Best Toddler Toys: 61 Recommendations from Real Moms

Parents Corner

best toys for toddlers

Here’s something every parent struggles with sooner or later: finding the best toddler toys.

I got fed up with our living room looking like we had been robbed—toys and other stuff all over the place. What's worse, our kids never even played with about 90% of their toys.

I wanted to scale down and give them only the "best" toys.

But which ones are the "best?" And what does "best" even mean?

I decided to roll up my sleeves and do some research.

Here's quick look at what "we" (more on who "we" are below) came up with for the best toys for toddlers. Click on anything on the list to jump straight to the description.


So, I wanted a toy that's fun, obviously, and it wouldn’t hurt if it were educational too, and then it would be nice if it were durable and not too expensive and guaranteed not only hours of endless fun and learning, but years.

Is that so much to ask for?

But instead of scouring the internet and choosing blindly, I realized that there was a better way to find the best toys for toddlers.

I went straight to the source: real moms and dads.

They have their finger on the pulse and they can recommend, with certainty, what (their) kids like to play with.

So we spoke to 29 mamas who took time out of their busy schedules to share their favorites.

And that’s how we came up with this epic list of toddler toys that rock.

Dying to know what made the grade?

First, we have to mention that there is a clear winner.

At least half a dozen moms on this list all recommended the same toy, though it goes by different names: Magna-Tiles, PicassoTiles and Shapemags, among others.

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Magna-Tiles Clear Color Set of 100
  • Over 2,000 5-star reviews
  • Made of high-quality materials
  • Safe, durable and lasts for years
  • Helps develop math, science, spatial and tactile skills
Glow in the Dark Magna-Tiles
  • 16 shapes in total
  • Made with BPA-, phthalate- and latex-free plastic
  • Comes with LED light: Write messages on the tiles and see them in the dark
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PicassoTiles 60-Piece Set
  • Over 2,300 5-star reviews
  • Budget version of Magna-Tiles
  • Several different sets available
  • Winner of multiple toy awards


These are small magnetic shapes that can be joined together to make an unlimited amount of creations, and I have to admit, I took the plunge and bought them and I can confirm that THEY ARE AWESOME.

All those moms said the same thing, too: they love how this is an open-ended toy that inspires creativity and offers kids an opportunity to use their imagination.

What's more, they help kids develop spatial, science, math, and tactile skills, and they've won numerous awards, including:  

- Best Creative Fun at the Tillywig Toy Awards
- Academic's Choice Brain Toy
- Toy of the Year by Parenting Magazine
Parent's Choice Gold Award
- Recognition from Purdue University as a toy that promotes engineering thinking and design

Best of all, there are many options out there, from the deluxe 100-piece set to glow-in-the-dark tiles to tiles that come with letters and numbers. You can even buy accessories, like car bases and figurines.

They're also available at all different price points.

If you need to buy just one awesome toddler toy, this should be it.

Ready to see the other toys for toddlers recommended by parents?

Keep reading!

Priscilla is your a mom-chef-housekeeper-wife-blogger-podcaster! She's enjoying mothering her 3 little boys while giving them the best educational head start possible. She blogs at The Mother Lode.

Mother Lode

Costumes

My first recommendation that gets a ton of use in our house is dress-up clothing. We have this police costume, a hand-me-down firefighter rain jacket and a fire hat from the fire department, this superhero set, assorted hats, glasses, and accessories. It really doesn’t take much to start a collection, and if you like DIY there are plenty of easy tutorials out there.

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Police Officer Role Play Costume
  • From Melissa & Doug
  • Made of high-quality materials
  • Washable and easy to clean
  • Comes with jacket, cap, whistle, handcuffs, badge, walkie-talkie with sound effects, and reusable name tag
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4 Marvel Super Hero Cape Sets
  • Captain America, Iron Man, Spider Man, Thor
  • High quality, satin with satin lining
  • Velcro closure at the neck
  • Easy to wash
  • Coordinating eye masks for each cape made of soft felt with elastic bands

My boys have so much fun exploring different characters and stories this way. I can’t imagine a preschool classroom without dress-up clothing, as it allows for role play, which is so important for their development. 

