15 Toys That Don't Make Noise That Your 3-Year-Old Will Love!
All I can say about Amazon Prime's two day shipping is glory, glory, hallelujah. It is the reason I can look like I kinda have it together during birthdays and holidays since I became a mother, often putting off my gift shopping until the last, panicked minute. This past year, I was better prepared and got all of my Christmas shopping done before I'd even put up our silvery tinsel tree.
Having taken more time to plot out the finer details of what my girls would find wrapped beneath the tree, I decided it was important to me to focus on toys that let my daughters' imaginations take the driver's seat. This isn't to say that we have anything against the TV, Kindle or computer. Trust me, we use basically all of them daily. But there's something really special about settling in after a long birthday party or busy holiday morning and hearing nothing but the sweet sounds of children creating their own little world without having to dig through every drawer in the kitchen in search of those elusive double A's. Oy!
Is it just me though, or are classic, nostalgic toys expensive? Like seriously, Google Shop "Wooden Toys" and you're looking at half this month's mortgage. Save yourself the money, time and hassle of searching for quality toys to stick in your quiet time box. I've done it for you in this list of 15 toys that my three-year-old loves that don't require a single battery! (Bonus: they can all be found on Amazon with Prime 2-Day shipping. Fellow procrastinators, celebrate!)
All prices mentioned are approximate, visit the actual product for current price.
#1 The Learning Journey My First Match-It Heads and Tails
is a series of self-correcting puzzle pieces that you must match up - one piece is the creature's tale and the other is it's head. A lot of times I've used these as conversation pieces without even putting together the puzzle. The pieces are large, so definitely not a choking hazard, and they come in a sturdy cardboard carrying case for easy storage which means if we're heading out to eat I can throw it in the diaper bag so we have something fun and quiet to do while we wait. This learning toy
#2 Schylling Cupcakes Tin Tea Set
This is one of the particular sets we own and though it may reek of gentle feminism, my nephew loves this set too (and would equally love any of the other twee sets in the Schylling collection). Being real, the tin tray that comes with this set bends rather easily but it also bends back into place easily too and I'd like to think that that well-played look only adds to this tea set's charm over time. My three-year-old fills the cupcake themed tea pot with a splash of water then takes care to divvy up the "tea" between the tea cups and drinks them all up. It's a fantastic way to get her to drink water, actually. Total bonus. The best part about these is that though they have been filled with water nearly every day since last Christmas, they don't rust. To clean them I take antibacterial wipe and swipe it over each piece before putting it away. Easy!
At under $15 this makes a really fun gift for any tea party loving three-year-old in your life (and the cupcake theme is especially adorable for a birthday gift).
#3 Manhattan Toy Nursing Nana Dog Nurturing Soft Toy
Topping out at $20, and her three pups were actually a gift to our youngest daughter on her first birthday. Still a wee nursling herself, I found the babies, who attach to Nana via magnetism (that's safely sewn beneath each cat's plush) absolutely charming. And apparently, so did our three-year-old. She immediately nabbed this mommy and her hungry trio before our birthday girl could even take the time to care (poor second kid) and claimed them as her own. She clutches a small puppy in each hand before we leave the house and have given each one a unique but truly descriptive moniker that almost always involves its color. If you're still not sold, this quiet little family can be tossed in the wash on a gentle cycle if they find themselves in a sticky situation. Hoorah! this cushy momma dog
#4 Dancing Streamers
This isn't a particular brand but you can find all different colors and styles on Amazon. Our favorite is just $8 and the ribbon is a rainbow design that makes twirling feel extra elegant. I shoved these in my daughter and my husband's stocking one year and let's just say, this isn't only a gift suitable for three-year-olds. Whether you're waving this thing around inside of a snowy day or out on the lawn in the sunshine, this is a cheap and whimsical gift that encourages movement.
Oh, and cats love it too.
With this toy, make sure your three-year-old is always supervised since it could get wrapped around a limb, or worse, her neck.
#5 Melissa & Doug Misty Unicorn Stuffed Animal
Look, I don't know what it is about three-year-olds and unicorns. Maybe it's weird subliminal marketing that happens before birth. All I know is that the obsession is real and this stuffed toy fulfills my daughter in a way that less unicorny stuffed animals simply do not. It's sparkly hooves, bright purple mane and tail might have something to with it.
#6 Melissa & Doug Wooden Magnets
I know what you're thinking, magnets and a three-year-old sounds like a super dumb idea. These are flat, large magnets, usually a few inches long, that come in a small wooden crate and each set is a different theme, from vehicles, shapes and farm animals to characters like Mickey Mouse's Clubhouse. They are easy to stick to the fridge and even easier to take off and make for some seriously extended pretend-play, almost like paper dolls.
I actually bought a long metal board from Ikea to use with these sets so that she can play with them anywhere she wants, whether it's her bedroom or the living room rug.
#7 Wooden Blocks
This isn't the actual set we have but it looks very similar to the much more expensive set my daughter received at Christmas and this one even comes with a carrying bag which ours did not.
