11 Best Toddler Toys, Tried and Tested by Kids
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. Have no fear: We’ve figured out the best toddler toys that’ll keep them engaged, while also helping to encourage imagination and boost development. Whether it’s building sets that hone motor skills, puzzles that promote critical thinking or pretend playsets that pique the imagination, we’ve picked the playthings your tot is sure to love.
To help figure out which toddler toys are best, we turned to the experts—a behavior analyst, and real parents with toddlers at home. Keep reading for advice on what to look for when shopping, plus top-rated toys for every stage of toddlerhood, including this year’s Best of The Bump award winner.
The toddler years are a time of growth and change, making it difficult to keep pace with your child’s evolving interests and developmental needs. To help you out, we spoke to Jana Sarno, BCBA, a board-certified behavior analyst, for tips on what to consider when shopping for the best toddler toys.
- Choose toys that are appropriate for your child’s age. Be sure to take age recommendations into consideration before buying that trending 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.
- Check toys with small parts. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), toys that can fit entirely in a child’s mouth pose a choking hazard and are unsafe. Items with small parts that can break off are equally dangerous, as Sarno points out that they can also become choking risk or may have sharp edges.
- Look for developmental features and learning opportunities. “Caregivers should keep their child’s stage of development in mind when choosing toys to keep them safe and engaged, but also to incorporate play that encourages learning,” Sarno says. Simple toys like stacking cups that focus on motor skills and sensory integration might keep a one-year-old happy, whereas older toddlers might prefer something they can include in imaginative games and roleplay.
- Keep your child’s needs in mind. Every child develops at their own pace, so it’s important to consider their unique likes and dislikes when selecting new toys. “Young toddlers or children who have sensory sensitivities might be frightened by toys that talk or make loud noises, so gauge your child’s own preferences before bringing new items into the mix,” advises Sarno.
- Seek out toys that grow with your child. “I like to consider longevity and the range of uses when choosing toys,” Sarno says. For example, doll houses and kitchen sets are good for a wide range of ages, but how kids play with them can evolve as they get older.
- Avoid toxic materials. Young toddlers (and sometimes older children) have a penchant for putting items in their mouths. If this sounds familiar, stick to non-toxic, taste-safe items. “STEAM activities and toys that use substances like kinetic sand, slime and paint can be a lot of fun but may not be appropriate for all children,” stresses Sarno. If you do buy your child one of the items listed above, keep a close eye on them as they play.
To find the best toddler toys out there, we enlisted parents (and their kids) to thoroughly test the leading options on the market across several key toy categories. Our product testers unboxed and assembled these toys, then gave them to their toddlers (and, often, their older siblings) to observe how they played with them. Based on their reviews of ease of use, play and entertainment value, learning and skill-building benefits, durability, value for money and—the big test—their child’s reaction, as well as our extensive research and survey feedback from hundreds of new parents within The Bump community, we’ve rounded up the best toddler toys for children ages 1 to 3.
For more than 10 years, The Bump has been recognizing the absolute best pregnancy and parenting products on the market through our awards series. Curious to see which toddler toy was named the Best of The Bump award winner this year? Keep scrolling for our overall favorite, plus a list of top-rated toys that are particularly good for specific interests and types of play.
Crowned the Best of the Bump winner, this pick by Avenlur is the gold-standard of toddler toys. In fact, our product tester and her child loved this toddler climbing toy so much, she awarded it a perfect 5 out of 5 score across all categories, praising it as a durable, highly entertaining toy that offers excellent value for your money.
The three-piece set includes a climbing triangle, a dual-sided slide and an arch that doubles as a rocker. Minimal assembly is required—our tester nailed it in five minutes flat—and it can be configured many different ways so kids never get tired of playing with it. Described by our tester as “incredibly stable, safe and appealing,” this wooden toy is built to last. Better yet, it folds away for easy storage when not in use.
