Recommendations for 3-year-old birthday toys around $50?
September 4, 2013 9:28 AM   Subscribe

My 3-year-old daughter's birthday is coming up and once again (looking through archives, I've asked this every year) I need toy recommendations. Grandma gave us $50 to get something for her and we are well, well under budget with our gifts too. bilibo

Please don't suggest non-play items (she has an education fund, she has savings too). I'd like toys. I feel like what we've got her already is missing the big-toy 'wow' item. We did get once on those 'step-on-the-keys' piano mats, but since it was a from a garage sale for $15, I don't feel like that counts.

She already has:
- a play kitchen (big b-day gift from last year)
- baby stroller and other baby accessories
- a coloring desk
- small synthesizer piano, drum, tambourine
- mega-blocks (doesn't really like them)
- shopping cart
- a few little alphabet computerized thingys
- lots of books, although she could always learn more
- a doctor costume
- she plays with our iPad
- broom and dustpan
-singing microphone
- dollhouse
- backyard slide (winter's coming, though)

We got her:
- step-on-keys piano mat
- matching game, snakes and ladders
- tiny playmobil Veterinary Clinic
- new doctor's bag because her old stethoscope broke
- I know my mom is getting a cheap baby-care station
- daddy made her a puppet theatre

Likes: dinosaurs, dancing, horses, pretending to take care of animals/people/babies
Dislikes or gets bored of easily: blocks, building stuff, spatial-type toys, puzzles, kicking/throwing balls, playing catch with anything

I would LOVE to get her a bilibo but knowing her personality (extrovert, likes people most of all and not great with non-self-explanitory imaginative play), she won't enjoy that yet.

Wow. Writing this out, it sounds like she is spoiled and has everything. We tend to buy lots of toys used, though, and frequent garage sales, so that's how we've afforded a lot of non-birthday toys. I think birthdays should be for things you usually can't find at garage sales, though.
posted by kitcat to Shopping (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Start a Roominate collection. It's a line of toys designed to get girls interested in STEM.
posted by rada at 9:31 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

She doesn't care if it's from a garage sale for $15. How would she ever know the difference? I really wouldn't get hung up on the price of the present.

The bilibo is actually great at that age. My 3-year-old used it to rock her babies or give them rides around the house.

Do you have a zoo or children's museum in the area? I'd put the money towards a membership there.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:32 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

What about BRIO blocks?
posted by oceanjesse at 9:32 AM on September 4, 2013

posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:33 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

posted by latkes at 9:39 AM on September 4, 2013

It's a bit over budget, though there are some used ones for closer to fifty and some cheaper options, but my first thought is a robotic pet dinosaur.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:39 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

(she has a bike. and a scooter thing. sorry, it's a great idea)
posted by kitcat at 9:42 AM on September 4, 2013

posted by hmo at 9:42 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

We got a bilibo for my son when he was about 2 and are liking it more and more as he gets bigger. At 3 he started using it for more imaginative play (it's a boat for him or his favorite trucks! It's a giant bowl of soup he's making us for dinner!) and now at 4 it's awesome for feats of strength (He can stand on it! He can jump over it! He can balance in it!). It's a toy that seems to have some staying power.

A really nice set of wooden blocks is another toy that just keeps going in terms of play value. He has really enjoyed Rody. A big container of animals, similar to this was also a huge hit and was recommended to his grandmother by a family who cannot stop playing with it after years.
posted by goggie at 9:47 AM on September 4, 2013

My daughter loved her kid trampoline when she was 3!

We bought this particular one. It's a bit over your budget but you could throw in Grandma's $50 plus a little of your own $$ since you said you guys are under budget.
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 9:53 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Eh, the Bilibo might go over better than you think -- it's fun just to stand on. It is very sturdy.

PlasmaCars are great but you need a lot of floor. Personally, I would go with more Playmobil. Also: Woodkins, doll slings/carriers, baby doll clothing and diapers (try Etsy for easy-to-use cloth doll diapers with Velcro); Ikea has some excellent stuff -- check out the Duktig line to accessorise the toy kitchen further, and I wish we had bought the slide, and we have this Lomsk swivel egg chair thing; very sturdy and fun. Any sort of fort-like thing would be good, too -- the Playhut stuff is nice.
posted by kmennie at 9:57 AM on September 4, 2013

Play tent.

We just got one of these tubes of plastic things for our almost 3-year old when he has his birthday, there are dinosaur ones as well, or other animal ones for the little vet.

Huge teddy bear.

Enormous roll of paper.

More play clothes. More music-makers, if you can stand them--shakers or flutes or kid ukeleles, things like that.

I know experiential gifts aren't really the same for the toddler set, but since it's Gramma's birthday money and you have lots of toys, maybe a horse-riding lesson or a trip to the movies or ballet, or a visit to the nearest awesome kid's museum? It'd be easy enough to make it a Special Birthday Treat Day with some ice cream at the end.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:41 AM on September 4, 2013

Oh no, I meant to say she loves balls and playing catch.
posted by kitcat at 11:02 AM on September 4, 2013

a cozy coupe
posted by southeastyetagain at 11:08 AM on September 4, 2013

That's the age where my daughter fell in love with magnatiles (despite not previously being interested in blocks).
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:27 AM on September 4, 2013

Big wheel?

Treasure chest? My 2.5 year old is collecting things like crazy, and enjoys putting them somewhere safe and special.

I think toys in general lose that "wow" factor pretty quickly, though. Based on the success of a short presentation about the Ice Age at a local museum, I'm planning on finding more live shows for my 2.5 year old. Do you have a puppet theater near you? Children's music performance? Dance performance?
posted by pizzazz at 11:28 AM on September 4, 2013

Our 3- and 5-year-old daughters do not generally like toys that involve building stuff (blocks, Legos, etc.). But they love building things with their magna-tiles--mostly houses, boats, bunk beds and so forth for their dolls and stuffed animals. They're not cheap, but they are really well designed. I like building stuff with them too.

That roominate stuff looks cool too.
posted by partylarry at 11:53 AM on September 4, 2013

Dress-up chest! My sister and I loved playing dress-up for years starting around there, and it's something you can build on whenever you find something cool to add.
posted by Safiya at 12:24 PM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding plasmacar. Huge hit with our 3 and 7 year olds and all their friends.
posted by purenitrous at 1:29 PM on September 4, 2013

Here's what's had a lot of longevity here and when little kids come over, they want:
Play Blender (really spins things around but no blade obviously...the kids like to put little pom poms in it and serve it in play cups)
Hippity Hop
Play tent
posted by biscuits at 2:27 PM on September 4, 2013

I have found the "educational/Montessori gift guides" from this blog useful - this is the gift guide for three year olds. I tend to gravitate towards musical instruments, but it sounds like you're covered there :) A train set sounds like it would be fun at that age.
posted by fever-trees at 6:33 PM on September 4, 2013

If a bilibo doesn't suit, Roominate would be even worse. It's a FANTASTIC toy but very very few 3 year olds are going to get much out of that set that they wouldn't get out of big blocks and lego (whic you've said she doesn't really like) - the dollhouse aspect can be accomplished with an actual dollhouse and leave the techy bit until she's a more appropriate age. I'm contemplating it for my 4.5 year old but I know she gets irritated with the dogmatic aspects of lego building.

BUT I've been really tempted to get my kid something like Operation because she's SO fascinated with bodies. The Toca Boca dr game was a great hit as well, along the same themes.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:41 PM on September 4, 2013

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