She dumps all of her block out nearly every afternoon and tinkers with them while watching TV. We keep them in a fabric storage cube so they're easy for her to clean up by herself and when her little sister or cousin want to join in there's plenty of pieces to go around. If you deem the pieces too small for unsupervised play, you can just stick them at the top of a closet and bring them down for parent-child playtime before putting them back.
#8 Melissa & Doug Lace and Trace Shapes
Obviously we really dig Melissa & Doug in this house and these Lace and Trace Shapes are no exception. Cradled in a classic Melissa & Doug wooden box, this set comes with five wooden shapes - a slice of pizza (triangle), an orange (circle), a cracker (square), a kite (diamond), and a stop sign (octagon) - along with five coordinating laces for each shape so that your little one can pull the string through the holes along each object's edge while thinking about shapes and colors and practicing fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination.
Our daughter personally loves to use the laces to get the cat to come out of his hiding spot. So. Another cat-friendly toy right here.
As with the ribbon streamers, keep this toy up and away when you're not supervising your child. Three-year-olds can get the laces wrapped about their fingers and necks.
#9 ALEX Toys Little Hands Paper Bag Puppets
Our three-year-old loves doing crafts. I, however, do not love weeding through Pinterest posts to find individual projects and then trying to gather up each last googly eye and pipe cleaner needed for said project.
make it super easy to give your child all of the supplies they need for a given craft with kid-friendly illustrated instructions to go along with it. All by herself (seriously!) my daughter made each paper bag animal puppet included in this set while I packed up for our big move. It kept her occupied and made it so that I could get through what is essentially my least favorite life-chore next to childbirth and going to the OB. She was so proud of herself she ended up doing her sister's kit too. The ALEX Toys craft kits
#10 Toysmith Garden Root Viewer
I'm not going to sit here and pretend with you like I didn't kill every last seed that came in this set. Looking back, it was dumb to leave our little seedlings outside.
During a frost.
Whoops. Hopefully the three-year-old in your life has a greener thumb than I and if not, at a price of just ten bucks, no one will be heartbroken if things go awry. Still, I includebecause my daughter and I had a total blast sorting the seed packets, soaking the peat pellets and then filling the clear plastic tubes with moist dirt before gently pressing the seeds into the soft soil and watching them take root over the next few days (yes, we got roots!) this toy
This toy opened up a lot of conversation and we bought a few books about flowers and seeds to go along with it. In fact there's another set at the top of the closet begging for a second chance (and a warm windowsill)...
#11 Hape Rainbow Wooden Counting Bead Abacus
First things first, this isn't the actual abacus that we own but it looks pretty darn similar to ours which I can no longer find for sale. I'm including it for three reasons - one, we do own a bunch of Hape toys and they are incredibly STURDY. Seriously, they get thrown against the wall (my poor walls...) tossed into toy bins, shoved into the back seat and even chucked into the bathtub *groan* and they're all still holding up fabulously. Two, it’s easy to take along to keep the kids busy when we go out and doesn’t make a noise other than the occasional pleasant clacking of wood, so we’re not annoying anyone when we’re out about about. And, three, it might look like a baby toy, but our daughter's wooden abacus encourages her to slide the beads while counting and the bright beads are an awesome opportunity to talk colors - when she's not busy trying to stand on it and at just under twenty bucks this makes a solid educational, STEM friendly gift, the kind that have been shown to increase a child’s success in school when utilized in early childhood.
When children are exposed to play that fosters knowledge in science, technology, engineering or in the case of this colorful abacus, mathematics, it’s believed to have a profound effect on their later ability to more easily absorb and retain information that relates to these four areas. As JD Chesloff says in a 2013 article for Education Week titled “STEM Education Must Start in Early Childhood”, “There is an exciting and powerful link between STEM and early childhood. Research confirms that the brain is particularly receptive to learning math and logic between the ages of 1 and 4, and that early math skills are the most powerful predictors of later learning.”
Less than $20 for a lifetime of necessary skills? Good deal, Hape, good deal!
#12 Battat Terra Tropical Fish World Playset
Think toy soldiers for the marine set, is fat, carrying toddler-handful after toddler-handful of fishies in a variety of colors. Ours have swam in the bath tub, raced through the potter plants and nibbled the sweet algae sea of the living room rug since last year when we bought them. And at just under $10 for the set, if one or two or even a few get lost in the shuffle your little friend is unlikely to notice. Phew! this tube
#13 National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why
I know it's not a toy but this hardcover is less than $15 and has kept my three-year-old (and her dad) engaged for much longer than you'd think a three-year-old would stay focused on a read-aloud book. Each page features National Geographic's signature bold photography with questions and answers that go along with each page's theme. And here's the thing, this book works. It literally made my daughter start asking "Why?" and made us read the book so we could answer her questions about why we have skin, why the sky is blue and what every weird creature you can think of eats for lunch.
#14 Neato Tek Indoor Bowling Set
One thing that isn't fair about games for kids is that they come with so.many.pieces. We've been gifted so many lovely games, from fishing games to matching games and always within the first day at least half the game is scattered under couch cushions and bed sheets and the game is no longer usable unless I feel like going on a treasure hunt after I've put the kids to bed which is almost impossible because let's face it, I never put the kids to bed, rather they finally feel badly enough for me that they fall asleep next to me.
