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We’ve bulked up the 2-year-old list a bit this year to 35 picks and each and every one is sure to delight and engage the toddler in your life for hours on end…
THE BIGGEST “WOW!” TOYS
(18 months – 8 years)
Normally I’m not big on electronic toys with lots of sounds and lights, but when said toy can help my kids get rid of all their pent-up energy inside on a stormy day, it becomes my new best friend.
This inexpensive magical wand uses 90 silly commands (sway, creep, stomp like a dinosaur, leap) and 26 songs, along with a light show to get kids moving.
This is one of those rare toys that’s great for siblings of different ages to play with together (my kids have loved it at various ages ranging from 18-months-old to 7-years old).
It will keep the bigger kids interested (who doesn’t like having the mic and being the star of the show?) while developing listening skills in the younger set along with enriching their vocabulary and ability to follow directions.
Note: If animals aren’t your kids’ thing, there’s now also this gym version.
(18 months – 5 years)
A Strider Balance Bike has been featured in our gift guides since I started writing them 6 years ago, and it will continue to be for as long as I’m writing them. And this year we’re teaming up with them as a sponsor to share my family’s experience.
All of my kids have been zooming around on Strider Balance Bikes since they were 2-years-old. When I first discovered them, I told every parent I knew about them.
The design makes the whole process of learning to ride a bike so much more natural. Thanks to the genius idea of taking away the pedals and letting the kids pick up their feet and balance when they’re ready.
This is my youngest first trying it out at 18 months with the help of his big brother…
So the idea here is that kids can push around using their feet on the ground and, pretty soon (really soon if they have older siblings they’re trying to keep up with), they pick up there feet and start zooming along. They learn how to balance on a bike completely naturally and at their own pace.
I also really love how lightweight they are. My kids could easily pick theirs up and carry it around as soon as they started using it.
Check out this video of some of the cutest bikers ever and you’ll be totally sold.
It’s great that the design of the bike allows them to get started so young, but the biggest benefit, of course, comes when kids transition to a normal bike.
Balance is by far the hardest part of that process but, with the balance bike, kids already have that down. As a result, it took my kids just a few minutes to figure out how to ride a bike with pedals the first time they tried.
If you’re looking for a first bike, I couldn’t recommend this one more!
$59.95 (ages 2-12)
This is AMAZING for rainy day play.
Such an easy way for kids to set up a fort- set up (and clean up!) is so simple… like 30 seconds easy. Check out this video to see it in action.
My friend got one of these for her kids last year and she reports that they spend hours inside playing together and on their own. This one is going under our tree this year for sure!
$19.99 (18 months – 3 years)
This is the first board game ever made specifically with young toddlers in mind. Toss the big plush cube and identify which colored side faces up. Choose a matching color card and perform the simple activity shown, such as “Make a happy face”, “Moo like a cow” or “Find something blue”.
Designed for parent and child to play together, Roll & Play strengthens bonds and builds confidence while encouraging creativity, active play and gross motor skills.
This seems like a good solution if you’re looking for a family game night selection that can incorporate even your youngest kiddos.
$24.99 (non-mouthing kids – 5 years)
The first thing to say about this toy is, of course, not to leave a child alone with it if they still put things in their mouth. Once you’re out of that stage, though, this is a truly AWESOME way to keep young kids occupied for a really long time. (One of the few so well suited to the preschool set.)
Moms figured out long ago that letting kids sort things in a muffin tin is a great quiet time activity. This play set expands on that idea by adding in multicolored mini muffins, dice, and cards that can be placed inside the muffin tin for sorting and math purposes.
There are also some interestingly shaped tweezers for fine motor work. All in all this one has A LOT of play-ability.
$19.95 (1 – 10 years)
This deceptively simple toy is so much more than it appears. Parents and teachers rave about the hours and hours their kids spend shooting things through this heavy duty tunnel.
This is a great toy to get kids hypothesizing about, “what will happen when I… (put something heavier in, tilt it higher, put more than one thing in it, etc…)
When my friend first introduced me to the Tot Tube, I really liked the idea but wondered if it was worth the money- couldn’t we essentially do the same thing with a cardboard wrapping paper tube?).
What I like about this, though, is that it’s a lot more durable than a cardboard tube, it’s wider shape accommodates bigger sized cars and balls, it can break apart for easy storage or you can attach more than one for a super long tunnel, and the kids can see through it- making it so much more engaging. Read the reviews on this one and I think you’ll be sold.
Read the reviews on this one and I think you’ll be sold.
$31.38 (3 – 8 years)
I particularly like how this particular toy combines fine motor skills with pattern recognition AND adds a great dramatic play element. We got it for our son when he was 4 and he played with it quite a bit until his little old sister took it over.
