May contain affiliate links. See my disclosure page for more information. Note: All prices were under $25 as of original publication date, December 2018.
In December 2017 I wrote a gift guide on the best toys for babies and toddlers. This year, I decided to break them out into separate posts so I could highlight more toys, and so gift givers could focus in on the age group they needed. Accordingly, here is my list of best toys for toddlers.
Finding the Right Toys for Toddlers
Toddlers can be tough to shop for. They’re too old for the baby toys, but too young for the preschooler toys. They’re in a weird toy void.
I’ve raised one toddler and am in the midst of raising my second so I’ve gotten some good experience on the best toys for toddlers. I intentionally made this list as neutral as possible. These gifts will work for boys or girls, and they don’t need to be into specific characters or TV shows. By making this list as broad as possible, I am confident you’ll find at least one thing on this list that will delight your toddlers!
Best Toys for Toddlers: Budding Artist
Alex Art Fantastic Spinner: Did you have spin art as a kid? Here’s an updated version that’s even easier to use, and less messy! Both of my boys love this toy. They love making their own creations and giving them as presents to the grandparents and aunts.
Kinetic Sand: My kids have probably spent hours playing with kinetic sand. I even like to play with it! We give them a tray and a few cookie cutters and they go to town with it! It’s a toy that has some life to it too. My older son is 4.5 and still enjoys playing with it, making it a great frugal toy.
They come in a variety of colors so you can get one that appeals to your child. Some come with molds to make castles or other structures. My advice? Stick to just the kinetic sand and go to the dollar store to get some sand castle molds. You’ll end up saving a few bucks!
Magna Doodle: Another classic toy from my childhood that I’ve enjoyed sharing with my kids. Now that my big one is learning letters, it’s great for practice! It’s also a good toy to bring for car rides to keep them entertained and whine-free. You can get a mini version too, which is even better for travel. Anything that helps with that surely qualifies for my list of best toys for toddlers!
Play-doh: Play-doh is my go-to toy for when I need to occupy the kids for a few minutes so I can get something done, like cook dinner or go to the bathroom! My younger son especially can play with the stuff for twenty or thirty minutes, which as you probably know is the equivalent of HOURS in toddler time!
Lite Brite: This isn’t the Lite Brite you had as a kid! Battery operated with new LED bulbs, it’s brighter and more fun than the ones we had growing up! Your little ones can use the templates to make beautiful light pictures, or let their own creativity flourish and make their own designs. Just make sure your child is past the mouthing stage before you introduce this toy.
Aqua Doodle Mat: This toy will be under the tree for my kids this year, and I’m excited to see them try it out. I love that they can have all of the fun of painting, but without as much mess. And since both kids can play with it at the same time, it definitely warrants a spot on my list of best toys for toddlers!
Best Toys for Toddlers: Budding Engineers
Learning Resources Gears: My eldest received this as a gift and it was a quick favorite, for both him and my engineer-husband! My son loves creating things with his gears and it’s great daddy-son time. Now my littlest one is getting in on the building time too! I would definitely recommend these for curious minds and hands.
Wood Construction Toys: I love that these ones from Makit are wooden. Many of the wooden construction toys that I was familiar with from childhood are now made out of plastic. The creations are endless with toys like this! In my house, they’ve been microphones, helicopters, houses, and abstract art that is worthy of MoMA!
Best Games for Toddlers
Since I found out I was pregnant with my first son, I was looking forward to playing games with him. But it can be hard to find board games for toddlers that they don’t get frustrated with. These are sure to win your toddler’s approval, and you might not even mind playing them…over, and over, and over again.
Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game: The goal of the game is to fill your tree with each one of the five colors of acorns, while avoiding the sneaky squirrel that will steal your acorns. This is an adorable, creative game that won me over, and won a spot on my list of best toys for toddlers.
Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game teaches kids about taking turns, colors, and counting. It also builds fine motor control. I’ve played this game over and over again, but I still don’t mind when the kiddos want to play it “just one more time!”Chutes and Ladders: This one probably looks familiar from your childhood. Get to the top of the game board using the ladders and avoid the slides that will send you back down to the bottom. Enjoy teaching your children how to play a game that you enjoyed playing as a child. They’ll be amazed that you played it as a kid too!Candy Land: I was addicted to this game as a child, and I don’t know a single adult that didn’t play it when they were kids. It was a no-brainer that this had to be on my best toys for toddlers list. It’s going to be under the tree for my kids this year and I’m excited to make my way to the castle. And if you don’t mind spending a few more dollars, you can get the retro 1967 version, the My Little Pony version, or the Disney Princess version.
