Gift Ideas for 3 Year Olds

With Merle's third birthday coming up, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what toys will best encourage her development over the next year. I've talked a little bit about my toy philosophy before, but in general, I try to avoid electronic items and focus on classic, often wooden, toys that have either a learning component or emphasize imaginative play. I also try to buy items that will last awhile, both in terms of quality and multi-level difficulty. For example, the Hape Quadrilla marble run Merle got for Christmas is fun for her to play with now after we set it up and eventually she'll be able to use the set to create her own marble runs by understanding physics. 

In an effort to prevent Merle from being spoiled, I decided when she was born to only buy her toys for Christmas and her birthday. Three years in and it's going well so far. It allows me more time to research toys and/or other products and keeps me from making impulse buys because they're cute. That also means that I'm okay with spending a little bit more on quality items because the spending only happens twice a year. For Merle, it means no whining in stores because she knows I won't buy it for her and she has some idea of the importance of delayed gratification. With those philosophies in mind, here's my list of gift ideas for a three year old. 

Mini Wooden Treehouse
Instead of a doll house, I love this handmade wooden treehouse set. It encourages imaginative play and is big enough that it can be used with just about any stuffed animal or figurine Merle is in love with at the moment. I also like that it comes apart for easy storage, which is essential for living in an apartment. 

Like I've said before, I'm all about encouraging Merle to read. She has several favorites she reads over and over, but as she gets older, I want to add more stories with a deeper meaning. This year I picked up What do you do with an idea?, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Frederick. The first one encourages the reader to hold onto their ideas and let them fully develop without letting the world crush the ideas. Rosie gets mixed reviews, but I think it's a great story. It's the tale of a little girl who wants to be an engineer. People, including family members, make fun of her, but she continues tinkering. In the end, her invention fails (you know, like what happens in real life), but she uses that failure to further develop her ideas. Personally, I think the concepts of failure, perseverance, and self acceptance are important for children. The last book, Frederick, is about a mouse who doesn't want to work in the conventional sense. While his mouse friends are busy collecting food for the winter, Frederick is making observations about the world. When winter comes, the mouse are cold and unhappy, but Frederick enlivens them by creating songs and poems based on his observations. The moral of the story is essentially that everyone provides value in their own way, which again I think is a great lesson to instill in Merle. 

Self correcting matching games
Three year olds generally need more independent play time than before. Self correcting matching games, like these number and letter ones from Melissa and Doug, provide an opportunity for independent learning. They're great for parents too, because they keep growing minds occupied while parents do something else in the room like washing dishes or other fun stuff. 

We sit down to do puzzles together at least twice a day. Merle's puzzles from Christmas became unchallenging faster than I thought, so a few new puzzles, with 24 pieces or more, are in order. For durability, Crocodile Creek puzzles are great. I especially like the barn yard friends puzzle and Nutcracker ballet versions. 

Rush Hour Jr
I loved this game so much as a kid and I'm happy Merle is reaching the age where she can enjoy it too. With the junior version, there's an ice cream truck that needs help getting out of a traffic jam. Players make one move at a time and eventually get the truck free. The set comes with traffic configurations of varying difficulty to make it fun now and later. 

I don't know what it is, but toddlers love having their own umbrellas. Merle loves playing with mine, even inside when it's not raining. This one is chic and inexpensive. 

Organic Cotton Pjs (Plus a book to go with it)
With warm weather on the horizon, Merle needs short PJs. I opt for organic cotton ones, my favorite being those from Hanna Andersson. We have several of the long john sets and they are so durable. Merle is obsessed with Star Wars and her favorite colors are black and green, so this Darth Vader set is perfect. We are counting down the days until Jeffrey Brown's latest Star Wars book, Darth Vader and Friends,  comes out, so it would pair well with her new pjs. 


  1. I think it's so amazing how much thought you put into parenting and the values you instill! You're an awesome Mamma!

    1. You are so sweet! I try to do my best for Merle :)