Our 1 1/2-year-old is started to getting in on the fun sorting and manipulating the pieces with his hands and was off and drilling around the time he turned 2. Now this is one of the first toys he goes to, again and again, when given a choice.
The popularity of this toy has also led to some cool variations, including the Design & Drill Flower Power Station, the Design & Drill Power Play Race Car and, my favorite, the Design & Drill BrightWorks– which is like if the Design & Drill had a baby with the classic Lite Brite from my childhood (in other words, the pieces light up and it’s totally awesome).
$119.99 (2 – 10 years)
I discovered Magna-tiles when my oldest son was 3-years-old via his preschool and they were the big present under the tree for the kids that Christmas. They’re definitely more of an investment but have been COMPLETELY WORTH IT.
Teachers absolutely rave about these blocks and the play possibilities are endless. Because they join together using magnets, kids can create elaborate structures (often taller than they are) without becoming frustrated by crashes.
They’re also great for use with other toys. They can be used along with blocks and LEGOs to make elaborate structures, with marbles and cars to make tunnels, bridges, and marble runs, or even with dolls to create dollhouses.
All of my kids, ages 2 to 8, still play with them multiple days a week. Currently, my 6-year-old loves making elaborate pet stores with ramps and rooms for each of her Disney Princess Palace Pets while my 2-year-old always asks for these first to take to build in his room during “Quiet Time”
We splurged for the 100 piece set and got hours of rainy day fun with these- the higher price was completely worth it.
Note: For an extra $10, these magnetic train bases take the play possibilities to a whole new level and make a great stocking stuffer.
$29.95 (18 mos – 6 years)
Psst – but it’s been on sale a lot lately, be sure to check the link above!!
I’ve been talking about the social and emotional learning benefits of dolls for boys for years in our Best Gifts for Dramatic Play Gift Guide, so I was super pumped about the release of this line of dolls designed specifically to meet those needs while staying in-tuned with boy culture!
Created by a therapist and mom, after her son came home from preschool one day and announced that ‘boys aren’t supposed to cry’. Frustrated by many of the messages boys were (and weren’t) receiving and inspired by the way play influences child development, Wider created Wonder Crew to promote social and emotional learning, build confidence and imagination, and empower boys to see themselves as caring, creative and strong people.
$39.95 (ages 2 – 6)
This was the total sleeper hit of Christmas for my preschool-aged son last year!
I’ll be honest, when my son went crazy for this thing in the store, I thought it was kinda a plastic piece of junk but NO!
Endless dramatic play options keep him and his friends (and even older siblings) busy for so long. The scoop’s magnetic & the cash register reads the recipe cards and gives step by step instructions.
There are even lots of voice prompts, including counting, and a coin slot… I’m telling you, this gets pulled out EVERY. SINGLE. PLAYDATE.
$25.87 (walking – 6 years)
One of the most surprising things about having toddlers and preschoolers is seeing how much they absolutely LOVE to clean! We’ve had
We’ve had a broom and dust pan set for years and it’s always been super popular. The kids really enjoy breaking it out to help with clean up when the opportunity arises or just using it to play pretend. Every toddler we know has this set and totally adores it and around 18-months-old our son started completely freaking out if he can’t find it.
This year, though, I’m thinking of upgrading and totally eyeing this Melissa & Doug Cleaning Bundle- it comes with so much amazing stuff!!
You can also buy The Spray, Squirt, and Squeegee Set at a very reasonable price.
Not only will my toddler be able to sweep, mop, and dust to his heart’s content- he will also get to spray, wipe, scrub, and even squeegee. Do you KNOW how much toddlers love, love, love to spray and wipe down windows, cabinets and anything else they can get their hands on?
Psst – but it’s been on sale a lot lately, be sure to check the link above!!
(12 mos – 6 years)
The play kitchen is a quintessential play toy that I would recommend for every child if you have the space and budget. Seriously – EVERY CHILD.
There are so many different ways kids can play with them – cooking at home, setting up a restaurant, having a tea party, going shopping and unloading the groceries, etc.
Just last night, in fact, I brought home some kid-friendly cooking utensils and before I had even gotten them unpacked my kids had set up a restaurant game with the kitchen; my 8-year-old wrote out the menus, my 6-year-old cooked the food, and my 2-year-old made the deliveries. It kept them busy all night!
In case you are wondering, we bought this for our oldest kids when they were 1 and 3 and couldn’t be happier with it six years later.
I really like the look of the thing and I think the vibrant red is nicely gender neutral. Despite a small footprint, this kitchen still has all the amenities a kid could want and both my kids enjoy regularly playing at it simultaneously.
