29 Toddler Toys That Make Playtime Fun and Educational
December 4, 2020
Welcome to toddlerhood! Your little one is growing up and their needs and activity level are quickly changing, which means finding toys that keep them busy can be a tough job. In fact, during this in-between stage, your toddler pretty much has to be constantly engaged to stop them from getting bored. Have no fear: We’ve figured out the best toddler toys that’ll keep them occupied, while also helping to encourage imagination and boost development. Whether it’s physically stimulating blocks and building sets, puzzles and books that promote learning new skills, or a combination of the two, we’ve picked the gifts your tot is sure to love (including some best-sellers our editors swear by). Ready to start shopping? Below are some of the very best toddler toys for your child.
- Age appropriate. Be sure to take age recommendations into consideration before buying that cute toy for your toddler. Resist the urge to buy toys meant for an older child, since these ranges determine what will be safe and developmentally appropriate for your toddler to play with—especially when it comes to children under 3.
- Developmental milestones. Consider purchasing toys for your toddler that are engaging, but also provide important long-term benefits for their physical and mental development. While every child will hit these milestones at different times, toys that encourage learning and motor skills will both delight your growing toddler and help them progress.
- Of interest to your toddler. Even the best toddler toys in the world won’t be of much value if your child doesn’t want to play with them. See what types of toys and games your toddler gravitates toward and follow their lead, while being sure to engage with your child during play by asking questions and allowing them time to reflect.
Melissa & Doug Deluxe Pounding Bench Wooden Toy With Mallet
Yes, this toy looks like a toddler version of “Whack-a-Mole.” While it lets your child unleash their need to pound things, it’s also one of the best toys for toddler brain development, thanks to its potential to reinforce some basic lessons in counting and color identification.
Buy it: $17, MelissaandDoug.com
Boon PIPES 5-piece Building Bath Toy
Make a splash at bathtime with this fun and colorful pipe set. The five pipes can be individually suctioned to the bathtub wall or connected to each other. Toddlers will love engineering their own toy and discovering how water trickles through the pipes. You can also add some matching gears to really help them master the flow.
Buy it: $15, Amazon.com
HABA Symphony Croc Music Band Set
Looking for the best toddler toys that’ll stimulate creativity? Your little one’s first music class is in session! This all-in-one crocodile instrument includes a drum, metallophone, guiro wooden block and bell. It comes with two mallets, making it perfect for play date duets.
Buy it: $40, Walmart.com
KiwiCo Panda and Koala Subscription boxes
For the best toddler toys that keep coming all year, sign up for a subscription. KiwiCo’s monthly or bi-monthly boxes are packed with fun, educational toys and projects designed to promote language development, math skills and more. The best part? They even include tips on how to continue to use the products as your child grows.
Buy it: Starting from $17 per crate depending on the plan, KiwiCo.com
Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set
These may look like traditional blocks, but small magnets are safely hidden inside, so they click together. This 42-piece set has columns, short and long planks, cubes, parallelograms and even wheels. It’s age-graded for the youngest of toddlers but is sure to be played with for years to come, making it one of the best selling toddler toys out there.
Buy it: $110, Walmart.com
Fat Brain Toys Tobbles Neo
Be prepared: This set can be as addicting for parents as they are for kids. Each of the six spheres is weighted differently, so they balance, nest and spin in many more ways than you first imagine. It’s one of the best toddler toys to help them work on fine motor skills and coordination.
Buy it: $29, FatBrainToys.com
Janod ABC Walking Trolley with Blocks
Steady your new little walker (okay, runner) with this unique learning cart. It’s tricked out with 20 wooden alphabet blocks with upper and lower case letters, an abacus, wooden wheels with colorful pinwheel designs and rubber grips.
Buy it: $86, Smallable.com
Lovevery Block Set
A sturdy construction set is one of the best toys for toddler brain development. These 70 heirloom-quality pieces include a shape shorter, a lacing string and a box that converts into a pull car to keep up with your little one’s blossoming creativity.
Buy it: $90, Lovevery.com
Just One You Personalized Book and Cookie Monster Gift Set
Here’s a suggestion for those family members clamoring for your wishlist of best toddler toys. Grandparents will love choosing the special message in the front of this book personalized with your child’s name. Bonus: It features all of their favorite Sesame Street characters and a cuddly cookie monster to snuggle while you read.
Buy it: $55, PutMeintheStory.com
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 toddler brain development.
Buy it: $149, TheTot.com
Melissa & Doug Emergency Vehicles Set
Vehicles are among the best toys for toddler boys and girls, as they offer tots loads of fun as they “drive” these toys around and imagine different play scenarios. This set of emergency first responders offers additional learning, as it gives you and your child the opportunity to discuss the importance of these helpful professions.
Buy it: $25, MelissaandDoug.com
Hape Toys Playful Piano
Musical instruments make for fantastic toys at this age—after all, what little kid doesn’t like to make noise? This cute and sturdy upright piano features 18 kid-size keys in the ideal width to encourage proper finger placement. If you’re shopping for the best toddler toys that’ll entertain them for years to come, you may have just found the perfect one.
Buy it: $80, SaksFifthAvenue.com
Hollow Woodworks Personalized Maple Puzzle Stool Bench
The best toddler toys do two things at once, which is why we love this wooden stool that doubles as a personalized puzzle game. The bench can give your toddler a boost and will look super-cute in the nursery, while the easy-to-grasp removable name pieces will help them learn letters and colors.