What I'm trying to say is that rocks because the pieces can't be hidden in places they'll never be found again. The colorful wooden pins are easy to set up on a rug for minimal clattering sounds and the whole thing can be stored away when you're done playing. Plus, it's a great exercise in hand-eye coordination. this indoor bowling set
#15 Melissa & Doug Mine to Love Doll Diaper Changing Set
Obviously, I was going to wrap up this list with a Melissa & Doug product, right? Yep. If there's one thing my three-year-old's dolls and stuffed animals do a lot of, it's poop and pee. Sometimes they make it to the potty seat but other times man, it's time for a fresh diapie. comes with a flower printed diaper bag that latches shut with a velcro closure so that the jar of "diaper cream", box of wipes (with real/not real wipes inside!) and spare cloth diaper can stay safe inside on adventures. Plus, there's plenty of pockets for any extras like snacks, sunblock, a magazine, loose candy, used tissues, uncapped pens, or a dead FitBit that might get thrown in along the way. This diaper changing set
You know how it goes.
How to Shop for Toys When You Live in a Small Space
Like me, you might be shopping for a kid who lives in a small space. My husband and I have crammed our little family, three pets included, into a 1200 square foot condo which honestly feels spacious considering we lived with our parents before this.
Having always lived in a smaller space means that we've learned to be thoughtful about what kinds of toys come into our house.
Consider Aesthetics When Purchasing a Toy for a Small Space
Brightly colored, noisy, flashing toys? They're alright and my kids enjoy them but there's just not a ton of room to hide them in my home. That's why when I'm shopping around for a gift for one of my kids I try to be mindful of where it's going to go and how it'll look there. Crammed, crowded, edging up on a piece of furniture? Probably too big.
Go For Neutral Colored Toys
I know, I probably sound like I'm a ton of fun, but when I'm buying new toys for our home I hunt down neutral colors as often as possible. I homeschool my kids so making sure they have educational play opportunities is really important to me - I'm not one to consider myself a minimalist in the toy department. Thus, in a small space I've managed to prioritize a train table, a Lego table and a light table all in light wood finished to blend with the rest of our home. Instead of feeling overrun or like I'm operating a daycare, it just feels like we're stepping into a quiet land of play.
Prioritize Quality Over Quantity
Though no one could ever call me a minimalist, I'm still snagging a few ideas from them, the most important being to choose quality toys over cheaply made, quick to break toys. If I have the choice between a toy that's made of plastic and literally anything else, I'll pick literally anything else (usually wood) because it holds up better in the long run so it can be sold later on or passed down to another kiddo.
Pick Better Plastic
Sometimes, you can't avoid plastic. It's at these times I veer towards brands with a sturdy composition. Brands like Green Toys offer plastic dump trucks, farm sets and race cars made from a thick recycled plastic. Years ago, before I knew how the Amazon buying controls worked, my oldest accidentally one-clicked the pink and purple dump truck straight to our house. At first I was pretty annoyed - coming in at over $20 I wasn't exactly planning on purchasing it. It's ended up being a favorite toy in our sandbox and has held up to years of rain, sunshine and outdoor play, effortlessly toting rocks back and forth across the yard.
Look For Toys That Can Be Used Both Indoors and Outdoor
Another attribute I look for in toys for my girls are whether or not they can be shuffled from their bedroom to the patio or even the playground. Toys with wheels, games (like the bowling set) and dancing streamers can all go on a lot of adventures no matter if they're within our four walls or not.
Picking a Gift for a Child You Don't Know Very Well
The thing about having little kids is that now I'm buying gifts for a lot of other little kids whose tastes I probably don't know very well. I always bristle a bit buying toys for my kids' friends. Whether you're shopping for a nephew you've only met a handful of times or your daughter's new playground friend, keep these tips in mind.
Buy Consumable Gifts
I don't even mean they have to be edible. In fact, picking a gift that's literally consumable for a kid you don't know well is problematic because food allergies, family sugar rules (am I the only one that doesn't really have sugar limits for my kids?) and so on. Instead, I mean, pick things that can be used quickly and disappear once the child has enjoyed them. The Toysmith Root Viewer is a good example of a gift that a kid can enjoy with their family, that won't be hanging out forever either. Once the plants have grown, the planter can be recycled. Likewise, crayons, stickers, bubbles or even bubble bath are all gifts that pack a lot of fun for little ones without taking up space long term either.
Assume The Kid Sticks Things In Their Mouth
Both of my kids were different at three. One was really good about not putting small objects in her mouth, the other one was terrible about it! If you're gifting to a three-year-old you don't know well, assume they're like my "hmmmm let's choke on this!" kid. That means toys that are one big solid piece like the Misty Unicorn I mentioned earlier.
Don't Buy Anything That Could Be Used to Destroy a Home
Don't gift a messy toy! Markers, paint and Play-Doh are every parent-to-a-three-year-old's worst nightmare.
Parents, what's your priority when choosing gifts for your youngin'?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2017 Kierstin Gunsberg