery store freezer.
All gifts have been editorially determined by our staff, there is no compensation in exchange for picks. CMP is an rstyle and Amazon affiliate.
($158 at Manzanita Kids)
Ready for a special 3-year-old birthday gift? 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.
($40 at Oompa Toys)
What 3-year-old doesn’t want to celebrate a birthday every day? Janod’s beautiful wooden party set comes complete with cake and candles and you don’t even have to worry about getting it all over the rug.
(Child’s capes starting at $38, full sets $88 at Lovelane)
Use their powers for good with one of Lovelane’s stunning handmade superhero capes, hats, or cuffs for kids. Lovingly crafted of cotton canvas, these costumes are ready to leap from couches, zip through doorways, and help parents clean up the LEGOs on the floor. Maybe.
($29.99 at Amazon)
Beautifully merging hands-on play with learning, Tiggly Counts was a top preschool toy pick for us in 2014. The three downloadable apps for the iPad are adorably fun, and the sturdy game pieces help kids grasp number concepts 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.
($62 at The Sunshine Club)
Encourage quiet time with their very own, pint-sized play tent from The Sunshine Club. The reversible and washable cover is made of upcycled and vintage fabrics, and the colors can be customized to suit any decor. What a very cool birthday gift for kids.
($30 at our affiliate Amazon)
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 onto 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 themselves? We’ve seen plenty of personalized books, but this one is up there as a favorite 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.
($69.99 at Amazon)
Encourage their artistic side with some pint-sized art supplies starting with our favorite starter easel from our friends at P’Kolino. While there are bigger, more impressive versions, we find 3-year-olds like having an easel that’s just their height and can be placed on the floor or on a low play table. The chalkboard on the reverse side is a great touch.
($155 CAD at Bamboletta)
If you are looking for a doll that will make a very special keepsake, Bamboletta’s cult-favorite handmade 13″ cuddle dolls are just the right size for little arms to hold, or to display on a bookshelf in the bedroom. They can even be personalized with freckles or a name change to match your child’s. Just know that all the Bamboletta dolls are so wildly popular, they often sell out as quickly as new ones are put up on site. So be sure to check back if your favorite is gone.
($48 at My Sweet Muffin)
Not your average blocks, we just love the color and character of each eco-friendly, US-made block in this hilarious set. Any 3-year-old will get a kick out of making their own monster creation…then knocking them down. Cue evil laugh.
($60 for 3-month subscription with free shipping, 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 hit.
($40 at Seven White Rabbits)
Costumes and dress-up clothing are such perfect birthday gifts for three-year-olds. For something more special than the mass produced licensed costumes, we love this Etsy artist who handcrafts seriously cool, soft fleece dinosaur capes. Look around the shop — so much fun stuff.
($119 at Land of Nod)
Whether kids use this ride-on in the sandbox or just to excavate toys in their playroom, this eco-friendly rubberwood ride-on toy is sized perfectly for 3-year-olds to get to work. They’ll love the cool movable arm, and the rubber wheels that let them scoot between job sites.
($20 at Uncommon Goods)
The soft, pliable, and totally safe Eco-Dough is a long time 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.
($199.99 at Mobo)
Remember when we were just happy with Big Wheels? Now kids can have a ride that’s even cooler than whatever their parents drive, with this seriously awesome three-wheeled low rider. It’s a splurge, but a great investment since they’ll be riding it until they’re five. At least.
($34 at Laughing Crickets)
How gorgeous is this flock of colorful, handmade wooden birds that can be a developmental sorting game, early counting practice, or the start of some fun imaginary play. The entire shop on Etsy is filled with a rainbow of fantastic Waldorf-style toddler toys, and we can hardly pick a favorite. But this one is up there.
($60 at Green Tones)
This is the age that kids start to enjoy instruments that feel like actual instruments and not toys, which is why this eco-friendly real drum set is so awesome. The drums can even be removed from their base and shared with band members. That’s, uh, you.
($46 at Babesta)
This felted triceratops head by artist Fiona Walker is such a cool birthday gift to add some personality — and organization — to a kid’s room. Don’t worry, he can’t bite; he’s extinct.
($80 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.
($230 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.