(Side note: people sometimes ask if kids will get too big for this smaller kitchen – mine are 95% percentile in height and haven’t had an issue). If you’re looking for a big wow gift from Santa, this could very well be it!
Based on how much my 2-year-old (and all my other kids) love the play kitchen, I was so excited when I found the line of Hape Playfully Delicious kitchen tools!
Toddlers absolutely love mimicking what they see adults doing in the kitchen and these toys do such a great job of allowing them to do that. The toaster is my favorite but the bottom two are close runners up:
- Hape – Playfully Delicious – Pop Up Toaster Wooden Play Kitchen Set
- Single Serve Coffe Maker (think a play Keurig)
- Might Mixer (think a Kitchen Aid mixer)
$149.99 (2 – 6 years)
Several indoor play centers and community centers around our town have these Step2 rollercoasters and my kids always flipped when they saw them. Easy for younger kids to get on and off on their own, I have seen first hand how they will get on it over and over and over.
A friend of mine bought one for her kids a few years ago and said it was an excellent toy in the driveway on sunny days and in the playroom on rainy days. And, of course, there’s also a Thomas the Tank Engine version only makes it that much cooler!
One reviewer wrote, “The Thomas Roller Coaster Ride is absolutely amazing! I have two younger kids, a boy and girl who are two and three, and they can’t get enough of it. They have been playing with it for hours at a time. All they have to do is climb up the small steps and take turns going for a downhill ride. Not only does it keep them entertained, it also teaches them about sharing and taking turns.”
$119.97 (2 – 8 years)
We bought our son a train table for his 2nd birthday and we always say it’s one of the best purchases we’ve ever made.
For over four years both he and his sister played with it several times a week. At 4-years-old our oldest was able to completely construct the track by himself using the map and that added a whole new level of building play to this fantastic toy.
I think the model we bought has been discontinued but this one is the same brand and has all of the same key components: a bridge, waterfall mountain, helicopter landing pad, and the all-important drawers for storing all the little pieces.
Note: Over the years we’ve amassed quite a collection of Thomas trains to go with this table and they work great.
$29.99 (2+ years)
This guy literally shoots stars onto the walls and ceilings of your child’s room while she falls asleep (it automatically turns off after 45 minutes).
We picked him up for my son on his pediatrician’s recommendation. We were having trouble with him night wandering and she suggested setting up a routine where he wakes up, turns this on, and goes back to bed (as opposed to a routine where he wakes up and roams around the house).
It worked instantly and there’s something so magical about falling asleep under the stars.
FOR WHEN THEY’RE BOUNCING OFF THE WALLS!
$46.87 (ages 2-7)
Every day around 4:30 PM, when things get real, I used to wonder why we haven’t bought one of these yet. Such a great tool for getting kids’ energy out!
Two of my kids’ buddies had one and they each love to jump and jump and jump on it.
Last year I finally asked my parents to get our toddler an indoor trampoline and recommended this one due to the great reviews… I did not disappoint! It has really been invaluable for getting out pent up energy on cold and rainy days.
And now this year it is even better because this version has a handle that folds down!! That means the entire thing can be tucked away WAY more easily. If you’ve been on the fence about one of these, now is the time to finally get one!
(crawling – 8 years)
This is a new addition to this list this year (and somewhat of a “doh” moment for me). We’ve had several playhuts throughout the years – some cheap, some expensive but more durable – all extremely successful in keeping my kiddos of varying ages happy and busy.
Nevertheless, I still forgot them for this list until I polled my mom friends and they ALL brought up the power of the playhut. Because these guys can be so inexpensive, they’re kind of a no-brainer for me if you have the space.
Also, I LOVE playhuts with tunnels like this one (more than doubles the fun).
In fact, if you don’t have the space to have a play hut set up all the time, I would definitely recommend a tunnel that you can tuck away when not in use.
Last but not least, if your toddler is a huge Paw Patrol fan like mine this Paw Patrol Fire Truck Hut with a ladder is going to blow his mind. This one is a big contender for a Santa present this year!
$60.99 (walking – 7 years)
We have owned a basic water table for years and still get so much use out of it! My toddler plays with it so much that we gated off a portion of our deck, that also has doors into our living room, so that he can freely walk in and out to play with all day long.
To my surprise, even after years of pouring, dunking, sailing, etc. my 5 and 7-year-olds still found themselves drawn to the water table too.
It’s such an excellent toy for getting your kids playing outdoors and we use it in all types of weather. It’s actually great fun to put on our rain gear and go play with it on the deck while it’s raining (plus there’s pretty minimal clean up for playing outside in the rain because they stay out of the mud).
