If you’re looking for a present for the three-year-old in your life, here are 17 ideas (and I dare say most of them would please two-year-olds and four-year-olds too). They are (mainly) low-tech, non-plastic and low price. They’re suitable for any child, because they’re toys and the boy/girl gendered toy is a horrible con that does no one any good, except perhaps manufacturers trying to make more money.
Some of them have been road-tested on my three-year-old – others are things that I’ve seen her friends enjoying. Some will be guaranteed to put an instant smile on their face – others are more of a slow burn, but might just turn out to be the kind of memorable present that brings a new interest alive.
- Fingerprint art book
So it turns out there are quite a few of these books. They come with an ink pad on the front and as you turn the pages you learn to make pictures using your fingerprints. Great for a rainy day or any time you want a quiet few minutes, and it might just be something your three-year-old hasn’t tried before.
2. Stomp rocket
These are fun – you jump on it and it propels a foam rocket really, really high (100ft it says!). They make a trip to the park much more exciting for everyone.
3. Magazine subscription
At three-years-old, drawing, writing and reading skills are starting to take off – you can inspire them with a magazine subscription. Whether it’s C Beebies, Friends or a magazine linked to their favourite film or tv programme, you’ll keep them busy and entertained.
For an alternative option, try Dot magazine for under 5s – it’s issued quarterly and has no adverts.
In this household anyway, three is the age when imaginative play using small figures started. I never dreamt the Paw Patrol figures I bought at easter would be used every single day since then. Find some figures that are of interest to the child in your life – wooden animals, superheroes, dinosaurs, Playmobil, Duplo – whatever sparks their imagination.
5. Treasury/story collection
You can get through an awful lot of stories if you read to your toddler every night and, even if you go to a library regularly, you can find yourself reading the same ones again and again. Freshen up your toddler’s book collection with a classic – we’ve been given a beautiful collection of fairy tales and a complete Winnie the Pooh.
You can get really good value collections of books here. Alternatively, create your own selection of your own favourites or with a theme that appeals to the child you’re buying for – funny books, stories about animals, or vehicles, or whatever!
6. Bird feeder
In Spring especially, birds need a little help to feed themselves and their young. You don’t need a garden to help them out, while enjoying their visit.
Find out more about window bird feeders (other models are available)
7. Board game
I’m a big fan of board games for teaching toddlers some unlikely skills – taking turns, focusing, waiting, as well as being a fun way to learn counting and letters. Orchard toys has a whole range to choose from, and they advise on the age group they’re suitable for. They also have lots of good jigsaws.
8. Foam letters for the bath
This might not work for everyone, but these inexpensive foam bath letters were a real hit in this household. You can stick the alphabet up round the bath or make up long and funny sounding words or make little jokes like ‘You’ve got poo on your back’ by sticking P, O, O on you or your toddler.
9. Pass for the zoo/Discover centre
At the dearer end of this list, what about a season ticket or annual membership of somewhere your toddler likes to visit – or hasn’t yet been? Here are some ideas: Stratford Discover Centre, London Zoo, Sea Life centres or Kew Gardens.
10. Theatre vouchers
There are some really great theatres locally for children, so a nice present could be vouchers for one of them – the Little Angel, the Half Moon, Stratford Circus, the Chicken Shed and the Unicorn all have productions running year round.
If there’s space in your toddler’s home, a tent makes a great present – it can give them their own place to play or look at books or hideaway indoors, and it can be taken to the park or into the garden for outside play too. There are expensive ones, but they needn’t cost much to do the job.
12. Small add on
If the toddler you’re buying for already has a toy they love – like a doll’s house, a railway set or a kitchen – what might seem like a small, inexpensive extra component can be an amazing present. Like the one engine they haven’t got, or the car they’ve always wanted for their doll. You might have to ask them or their parents to tell you exactly what they’re missing though.
13. Dressing up outfit
Dressing up is another activity that really took off in the last year or so. There are plenty available to buy – animals, cartoon characters, pirates, fairies, dinosaurs, astronauts, firefighters, police etc
But this is one of those presents which is even better if it’s homemade and entirely unique, so if you’re one of those clever people who can sew, how about making a costume that’s perfect for the toddler in your life?
14. Treasure box
Every self-respecting three-year-old is captivated by the idea of treasure, treasure maps and adventure. If you’re feeling creative you could make them a treasure map to find their present. Or how about giving them a treasure box of their own – fill it with things they can use to decorate their box and don’t forget some gold coins.
Some of the best presents cost little or nothing – an example being…
15. Your time
At three-years-old, toddlers make excellent companions – their conversation skills are growing especially when it comes to making demands. They love having someone’s undivided attention. A great present could be taking them somewhere they’d like to go – swimming or the cinema costs just a few pounds but can be an amazing treat.
Alternatively, pitch up with…
16. A craft project
Build up a collection of bottles, cans, boxes and have messy fun making a robot, or a monster. Your toddler will think of something if you can’t.
17. Their own art gallery
Give your toddler everything they need to display their works of art. You can find one nice idea here – you buy the de-cal, wire and clips.