Rainbow stacking cups

My cousin gave us these stacking cups at my baby shower. Nearly six years later, they’re still a favorite for stacking, using as play cups, hiding toys in, and even playing with water in the bathtub. You name it, these cups have done it. My oldest found them in the “baby toys” storage the other day and said, very adamantly, “But Mommy, these are not a baby toy!”

IKEA Rainbow Nesting Cups
  • 7 plastic cups with different patterns and designs
  • High quality, durable and easy to clean
  • Can be used to stack, sort, build and demolish
  • Helps develop fine motor skills and logical thinking
  • Kids will learn new things when they discover and explore with these cups

Nikko is a supermom to two boys and several cats. When she’s not discussing nuclear physics and creating museum-worthy works of arts with them, she sells weighted blankets for kids on her online store, Mythical Parenting.

Mythical Parenting

Toy fruits and vegetables

We love these plastic fruits. The sorting and dumping can entertain a 3-year old longer than most toys because the pieces are brightly colored and fun to toss around. The dumping out part is especially fun, and good for teaching them how to pick up toys. 

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Farmer’s Market Fruit and Vegetable Toys
  • 25-piece set in 5 different colors with 5 baskets and an activity guide
  • Helps kids expand their vocabulary
  • Perfect for dramatic play and nutrition lessons
  • Helps with the following skills: hand-eye coordination, critical thinking, imaginative play, counting, sorting, matching, problem solving, visual processing, color identification
  • Winner of Oppenheim Best Toy Gold Seal & SNAP Award
  • Winner of Learning Magazine’s Teacher’s Choice for the Classroom Award

For independent kids, they can spend solo time organizing and playing; and for kids who need a little support, you can work with them and give them assignments to fill the buckets and show them to you.

In summary, this is a good toy set and kids can invent their own games of "store" or even use the buckets as baskets for tossing toys into. It's a toy that can grow with your child's knowledge and adapt to a variety of games.

STEM dinosaurs

Though my boys have always been drawn to cars, we adore these dinosaurs because they satisfy the need to deconstruct and build. Of course there will be moments of slamming the Dino-cars together or racing them, but we used them as a gateway to learning about dinosaurs and my boys got busy working on their dexterity. 

The downside is the small screws and tools can get lost, so I recommend getting a plastic box to store the whole set in. The upside is hours of entertainment for kids to assemble, use tools, take things apart, make decisions about which pieces they want where, and problem solve to use the right tools to get the dinos ready for action.

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STEM Take Apart Dinosaur Toys
  • 2 T-Rex, 2 Ceratops, 2 Brontosaurus
  • Comes with 12 unique tools for assembly: 6 screwdrivers and 6 wrenches
  • Sturdy and high quality
  • Helps develop coordination abilities and creativity with puzzle solving, hand-eye coordination, and patience
  • Money-back guarantee

Pirate water table


This pirate water table is our go-to toy when the weather is nice. There are lots of interesting pieces to keep kids interested, and they can squirt water from the cannon, pour water in the crow’s nest, and pump the water and make everything spin. 

It’s really well made and lasts for years - at least it has in our house - and it’s gotten a lot of use (or maybe the right word is “abuse”...).

Anchors Away Pirate Ship Water Table
  • Endless amount of activities in one table
  • Anchor raises and lowers, steering wheel spins, spinners cause currents which move the objects
  • Lots of interactive features and realistic details
  • Promotes imaginative play and creativity
  • Built to last

Margaret is the mom to one toddler (so far) and a pediatric Speech and Language Pathologist. She blogs at Speak Play Love about activities and tips to encourage language development.

Speak Play Love

Memory board game

Seek-A-Boo is the perfect first “board game” for toddlers and preschoolers.

As a Speech-language pathologist, I love all the language learning opportunities in this game! Large circles with pictures (“Seek Me” cards) are spread out face-down on the floor and then the child is shown a small picture (“Find Me” card) to search for a match.

It incorporates basic vocabulary, categorization, gross motor movement, memory, attention, and turn taking skills. 

