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Our oldest child turned three this year. Since I was on the hunt for the best pretend play Christmas gifts for a three year old anyway, I figured I would share what I found with you.
It’s crazy how much our kids change in such a short amount of time.
When I think back to last Christmas, our sassy two-year-old was talking, but certainly not with words that were easy for us to understand.
She was still so little, fearless, and becoming more independent by the day (sometimes by the hour!)
This year is different.
She is VERY independent (which means she sometimes throws tantrums), talks in complete sentences, and just looks…big now.
She tells us stories about her fear of the crocodiles she is sure are hiding under her bed, and about how the dad fairy got stuck in a cave (NO idea where that one came from!)
We play doctor, Peppa Pig, house, and crawl around the floor like dogs.
When picking out Christmas gifts for my very lively three-year-old, I wanted to look at toys that encourage pretend play.
She loves toys that make her think. I love toys that make her think. And pretend play has been shown to help increase your child’s emotional regulatory skills, among other things.
Your child is learning how to problem-solve, share and deal with intense situations (at least from a three-year-old’s perspective).
Related: Best Play Kitchen Sets
Because I have a three-year-old (which btw I haven’t totally accepted yet), I thought that I was probably one of the more qualified people to help you find a pretend play toy for a three year old.
Not only have I given you recommendations based on what we are probably going to purchase, but it turns out we actually already own a lot of this stuff.
I’m not very good at buying toys when they are developmentally appropriate–I like to stay ahead. 😉
Just a quick FYI– I don’t believe in toys for girls or boys…toys are for everyone. Unless you operate the toy with your genitalia, in which case it’s not a toy for a child anyway.
If you don’t have time to read this now, PIN IT FOR LATER!
There are affiliate links in this article. You can see my full disclaimer here.
Best Pretend Play Toys for Three Year Olds
This veterinary kit is perfect for the kiddo who loves animals.
This includes one plush puppy, a puppy crate, stethoscope, syringe, thermometer, bowl, medical tray, tongs, mirror, hammer, blood pressure cuff, scissors, otoscope, bowl, brush, and tweezers.
I worked as a veterinary technician in an ER hospital for seven years, so anything animal is near and dear to my heart.
Freestanding Wood Mart
This Freestanding Wood Mart is SO cute. We don’t own one, but there’s one available to play with at our local toy store. Truthfully I would not have considered purchasing something like this until I saw how much my daughter loves it.
Grocery shopping is an integral part of ALL of our lives, so this is something I’m pretty sure most kids will universally love.
It comes with a hand cranked conveyor belt, credit card swipe machine, a bagging area, a realistic beeping scanner, and a cash drawer.
Melissa and Doug create quality kid toys, and this set is no different. It’s super sturdy and will last a long time.
This KidsKraft dollhouse is on our list of things we want to buy in the near future. It’s a little pricey, but totally worth it in my opinion.
This four-story dollhouse comes with six different room, fourteen pieces of furniture accessories, and is designed with 12″ dolls in mind (which for reference is about the size of a Barbie doll).
A dollhouse is a PERFECT gift for BOTH girls and boys, and it’s something that will grow with them. Get something sturdy!
I loved the classy look of it. This set does require assembly – so give yourself some extra time!
Dust, Sweep, & Mop Set
I love this dust and mop set. My mother-in-law purchased it for our daughter because she LOVES helping out when we are cleaning.
Sigh. I wish that stage wouldn’t end.
If the littles you are purchasing for enjoys “helping” this is a great gift idea. Not only for the kid mind you–but for the parent.
No one wants their three-year-old touching what’s at the bottom of a broom. No one wants ANYONE touching the bottom of the broom.
Alas, toddlers will do what they do, so something like this allows them to be involved with the cleaning process without any damage done. I highly recommend it.
You will find that I recommend a lot of Melissa & Doug products in this post. I have NEVER been disappointed with one of these purchases, and they are always high quality.
Play Doh Breakfast Time
We love Play Doh in our house. I actually wrote a post about the top Play Doh sets for toddlers here if you want to see all of our favorites.
This breakfast time set comes with some seriously cool stuff. You will find four cans of Play Doh (one of which being their “fancy” kind), a frying pan that doubles as an egg, waffle, bacon, and whipped cream maker.
My biggest complaint about it is how HARD it is to clean. Also, I don’t love the consistency of the “fancy” Play Doh, but it does a good job of making the whipped cream look realistic.
This is our favorite set in our home right now (although we also like the other breakfast set too). My daughter LOVES breakfast and cooking for us, and this set is perfect for that.
It’s also a great fit for her age. We have had more than a couple frustrating days where she struggled with the mechanics of other Play Doh sets, but she has never gotten frustrated with this one.
This particular Melissa & Doug Pounding Bench is something we will probably get for our little one this year.
This set comes with a hammer, workbench, and eight little smiling nails. These are WOODEN toys (which I love!) and are durable.
With that in mind, remember that the hammer is not flimsy plastic, so best to keep it put away if you’re concerned with your child handling it like Thor’s hammer when other kids are around.
Despite it’s potential dangers, it’s still a great pretend play toy for three year olds. I swear.
My First Number Train
Okay, so I know this Lego number train is not exactly a “pretend play” toy, but once your child builds it, the train becomes an instrument of pretend play.
This toy comes with the entire train building set. It also includes two little kid figurines and an adorable cat figurine too.
My daughter got this toy for her second birthday. She was a little young at the time but recently has begun really enjoying playing with it. It’s made with little hands in mind, which makes it easy for your child to put together.
We noticed it came apart somewhat easily, which was a shame since the pretend play aspect of it was my daughter’s favorite part.
Ice Cream Counter
Every kid loves ice cream, so this Melissa & Doug ice cream counter will likely be appreciated by any three year old.