Hi Ho Cherry-O: Yet another classic (are you sensing a pattern here?)! Use the spinner in a race to fill the basket with your fruit first, but avoid the dogs, birds, and spilled baskets!
These may not exactly be board games in the traditional sense, but they’re still worth mentioning.Let’s Go Fishin’: Flip the switch on this game and the fishies will go around and around. Your job is to catch them! Whoever gets the most, wins! This game builds hand-eye coordination and a whole bucket of patience…even for adults!Connect Four: Yet another one that you may have had in your toy box as a kid! Whoever lines up four of their color first wins!
Peg Board Puzzles: Puzzles are great for hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and problem-solving, and Melissa & Doug make great ones for toddlers. When it’s time for some quite time with your toddler pull out these puzzles and enjoy a moment of peace.
Best Toys for Toddlers: Pretending
Pretending and role playing is so important for child development. Grow their budding imaginations with these toys that encourage creative play.Melissa & Doug Wooden Make-a-Cake Mixer Set: Does your toddler love to follow you in the kitchen? Put them to work making their own cake with this cute mixer set. My kids’ imaginations have taken them far beyond what was supplied, and all sorts of ingredients have been spun by this mixer. My littlest one has become an expert at making “juju bean (jellybean) pie!”
If your little one really loves to cook, hit up the dollar store to get some cheap cooking utensils. They make great stocking stuffers!
Learning Resources Pretend and Play Camp Set: We are a family of campers, so my boys love this camp set from Learning Resources. And my husband and I love to watch them pretend to camp. Build a fort out of blankets and pillows so they have a tent to go with it!
B.’s Deluxe Medical Kit: Every kid plays doctor at some point, so give your toddlers the tools to really let their imaginations run wild! I love this kit by B. because it contains several pieces to let kids explore. They can take blood pressure, give shots, listen with a stethoscope, and more. My kids like to use the scissors to give me haircuts! (Combo doctor’s office and stylist – not a bad idea!) The kit is durable and colorful, making it a sure winner on this list of best toys for toddlers.
Housekeeping Set: I don’t know what it is, but my kids love brooms and mops. The problem is, with the grown-up sizes, they’re likely to knock things off the counters or wipe each other out. That’s why this play set is so perfect. They can mop and sweep to their heart’s content and I don’t have to worry about them breaking everything in arm’s range! Now, if only their desire to clean lasts to their teenage years!
Best Toys for Toddlers: Energy Busters
Need some toys to burn the never-ending toddler energy? Here are my picks!
Indoor/Outdoor Bowling Set: Practice hand-eye coordination with bowling! These sets can be used indoors or outdoors, and I’ve found them especially helpful on days with poor weather when the kids can’t go outside to play. They also come in toddlers’ favorite characters, such as Paw Patrol, Mickey and the Roadster Racers, My Little Pony, and more!LeapFrog Learn and Groove Musical Mat: My two year old loves this toy. Whether he wants to play one of the games or just go freestyle he loves hopping along this and having it make music. Even my four year old gets in on the fun. Some of the concepts are a bit advanced for a two year old, but as long as he can hop along and make noise, he’s happy!
Pogo Foam Jumper: Think of this as an intro pogo stick for the littlest jumpers. My boys are high-energy so they’re both getting these this Christmas. I’m excited to see how they like them! There are tons of color combos so you can find one that suits your little kangaroo!
Bonus! Stocking Stuffers
Stocking stuffers can be tough for little ones. Here are some of my go-to options for my little guys:
- Toothbrushes (does that make me a bad mom??)
- Sidewalk chalk
- Crayola bath dropz
- Silly putty
- Finger paint
If you have toddlers on your list, I hope this helped spark some ideas. All are toys that my kids have really had a lot of fun with over the years. What else would you include on this list? Drop a line in the comment field below! And before you start your shopping, make sure you check out Ebates to get cash back on your purchases!