But what makes this toy so appealing to young children? Toddlers have a natural urge to move and explore, and climbing toys give them a safe outlet to do so. This was on display for our product tester, who said, “my daughter didn’t need any explanation when she first saw the climbing set—she even asked for her own configurations and played with it for over an hour!” With three climbing surfaces to scale, this toy helps kids develop gross motor skills, practice problem-solving and gain confidence. Early walkers can use it to pull themselves upright, toddlers can gradually find their way over the top and slide down the ramp, and older children can use it to climb, build forts and more.
With so many great features, it’s no surprise this toddler toy was chosen as the overall best toddler toy of 2023. (A full list of this year’s Best of The Bump winners can be found here.)
Age range: 1 to 5 years | Dimensions: 59.5" (L) x 19.7" (W) x 17.7" (H) | Weight: 23.9 lbs. | Batteries required: No
“The minute my daughter saw the climbing set she loved it, and immediately played with it. She came up with her favorite configurations (there are tons of varieties) and has been playing on it every single day for at least an hour or more!”
- Suitable for every stage of toddlerhood and beyond
- Can be used in multiple configurations
- Made from sustainable New Zealand pine
- Large footprint
Melissa & Doug is known for its top-quality toys, and this playset is no exception. This pretend ice cream shop is a feast for the eyes and the imagination. “My children love it!” said our product tester, who gave it a perfect 5 out of 5 score across a broad range of categories, including play and entertainment value, learning and skill-building benefits, and her childrens’ reaction.
Crafted from FSC-certified wood, this counter comes pre-assembled—the whole playset only took our product tester about six minutes to set up from start to finish, so “the kids were able to start playing with it right away.” The candy-colored ice cream shop is decorated with an assortment of frozen treats and comes with tons of accessories. It’s large enough for multiple kids to play with at once, but has plenty of engaging activities for solo play too.
The primary function of this set is imaginative play, and boy does it deliver! It comes with 42 accessories, including play food, kitchen utensils and more. With the built-in ice cream dispenser, kids can drop wooden “scoops” or plastic “swirls” in the top, place a cup or wooden cone underneath, press the lever and watch the pretend soft-serve drop down. There’s even a spot to display flavors of the month and a credit card machine to finalize purchases.
Aside from open-ended play, this toy offers plenty of learning opportunities. As kids act out the roles of shop owner or customer, they’ll practice counting, build their vocabulary and further their social skills. Our tester agreed that this toy was perfectly pitched to her kids and helped them build key communication skills. “It shows them how to order something, pay and enjoy,” she shared. “It has so many fun features, like a pay area with a fake debit card, all the toppings you can think of and even a punch card to ‘earn free ice cream,’ which keeps them wanting to come back and play.”
Age range: 3 to 7 years | Dimensions: 24.4" (L) x 8.4" (W) x 10.2" (H) | Weight: 7 lbs. | Batteries required: No
“Her siblings loved playing too, so one could be the worker and one could place the orders. I will definitely recommend [it] to all our friends!”
- Easy assembly
- Includes 42 play accessories
- Made from sustainably sourced wood
- Large footprint
Want to help your busy tot burn off some energy? Ditch the screens and invest in a couple of outdoor toddler toys. There are so many options to choose from, but you can’t beat a classic swing set. Babies, toddlers and bigger kids alike love the thrill of soaring through the air—and this Baby Shark-inspired swing by Delta Children is our pick of the bunch. It was a big hit with our product tester’s daughter, who “loved playing with the swing and kept asking to be pushed.”
Assembly is required, but it comes with everything you need to install the swing on an existing jungle gym. Our tester said it took about 20 minutes to set up and noted that “the instructions were very clear and informative.” It’s made from a durable, weather-resistant plastic, meaning it’ll withstand the elements for years to come. The comfortable bucket seat has a high back, providing added support for kids who like to lean back while they swing. And, because safety is key, a three-point harness ensures your child stays securely in place. (The swing also meets all ASTM safety standards.) Once your kid outgrows the harness, it can be removed for added longevity.
Of course, utilitarian features are all well and good, but the real star of the show is obviously everybody’s favorite musical sensation: Baby Shark. Seeing one of their favorite cartoon characters on the headrest is a sure-fire way to get a kid excited about a new toy. In fact, our product tester awarded this toy a full 5 out of 5 score when rating her 13-month-old's reaction: “she was so excited to sit in a new type of swing with a fun character.”