I highly, highly recommend this one and so do the multitude of positive reviews. Just look how next level cool it is!
$55.99 (9 months – 3 years)
This was the hottest new baby toy of the year last year and it’s not too hard to see why. The happy look and bright colors of this little guy will be enticing to any young child and his light up tricks, songs, phrases and dance moves are sure to get them moving and giggling too.
It’s not just for toddlers either. My big kids love the freeze dance function. (I love that it helps them burn off some energy.)
From the manufacturer, “A press of BeatBo’s tummy or any of the buttons on his feet activates fun songs, learning content and dance moves. This futuristic friend even allows mommy or baby to record a phrase, and he’ll remix it into his favorite song! His three modes – Dance ‘n Move, Learning & Games, and Customized Sing-Along – “grow” with baby to make him a fun, entertaining companion for years to come! And all the while, he’s introducing baby to letters, colors, counting, music, cause & effect and more.”
One reviewer wrote, “A very versatile toy for a broad range of age groups. You could put it in front of a baby that has the ability to sit up on his/her own and they could clap and wiggle around to the songs. The flashing lights on the belly are very intriguing as well… For my 30-month old daughter it is very educational.
It teaches colors, the alphabet, and the freeze dance song is a great energy burner and a great tool to teach them that freeze means stop and they have to wait for the next cue. I will certainly buy this for all of my friends’ kids. It was especially helpful when I was trying to make dinner and Hallie wanted to be held and was under my feet, she picked up Little Guy and worked up a sweat dancing. I LOVE it!”
$34.99 (18 months – 4 years)
A few years ago when we had a 20-month-old and a brand new baby, we bought an indoor slide and put it in the upstairs landing between the kids’ bedrooms and it was one of the best things we ever did.
A sturdy plastic slide used inside can be a life-saver when the weather is bad and the kiddos are restless.
This particular slide – highly rated for durability and usability for kiddos young and old – also serves double duty outside as an excellent safe place for toddlers to play while their big siblings scale taller play equipment.
Plus you gotta love how it folds away for easy storage when you’re not using it!
$29.99 (2 – 7 years)
This thing is kind of silly looking but my daughter loves it. There were a couple at her toddler group and she always spent a considerable amount of time bopping happily away on one.
It’s like a one-person teeter-totter, so I can see why a kid would think that was fun. I think the bright colors, small footprint, and reasonable price are quite fun myself and I’m not alone, this one gets tons of rave reviews.
starting at $52 (18 months – 6 years)
This is a very high quality riding toy equipped with multidirectional casters, an easy grip handle, and a comfy 1-inch sponge layer on the seat.
It’s also made with non-toxic materials and is PVC free. You can pick from 6 friendly looking animal designs and two sizes (small for ages 18 months – 3 years and medium for ages 3 – 6 years).
A good friend of ours has the ladybug and bumble bee and they are regularly played with at playdates by all our kids, ranging in age from 2 to 5.
She’s had them for several years now and the grandparents got one for our toddler last Christmas. I can attest that these are lots of fun and built to last.
$24.99 (2 – 4 years)
Whether you want to go high-tech, or keep it simple, there are couple of great backyard T-ball sets available. Just like the
The set includes an easy-to-use oversized bat, 2 oversize baseballs and an adjustable height “T” that adapts to a child’s developing skills. It also has a special “hang-on-the-wall” design for easy small-space storage and you really can’t beat the price.
For a little bit more, you can get the decidedly fancier, Fisher-Price Triple Hit Baseball set with three fun ways to play that progress with kids to help them learn to hit like a pro.
Beginners hit from the tee. When they’re ready for a little more challenge, a simple adjustment converts this battery-powered trainer to pop-up pitch play for rookies: balls automatically pop-up from the base, one after another.
And for pros, the trainer auto-pitches 3 balls from up to 10 feet away. Includes battery-powered trainer, bat and 3 balls and also gets a lot of great reviews.
BECAUSE THEY LEARN BEST THROUGH PLAY
$14.99 (15 mos – 2 1/2 years)
I still remember my son receiving his first set of award-winning Megabloks for his 1st birthday. It took him a little while to figure out (kids typically grasp block building somewhere between 12 and 18 months), but once he did he started building like a mad man and never looked back!
All my mom friends and I love Mega Bloks for our youngest kiddos, even more than the classic LEGO duplos.
The locking mechanism is just a little bit easier for beginners to put together and pull apart. Plus the colors are beautiful and the zippered bag is very handy.
$24.99 (18 months – 6 years)
This set includes a scale, bowl, 3 self-standing spoons and 6 unique cup designs to help children visualize quantities as well as activity cards to guide children in making mystery goo, puffy paint, slime and more.
