I have often referred to my son as our “little engineer” because he loves building, designing, and problem-solving. If you, too, have a little one who seems to be a budding engineer, you will love these building toys for 3-year-olds. Each of these building toys has been specifically chosen for being age-appropriate and highly rated, and many have been personal hits in my own home. Building toys are especially wonderful gift choices because they will keep your 3-year-old engaged in creative, educational open-ended play. They are also a good investment because they will grow with your child beyond the preschool years.
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For over a century, Lincoln Logs have been a beloved building toy for 3-year-olds and older. Made from real wood, these open-ended blocks will allow your child to develop problem-solving and engineering skills while building structures. The Lincoln Logs 100th Anniversary Tin contains 111 pieces that can be used to build a tower, cabin, or two smaller houses with a little campfire. The collection comes with its own sturdy storage tin, and this set can be combined with others to expand the building fun.
Wooden blocks can become cities, castles, roads, vehicles, or whatever else your 3-year-old can imagine. We have this traditional Melissa & Doug block set, which is packed with solid-wood blocks of all different shapes. My children are so creative with these blocks, and I am sure that if I invested in a second set to their collection, they would be thrilled.
Your 3-year-old can construct planes, cars, robots, and more with this 101-piece engineering building toy. The set includes colorful pieces that can be connected using oversized nuts, bolts, and washers. The included project guide will give you and your child ideas of what to create.
Marble runs are amazing building toys to teach problem-solving and cause-and-effect. This sturdy building block marble run is perfect for 3-year-olds. You can also expand the set with other building blocks this size (such as Duplos) you may already have at home.
Brain Flakes are a highly-rated unique building toy for 3-year-olds. Interlock discs to create all kinds of colorful 3D structures, from animals to trees to cars. The discs can also be used for sorting activities or in sensory bins.
With magnetic tile building toys for 3-year-olds, your child can create rocket ships, castles, houses and many more 3D shapes. These colorful geometric tiles connect magnetically and lend themselves to hours of open-ended fun. This PicassoTiles set comes with 100 pieces, but you may want to invest in more tiles to expand your child’s building options.
Your 3-year-old can connect these bright interlocking tubes to create vehicles, structures, and whatever shapes they might imagine. The set comes with a carrying case to house and transport the pieces when not in use — although according to reviewers, they will likely be in frequent use!
What guide to building toys for 3-year-olds would be complete without mentioning LEGO DUPLO? A staple in my own home, these versatile blocks are perfect for preschool hands and can be used to build so many different scenes, buildings, and structures for creative open-ended play. Once you get a starter set such as this one, you can keep adding on with specialized sets or just adding to your brick collection. Believe me, you can never have enough bricks!
Gears! Gears! Gears! by Learning Resources is an educational STEM-based building toy for 3-year-olds. Your child can engineer simple machines by connecting colorful gears together. Preschoolers can practice cause-and-effect and problem-solving as they put together a contraption that will turn by crank when complete.
Would your 3-year-old enjoy building his or her very own robot? If so, take a look at this Robot Engineer kit by Thames & Kosmo. The kit comes with a storybook about two children who build robots. You and your child can work together to create models of ten robots from the story using the included durable gears, wheels, and pieces.
This TINKERTOY set contains 200 various plastic pieces that can be connected to form creative contraptions. Some of the pieces can bend and flex to create curved shapes, expanding your child’s ability to build. Although your 3-year-old will be able to engage in open-ended building, there are also 30 ideas included in the instruction sheet for inspiration.
How about a building toy your 3-year-old can actually play inside? Fort building kits introduce engineering and problem-solving skills that result in a venue for creative play. See all the exciting ideas included in this comprehensive list of fort-building kits and ready-made forts for kids.
Your little builder can bend the flexible pieces in this Straw and Connector set to create letters, rocketships, towers, geometric shapes, and more. The set comes with a handy carrying case to make cleanup and storage a breeze.
Bristle Blocks are easy or 3-year-olds to use because they can be connected in so many ways, and they are easy to press together and pull apart. Create vehicles, buildings, animals, and more with this fun, colorful building toy for 3-year-olds. Add a set of Spinaroos to expand your fun.
My son loves playing with K’NEX, but they may be a little advanced for 3-year-olds. As luck would have it, there is a type of K’NEX made just for preschoolers as young as 3! With this Kid K’NEX set, your child can click together pieces to create cute little creatures and fun contraptions. It also comes with a sturdy box for easy cleanup and storage.
Squigz use the technology of suction cups to connect together so your 3-year-old can create structures. Build on the floor, stick the Squigz to the window, or, as is the popular use at our house, use them as a bathtub toy. BPA-free Squigz are also dishwasher-safe, making it easy to keep them sanitized and ready for playtime!
Waffle Blocks have been around since I was a kid, and they are still an epic building toy. Your child can connect the blocks to create houses, towers, fences, and castles. Please note that many reviewers mention that the blocks are difficult for younger kids to manipulate themselves, so you may have to help your 3-year-old until he or she gets a little older.
With take apart toys, your 3-year-old will be able to disassemble and rebuild to see how toys are engineered. This set of 7 take apart toys includes a helicopter, train, truck, motorcycle, and several dinosaurs. (If your 3-year-old enjoys dinosaurs, see this list of top dinosaur toys and gifts for toddlers.)
These colorful geometric blocks will allow your 3-year-old to create beautiful designs and figure out how to get them to stand up in a stacked arrangement. Although there are a variety of shapes, they always fit perfectly with one another.
Blockaroos are magnetic building blocks made out of foam. They click together to form shapes or towers, and they can even be used in the bathtub without growing mold. Foam blocks are a lovely alternative to wooden blocks if you do not want to have to worry about the damage that might be done by hard objects.
Your child will love connecting these bright building stars to create all kinds of fun shapes and designs, from flowers to animals. This building toy for 3-year-olds is a great tool for developing hand-eye coordination. This set of 70 pieces comes in six rainbow colors and five different shapes.
For more ideas, visit this comprehensive list of STEM toys for toddlers.