The Best Toddler Toys, According to Child Development Experts
They stimulate their minds and spark their imaginations.
If you have a toddler, this isn’t news: Kids 1 and older are suddenly much more articulate and outspoken than their younger peers. They’re curious and active. And they’re also pros at throwing tantrums with abandon and saying no to everything, while still learning how to wait their turn, make choices, and play well with other kids. The best toddler toys cater to their strengths: They keep these ever-evolving little humans engaged and occupied, while also stimulating their minds and sparking their imaginations.
“Toddlers want to do more for themselves and want toys that give them a sense of independence and mastery. Stacking rings, simple knob puzzles, chunky toy cars and trains, big balls, and push-toys they can move,” says Rebecca Parlakian, the senior director of programs at Zero to Three. “They learn about the world by watching their parents, so get them toys like medical kits, construction sets, or toy lawnmowers.”
And pick stuff that challenges them to solve problems, like wood blocks they have to learn to stack and more complex puzzles they need to figure out how to put together. One thing to keep in mind: Toys that light up, make noise, and provide a few minutes of entertainment. They’re usually one and done, because there’s no inherent work involved in pressing a button.
Hape's toys almost look like heirlooms, and this 3D dome magnetic maze lets kids use the magnet in the bird's beak to drop beads into the slides. This is a toddler toy that's great for group play. It also encourages open-ended play, and the development of fine motor skills as kids try to get the beads where they need to go.
This wood play table from one of our favorite brands has eight different activities to help kids develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. It has colors, patterns, and attached pieces that turn, roll, flip, spin, slide, and just generally keep your toddlers engaged and happy.
Sorting shapes is an integral part of child development. This set is made from recycled plastic, and the shapes are the perfect size for little hands to try and fit them into the correct slots. They learn color-matching, and without all the bells and whistles, kids are more likely to use their imagination.
This isn't just a ride-on toy. Oh no. The Pewi YBike can be used for riding, pushing, sitting, and supported walking. It's great for kids nine months and older. It helps toddlers develop their balance, coordination, strength, confidence, and spatial awareness, all under the guise of having fun. And it works best on smooth surfaces, in the home.
Suitable for kids three and up, this toddler workbench is a treasure trove of education, entertainment, and stimulation. It's the perfect size for little builders, and includes a functioning vise, a tool rack, wooden tools and hardware, and a storage shelf. Your kid's imagination will run wild, and he and she can hone hand-eye coordination skills as well.
Ideal for kids ages two to five, these cardboard blocks provide endless opportunities for them to create castles and cities and forts and whatever else they dream up. The set includes 40 blocks in three sizes, with a wipe-clean surface for simple clean-up.
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