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Seek-a-Boo Memory Game
  • Helps build children’s vocabulary and improve memory skills
  • Can be used to introduce toddlers to the concept of matching
  • Helps develop gross motor skills
  • Comes with interactive parent’s guide with ideas on more ways to play
  • Cards are high-quality, bright and color-coded

McKayla is a wife and a mother to one crazy 3-year-old girl, as well as a nanny to 3 other children! I think it’s safe to say that kids are her thing! She blogs over at Motivation For Mom.

Motivation for Mom

Smart pad

This smart pad​ is probably my favorite toy! Someone actually got it for my daughter when she was 6 months old, and I thought it was a great baby toy. Turns out it’s even better for a toddler.

Fisher-Price A-to-Z Smart Pad
  • Teaches toddlers advanced shapes and colors
  • The letter buttons teaches kids advanced animals and objects
  • Lots of sing-along songs and fun phrases
  • The clock teaches kids about times of day
  • Great for motor skills and hand-eye coordination
  • 4 levels of play, so it grows with your child

It’s got so many different settings. It covers shapes, colors, ABCs, sounds, and it has a variety of songs and nursery rhymes. And the best thing about it is it has low and high volume settings, so it’s not just one of those super loud and obnoxious toys that you hide on a top shelf somewhere. 

It’s perfect entertainment when they’re little, and it teaches them a ton when they’re in the toddler stage. My 3-year-old sings along with the nursery rhymes, it’s adorable! 

Wooden building block shapes

We love this set of building blocks! They’re such a simple yet fun toy to have. Building with blocks is perfect for helping toddlers practice balance and patience, and it really lets them get creative.

I was so surprised to see what the kids could come up with on their own. Plus, the possibilities are endless! The older they get the more intricate their designs become. Blocks are a must-have toddler toy.

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Melissa & Doug Developmental Building Blocks
  • 100 durable wooden blocks in 4 colors and 9 shapes
  • Introduces kids to early math concepts
  • Helps develop motor skills and resilience
  • Lets kids experiment with the laws of physics
  • Blocks are solid wood, lightweight and won’t splinter
  • Great for motor skills and hand-eye coordination

Scooter

This scooter is a little pricey, but I promise it’s worth it. It is such a smooth ride and easy to balance on, so it’s perfect for toddlers! Also, you can adjust the height, so much so that we’ve had our friends’ 1-year-old take turns with his 6-year-old sister.

This thing will last forever. It’s a great indoor-outdoor toy as well, it turns so smoothly that my 3-year-old doesn’t bash into the walls! This is my daughter’s absolute favorite toy!

We actually tried a cheaper off-brand scooter before this one, but it wasn’t nearly as easy to balance, it wasn’t as smooth, and it wasn’t as adjustable. While there are certainly a lot of toddler scooters out there, you get what you pay for with this one! 

Micro Mini Deluxe Kick Scooter
  • Perfect for kids ages 2 to 5
  • Adjustable T-bar accommodates kids as they grow
  • Smooth-gliding wheels, low-to-the-ground deck and stable steering
  • Lean-to-steer design teaches kids to lean into a turn
  • Helps with balance and coordination
  • Smooth and quiet thanks to high-quality wheels and fiberglass reinforced deck
  • Winner of ASTRA Best Toy Award, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum, Gold and SNAP Award Seals, Parents’ Choice Award, Learning Express Best Toy Award Outdoor, Tillywig Too Fun Award
  • Safety certified by CPSC

Sharon Gourlay lives in Melbourne, Australia with her three kids aged 2, 7 and 8. She blogs about living simpler and smarter at Simpler and Smarter.

Sharon Gourlay

Lego Duplo

You really can’t beat Lego Duplo as an educational and fun toy that will help your kids in so many ways. They learn to follow instructions and solve problems as they build the Lego to the plan. They have imaginative and creative play by building what they want or when playing with the  structures they create.

It’s also great for their hand strength, which helps with writing. One of our school-aged kids struggles with writing and his "homework" is actually to play with some lego every day to help with this.

