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Since we are approaching the holiday season, I figured it’s a good time to compile my ultimate gift guide regarding the best toys for toddlers, ages 2 to 3 years old.
This is the beginning of my favorite age because you can finally start getting kids more interesting toys that they won’t grow out of as quickly. And what I really mean by that is: You can get toys you might want to play with too!
My guide includes all the toys that we already own and love or toys that are currently on my wish list. Keep in mind that this list is geared more towards non-electric and/or educational type toys. I’ve found that I naturally gravitate towards STEM toys or the ones that inspire creative play. 🙂
Also, the toys on this list are not going to be what’s the hottest, trendiest toys of the year but classics that should withstand the test of time. (Then again, time is relative because kids can be so fickle.)
Low Budget Toys – Under $25
Mudpuppy Jigsaw Puzzles – We absolutely love Mudpuppy Puzzles in our household! (You can read my review for this brand here.) They are better quality than your regular jigsaw puzzles. Max started off with the 12-piece pouch puzzle when he was almost 2 years old. After a year, he has now graduated to doing the 42-piece and 63-piece sets.
Elephant and Piggie Book Series – Elephant & Piggie by Mo Willems is a very entertaining comic series chronicling the friendship of an elephant named Gerald and pig named Piggie. We received our first few books as a gift and it quickly became one of my favorite book series for toddlers. The stories are heartwarming and/or humorous and a set would make a great addition to any home library.
ALEX Toys Little Hands Button Art – We’ve had this toy for almost two years now and Max still loves to play with it. We call the buttons “dots” and – besides creating button art – have used it to sort, count, and teach colors.
Zingo – This is hands-down Max’s favorite board game. It is a great starter board game because it has simple rules for a toddler to learn. Max asks us to play this game with him all the time and the best part is that it’s enjoyable for adults as well!
Honey Sticks Crayons – For the art lovers, these are the best non-toxic crayons I’ve found. They are made from 100% beeswax and smell delicious. They are perfectly shaped and sized for toddler hands and easy to make bold, pigmented marks with.
Butterfly Garden – Even as an adult, I learned so much about caterpillars and butterflies with this kit. Seeing them grow and metamorphose was fascinating for the entire family. We also really enjoyed releasing the beautiful butterflies when all was said and done.
Kinetic Sand – I think the best gifts for kids are the ones that adults enjoy playing with as well. I, for one, really love playing with kinetic sand. There is something very therapeutic and mesmerizing about having it ooze through your fingers. Of course, kids love it too.
Green Toys Tea Set – Green Toys has an excellent reputation for making non-toxic, sturdy plastic toys. We love this tea set and use it daily. Max likes to grab the plates and utensils from his play kitchen and use them for snacks.
Educational Insights My First Microscope – This is a great toy for the budding scientist. Max loves inspecting things under the lenses to see how different objects look under higher magnification. And it is sturdy enough to be (mis)handled by a toddler.
Fisher Price Magnetic Drawing Board – Max loves drawing on his magnetic board. We purchased it for a plane trip which it’s great for because you never run out of paper to draw on. And the first stick figure Max ever drew was on his magnetic board!
Medium Budget Toys – $25-$75
Lego Duplo – I loved Legos growing up and still remember spending endless hours playing with them. However, Legos are tiny and a huge choking hazard. Duplos are the toddler-sized version of Legos and the next best thing. Max loves his Duplos and it has turned out to be the most versatile toy we own. It’s also one of my favorite sets to gift for toddler birthdays.
Learning Resources Pretend & Play Learning Cash Register – This is the one of the only electronic toys on my list. The talking (i.e., teaching) portion is definitely advanced for younger children but it’s still a great cash register just for pretend play.
Plasma Car – Ok, so we don’t have a plasma car even though I would love one. (We don’t have the space in our apartment but if we lived in a home, fahgettaboudit.) I think this is the coolest ride-on toy ever and I’ve rode on it every time I visited a friend who has one. Actually, I’m starting to suspect this toy list might be more for myself…
Keva Planks – If you’ve ever visited a children’s museum, you’ve probably come across Keva planks. Children and adults alike can build the most amazing architectural structures with these planks. The ones in the museums are usually made from Maple but these Pine planks are perfectly fine for the home. And cheaper!