Age range: 9 months to 4 years | Dimension: 10.6" (L) x 16" (W) x 21" (H) | Weight: 5 lbs. | Batteries required: No
“I would recommend this toy to any Baby Shark–loving baby or toddler. It’s a perfect size for a 9 to 18 month old baby [or a] toddler.”
- Minimal assembly
- Three-point safety harness
- Open-front makes it easy to get child in and out
- Swing must be attached to an existing play structure
Our recipe for a fun bathtime? Warm water, bubbles and bath toys, of course. The elephant-shaped Bubble Bestie by Munchkin is 100 percent toddler-operated—no batteries needed. To use it, simply wet the cloth, add soap or shampoo then encourage your tot to blow through the one-way mouthpiece. The result? A magical stream of bubbles that flow from the elephant’s trunk.
Our product tester was delighted to find that both of her children were able to use the toy with ease: “They found the handle easy to hold and not too large for little hands,” she told us. “They had lots of fun making bubbles and putting their hands in the foam.” She gave the Bubble Bestie 5 out of 5 scores for entertainment and skill-building, telling us that “it helped them to learn focus as well as being great for sensory play!” For such a simple toy, it provides boatloads of giggles, and it kept our tester’s kid entertained for over 10 minutes—not bad for bathtime!
Still not convinced? This toddler bath toy also received a 5 out of 5 score from our tester in value for money. “It was loads of fun for both our older and younger toddlers,” she said. “I think it would make a perfect gift for a child’s birthday or a baby shower!”
Age range: 3+ years | Dimensions: 7.4" (L) x 2" (W) x 8.5" (H) | Weight: 3.8 oz. | Batteries required: No
“They were so excited to play with it and loved when the bubbles first started to come out.”
- Easy to grasp
- Trunk is removable and easy to clean
- One-way mouthpiece
- Tester would have liked replacement cloth inserts
This toddler toy needs no introduction, but we’ll give it one anyway. The Little Tikes Cozy Coupe has been captivating the hearts and minds of children since its debut in 1979—and we can see why. The classic ride-on toy is perfectly proportioned for little drivers and is self-propelled, allowing kids to burn off energy and practice coordination skills as they scoot along. Durable front wheels that spin 360 degrees make for a smooth ride, while a handle at the back lets parents help kids out with a push in the right direction. Assembly is required but not overly complicated, and our product tester awarded it 5 out of 5 for durability, noting that “the plastic is solid [and] the pieces all come together sturdily.”
Interactive features like the functioning doors, horn, spinning wheel and a clickable ignition switch let kids imitate Mom or Dad and leave room for imaginative play. We love the iconic red and yellow design and the friendly eyes on the hood, which left our product tester's daughter feeling “ecstatic” and eager to get playtime started. “She loved pretending she was driving, just like Mommy and Daddy,” he reported, giving the Cozy Coupe perfect 5 out of 5 scores for play and entertainment and his child’s reaction. “She got to imitate grownup behavior, but in a welcoming and kid-friendly package. I had one of these myself as a child, and it’s great to watch her enjoy it decades later.” It goes to show, you just can’t beat the classics.
Age range: 18 months to 5 years | Dimensions: 29.5" (L) x 16.5" (W) x 33.5" (H) | Weight: 17.3 lbs. | Batteries required: No
“My daughter adored this toy. She puttered around the house and through the backyard, and sometimes even sat in place turning the steering wheel back and forth. She was overjoyed when she saw it, and played with it whenever possible.”
- Wheels spin 360 degrees
- Turnable key and other interactive features
- Sturdy construction and colorful design
- Steering wheel doesn’t turn the tires
The best way to learn is through play. That’s why we love this KiwiCo pretend baking set that comes with tons of educational activities. “My daughter’s favorite way to play is to have me read the recipe card to her, and she puts all the ingredients together,” our product tester told us, giving Baking and Fractions 5 out of 5 for play and entertainment. “She then bakes her ingredients to get a birthday cake. She loves to give me, her papa and her two sisters a slice of her freshly baked cake.”