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Lego Duplo My First Bricks
  • 80 pieces in different shapes and sizes
  • Promotes fine motor skills and creativity
  • Teaches kids shapes and colors
  • Great for role play

Tablet

This tablet is perfect for older toddlers and preschoolers as an alternative to other electronics like an iPad. It’s great because they get the enjoyment of something that talks to them and makes sounds while also teaching them to write. They also get to use their hands with a pencil.

Leap Frog Scribble and Write Tablet
  • Teaches early writing skills
  • Kids can practice writing letters and numbers
  • The tablet assesses accuracy and corrects letter shapes with verbal feedback
  • Engaging and interactive
  • Designed for left- and right-handed kids
  • Accomodates development of grip, strength and dexterity
  • A level switch lets you control the difficulty

Cousett is a mom to 2 boys. She loves all things tech and navigating being a mom. She's also a web designer, photographer and WordPress guru. She blogs over at Techie Mama.

Techie Mama

Soft vehicles

​We often see these toys at the indoor playgrounds we visit, and I love seeing my 3-year-old and 9-month-old interact with each other with these. They pull back easily and are baby safe.

I loved how my little guy was able to make them go and my 3-year-old would catch it or go run and get it and send it back to the 9-month-old.

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Melissa & Doug Soft Toddler Toy Set
  • Includes a school bus, fire truck, police car, and family car
  • Pull them back, release and watch them zoom across the floor
  • Helps develop sensory, gross and fine motor, and communication skills
  • Soft, lightweight and easy to clean

Railway set

This railway set has probably brought the most hours of independent play and fun. My big guy has loved trains for about 1.5 years now (maybe earlier) and he loves to set up tracks and make up stories with the trains and people.

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Melissa & Doug Wooden Railway Set
  • Comes with 6-piece freight train with cargo, 4-piece passenger train, and 3-piece flatbed truck with cargo
  • 130 pieces in total, including track pieces, trees, traffic signs, workers, a shed, 2 bridges, a T-junction, and more
  • Made of high-quality materials and compatible with other popular train sets
  • Helps develop sensory, gross and fine motor, and communication skills

The imaginative play is so amazing. It is probably our number one toy set that we have and something that is always out for easy access.

Musical instruments

We have had different musical instruments for my big guy since he was young. I loved introducing him to music and dancing with him. He has always had an appreciation for music. I love that both my big guy and baby can participate.

It fosters sharing because they always want the same ones, and music is just good for the soul. It is the language without words. Showing them how to play happy music compared to sad or mad music is also great for getting them to recognize emotions.

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Melissa & Doug Musical Instruments
  • 10-piece musical instrument set
  • Includes a tambourine, cymbals, maracas, a clacker, a triangle, and tone blocks
  • Helps kids develop a musical ear
  • Exposes kids to different tones, rhythms, and volumes
  • Instruments come in a durable wooden crate

Anissa Orsino is a wife and homeschooling mom of two boys. On her blog Mama Goes Beyond, she helps moms tackle their everyday responsibilities and encourages them to pursue extraordinary lives.

Mama Goes Beyond

Card game

UNO is a classic card game and is just as much fun to play as it was when I was a kid. It's relatively easy even for very small kids to play, and it's a terrific way to practice numbers and colors.

We're learning Spanish right now, and we enjoy practicing our Spanish vocabulary as we change the color to "azul" and make our opponents "Roba Dos" (Draw Two).

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UNO Card Game
  • Fun card game that even little kids can understand
  • Teaches kids matching, colors, and numbers
  • Kids learn about patience and waiting for their turn

Caitlin is a mom of four by both adoption and birth. She is also has a parenting blog at Real Mom Recs, where she writes about pregnancy, babies, and Disney World.

Real mom recs

Science kit

One toy that gets loads of play time at my house is this science kit. My kids love it so much that I find myself giving it as a birthday gift every time they get invited to a party. 

It comes with step-by-step directions for actual science experiments you can do with stuff you have at home already. My older son is obsessed with the "volcano explosion," which you can make with baking powder and vinegar! It has really sparked his interest in science.

Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Set
  • Comes with 12 pieces: a beaker, a funnel, a magnifying glass, a flask, an eyedropper, tweezers, goggles, 3 test tubes, and 10 activity cards
  • Comes with suggestions for fun, easy-to-do science experiments
  • Activity cards introduce science process skills, living and nonliving things, physical science, and senses
  • Perfectly-sized durable pieces

He started wondering, what will happen if I add food coloring to it? What will happen if I put more of this and less of that? And then he tests out his theories. My younger two just like to take all the pieces of the set and play with them in the tub! Beakers for pouring, the test tubes, funnel, etc. are perfect for water play. 

Having four kids of various ages (both boys and girls), I'm always looking for toys that are open-ended and appeal to a wide range of kids. This is a perfect example!

Christine and Jaymi are the bloggers behind The Salty Mamas, a site for mothers who are looking for the laughter in the chaos of motherhood. Between them they have 5 kids ages 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2. 

Salty Mamas

Sorting bears

When it comes to getting a lot of bang for your buck, this set of sorting bears can’t be beat. Do you remember bear counters from kindergarten? Well, there's so much more these little figures can be used for than just counting. Your kids can sort them by color or by size.

Kids can put them into families, build houses for them with their Magnatiles or blocks, or use them to participate in educational challenges. They come in a small storage container, and we store them up high when they're not in use to avoid having the scattered across the floor on a regular basis.

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Learning Resources Counting Bears
  • 80-piece set comes with 20 papa, 20 mama and 40 baby bears
  • They come in 3 sizes, 3 weights and 4 colors
  • Great for learning colors, weights, and sorting
  • Helps kids learn math concepts such as adding and subtracting
  • Comes with an activity guide with lots of ideas

Cindy Hemming is a parenting blogger, kindergarten teacher, and mom of 2. Her mission is to help you thrive as a mom! Check out her blog at Living For The Sunshine.

Living for the Sunshine

Play scarves

We love these silky play scarves. They are the perfect imaginative toy. They can be used for so many things, it's totally up to your child and his or her imagination. In my house, these scarves have been transformed into picnic blankets, capes, tents, and even a lake. They also make great props for impromptu dance performances!

Silky Scarves for Pretend Play and Dress-Up
  • Comes with 100% polyester pink, purple, blue, red, green, and yellow scarves
  • Soft, silky, and high-quality
  • Perfect for dress up, costumes, playing ninjas, building forts, as doll blankets, as capes, for juggling, etc.
  • Easy to wash

Figurines and vehicles 

My daughter doesn't play with the big (and expensive) Little People sets, but she LOVES the figurines and vehicles by Fisher-Price. There's so much opportunity for pretend play here. It's been a lasting favorite (from 18 months to 4 years).

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Fisher-Price Big Helpers Family
  • Includes a mom, a dad, and a baby
  • Collectible
  • Match the figures to reflect your unique family
  • Great for imaginative play, hand-eye coordination, dexterity and fine motor skills
Fisher-Price Lil People School Bus
  • Includes the bus and several figures
  • Press down on the driver’s seat for lights, sounds and a song
  • Side and back doors open and close
  • Stop sign flips open

Big cardboard blocks

These large cardboard blocks make the perfect building toy. My daughter loves building towers as tall as she is and forts that she fits in with all her toys. I love this set from Melissa & Doug as it’s super sturdy and can hold up to 150 lbs.

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Melissa & Doug Jumbo Cardboard Blocks
  • 40 blocks in 3 sizes
  • Blocks are made of premium, extra-thick red cardboard and hold up to 150 pounds
  • Lightweight, colorful, and easy to stack
  • Easy to assemble and wipe clean

Liz is a stay at home mom of 3 kids, 5 and under. She writes about parenting, homeschooling, and ways to make mom life easier and more enjoyable. You can find her blogging over at Blue and Hazel.

Blue and Hazel

While I’m not a minimalist, we have a few “staple” toys for certain ages, and then we have some “easy come easy go” toys that we buy second-hand. The kids have gotten used to me getting rid of toys that they stop playing with so we can buy new ones at Goodwill. Because I don’t spend much money on them, I feel pretty unattached. Here are the ones that I would describe as “staples."

