Between ages three and four little boys are truly beginning to have conversations and develop their own sense of style. This is the age you can start to observe social interactions where they take the lead and learn whether they need alone time or social interaction to recharge their batteries. Significant milestones are happening all around and their brains are like sponges. We hope our ideas will give you a good start if you find yourself in need of a gift for a three-year-old boy, whatever the occasion.
Many parents enroll kids in pre- or nursery school at three, so their very own school supplies are always a hit. Get a backpack and fill it with supplies… even better, customize it with name stickers, embroidery, or personalized gear. New and exciting items they should be able to handle at this age are kid scissors, scotch tape, and a small sketch book & pen (preferably attached with string). You can also never have enough construction paper, stickers (get the re-stickable ones in case they end up where they shouldn’t), or crayons.
Help out mom & dad with pre-made craft kits (any big box art or craft store should have a kids craft section). You can even go big with a subscription to a service like Kiwi Crates that sends a new kit each month. At three, most boys have grown out of putting EVERYTHING in their mouth so you can finally give in to that super-set of Play-do, magic sand, or modeling clay.
Matching lunch box sets are great for travel or school. Most parents will only buy one (I did), but boy is it nice to have a spare when the favorite gets dirty! Compartmented plastic-ware for lunches (dishwasher safe, BPA free, and microwave safe, of course) are also super to have on-hand. They’re great for picky eaters who like their food “not touching” and easy to pack with fun creations (see our Pinterest board ‘kid food”). Many kids graduate from using a sippy cup all the time (sigh) to just when spills are too risky (like around the white carpet we brilliantly installed in the living room). An insulated cup with a soft straw is a great way to move up without losing the lid and they come in just about any character you can think of at Target.
Physical milestones at three include kicking, hopping, throwing overhand, catching, and a lot better balance. Consider a new soccer ball or big bouncy ball, sidewalk chalk for hopscotch, a bean bag toss, or a combination of assorted supplies to use as an obstacle course. Even on discount school supply sites they charge $150-$400 for obstacle course kits, but it’s simple to put a set together yourself. You can often find cones, hoops, soft balls, placemats, pool noodles, and other good pieces at the big box and department stores. If you really want to give mom & dad a hand, fill a little notebook with diagrams of ideas for setting up courses!
I’m a big fan of encouraging outdoor play and three is great age because there is so much more flexibility! Big hits at this age are sandbox toys, Golf/baseball sets, pet toys the child can enjoy while entertaining their pets (a great chore, too), a cruiser bike, a snowman kit, a birdhouse to build or just paint, a gardening kit, a tent, and a slip and slide or sprinkler. A great option for rainy days to keep kids active is a set of stretching cards (yoga positions) or a kids workout video (try Hearthsong, they always has lots of good options for active play).
Cognitive milestones are huge at this age so anything that encourages letter recognition or numbers will surely be welcome by mom & dad. Get some tracing sheets, a laminated letter reference sheet, or a writing Leappad for tracing letters. Add a barrel of monkeys, game with dice, or other game where players count points. Everyone remembers the old memory game, but you can change it up by personalizing it, or find one with their favorite characters. Melissa and Doug also make some very simple tangram sets that are terrific for learning patterns.
Many of the emotional milestones for three-year-olds are still centered around what they can and can’t control. There is a big social aspect to this due to their increased powers of observation. A time-out timer and mat or chair may not a child too excited, but mom and dad will be glad to have one, even if it’s not their first. At this age kids can definitely start taking more responsibility, and a chore chart, piggy bank, wallet (we use chore tickets) can encourage them to step up. There are tons of ideas on pinterest for sets you can make yourself or you can get a pre-made one from Amazon. Taking turns and being courteous to others is a skill children are just beginning to really understand at three and simple board games are wonderful for learning to take turns and be a good sport.
One of the best ways to encourage kids emotionally at this stage is to emphasize what things they can control by doing it themselves. Earning goodies by helping out with chores is one, but even simple things like brushing their teeth, staying in bed, and choosing décor can help them feel more in control. Consider a toothbrushing set (include floss… a big hit even if they don’t use it quite right), a night light or flashlight for bed, alarm clock that tells the time, band-aid kit, or just a new bedding or bath set so they have a choice when changing the sheets or getting a fresh towel.
For both boys and girls at three, fantasy play is really ramping up and I personally don’t think a kid can have too many costumes or props (unless you run out of space, then consider storage as a great practical gift). Internet shopping has made the world of Halloween costumes available all year long. A puppet theater (not a doll-house, we’re talking boys) can set the stage for anything a boy is into from superheroes to firemen. A great help to mom & dad would be an idea list of do-it-yourself props (check Pinterest for great ideas). Other enablers of fantasy play more directed toward boys are a tree-house instead of a dollhouse and a grill instead of the kitchenette.
Hope these get you going next time you need a gift for a 3-year-old boy. If you have more ideas, we’d love to hear them, just add a comment or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org! As always, we’ve created a dedicated store on Amazon to which has even more ideas and provides a convenient way to find all the right items in one place. For gift ideas for other ages and occasions, be sure to check out the main gift page, we’re always adding content there.