Best Gifts for 2-Year-Olds to Take Playtime to the Next Level

Even the pickiest toddler will be pleased with one of these top toys for 2-year-olds.
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By Martina Garvey, E-Commerce Editor
Updated May 31, 2023
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Image: Walmart
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Whether you view this age as terrible or terrific, one thing’s certain: Finding the best gifts for 2-year-olds can be tough. They might be exhibiting a little more independence and imagination in their play, but they’re still young toddlers with pretty short attention spans. So what playthings are going to really resonate? The best learning materials and toys for toddlers are items that encourage them to express their blossoming sense of self and practice new skills. Here, we break down how to go about picking the right toys for 2-year-olds based on their developmental stage—plus, we’ve selected a few of our favorite presents for little boys and girls.

Looking for age-appropriate goodies for babies or slightly older children? Check out our gift guides for newborns, one-year-olds and 3-year-olds for even more inspiration.

How to Choose Good Gifts for 2-Year-Olds

Your tot’s burgeoning abilities should guide your selection of toys. So what skills are they generally honing right now? At 24 months, your toddler is changing in all kinds of ways! “They’re becoming social butterflies who are finding all kinds of new ways to communicate and move,” says Christina Low Kapalu, PhD, a clinical child psychologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City in Missouri. Your child is probably walking confidently and quite possibly running with ease. You’ll notice other new gross motor skills too. “They can now carry items around, push and pull toys, kick a ball, climb on and off objects and walk up and down steps,” says Low Kapalu.

Toddlers’ fine motor skills are also blossoming at this age. “They can most likely manipulate containers to pour items out, build small towers and create something resembling art on paper,” Low Kapalu says—so construction and craft supplies are a good go-to gift.

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Kids who have just wrapped up their second year of life can usually sort items by shape and color, follow simple directions and identify named items or people. “These little language sponges are absorbing new words daily,” Low Kapula adds, so books you can read with your tot to help build their growing vocabulary are also among the best gifts for 2-year-old girls and boys.

Plus, kids this age can now actually play with a little pal instead of just side by side, and may even begin to show a preference for one playmate over another. They might start to work in some make-believe into their play, so open-ended toys—like animal figurines and dress-up clothing—that encourage kids to flex their imaginations are good bets.

Remember, every toddler is unique and will hit developmental milestones at slightly different times—but regardless, tots at this age are learning and growing at a rapid pace. “Take advantage of your toddler’s ‘learning renaissance’ when selecting toys,” Low Kapula recommends. “Musical instruments, ball-popping toys, hammer and peg sets and building blocks are all likely to be enjoyed.”

Ready to start shopping? Here, some of the best gifts for 2-year-olds to spark their interest and support their learning.

The Best Gifts for 2-Year-Olds Under $50

The best thing about gifting a little one is that money isn’t really an object. Even if you’re on a tight budget and you’d like to give a gift for a 2-year-old under $50, there’s still plenty to choose from. These gifts are sure to be a hit, regardless of the price tag.

Learning toy subscription box

KiwiCo Panda Crate Gift for 1 Year Old
Image: KiwiCo

The best gifts for 2-year-olds make learning anything but boring, and this pick definitely checks that box. KiwiCo’s monthly toddler subscription box is packed with fun, educational projects created by child development experts to promote language and math skills. Bonus: Each themed box is designed to give you and your child some quality time together and includes tips for how to engage, learn and play in different ways.

Plush bowling set

Bowling Friends Preschool Playset
Image: Melissa & Doug

Teach toddlers about cause and effect using this fun bowling set by Melissa & Doug. This easily totable toddler bowling toy features adorable characters in a soft material that’s perfect for little ones. Once playtime is over you can pack everything away in the handy plastic storage bag.

Snuggly sloth toy

Slumberkins Slumber Sloth Snuggler
Image: Slumberkins

There are plenty of toys that drive creativity and foster fine tune motor skills—but the best gifts for 2-year-olds help kids develop emotional intelligence too. That’s why we love Slumberkins—a company dedicated to helping families raise caring, confident and resilient children through affirmations, stories and creature characters. The Slumber Sloth bundle, which includes a board book, lovey and affirmation card, promotes relaxation and positive sleep habits for toddlers—because there’s nothing better than the gift of a good night's sleep!

