The Best Toddler Toys, According to Child Development Experts

They stimulate their minds and spark their imaginations.

by Elizabeth Alterman
Originally Published: 

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.

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