The Best Gifts For 2-Year-Olds, According to Child Development Experts
These toys will help them develop independence, be creative, and make sense of the world.
When buying gifts for 2-year-olds, prioritize toys that speak to their developmental progress as well as their interests. You want to invest in 2-year-old toys that encourage them to explore the big, bright world around them. Some great ideas include books, doctor’s kits, household play items, construction toys, toy lawnmowers, and other toys that encourage them to use their imagination and mimic the activities they see happening around them. Books are always a good idea too.
While 2-year-old kids tend to master new skills daily at this age, they learn the most by watching their parents go about their daily lives. They are avid observers of… you, says Rebecca Parlakian, the senior director of programs at Zero to Three. “Imitating how you use your phone, carry your bag to work, or make dinner is how toddlers learn about the world.”
Kids this age also vacillate between wanting to play with others and flying solo. They’re starting to speak in simple sentences and are honing the fine art of defiant behavior, so most likely, your toddler’s favorite word, at this point, is a strident, uncompromising “no.”
“What they lack in self-control, older toddlers make up with enthusiasm and determination,” says Parlakian. “This determination can be channeled towards toys that challenge their emerging problem-solving skills, like good old wooden blocks, simple puzzles, and even art materials like washable crayons, markers, and paints.” These editor-picked 2-year-old toys check all of those boxes.
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The Best Creative Play Toys For 2-Year-Olds
Toddlers, and older kids, too, are obsessed with Magna-Tiles for a reason: they look cool, they’re easy to use, and they encourage creativity. This set made our Best Toys of 2019 list. The open-ended quality of the tiles is everything you want in a toddler toy.
Every kid needs a place to call their own, and this beautiful and easy-to-store play castle from Wonder and Wise hits the nail right on the head. Kids can enter the five-foot by six-foot castle via the drop-down drawbridge, and it has enough of a footprint to squeeze in an ambitious dad willing to make a sleepover happen inside. Plus, it can fold up and disappear into any closet when not in use.
Always scrambling around looking for paper to get a fresh art project started for your artistic little two-year-old? We have an answer: this sturdy Paper Dispenser from Melissa and Doug that can hold 75-foot long rolls of 12-inch wide paper that you can rip off and refresh at the end of each drawing session.
This 12-piece Rainbow Stacker from Grimms is deceptively simple-looking but incredibly engaging. The color scheme and straightforward stacking structure is just simple enough to keep kids busy without proving frustrating. As a bonus, it looks pretty enough to leave out after a little one is done with it.
Alphabet blocks are as classic as they come, and this wooden set, which is corralled in a lovely wagon, has vintage good looks. The best learning toys for 2-year-olds grow with them as they build skills. In the beginning, your toddler will have fun sorting these blocks by color; by the time she's 5, she'll be spelling out sight words.
We recently gave this very set to a 2-year-old and watched as she played with it for an hour, utterly mesmerized. She used the discs, spheres, cones, and funny ears to make elephants and unicorns and didn't even realize that in doing so, she was developing her color and shape recognition and fine motor skills.
These crayons from Hape are designed specifically for small hands, thanks to their triangular shape, allowing very small kids to relax into larger-scale art projects. These Easy Grip Crayons from Hape fit various little grip preferences organically and are non-toxic in case your toddler mistakes it for a mouth-friendly toy.
The pure joy of watching a kiddo go full Elton John on a just-their-size piano might be worth the loud discord it brings to your domicile. One reason to go with the Melissa & Doug piano is its durability - one tester purchased this piano for their child’s second birthday and listened to the kiddo playing it two weeks after their fifth birthday.
When you're looking for toddler gift ideas, the chance to imitate a parent will always win points. To boost your 2-year-old's imagination, you get kid-safe tools made from durable, soft plastic. The set includes a saw, hammer, screwdriver, wrench, drill, and toolbox.
This kit strikes that delicate balance for a two-year-old of engaging enough to keep your wee one interested while not being so complicated that it will induce a frustration-fueled meltdown. Credit the myriad large and tactile animals to play with coupled with a simple scene and fun noise-making blocks to build into the play.