Art kit

We love this art kit. It’s not technically a toy but it has been my daughter’s number one item since she turned 3.5.

Crayola Art Set
  • Includes 64 Crayola crayons, 40 washable markers, 1 rainbow art storage case, 20 short colored pencils, and 15 sheets of paper
  • Safe and non-toxic
  • Promotes creativity and encourages self-expression
  • Case helps kids keep their supplies organized

Toy trains 

Every toddler needs some train tracks and a few trains. Because these have gotten such good use from about age 2-3 with ALL my kids, I can’t get rid of them until we are done having babies.

When they lose interest, the trains go away for a while, but it’s the favorite toy when friends come to play and it teaches them to build and recognize patterns, and toy trains are great for pretend play.

Hape Wooden Railway Mountain Set
  • Includes a mountain mine design with rotating doors, conveyor belts between levels, a repair station, bells, double doors, waterfalls, and more
  • Encourages kids to create, innovate, and develop storytelling skills
  • Has received the Spielwarenmesse Preschool Toy Award, the London Toy Show Best New Toy Award, and was named Educational Toy of the Year by the Australian Toy Association

Toy dump truck and excavator

We like Duplos in general, but we love this dump truck and excavator. All my kids play with these from ages 2 to 5. It’s a fantastic toy for building and for using their imagination, and I would recommend that you definitely get something with wheels if you buy these! I’ve found little hands can stack these so no need to get the HUGE blocks that are one size bigger.

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Lego Duplo Truck and Excavator
  • Comes with 2 vehicles and 2 construction workers with safety helmets, a roadwork sign, a shovel and extra bricks for scooping
  • Excavator has a rotating cabin and posable arm
  • Dump truck has a tipping function
  • Helps kids develop early building skills and encourages imaginative play

Jennie, mom of 4 kids under 8 years old, is the writer behind Four To Love. She enjoys providing practical parenting ideas, tried-and-true product recommendations, and encouragement for moms.

Four to Love

Button art activity set

Alex's Discover Art button toy provides fun for kids ages 1.5 and up. This is a wonderful toy because it’s both educational and creative. Kids can learn about matching colors, and they practice their dexterity by placing the buttons in their slots. They can also mix-and-match the colors to make their own designs! Maybe best of all for parents, the toy comes with its own storage solution.

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Button Art Activity Set
  • Match and snap to complete the picture
  • Helps kids develop hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and creative thinking
  • Storage tray holds all the pieces
  • Comes with 46 colorful buttons and 10 pictures

Tracing pad

The Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad is the perfect toy to keep kids entertained while helping them gain confidence in their drawing and writing skills. The kids can use the provided sheets to trace and create their own scenes, but the tracing pad's use goes beyond that.

My kids trace used-up coloring sheets so that they can color them again! It's also an excellent tool for teaching kids how to write letters, their name, or words.

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Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad
  • Comes with a coloring board, graphite pencil, 12 short colored pencils, 10 tracing sheets, and 10 blank sheets
  • Bright LED tracing tablet illuminates images to trace more easily
  • Paper-locking frame holds sheets in place
  • Hundreds of downloadable images available online

Betty is the brains behind The Terrific Five, a  blog about pregnancy, breastfeeding, parenting, and everything else motherhood. When she is not writing, she's chasing after her 2 crazy, energetic kids. 

Terrific 5

Candy Land

Candy Land is my son’s first board game and he has been playing it for 2 years now. It has been instrumental in helping him learn colors through matching the colored squares on the cards with the jeweled stepping-stone path. He has also learned how to be patient, take turns, and follow rules.

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Candy Land Board Game
  • Classic board game with colored cards, sweet destinations, and fun illustrations
  • Playing cards are designed for non-readers
  • Teaches kids about patience and taking turns

More than anything, I thank the board game for teaching my kids how to handle defeat and not be a sore loser. Now that his sister is almost 3 years old, she is joining in on the game as well. Quality family bonding time!

Dot markers

My kids love to draw, and these dot markers​ are perfect for their little hands to hold and control. The colors are vibrant and bright, and my kids are able to create fun works of art using their imagination.