This toddler learning toy includes a mixer, play food, cooking utensils, a play mat and recipe cards—all of which help little bakers practice kitchen math. Our product tester’s youngest daughter “was able to learn how to follow instructions and also [improve] her counting abilities.” And best of all, this is the kind of learning toy that stays with your child as they grow. Even our tester’s 7-year-old was able to get in on the fun—she used the play set to learn about fractions and percentages in a real-life context. Small wonder our product tester gave Baking and Fractions 5 out of 5 for learning and skill-building! A grown-up guide helps parents (and kids) get the most out of playtime, with fun bonus activities that reinforce counting skills and more advanced math. And while the educational benefits of this toy are great, it also dishes up a healthy serving of pretend play. As kids whip up a storm in the kitchen, they’ll imitate adult behavior, exercise their imagination and gain confidence through role-play.
The toy itself is mainly made from wood, which is durable enough to withstand rough toddler play. Our tester also loved the fact that the shipping box doubles as a pretend play oven. Talk about reduce, reuse, recycle!
Age range: 3+ years | Dimensions: 9" (L) x 4" (W) x 8" (H) | Weight: 4.6 lbs. | Batteries required: No
“Worth every penny. The quality is fabulous and it offers a lot of play pieces that keep little minds working and imaginations growing.”
- Sliceable wooden cake with birthday candles
- Encourages pretend play and educational activities
- Recipe cards and activity mat feature lessons in counting, matching and fractions
- Some adult assembly is required to turn the shipping box into a play oven
The best toddler toys play to your little one’s interests, so if your kid is a locomotive fanatic, they’ll go choo-choo over this train set. It comes with 32 pieces that combine to create a 15-foot train track and is super easy to assemble. Our product tester gave this toy 5 out of 5 scores for ease of use, entertainment value and her kids’ reaction, saying that her 2- and 4-year-old sons played with it for “a solid hour.”
One reason that this toddler train set was such a big hit? The configuration options. The set includes interchangeable track pieces, a bridge and tunnel, a motorized train and a cargo car toy that can be rearranged multiple ways. Our product tester loved that the track pieces could be mixed and matched, telling us, “it encourages [my children] to think of new designs for the track.” She raved about how her older son could “change the track to look however he wants, and do it without any help,” and how her 2-year-old could work on his fine motor skills by connecting the pieces together and running the vehicles along the track. Another aspect we like about this toddler train set is the interactive features. When the train chugs through certain “SmartPoint locations” on the track, it plays three sing-along tunes and melodies.
Due to its large size, this toy is perfect for cooperative games with siblings, but works perfectly for solo play too. Kids can put their engineering skills to the test by building daring railway tracks or use their imagination to take a train ride along new and exciting routes.
Age range: 1 to 5 years | Dimensions: 3.9" (L) x 5.1" (W) x 7.8" (H) | Weight: 10 lbs. | Batteries required: Yes
“My kids were so excited about this! They love any type of car, truck or train and love any type of track, especially ones that they can customize. They actually play with it more than I expected them to!”
- Interactive songs and lights
- Batteries included
- Interchangeable track pieces
- Songs can be repetitive
- Includes one train toy
Finding age-appropriate toy cars that don’t have tons of small, potentially hazardous pieces is trickier than you might think. Enter the Magnetic Car Set by KiwiCo. Made from beech wood and decorated with water-based paint, the set includes three cars that can be played with separately or linked together via built-in magnets to create a train. Our product tester said this toy was perfectly suited to her 2-year-old son, giving the Magnetic Car Seat a 5 out of 5 for both learning and skill-building and her child’s excitement. “He was smiling and jumping when I first showed him the box,” she said, adding, “he snatched the toys as soon as I started unboxing them!”