Monthly book subscription

Little Feminist Book Club
Image: Little Feminist

Fostering a lifelong love of reading starts now, and what better way to introduce new books to your toddler than a monthly subscription box? The Little Feminist Book Club carefully selects inclusive children’s literature designed to teach little boys and girls about empathy and equality. Each month you’ll receive two board books (recommended for ages 0 to 2) or one picture book (recommended for ages 2 to 4) and a discussion card focused on the moral message in each story. Bonus: This book subscription won a Best of Baby award in 2022.

Toddler scooter

Radio Flyer My 1st Scooter Sport Three Wheel Scooter
Image: Walmart

Toddler scooters help little riders develop strength, mobility and coordination skills, making them great gifts for 2-year-olds. And this affordable option from Radio Flyer is a great place to start. Features like a wide, stable base, footbrake and a specially designed turning radius ensure your tot can scoot safely. Just don’t forget to pick up a helmet too.

Personalized storybook

Good Night to You by Sandra Magsamen
Image: Put Me In The Story

Starting a bedtime story habit early on is one of the best things you can do for your child. So a brand new book certainly makes the list of best gifts for 2-year-olds. This one is special, written in rhyming verse and personalized with your child’s name. A cuddly cast of characters will usher your wee one off to dreamland. It’s destined to be a keepsake you both treasure.

Vibrant building blocks

Mega Bloks First Builders Big Building Bag Toy for 1 Year Olds
Image: Walmart

Two-year-olds love to build—as long as the blocks and pieces are sized appropriately for them. If you loved LEGO as a kid, get your little one in on the fun early with these large blocks that are just right for this age group. Fine motor skills get an added boost from stacking, connecting and disconnecting blocks to get a masterpiece just right.

Vibrant tunnel toy

Step2 Ball Buddies Toddler Tunnel Tower Toy
Image: Target

To be sure, balls make for good toys for 2-year-olds—but telling a toddler “no playing ball in the house” is less than fun. This new game keeps it safe and easy. Two toddlers can play together as they take turns loading the lightweight balls and then launching them down the ramp or through a tunnel. The mini dump trucks can be put to work carting balls to and fro too.

Fishing bath toy

Munchkin Fishin’ Bath Toy
Image: Target

Like many of the best gifts for 2-year-olds, this pick helps them develop motor skills and hand eye coordination. Catching the floating bath toys with the magnetic fishing rod will keep tots happily occupied at bathtime. We promise your kiddo will fall for this toy hook, line and sinker.

Wooden alphabet puzzle

Tender Leaf Toys Alphabet Pictures
Image: Maisonette

By their second birthday, kids are ready to beef up their phonics understanding and vocabulary. Picking up this item is an easy decision if a few educational toys for 2-year-olds are still on your shopping list. This wooden alphabet puzzle will help toddlers match each letter to a word, helping them expand their language skills.

Lego learning toy set

Toddlers will love to build, demolish and rebuild this train. The chunky blocks are the perfect size for little hands, and the included figures will spark creative play. Plus, this toy for 2-year-olds will help introduce kids’ to numbers and counting.

Wooden xylophone

Baby Einstein Magic Touch Wooden Xylophone
Image: Walmart

Calling all music lovers! This awesome instrument is a good gift for 2-year-olds who enjoy banging out rhythms and reveling in noise. The xylophone uses “Magic Touch” technology to produce music with the touch of a finger.

Wooden counting toy

B. toys Wooden Abacus Counting Toy
Image: Target

Of course, you can’t go wrong with timeless educational toys for 2-year-olds. Case in point: This wooden abacus with a sweet twist—the counting beads are shaped like fruits! This traditional toy introduces kids to mathematical concepts such as addition and subtraction.

Toothbrush storybook set

Brushies Willa the Whale Toothbrush with Book
Image: Maisonette

Teach kids healthy habits with this unique gift for 2-year-olds. The set comes with a storybook and a toothbrush that doubles as a finger-puppet to make brushing fun.

Plush doll

Manhattan Toy Harper Plush Toy
Image: Neiman Marcus

Plush toys make fantastic gift ideas for 2-year-old girls and boys—a special doll or teddy bear will help them self-soothe when they’re feeling emotional. There are tons of options to choose from, but we like this pick by Manhattan Toy. It’s super-soft, with embroidered features (meaning there are no loose parts), and the best part is it’s machine-washable.