Because it allows those not quite ready to experiment to get in on the fun too, this is a great toy for siblings of different ages.
Older kids can partake in real concocting while their younger counterparts pour to their heart’s contentment. This is a fabulous toy perfect for playing with at the sink, in the tub, or at the water table.
DRAMATIC PLAY TOYS THEY’LL USE AGAIN AND AGAIN
$25.50 (walking – 7 years)
I had to include this toy vacuum because it was the absolute favorite of my son AND literally every other kid in his toddler group when he was 2 to 3 years old.
The class had 3 of them and there were still daily tussles over them between the kids… and that’s without even being allowed to have the batteries in them. (In fact, if you’re not a fan of toys that make sounds I’d suggest just never putting the batteries in – this will still be a fantastic pretend play toy).
This Disney Minnie Bowtique Vacuum is also really cute and gets great reviews if you’re looking for something a little more, what’s the word, pink!
$19.99 (12 months – 5 years)
$21.99 (1 – 9 years)
Around the time they start walking all kids, girls and boys, ABSOLUTELY LOVE pushing around toy strollers. When my daughter was a toddler, she liked her dolls, but wasn’t obsessed like some other little girls we knew.
Yet she has always adored piling them into her stroller and taking them for a stroll around the house over, and over, and over again. Then her stroller was straight-up commandeered by her 18-month-old brother who also couldn’t get enough of pushing it around all day.
I promise you, if you a buy a toy stroller for your child, it will be one of the most-used toys you’ve ever purchased. Oh, and if you have a girl that does happen to be doll-obsessed, this 3-in-1 pram is a really fun and versatile option too!
Logic follows that if one baby to take care of is good, then twins is even better. And the facial expressions on these two are my favorite, so realistic!
Very similar to the Melissa & Doug Brianna Doll, these twins have soft bodies that allow for laying or sitting and hard arms and legs that easily wipe clean. Plus, there’s two of them! (Basically for the price of one.)
They are also some of the most life-like dolls I’ve seen. These two are now on the top of my birthday gift list for the 1-year-old to 3-year-olds in my life.
$29.99 (2 – 9 years)
The best thing about these dinos are their jumbo size, making them easy to hold and fun to play with. This is a great find if you have a dino lover at home and want a starter set.
If you find your dinosaurs starting to accumulate, this storage box that unzips into a deluxe playmat is also extremely popular.
ART SUPPLIES AT JUST THEIR LEVEL
$14.46 (no longer mouthing toys – 3 years)
As I said, finding engaging toys that build fine motor skills and concentration skills for this age group is HARD. They aren’t interested in the baby toys anymore but a lot of the more advanced toys are still too difficult for them.
This pegboard set seems to be specially designed for the curious two-year-old.
The pieces are the right size for them to easily manipulate and the colorful puzzles are interesting enough to keep their attention but not so hard that they become frustrating.
This one gets great reviews from parents of two-year-olds looking for that elusive perfect toy and we’re getting it for our toddler this Christmas.
$59.99 (2+ years)
There’s nothing like an art easel always set-up and waiting to entice a child to start creating. The folding design of this one makes it easy to store when not in use too, which I love.
One side is a chalkboard, the other’s a dry erase board, and in between the two easel sides is a dowel for holding a butcher paper roll. Pull the paper through to either side of the easel for your child to paint or draw.
Once the painting is complete, the paper can be torn neatly against the top of the frame and set aside to dry. The multiple options for making art will keep kids interested AND allow more then one child to use it at once so it’s great for siblings.
From the Amazon review, “Our preschool-aged toy tester enjoyed working on the easel, whether she was drawing with chalk or painting with poster paints. In fact, her creative output increased significantly with the easel. She especially enjoyed mixing paints to make different colors. Like many children her age, she likes standing while engaged in creative play, and the easel makes it much easier for her to draw and paint large pictures without having to reach awkwardly across a table surface or kneel on the floor.”
This easel along with the Melissa & Doug Easel Accessory Set will get your little artist off and running. And if you just don’t have the room for the big easel, this newer tabletop version is pretty great too.
Although not completely mess-free, Play-doh really is the ultimate quiet time art toy. It’s unbelievably engaging to kids of all ages (it started becoming a huge hit with my youngest around 18-months-old) and, as long as you prep your space well with a tablecloth or large placemats, allows for quick and easy cleanup.
Of course, you can always make your own, but I like to also have a few tubs of the pre-made stuff on hand for when we don’t have time.
I also highly recommend the smart dough tools for tons of tools to keep them occupied.
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