Gift Ideas for 3-Year-Olds

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Here at Marotta Wealth Management, we love getting to see our clients become grandparents. For many, family is one of their core values in life and the arrival of the next generation breathes a new sense of purpose into them and their finances.

As the proud mother of a now four-year-old daughter, I thought I’d record some of my and my firstborn’s favorite things from this past year as helpful ideas for gifts from grandparents. You can see the past posts here: 2-year-old, 1-year-old and the first 0-12 months.


This past year was a tricky age to clothe.

My daughter wore 2T sizes until she was nearly three and a half. Then, she started outgrowing some smaller 3T sizes by three years and 9 months. Meanwhile, some 4T sizes were too big until 3 years and 6 months.

The 3T clothes that lasted the longest were the ones that were the most adaptable like skirts, dresses, overalls, and shorts. The tighter clothing like leggings were the first outgrown and the scratchy clothes like jeans were rarely chosen.

On the other hand, the shortest 4Ts were also very adaptable like shorts, skirts, and short-sleeved shirts.

Child size small and child size 4 both also started fitting this year.

When I asked my daughter what her favorite outfit from the past year has been, she said her flower girl outfit. My daughter had the chance to be flower girl in my brother’s wedding this year. Her dress was a champagne tulle skirt, sequined gold bodice, and a purple ribbon belt.

This answer speaks to another reality from this past year. This was the year of dress-up dresses. We spent at least part of most days in costume pretending we were other characters.

When my daughter was two, I bought her a size 4 of a Disney princess costume set. We’ve loved those dresses for three years and are only just now starting to outgrow them, but they have embellishments and glitter which means they cannot be washed very easily. This meant that we often had to make and enforce rules like “You can’t wear the dress-up dresses when helping Dad on gardening chores.”

This past year, we discovered the Little Adventures washable costumes. They are washable and have a lifetime guarantee; both of which we have tested. They do wash very effectively. The one dress we got that didn’t wash effectively (the applique started coming off after coming out of the dryer) was just a defective dress. After contacting the company, we were sent a replacement for free which is holding up great. Now, my daughter can pretend to be Elsa while digging in the dirt alongside her father.

We have also loved the dresses we’ve received from Princess Awesome. They have super soft cotton dresses with unique patterns and pockets. We were gifted the dinosaur dress and construction dress, both of which are among my daughter’s favorite outfits.

For Halloween, my daughter dressed up as Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service. The dress of that costume ended up being such a comfortable and wonderful dress that we’ve ordered more of them. It is a simple, comfortable t-shirt dress that comes in many different colors and I imagine will fit for a few years.


We waited to start movies longer than most parents. When my daughter was nearly three and a half years old, we started watching them for the first time. We have been doing new movies every Friday and decided to keep a movie journal to record what movies she watched for future reminiscing. We also started the tradition of writing down her favorite part of each movie in the journal.

Her first movie was “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” and her second was “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” (1965), both of which were great successes.

My favorite movies that we have watched with her were the six Disney Fairies movies:

  1. Tinker Bell,
  2. Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure,
  3. Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue,
  4. Tinker Bell and the Secret of the Wings,
  5. Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast,
  6. Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy, and
  7. the short movie, Pixie Hollow Games.

My daughter loved them too. They were all included in Disney+ except Pixie Hollow Games, which was only $2 to own on Amazon Prime.

We all enjoyed Disney’s English dubs of the Studio Ghibli’s films My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Ponyo. My daughter even elected to dress up as Kiki for Halloween this year. We accomplished the costume with a comfortable black t-shirt dress, red shoes, red hair bow, child’s crossbody bag, child’s broom, and the optional but much enjoyed stuffed Gigi and red radio.

Thanks to the recommendation of Wendy, we also loved the movie Room on the Broom and the book its based on.


Over this past year, my daughter started to be able to read books on her own and quickly progressed through the various levels. Step 1 and 2 easy readers quickly became favorites. Then, as she progressed in reading capabilities comic books became her next favorites. Now, she can read nearly anything with a bit of assistance.