Buy it: Starting at $100, TheTot.com
Learning Resources Learn-A-Lot Avocados
Your whole family already loves avocados, but who knew they could also be one of the best toys for toddler brain development? These four avocados pop apart and click shut with ease, helping kids build hand strength, coordination and fine motor skills. Each features a different colored interior and two emoji-style faces that change with every roll. The cute crate for easy storage is just the cherry on top.
Buy it: $15, Target.com
Boon Marco Light-Up Bath Toy
Playthings that’ll keep baby busy during bathtime are definitely one of the best toddler toys you can get, and we love Marco, a deep-sea diver who lights up as soon as his toes touch the water. Your child will love to watch as the light changes color, making getting clean even more fun. He automatically turns off when the water drains—convenient when you’re busy getting everyone ready for bed.
Buy it: $17, Amazon.com
Jellycat Medium Odell Octopus Stuffed Animal
A beloved British brand, Jellycat is known for irresistibly tactile and oh-so-soft stuffed animals, and are some of the best selling toddler toys around. This gangly octopus, sporting ribbed, floppy tentacles, is the ideal size for toddler hands to explore.
Buy it: $25, Bloomingdales.com
Mega Bloks First Builders Building Bag
The easy-to-grab shapes and bright colors make these stackable blocks one of the most popular toys for toddlers. With 80 blocks in different shapes and sizes, these building blocks give newly minted toddlers the perfect opportunity to get creative with their building.
Buy it: $25, Walmart.com
Skip Hop Zoo 3-in-1 Ride on Toy
This colorful multiuse wheeler has three modes of play, making it one of the best toddler girl toys, since it’ll last them through all of toddlerhood. Whether she still needs the assistance of a walker or is teetering around on her own, she can use this ride-on toy to boost her motor skills for walking, riding or eventually, scooting her way around the house.
Buy it: $65, SkipHop.com
Janod Zigolos Duck Stacker
Matching, sorting, stacking! Toddlers will get plenty of pincer-grasp practice as they fiddle with these rainbow-hued duck rings. Burgeoning color- and number-recognition skills will also get a workout, especially when you join in the play.
Buy it: $29, Smallable.com
Pottery Barn Kids Alphabet Puzzle
Add this wooden puzzle to your list of the best toys for toddler boys (and girls!). Why? Because it’ll help toddlers practice hand-eye coordination, motor skills and imaginative play.
Buy it: $29, PotteryBarnKids.com
Zoomie Kids Vong Playhouse
This colorful toy-shop-themed playhouse will look equally adorable indoors and out. It’s made of cotton, features three windows for plenty of air circulation and comes with a storage bag. What sets it apart, though, is the craftsmanship and attention to detail on everything from the striped roof to the benting and embroidery. Check out the rest of the collection for a bunch of matching accessories that’ll up the cuteness factor even more.
Buy it: $409, Wayfair.com
Melissa & Doug Wooden Toddler Play Kitchen
A play kitchen is one of the best toddler toys to keep them entertained for hours. This one includes an oven, stove, microwave, sink, refrigerator (with a working “ice” dispenser) and freezer, as well as plenty of storage space for easy cleanup. There are plenty of details that give it an adorable yet realistic feel, including a spinning microwave plate, a grocery checklist and moveable hooks. The best part? It’s super easy to assemble.
Buy it: $200, MelissaandDoug.com
PopOhVer Plush Foodies Bundle
Get your toddler some cute play food to go along with their new play kitchen. We like this bundle that includes both breakfast and lunch, from donuts and cookies to fruits and veggies. The plush and soft material can be washed in cold water after your little one has enjoyed one too many meals.
Buy it: $45, Maisonette.com
Kinetic Sand Folding Sand Box
Trust us, this is one of those best selling toddler toys that’s equally enjoyed by adults. Like magic, this special sensory sand sticks to itself (meaning you don’t have to vacuum up bits of sand after playtime). Perfect for building sandcastles and more, without the need to hit the beach!
Buy it: $30, Target.com
LEGO DUPLO My First Bricks
When it comes to choosing the best toys for toddler boys or girls, you can’t go wrong with a classic blocks set. Designed specifically for tiny hands, this building kit from LEGO lets little ones create to their heart’s content. They’ll have so much fun building, they won’t suspect they’re honing their motor skills and critical thinking while they’re at it.
Buy it: $30, Target.com
Manhattan Toy Tree Top Adventure Activity Center
You know those awesome wooden activity stations they have in preschools? They make some of the best toys for toddler brain development. Here’s the colorful at-home version. Four learning quadrants offer different tot-favorite activities, such as bead runs and gliders.
Buy it: $116, Maisonette.com
DJECO Magic Painting Kit
A set that encourages their creativity and artistic expression is one of the best toddler toys you can give them. These animal-cutout cards have plastic sleeves so little ones can fingerpaint without getting their hands dirty. Just squirt paint inside the card, let your toddler create, and then wash it all off to inspire again on another day.
Buy it: $33, Amazon.com
Disney Store The Child Plush
Your toddler may not be a Star Wars superfan (yet!) but they’re sure to love this plush mini version of the Child, aka Baby Yoda, from the TV show The Mandalorian. He comes with his own soft “hover pram” crib and fleece and suede robe and is sure to be one of the best selling toddler toys this year.
Buy it: $25, ShopDisney.com
Schwinn Roadster Tricycle
This is one of our all-time favorites on our list of the best toddler toys. We love the retro vibe, as well as the fact that the rear deck is made of genuine wood with a burnt-in logo. Plus, the seat can be moved back as your child’s legs grow, while the low center of gravity makes for a stable, easy-to-control ride.
Buy it: $110, Kohls.com