Designed for hours of open-ended play, each car has a unique feature that encourages a different developmental skill. For example, the first and second cars have moving parts that promote visual tracking while the final car has a slot for “coins” to help with hand-eye coordination. And it’s safe to say these features were an unqualified hit with our product tester’s son—this toy earned top 5-out-of-5 marks for play and entertainment potential. Our tester told us her son tends to change toys every three minutes, but, “He played around 10 minutes nonstop. [Then] he grabbed more toys, but continued to play with it on the side.” And she loved the learning activities called out in the instructions, noting how her son picked up on cause and effect while playing: “He learned that one of the cars had little balls inside that would move only when the car moved. This applied to the moon/sun car as well—he loved seeing the moon and sun go in circles.”
Age range: 12+ months | Dimensions: 14.5" (L) x 3.25" (W) x 7.5" (H) | Weight: 2.9 lbs.| Batteries required: No
“My child really enjoyed this toy. He started playing with it like a train, then he separated [the cars] and used them individually.”
- Non-toxic materials
- Parts that spin, rattle and fold open
- Cars can be used separately or together
- May not be suited for particularly rigorous play
Trying to create a peaceful nighttime routine? Try this toddler sleep aid. Parents have raved about Tonies since the company first came on the scene a few years back, and the Sleepy Sheep accessory lives up to the hype. On its own, it works as an adorable, rechargeable night light. But when connected to a Toniebox, it turns into a noise machine to help soothe your little one off to slumberland. Our product tester and her kids adored this little lamb, and gave the Sleepy Sheep 5 out of 5 scores for durability, value for money, ease of use and entertainment factor. “This is a great toy for winding down at night,” our tester told us. “My daughter can use this toy as a music box or as a nightlight.”
The sweet sheep emits a warm white glow and has four brightness levels to keep scary shadows at bay. When placed on top of a Toniebox, it can play 90 minutes of beautifully composed melodies to help your little one drift off to sleep. Our tester appreciated the calming music, and said it “helps my child learn to self-regulate before bedtime.” Her children certainly appreciated it too—she told us, “My toddler was so excited to receive this toy. She immediately put the sheep on her Toniebox and had the biggest smile on her face. My older toddler was actually very jealous, and wanted his own after seeing his sister’s!”
Ready for the best part? With the mytonies app, you can record your own bedtime stories, songs or gentle shushing sounds, meaning you can even soothe your children from afar.
Age range: 3+ years | Dimensions: 6" (L) x 3.7" (W) x 6.5" (H) | Weight: 1 lb. | Batteries required: No
“It not only makes my child happy, but helps her decompress and relax at the end of the day!”
- You can record your own audio
- Four brightness levels
- Soothing music shuts off automatically after 90 minutes
- Toniebox sold separately
Here at The Bump, we’re big fans of wooden toys. After all, what’s not to love? Wood is a natural material that's durable, non-toxic and aesthetically pleasing. The Hape Pandas’ Bamboo House is a prime example, offering fun for multiple siblings in a timeless wooden package. “The possibilities for play were endless,” our product tester told us, as four of her seven children each played with the Pandas’ Bamboo House simultaneously and independently.
The Pandas’ Bamboo House is made from FSC-certified wood, renewable bamboo and eco-friendly plastic derived from sugarcane, while pretend solar panels on the roof encourage thoughtful conversations about environmental responsibility. That’s all great, of course, but let’s not forget that the Pandas’ Bamboo House is also fun. The well-designed toy received 5 out of 5 scores for entertainment factor and for our tester’s childrens’ extremely positive reaction when they unboxed it. “The joy and excitement could not be contained when the box arrived,” our product tester told us. “As soon as they saw the picture on the box, the screams were deafening. I'm quite positive the neighbors were aware of the treehouse's arrival!” Our tester noted that the toy more than lived up to their kids’ expectations: “There was laughter immediately following assembly. It was like Christmas morning.”
Spread across three tiers and inhabited by an adorable panda family, this playset is perfect not just for toddlers, but also preschoolers and older children. “My kids (ages 3, 5, 6 and 8) love this treehouse. They play with it daily for hours at a time! Even my 8-year-old is obsessed,” gushed our product tester. The house itself has a built-in slide, swings, a rope bridge and even a functional elevator, which is “a very popular feature” among our product tester’s children. It comes with tons of accessories and four poseable panda figurines that can sit, stand and even grip the accessories with their hands. How cute is that?