She inherited my love of Disney Princesses so many of her favorites are, as we say, “Disney related.” Those include the easy readers like “Something More” (which she bought with her own money after checking it out from the library three times), smaller books like “Disney Frozen: My First Library Board Book 12-Book Set,” larger books like “Beauty and the Beast (Disney Classics),” and comic books like the small Disney Princess Comic Strips Collections and the large tome “Disney Princess Comics Treasury.”

Because we loved the Disney Fairies movies so much, we also fell in love with the Disney Fairies books. So far, we have enjoyed progressing through the 20-issue comic book series (translated from the Italian) and the 23-book Tales of Pixie Hollow chapter books. We also love the large book “In the Realm of Never Fairies,” which reads like a National Geographic encyclopedia detailing the secrets of life in Pixie Hollow. After reading all the books, we also enjoyed the coloring book.

Other favorites have been the books “Mommies” and “Daddies,” which were some of the first books she could read by herself right after turning three. ”The Brownie and Pearl Collection” was a favorite read almost daily for 6 months. “Beach Day” was another favorite for a long time.

Another favorite past time of my daughter is to listen to a CD and read or sing along using the lyrics in the booklet. We do this predictably with the Frozen and Moana CDs, but she also enjoys doing this with the random CDs my husband or I enjoy listening to. For a child who enjoys reading, a homemade mix-tape CD or electronic playlist with a companion lyric booklet is a great present.

Toys & Games

Board Games

We’ve had a lot of fun playing Rat-a-Tat-Cat. It’s “younger player” variant rules are perfect for those who are just learning their numbers.

We also fell in love with Disney Villainous whose color-coded words and clear symbols make it accessible to pre- and early readers.

The cooperative Forbidden series of Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert, and Forbidden Sky have become staple family game night features.


Very uniquely, I saved all of my old children’s toys, which means my daughter both has a lot of antique toys to enjoy and a huge toy collection.

My favorite of the toys my daughter has gotten are the DC Superheroes Girls teen dolls of Supergirl, Batgirl, and Wonder Woman. They are well designed dolls. Each character has a slightly different height and body shape. They come with two different outfits, which means girls who like switching outfits will have a ton of fun. Without clothes on, they are still wearing what looks like a one-piece swimsuit. They are anatomically correct, but not excessively busty. One hand is C-shaped, which means they can easily hold doll items like shopping baskets, mugs, or purses.

This detail means that we frequently play with them with my antique 1990s Little Kitchen & grocery store sets.

We’ve also loved my old Play Mobil sets and my old Pet Shop sets.

When I asked my daughter what her favorite toy was, she said the two Disney’s Frozen Little People sets: one was Elsa, Olaf, and her ice castle and the other was Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and their sleigh. Elsa’s castle lights up and sings “Let It Go” from certain buttons and levers, but there is also an off button on the bottom so you can silence the castle for other play.

This was also a great year for enjoying bubbles. Although my daughter was less successful at blowing them, she loved chasing and popping them outside.

This was our second year of receiving a KiwiCo box subscription. The water play mat from the “Neighborhood” box in the Tadpole line is still much loved and played with. This year, we are in the Koala crate line. Of the 12 boxes we have received so far, 6 of them are wonderful joys we play with and reuse again and again.

Financial Gifts

A 529 college savings account or even just a stock or two in a custodial account can be helpful savings. The power of saving and investing while young means that this will be the gift that keeps on giving. My article “How to Make a Gift of Appreciated Stock Feel Personal” has some ideas on presenting money to children.

We present children with gifts that expose them to ideas and possibilities about the world. Unlike adults who use sensitivity in their response to gifts, children often have very clear favorites and least favorites; they don’t love each gift equally. But sometimes the duds are as important as the successes at helping the toddler. Life is enriched by being introduced to a wide diversity of items, experiences, and facts. The process of learning what you enjoy in life includes learning what you don’t enjoy as much.

So don’t be discouraged if even after lots of research picking what seems like the perfect gift, you find out it isn’t a favorite. They don’t have to be amazing to be a great gift.

Photo by author.

Follow Megan Russell:

Chief Operating Officer, CFP®, APMA®

Megan Russell has worked with Marotta Wealth Management most of her life. She loves to find ways to make the complexities of financial planning accessible to everyone. She is the author of over 800 financial articles and is known for her expertise on tax planning.