This set comes with a sturdy wooden counter, reusable menu card, eight wooden scoops of different-colored ice cream, six different toppings, two cones, a plastic cup, tong, a wooden spoon, and an ice cream scooper.
The scoop on this product actually grabs onto the ice cream (which is neat), and it really encourages your child to use their imagination.
My biggest complaint–it’s kind of a pricey pretend play toy for three year olds. But, you pay more for things that last longer.
This camping set is a great way to introduce your three-year-old to the outside world–assuming they haven’t been already. If they have already been camping, they will totally enjoy pretend camping with it. You can even grab a play tent to go along with it.
Your new camping set comes with 2 logs, a flame, a glow in the dark lantern, fork, hot dog, chocolate bar, 2 graham crackers, a marshmallow, and a duffel bag.
My toddler received this along with a fishing kit (see below) for Christmas last year. She didn’t get the whole camping thing last year, but this year she had her first camping trip.
Once she connected the dots she found she really enjoys this camping set. Although it wasn’t a good fit at two years old, it’s a great pretend play toy for three year olds.
Even if you don’t go to the doctor often, you’ll be surprised how much your little enjoys this doctor kit.
We purchased this exact kit as a reward when my daughter was fully potty trained (or at least mostly–it’s still a work in progress).
This set is pretty large (12 pieces) AND it’s a great value.
The twelve pieces include; a stethoscope, thermometer, syringe, reflex hammer, blood pressure monitor, hand mirror, otoscope, band-aids, scissors, eyeglasses, electronic telephone, and a carrying case.
My partner and I were both shocked when she ordered me to lay on the ground, put the stethoscope on and began listening to my heart.
She knew how to work every single tool, and now enjoys helping her stuffed animals “feel better” by giving them a thorough check-up.
It’s a great option for a pretend play toy for a three year old. It’s one of our favorites.
If your littles is obsessed with tools, this deluxe workshop is a good option as a pretend play toy for three year olds.
This workbench comes with fifty different accessories, including an electric drill, two drill bits, eight nuts, eight screws, hammer, saw, pliers, screwdriver, adjustable wrench, and seventeen pieces of Durafoam (looks like wood).
Honestly, my kiddo isn’t around tools very much so I am not sure she would see the value in it, but I know plenty of kids who think otherwise.
Although this cleaning set is super cute, I have to be honest about something.
I use Clorox Wipes to clean most EVERYTHING (I know it’s kind of bad), so my three year old probably doesn’t even know the function of a spray bottle.
This cleaning set comes with a waterproof caddy with a handle, spray bottle, squirt bottle, a powder can, squeegee, scrub brush, sponge, cloth, and a cleaning checklist.
Since the spray bottles actually spray, you could fill them with water and bring them in the bathtub. Personally, this sounds messy to me, but to each their own.
Ultimate Corner Kitchen Playset
I loved this particular kitchen playset, mostly because it’s much nicer than my own kitchen.
This kitchen set comes with a sink, faucet, refrigerator, freezer, microwave, dishwasher–all of which open. The stove-top and icemaker both include lights and sounds.
I also love that this is a corner set–toys that go in corners seem to save so much room.
My daughter has a different version of this, and it’s sadly lacking in the sink department (which sinks are her favorite at this season in her life).
I am considering purchasing this for her since it’s a great pretend play toy for three year olds–if I can convince my husband. 😉
A play cash register is an awesome toy to help encourage pretend play in your three year old.
This particular cash register includes a digital cash register with working buttons, a scale, a scanner, a conveyor belt, play money, and a card reader.
They seriously put everything into this cash register that makes playing with one fun.
We have a very similar one at our house, and our daughter plays with this at least once a week. The reason I chose this one, in particular, is because it has a conveyor belt and scanner (which a lot of them don’t!) and that’s Monkey’s favorite part.
This fishing kit has turned into a lot of fun for us. I am pretty sure you guys are probably thinking we have too many toys because we literally own almost ALL of the toys I am recommending.
If you are thinking that–you’re probably right. In my defense, she received this as a gift from her auntie last Christmas.
She didn’t really know what to do with it then, but she does now.
This fishing set comes with a magnetic fishing pole (so the fish will stick to the end of it), tackle box, vest, 3 fish, 3 worms, fishing net, and an activity guide.
Your child doesn’t have to know what fishing is to enjoy this. My partner and I don’t fish, so she has no idea that fishing is actually a thing. But she loves it.
Baby Alive Potty Dance Doll
If your littles is still in the process of potty-training, this potty dance doll can help cement your child’s understanding of using the potty.
This baby doll comes with the doll, a toilet, soap, a sippy cup, a comb, an extra cloth diaper, stickers, and a potty chart. It also speaks in two modes and talks in English or Spanish.
I was sold on this item because I truly believe it will help with potty training–plus the reviews are pretty promising.
This pretend play toy for three year olds is definitely on our Christmas list this year (although I think it’ll be coming from grandma).
Pizza Counter Set
I liked this pizza counter set because it was kind of unique.
It comes with 34 pieces, including a counter/pizza oven, pizza, cheese shaker, felt sauce, felt cheese, wooden crust, toppings, pizza paddle, rolling cutter, delivery box, reusable menu, and play money.
The toppings stick with self-stick tabs, so you don’t have to worry about them going everywhere when your toddler proudly brings you their concoction.
This is yet another awesome product from Melissa & Doug, so you can be assured it’s great quality.
Best Pretend Play Toys for Three Year Olds Wrap Up
It’s so exciting (and bitter-sweet) to see our little ones growing up, and it can be hard to keep up sometimes. I hope that you got some use out of this list (I know I did!)
What was your favorite thing on this list of pretend play toys for three year olds? What is your toddler’s favorite toy right now? I would love to hear from you in the comment section below!