Toy tractor

This gift for 2-year-olds is actually two presents in one—little engineers will relish building the tractor before playing with the finished product. The set, which comes complete with a battery-powered toy drill, plus all the equipment needed to piece the vehicle together, is sure to get your tot’s cogs turning and their imagination all fired up.

Magical unicorn phone

Skip Hop Zoo Unicorn Phone
Image: Skip Hop

Toddlers love to mimic their parents, which is why this toy phone is among the best gifts for 2-year-olds. The unicorn design has a light-up horn, musical buttons and an easy-grip handle designed for little digits.

Dragon stuffed animal

Jellycat Bashful Dragon Stuffed Animal
Image: The Natural Baby Company

Help your little one’s imagination take flight with this sweet stuffed animal. It boasts soft plush wings and tiny horns for little hands to explore and hug. They might even offer to share with their favorite playmate (watch those burgeoning social skills soar!).

Farm playset

Battat Big Red Barn Animal Farm Playset for Toddlers
Image: Kohl's

It’s practically a universal fact that toddlers love animals, so look for toys for 2-year-olds that play into this truth, like this adorable toy barn. It features all of their favorite farm animals, plus doors and stalls they’ll love to open and close. Best of all, the whole kit folds closed for easy storage and includes a handle for playing on the go.

Interactive cookie jar toy

The Learning Journey Count and Learn Cookie Jar
Image: Target

Here’s when you’ll want to catch your kid with a hand in the cookie jar. Before you know it, your little one will be counting to 10 and recognizing numbers. It takes a bit of strategy to get a cookie in the jar the right way (fine motor skills at work), but when they do, they’ll hear the number representing the chips on that cookie. This toy is worth a look if you need ideas for budget-friendly, educational toys for 2-year-olds.

Play tunnel

Pacific Play Tents Fun Tube Tunnel
Image: Target

Never underestimate the power of a toy that offers simple, physical fun. A crawl-through tunnel definitely makes the list of best gifts for 2-year-old boys or girls. We love that this one has mesh sides so little ones can peer out; plus, it folds flat for easy storage.

Sports activity center

VTech Smart Shots Sports Center
Image: Amazon
Buying Options

The concept of playing with a pal is just taking hold at age 2—so bring on team sports! Not only does this soccer and basketball combo toy let your kiddo kick and shoot hoops to their heart’s content, but it also keeps score and plays engaging songs. It’s easily one of the best gifts for 2-year-olds who love to kick, throw and run.

Bath toy set

Boon Pipes Building Bath Toy Multicolor
Image: The Natural Baby Co

Don’t neglect bathtime when thinking of 2-year-old gift ideas: It’s the perfect opportunity for good, clean fun (literally). These pipes suction to the side of the tub to create a pathway for pouring water. Kids love watching the gears whirl and spin while the water trickles back into the tub.

Sensory toy set

Lalaboom Sensory Balls and Educational Beads
Image: Amazon
Buying Options

This set comes with balls, beads and shapes in a variety of colors. Toddlers can twist, pop and stack these colorful objects in a variety of configurations—a great exercise for building those important fine motor skills.

The Best Gifts for 2-Year-Olds Over $50

Looking to spend a bit more on that very special two year old in your life? These gifts for their second year of life are a bit more extravagant, but equally awesome.

Colorful block set

Lovevery Block Set
Image: Lovevery

Your child is on the cusp of being able to confidently manipulate blocks to create whatever their imagination can conjure. Let the building begin with this sturdy construction set, which happens to be a must-have toy for 2-year-olds. It comes with 70 heirloom-quality pieces including a shape sorter, a lacing string and a box that converts into a pull car to keep up with your little one’s blossoming creativity.

Wobble board

Honey Maple Wobble Board
Image: Maisonette

This seemingly simple piece of wood can be a surfboard, a bridge, a slide or a mountain—the only limit is your little one’s imagination. When standing, sitting or sliding on the board, toddlers will improve their balance and strength too, making this one of the best toys for 2-year-olds to work on gross motor skills. To prevent tumbles, always supervise your child while using the wobble board.

Rocket play tent

Domestic Objects Space Ship Tent
Image: Ten Little
Buying Options
Ten Little|$165.00

A tent is an open invitation to imaginative play—especially when it’s in the shape of a rocket ship! Your child’s mind will journey out of this world when they climb inside this cozy space that can fit two kids ready to read, snuggle and play.