Age range: 3+ years | Dimensions: 23.4" (L) x 13.4" (W) x 24" (H) | Weight: 15.5 lbs. | Batteries required: No
"There are multiple rooms and fun features like the slide, lift and swings. The kids played completely independently!”
- Sustainable materials
- Functioning elevator and other interactive features
- Four panda toys and multiple accessories
- Screwdriver required for assembly
- Product tester would have like it to come preassembled
Looking for an affordable toddler toy that still packs an educational punch? Go back to basics with a jigsaw puzzle. Aside from being a great rainy day activity, puzzles help develop fine motor skills, problem-solving and pattern recognition in children. Plus, kids get a thrill when they successfully complete a puzzle, which acts as an immediate confidence boost.
This puzzle set by Mudpuppy includes four puzzles with varying difficulty levels. Our product tester said it challenged her 2-year-old daughter in the best way possible: “We had fun finding the correct puzzle pieces, and she loved being able to connect the pieces together. She kept celebrating ‘I did it!’ when she matched two alike pieces—it was the best!” She gave the Level Up! sets 5 out of 5 for play and entertainment and learning and skill-building; and we love a toy that educates and entertains!
The sturdy cardboard pieces are large and easy for little hands to grasp. “I truly think they will withstand my daughter’s rough play and will hold together for a while,” our tester said, giving the Level Up! 5 out of 5 for durability. Plus, the colorful illustrations instantly captivated her child. Once playtime is done, you can pack them away into a single box for easy storage.
Age range: 3+ years | Dimensions (each puzzle): 8" (L) x 6" (W) | Weight: 1 lb. | Batteries required: No
“My daughter was so excited when we opened the box and she saw these puzzles. The boxes and puzzle designs were so bright and colorful that it really captivated her attention. She poured all the pieces out, and was trying to connect them right away.”
- Perfect for beginners
- Made from recycled materials
- Colorful illustrations
- Only one way to play
There are too many toddler toys on the market to count, and ultimately, the “best” toddler toy is going to be different from child to child, based on their interests and developmental stage. But finding top-quality, value-packed toys that entertain and educate can be overwhelming and time-consuming, so we decided to help you out.
The Bump editors did extensive research to find the best-selling toys that kids and parents love. We combed through user reviews to see what parents thought of each plaything, leveraged our familiarity with leading toy brands and relied on our own experiences as parents of young children. And then we put these toddler toys to the test, enlisting the help of parents who gave these toys to their children, observed (and participated in!) their play, and carefully assessed each item for ease of use, play and entertainment, learning and skill-building, durability, their child’s reaction and value for the money. We stacked this rigorous testing against our own expertise to bestow the prestigious Best of The Bump award to the overall best toddler toy. And then we went a step further, using the testing results to identify other specific types of toddler toys that are standout options.
To make sure we’re highlighting toys that are safe and developmentally appropriate, we consulted a behavior analyst to understand essential features to keep top of mind when you’re shopping. We also follow the safety recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics and look for certifications and seals of approval from key organizations.
Interested in learning more about our editorial process? Read about how our team develops and reviews all articles here.
About the writer:
Martina Garvey is an editor at The Bump, where she writes and edits e-commerce content for pregnancy, postpartum and parenting. Over a seven-year career in educational publishing and digital media, Martina has developed a keen eye for detail and robust reporting skills. As a staff member on The Bump, she leverages an in-depth knowledge of must-have baby gear and postpartum essentials alongside a passion for the latest trends to create informative content parents can trust.
Interested in becoming a product tester for The Bump? Head here to apply.
Jana Sarno, BCBA, is a board-certified behavior analyst and the chief clinical officer of Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers. She has worked as the vice president of applied behavior analysis at North Shore Pediatric Therapy and as an infant development program administrator at Coyne & Associates Education Corp.
American Academy of Pediatrics, Choking Prevention, September 2019
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