Fly Bike – We purchased this bike for Max a little after he turned two and it’s a great first bike. He can still ride on it but it’s now (mostly) confiscated by Alexa.
Plan Toys Parking Garage – I can’t tell you the endless hours Max has spent playing with his cars and his parking garage. It is literally the only toy that he freaks out about Alexa playing with. I hate to say boys and their cars but really… boys and their cars because it seems like he can never have too many!
ApplesauceLLC Superhero Cape – Imaginative play is when kids are most carefree. I love seeing my children playing superheroes and fighting bad guys. This is a very well made superhero cape that can be completely customized. (You can read my review for it here.)
High Budget Toys – $75-$150
Micro Mini Kick Scooter – This must be the best brand of scooters because almost every single toddler I’ve seen on a scooter has been riding a Micro Mini. Some toddlers do great on scooters. Others, like Max, not so much. But I do think they make excellent gifts.
Magna-Tiles – I will be the first to admit that I purchased Magna-Tiles more for myself. I first saw them when we were at a local children’s museum and I just had to have it. They are magnetic tiles that can stack on any side to build 3D structures. A really cool bonus is that I’ve used it to teach Max the concept of mixing primary colors. When you stack two different primary color tiles and hold them up to the light, you can see what new color it creates.
KidKraft Play Kitchen – This play kitchen receives a TON of activity in our home. (You can read my review for it here.) Even Alexa, who is only one, enjoys playing with it. Max has cooked food for us, “burned” his finger on the stove, gotten water for us from the faucet and washed dishes. I can already tell he’s going to be great in the kitchen when he grows up. 🙂 This was his two year old birthday gift and we all love it. Also, don’t forget to buy kitchen accessories!
Hape Modern Doll House – I love this modern dollhouse. It is very solid and well-made and has magnetic furniture to make it completely customizable. Max enjoys playing with this dollhouse and, yes, I know he is a boy. We don’t do boy/girl-only toys in our household and I’m glad I was able to find a gender-neutral dollhouse. The best part is that Hape has a doll figurine that I think Max can actually relate to.
Constructive Playthings Wooden Rocking Boat – This is one of my wish list toys. Max has one at his school now and has played on it at Gymboree. For younger toddlers, the steps side is great for climbing and, once they get older, the boat side is a lot of fun for rocking.
No Budget Limit Toys – $$$$
Community Playthings Wooden Maple Blocks – Call me super crazy but I researched and purchased this block set before Max was even born. Community Playthings makes the highest quality maple blocks – classroom quality. The blocks are beautifully crafted, solid, and HEAVY. It might be too much for a 2 year old but would make an excellent gift for older toddlers.
Brio Train Set – Another wish list toy. It’s the other electronic toy on this list and I’ve been eyeing this train set forever. It will probably be one of the first gifts we get for Max as soon as we have the space. I just can’t justify the amount of real estate it will take up in our apartment but I KNOW this is a toy Max will absolutely love.
Kiwi Co Koala Crate – This is my all-time favorite subscription box for kids! (You can read one of my reviews here.) My kids love doing the projects and learning about the theme of the month. As a parent, I love that I can enrich their day, with STEAM-based concepts, in a fun and engaging way. Kiwi Co has five lines geared towards different age groups. I’ve found that the Koala line is perfect for three years+ but even Alexa, who is almost 2 1/2 years old, is able to enjoy and appreciate the crate. (I’ve heard from a parent that the Cricket line for younger children may not be worth it so I’d just wait until your child can enjoy the Koala crate!)
Well, there you have it. These are all toys that would make great gifts for either boys or girls. And the best thing about these toys is that even though you can gift them to kids starting at 2-3 years old, these toys have longevity so that they can enjoy playing with them for many years to come.
If you’ve made it this far, you might be interested in also checking out my post about the best non-toxic toy brands.
What are your thoughts on the toys in my guide? What’s your toddler’s favorite toy?
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