There are tons of free dot activity pages online that you can print for your kids to color, and I use them as part of our homeschooling curriculum to teach my kids letters and numbers.

Washable Dot Markers
  • Designed specifically for little hands
  • They come with a twist-off cap
  • They have a patented large sponge tip, engineered to be mess free and never dry out
  • 6 gluten-free, latex-free, non-toxic colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple
  • They make a perfect dot every time and ink dries quickly
  • Great opportunity to develop hand-eye coordination and color recognition

These markers and the activity sheets allow my kids to practice hand-eye coordination as they color in the circles on the sheets. Moreover, they learn to recognize different colors and begin to understand what happens when you mix different colors together by layering the dots.

Plus, these non-toxic markers don't leak everywhere like the traditional markers do, so moms can relax and let their kids go to town with these dot markers.

Thomas and Andrea have been married for 2 years and have one seven-month-old son. They blog over at Parents Plus Kids.

Parents Plus Kids

Two very important priorities in our household are education and peaceful atmosphere. It’s our goal to have our little 7-month-old play with toys that do not take away from either of these priorities! We focus on having 1-2 types of toys along with books around for our little guy to explore.

Textured balls

Right now our little guy is learning how to play with these Infantino textured balls. He has been playing with them for about 2 months now. It has been very interesting to see how his ability to play with them changes as his fine motor skills improve.  

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Infantino Textured Ball Set
  • Comes with 6 easy-to-grasp balls
  • Helps develop tactile senses
  • BPA-free
  • Encourages sensory exploration

We recently added a cotton basket to add another dimension to his playtime with sensory toys. Bonus… it doubles as a toy storage container that fits in with our home decor!  

Felicity is mum to 2 daughters and baby number 3 is on the way. Her passion is  parenting and creating a community where everyone feels welcome. It is this passion that led to the creation of The Baby Vine.

The Baby Vine

Treehouse

My oldest daughter (3.5 years old) took to this treehouse almost instantly. I just love toys that can grow with your child, as they last longer in the home and help keep the clutter at a minimum. This treehouse is perfect for imaginary play. Only one of the pieces is actually fixed in, the rest can be moved and rearranged to create your very own fantasy world. 

The stories Cassie tells are incredible to listen to, it’s amazing watching her disappear into the fairy world. The toy itself is so beautiful as it’s made from recycled and sustainable timber from Vietnam, so I know it will last for years and both girls will get plenty of use out of it.

Wooden rainbow

Imaginary play doesn’t get much better than this wooden nesting rainbow. It doesn’t come with instructions; the imagination part is left up to the child, and boy have we seen some amazing creations in our household. It has turned into a tunnel, made into a bike, stacked for hours on end. 

Wooden Nesting Rainbow Toy
  • Multifunctional toy which can be used to build bridges, tunnels, fences, beds
  • Made of pure wood and non-toxic, water-based paint, so it’s safe for kids
  • Improves kids’ imagination
  • The perfect open-ended toy
  • Similar to Grimm’s rainbow stacker, but more affordable

Every day I am called into our playroom to see her latest creation, and many of them are very impressive. Of course, if you want some ideas, there are plenty of photos of different creations online for you to sit down with your child and try and copy. Great for the fine motor skills and the imagination, this toy is a favorite of ours.

Annie Smith is a wife, former teacher, stay-at-home mommy to 2 under 2, and blogger. Her coffee drinking and top knot game is strong. You can catch her over at Pancakes and Snuggles.

Pancakes and Snuggles

Ride-on toy

This ride-on toy​ is perfect for a toddler who has recently started walking. It allows the child to safely scoot along on his/her own or be pushed by someone. There’s also a built-in mechanism that prevents the car from toppling over.

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Minnie Mouse Ride-On Toy
  • Sturdy and well-made
  • Features flashing signal lights, beeping horn, and revving engine sounds
  • Has a moveable steering wheel, ignition key, and gear shift
  • Also has an educational clock face and peek-a-boo window

It comes with several bells and whistles (literally) in the form of buttons, knobs, and dials to slide, push, turn, etc. for different songs and sounds. My favorite part is the storage compartment under the seat. We have found many a missing remote control or sippy cup hiding inside!