Toddler ball pit

Nuby Grey Velvet Ball Pit with 200 Aqua, White, & Grey Balls
Image: Walmart

Nuby Grey Velvet Ball Pit with 200 Aqua, White, & Grey Balls If you’re stuck inside and searching for an activity that’s sure to see daily use, look no further than a ball pit. We love this option by Nuby as it boasts a neutral color-scheme, soft foam walls that are sturdy enough for littles to lean on and a machine-washable cover.

Wooden climber

Lily & River Birch Wood Climber Gift for 1 year old
Image: Maisonette

Anyone with a 2-year-old knows that littles this age want to climb everything in the house (the couch, the banister, the dining room chairs). Give them a designated safe space to practice scrambling with a wooden climber. Kiddos can scale the ladder-like rungs of the triangle, and you can add on the rock wall for added difficulty.

Wooden train set

If you’re on the hunt for extra-special gifts for 2-year-olds (think: birthdays or holidays), this beginner set is a fantastic choice. Wooden Brio trains are among the most classic toys for toddlers, and with good reason: They encourage creativity and hand-eye coordination, and they’re beautifully crafted. This one has a battery-powered train and is compatible with other BRIO sets so you can add more pieces over the years.

Water table

Step2 Rain Showers Splash Pond Water Table
Image: Walmart

Splashing, scooping and pouring water is one of those rare activities that can keep many a 2-year-old entertained for a good long while. This incredible water table is basically a mini water park in your backyard, complete with waterfalls, maze-like spinners, ramps and buckets.

Retro play kitchen

Teamson Kids Little Chef Westchester Retro Play Kitchen
Image: Maisonette

There’s a reason a play kitchens often top the list as the best gift for 2-year-old girls and boys. At this age, toddlers are itching to imitate everything you do, so a pint-sized kitchen is the perfect way to encourage them to imagine making their own meals instead of being constantly underfoot while you cook. Bonus: This stylish version will fit right in with your home decor (look at that cool retro fridge).

Doll house cabin playset

Olivia's Little World Moose Lodge Cabin
Image: Maisonette

A dollhouse is one of the best gifts for 2-year-old girls and boys alike, as it encourages imaginative play and emotional intelligence. Maisonette has some great options, but we like this wooden model that boasts a stylish, gender-neutral design. Plus, it comes fully furnished, so your tot’s dolls or figurines are ready to move right in. Pro tip: Remove any small pieces or parts from a dollhouse as they can be a choking hazard for babies and toddlers.

Plush dino rocker

Wonder & Wise Dinosaur Rocker
Image: Maisonette

A rocker is a classic gift for a 2-year-old—and with good reason. Rocking back and forth burns excess energy, has a soothing effect and helps kids work on their balance skills. This plush dino rocker has an extra comfy seat, a sturdy wooden frame and cute embroidered details.

Luxe pajamas

Petit Plume Pajama Set
Image: Maisonette

Pajamas are a good gift for 2-year-olds and beyond. (Who doesn't love a fresh pair of PJs!) This luxury set by Petit Plume is made from the highest quality cotton that actually gets softer with each wash. They come in a range of prints and sizes with the option to add a monogram for a personalized touch. Plus, you can even get matching doll pajamas—how cute is that?

Little Tikes car

Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Toy for 1 Year Old
Image: Walmart

Millennial parents may be familiar with this classic gift for 2-year-olds: The iconic Cozy Coupe! This snazzy kid-powered vehicle boasts a working steering wheel, doors, horn and durable tires suitable for indoor and outdoor use. This is one of our top contenders for best toys for 2-year-olds.

Virtual preschool learning system

AILA Sit & Play Virtual Preschool Program
Image: QVC

Next up is a high-tech gift for 2-year-olds designed to kickstart their education. Developed by educators, Animal Island Learning Adventure (AILA) is a safe virtual preschool program preloaded onto a hands-free monitor. It promises to improve toddlers' attention spans and aid cognitive development in the early learning years.

Imaginative ride-on toy

Step 2 Paw Patrol Roller Coaster
Image: Walmart

Your tot will be on a roll once they hop atop this colorful Paw Patrol roller coaster by Step 2. With super-easy assembly and many hours of fun guaranteed, this toddler toy is sure to be a favorite. Suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

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