Don’t let the beautiful simplicity of these tools fool you. This seven-tool wooden tool set, coupled with a decent-sized bin and any type of tactile substance (we like dried brown rice or black beans) puts busy little hands and brains to work for a remarkable amount of time. Think of it as a tiny sandbox that doesn't require an outfit change after use.
It's magic! Actually, it's not, but it sure will seem like it to your toddler. These soft foam blocks are magnetic and rotate 360 degrees. They help kids learn all about shapes and colors, and encourage open play, as kids create mythical sea creatures or magical castles or whatever else they dream up.
Magnatiles are great gifts because of their seamless integration with each other - you can’t have too many sets. While any set can add to a growing joyful Magnatile collection, this Arctic Animal one offers plenty of fun build-and-play opportunities the magnetic animals deliver. Plus, the iceberg tiles integrate perfectly with other Magnatile sets.
We can't say enough great things about this STEM set: It's an open-ended toy construction set that comes with 67 play components, a battery-powered record and play unit, and working tools sized for 3-year-old hands. Here's the kicker: Kids can record sounds so whatever they build plays back what they recorded. And making farting sounds never gets old.
Another standout toy, this one lets kids create their own waterpark. Sure, it's a bit messy. But who cares? Just wipe up any spills and let your child go to town, turning the crank to help the water flow and thus creating a lazy river, and moving the floating rafts and animals around. It's hands-on STEM learning at its best.
Pretend foods are wonderful to have on hand, because they allow kids to mimic what they see their parents doing. Which, quite often, is making something to eat. This delightful set includes one turtle-shaped toaster, one plate, two slices of toast, two bagel slices, and a knife for buttering the toast. Thus working the fine motor skills.
Trains help kids explore and learn about their environment. And you really can't get much better than this Brio set, which includes a railway engine, animal wagon, five wooden animal characters, an interactive farm, two curved railway tracks, and two ramp tracks. Kids learn the basics of building and connecting things together with this classic train set, which encourages open-ended play. This makes it one of the most practical gifts for 2-year-olds. Plus, it works with all other Brio sets, so it grows along with your child.
Good ol' Play-Doh not only challenges kids to make stuff cooked up by their imagination, they then serve up the pretend food at pretend meals. Kitchens are key to fostering pretend play. And this Play-Doh cooking set comes with cutters, a knife, fork, spoon, plate, six cans of Play-Doh, and food attachments. Dinner is served.
This gorgeous art easel is at home in the playroom or your living room. It comes with a roll of paper, chalks, paints, jugs, and brushes; one side of the easel is a white magnetic board and the other side is a chalkboard. And there are three cup holders for markers, brushes, and crayons. It's something that will last forever and look good doing it, while also encouraging self-expression and creativity.
The Best Educational Toys For 2-Year-Olds
Magnets are cool. So very cool. This set of weird and offbeat magnetic shapes come together to mimic what kids see on one of the 24 included cards. They can either follow the card challenges, or veer off and do their own thing. Either way, they learn about shapes and colors, and are immersed in problem-solving as they try and decide what piece goes where.
One hedgehog feels lumpy. Another feels squiggly. Yet another feels smooth. Kids get a sensory experience, and learn to recognize colors and shapes, when they hide them in the treehouse and then find them based on their five textures.
These 24 textured squares are easy to put together and pull apart, so there's much less frustration as children concentrate on building soaring skyscrapers and towering castles. They're a better option for kids who prefer to work with the same shapes.
Kids work on their fine motor skills while also learning about feelings. It's a win-win with this clever toy, which features avocados that come with a spinning pit that displays unique emotions. Children learn to identify what it means to be sleepy or happy or frustrated.
The Best Active Toys for 2-Year-Olds
A classic fun toy that never loses its appeal, this spinning saucer teaches toddlers to sit, spin, and balance themselves. Sometimes, we forget that simple can be spectacular. This spinning saucer is not only fun, but helps toddlers practice balance, coordination, and motor skills.
We don't normally like toys that light up and play music, but this one is an exception because it encourages movement. This sweet little puppy plays music when kids pull her around, thus building gross motor skills. Plus, when kids push her buttons, they learn numbers and colors.
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