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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.

So you now have a communicative, adventurous 2-year-old at home. While kids this age master new skills daily, they learn the most by watching their parents go about their daily lives and mimic what they see adults doing. 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.” Kids this age vacillate between wanting to play with others and flying solo, so finding toys for 2-year-olds can be tough. When you need gifts for a 2-year-olds, there are a few things to keep in mind.

“What they lack in self-control, older toddlers make up with in enthusiasm and determination. They are also 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.”

You want to invest in toys for 2-year-olds that encourage kids to explore the bright, big world around them. Some great ideas include doctor’s kits, household play items, construction toys, toy lawnmowers, and other imaginative play toys. Books are always a good idea too.

“Toddlers are also ready for 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,” says Parlakian. These toys for 2-year-olds check all of those boxes.

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Kids can try their hand at brushing, inspecting, and even removing teeth with this sophisticated dentist set. (The wooden mouth ensures you won't become their test subject.) Familiarizing toddlers with these tools might even help them be less afraid of the dentist.

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.

It's like a wood Rubik's Cube for toddlers: They manipulate the pieces until all the right parts match up. Or not. All while working on their motor skills.

Kids put the magnetic pieces together to build a whale. Or something they dream up. It helps them refine their motor skills and work on their concentration.

A perfect starter kitchen, this one introduces kids to the concept of real-world toys. It comes with one pot lid, one frying pan, one spoon, and one spatula. The knobs on the stove make clicking sounds, because of course they do.

Kids learn about colors, while working on their fine motor skills, when they use the wooden pincers to grasp a bee and place it in the hive of their choice.

A Rube Goldberg machine for your toddler, this wooden beauty teaches them about gravity, speed, and momentum as they they roll a ball down a dual-sided mountain.

Kids learn all about gears and movement as they spin things around and around.

It's the magnetic version of paper dolls: Kids swap out outfits, hairstyles, and accessories as much as they want, dressing the character over and over again. It's a fantastic way to work on concentration and motor skills.

Sure, this beautiful wood balance board helps kids with their gross motor skills. And it teaches them about staying upright. But in a pinch, it also becomes a bridge or a tray or a tunnel.

Kids learn about shapes and color by playing with these wood magnetic blocks. But that's secondary to the fact these blocks let them create any whimsical, dreamy creatures they dream up. A dinocow? A carhorse? Of course, of course.

A brilliant and compact ride-on that goes from push mode to tricycle mode to bike mode. It comes fully assembled and when you're done, you fold it up and stow it away.

Not only do these pretend foods mimic what kids see at home, they come apart when kids chop them thanks to their self-stick tabs. Kids not only get one pretty awesome pretend play cooking set, but they also hone their motor skills when they put the meal together.

Quite possibly the most beautiful medical kit for kids we've ever seen, this is a kit that can help kids make sense of the real world because they, too, see doctors for check-ups. From a blood pressure cuff to a stethoscope, all made of gorgeous wood, this is the medical kit to get for your kid.

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.

A classic fun toy that never loses this 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.

This deceptively simple and colorful set helps your 2-year-old develop and build motor skills, and recognize different hues.

This no-peddle bike lets kids ages 18 months to 3 years move themselves along by pushing with their feet instead of peddling, eliminating the need to balancing skills they may not have mastered yet. It makes a perfect gift for girls and boys. It's large, no flat tires will withstand the test of time.

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.

Toddlers, and older kids, too, are obsessed with Magna-Tiles for a reason: they look cool, are easy to use, and 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.

This gorgeous set of woodblocks is the very definition of open-ended toy. It includes 70 pieces in 18 colors and tons of shapes, including arches, wheels, a bead threader, a rolling ramp, and shape sorter. And sure, kids have a blast building their empires while also learning the basics of physics and problem-solving.

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.

These are magically fun blocks that stick together, almost like Velcro, so kids can build whatever they want with zero frustration. Plus, these bristly blocks help develop dexterity and hand-eye coordination. And they foster endless, limitless imaginary play.

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. Plus, it works with all other Brio sets, so it grows along with your child.

This dough is solid because it's made from actual ingredients we recognize (like flour) and lets your kids go nuts by making the garden of their dreams. Sorry in advance for the mess, but sensory-play items that provide physical stimulation always rank among our favorite age-appropriate toys for 2-year-olds.

These balls encourage sensory development and physical activity. They're small enough for little hands, but big enough to be thrown or kicked or bounced around, helping kids hone physical skills and learn new ones.

 

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