The Best Toys We've Bought During the Pandemic So Far

Weathering the COVID-19 lockdown with little kids has been tough, but these playthings have made life in our own homes a lot easier.
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Updated August 6, 2020
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When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, parents and their kids hunkered down at home and did their best to devise fun ways of passing the time indoors. As editors at The Bump and parents ourselves, we know all too well what an arduous task that has been. Executive Editor Lauren Kay has an almost 5-year-old son and a 2-year-old girl, and Deputy Editor Ashlee Neuman has a 2-year-old daughter and another one on the way. Let’s just say, toddlers aren’t known for their lack of energy (or impressive attention spans, or penchant for following the rules). But along the way we’ve made some toy purchases that turned out to be total life-savers—and we’re passing along our insider tips to all of you.

Of course, every family’s circumstances are different. Perhaps you live in a large house with access to the outdoors, or in a small apartment where every square inch of floor space is sacred. Perhaps you went a little overboard with toy purchases in an act of desperation, or maybe you’ve been more budget-conscious lately given the economic downturn we’re facing. Lauren and her family wound up unexpectedly spending quarantine in Florida with her parents, where they have lots of outdoor space. Ashlee and her family spent the four months of New York City’s lockdown holed up in their Brooklyn apartment, where they enjoy a small but grassy backyard. Regardless of where you live, your budget or whether you’re still sticking to home or beginning to see life return to (somewhat) normal, we’re betting there’s something here for everyone. We hope they serve your family well.

Image: Courtesy Maisonette


There are few things that’ll keep my 2-year-old entertained and out of trouble for a solid 30 minutes while I make her dinner, but this magnetized building set is one of them. It’s pricey, and I debated over the purchase, but it’s hands-down one of the best toys I’ve bought in a long time. With so many pieces in the set, my husband and I can join in the fun and enjoy some collaborative play too. —Ashlee

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Buy it: Magna-Tiles Metropolis 110-Piece Set, $130,

Image: Courtesy Two Sisters

Bath Bombs

We’ve been stretching out bath time these days, sometimes plopping the kids in the tub for a soak at noon on a rainy day. These bath bombs have a sensational smell and leave my kids’ skin feeling super-moisturized. But the best part is the squishy toy inside—a big hit for the 5 and under set. —Lauren

Buy it: Two Sisters Bubble Bombs, $30,

Image: Courtesy RUSPEPA

Extra-Large Craft Paper

Painting has long been a favorite activity in our house, but when quarantine began, we needed to up our game. I bought the biggest roll of white craft paper I could find—48 in x 100 ft—and when my toddler is in the mood to make a mess, we roll it out on our living room floor and let her go to town. It’s actually fun for the whole family. —Ashlee

Buy it: RUSPEPA White Kraft Paper Roll, $26,

Image: Courtesy Amazon

Amazon Echo Dot

This Echo Dot has been a game-changer for us. My 2-year-old asks Alexa to play dancing music, while my son requests stories. There are a slew of kid features like “Animal Workout” or “Freeze Dance,” which encourages kids to get out their wiggles while using their imagination. Alexa tells jokes too. As a parent, my favorite feature is the timer, which can be set to fast track clean-up time. —Lauren

Buy it: Echo Dot, $40,

Image: Courtesy UWANTME

Water Beads

These are undoubtedly one of my daughter’s favorite toys right now. The tiny beads expand in water and make for fantastic sensory play. She will stand at the kitchen sink for an eternity, in toddler time, scooping beads up with a little cup and transferring them to another. But be warned, the activity requires close supervision (she’s been known to dump cupfuls directly onto the floor) and it can get messy. Stepping on a Lego piece is the worst, but these squishy, sticky balls are a close second. —Ashlee

Buy it: UWANTME Water Beads, $14,

Image: Courtesy Patriot Wholesale Direct


We’ve been doing our best to keep in touch with friends and family by mail. My kids love to draw pictures and dictate letters to the people they love. These postcards are perfect—a full side for colorful masterpieces, and postage is half price. —Lauren

Buy it: 100 Blank Mailable 4”x6” Heavy Duty Postcards, $11,

Image: Courtesy Intex

Kiddie Pool

We weren’t going to find relief at the playground sprinklers, so we opted to get a blowup kiddie pool for our backyard instead. It feels durable, and my toddler has loved splashing around and scooping up water with her toys. We even lined up her little slide so she could land right in the water. Good times. —Ashlee

Buy it: Intex Kiddie Pool, $40,

Image: Courtesy Do A Dot Art

Dot-to-Dot Markers

Mom win: My kids think they’re painting—and there’s no mess! These handheld stampers are easy to grip and truly washable. We used them to play a DIY version of picture bingo, made creative art and even practiced our shapes and colors. If you want more guided fun, you can purchase a Dot Markers Activity Book. —Lauren

Buy it: Do A Dot Art! Rainbow Dot Markers, $17,

Image: Courtesy Harry N. Abrams

Dinosaur Board Book

My daughter is obsessed with dinosaurs, and we have plenty of dino-themed books in the house. But none have captured her heart like this one. It’s a thick book with flaps she can turn on her own and tons of different dinosaurs featured. She has spent a good chunk of quarantine memorizing every single dinosaur’s name (she’s well ahead of me on that front), and I appreciate that it includes the phonetics. —Ashlee

Buy it: Dinoblock by Christopher Franceschelli, $13,

Image: Courtesy Little Tikes

Bounce House

Full disclosure: This is an investment toy. That being said, I feel like we got our money’s worth in a few short weeks. This bounce house is perfectly sized for toddlers (some of our friends set it up in their basements) and easy put up and take down. My kids expend so much energy jumping around—clutch, since all the playgrounds near us are closed. —Lauren

Buy it: Little Tikes Inflatable Jump ‘n Slide Bounce House, $270,

Image: Courtesy Little Tikes


With playgrounds closed, we needed a way for our 2-year-old to stretch her limbs and be active at home. While we don’t have the space for a bounce house, this mini-trampoline fit perfectly in our urban patch of backyard. (Technically it’s labeled as an indoor toy, but we put it outside anyway, so far to great success.) My daughter has spent many an hour practicing her bunny, kangaroo and frog hops. —Ashlee

Buy it: Little Tikes 3’ Trampoline, $60,

Image: Courtesy Kinetic Sand

Kinetic Sand

I never thought I’d add this to my online cart, but I’m thrilled I did. My 2-year-old and 5-year-old sit quietly and play, together! I fill cake and loaf pans with it and burying bits of “treasure” for them to discover. It’s been a huge hit and worth the mess (which isn’t as bad as I feared, comparable to PlayDoh IMO). —Lauren

Buy it: Kinetic Sand, $20,

Image: Courtesy Uncommon Goods

Light-Up Bath Cubes

Like Lauren, we’ve come to view bath time as more than just a cleansing ritual—it’s a fun way to kill 20+ minutes when you’ve got nothing else up your sleeve. These light-up cubes have been a big hit. Those, combined with bath bubbles, foam soap and some simple plastic containers for water play, have led to plenty of giggle-filled soaks. —Ashlee

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