Toddler slide

This is my absolute favorite toy to date. It has truly been a lifesaver this winter! Thanks to the Polar Vortex and our compact house, opportunities for physical activity were very limited.

This little slide is currently in our living room and provides a much needed outlet for my oldest. Besides climbing up and down the slide, she likes to crawl through the bottom and play peek-a-boo down there! When the weather gets warmer, it will go back to being in our backyard.

Sale
Little Tikes First Slide
  • Perfect for little kids
  • Can be used outdoors and indoors
  • Folds down without tools for compact storage and moving
  • Made in the USA
  • Perfect for kids ages 18 months to 6 years old
  • Promotes fitness, balance, and coordination

Emma is a mom of two boys. She blogs about living well in small spaces with kids without losing your mind at Little House, Lovely Home

Little House Lovely Home

My family is very minimalist as we try to prioritize travel and family experiences and keep toys to a minimum. Lego is huge for us as it is easy to travel with. It’s pretty much the only toy my kids have as a constant, but the sprawl can cause widespread devastation in our little house.

Lego table

For that reason, we love our UTEX lego table. It doubles as an activity table so they can use it for drawing/coloring and Lego.  It has two large drawers underneath. We use one for Lego and the other for coloring and craft supplies.

2-in-1 Play Table
  • Perfect size and height for toddlers
  • Tabletop surface has double-sided playboard
  • One side is perfect for construction, the other side is smooth
  • Comes with storage drawers
  • Supports a wide variety of activities

My boys have a tiny bedroom so the table keeps everything contained and is really stylish also. Plus, it’s really helped to get them to sit down and play quietly which is a huge bonus for this mom.

Ophira has one child and blogs over at Easy Mommy Life. Her blog focuses on child-led learning, gentle parenting tips and healthy toddler recipes.

Easy Mommy Life

Wooden cars

Our son has two favorite toys: cars and Magna Tiles. We use a combination of these toys as a tool for pretend play. We particularly like these wooden car toys as they are super long lasting.

Sale
Melissa & Doug Wooden Cars
  • Comes in a set of 9 cars
  • Includes race cars, mini-van, police car, and a taxi
  • Cars can be stored in a sturdy wooden tray
  • Designed to play with Melissa & Doug Activity Rugs

Clare has two girls. She aims to help you bring love, fun, beauty and kindness into the world, starting with your family when you don’t have the time or money. She blogs at Oh These Are The Good Old Days.  

Oh These Are the Good Old Days

Legos

We love Legos as they’re great for creative STEM play! My daughter reads the instructions and carefully builds it, then destroys it and builds it again. She also tosses them all together and uses all of her kits to build her own unique neighborhoods and parks.  It makes me so happy to see her playing with them. Future engineer or architect maybe?

Sale
LEGO Camper Van Building Set
  • Comes with a folding canopy, upstairs sleeping area with open roof, a separate tent, and a toy dinghy
  • Includes 2 people and a horse
  • Cars can be stored in a sturdy wooden tray
  • Ideal for older toddlers

Cardboard playhouse

We also love these playhouses because you can let your kids paint them, draw on them with markers, cover them in ribbons, flowers, or string Christmas lights in them if they are special, safe ones.

When I hosted our family-friendly company Christmas party, I was put in charge of the kids' activity corner. I bought three of these and let the kids go to town. None of them knew each other but they became quick friends while working on their decorating project and hide and seek game.

Sale
Cardboard Playhouse Cottage
  • Available in several different models
  • Cottage includes two doors, two windows, and two mail slots
  • Sturdy and durable
  • Easy to assemble
  • Perfect for creative play and it keeps kids active mentally and physically

Brain Flakes

​Brain Flakes​ are so cool. They easily snap together and your imagination is the limit as to how you use them. My daughter makes a long tall line to see how tall she can make her statue or she creates cars or people from her box o' flakes!  

Sale
Brain Flakes
  • Comes with over 500 pieces
  • Pieces are BPA-, lead-, heavy metal, and phthalate-free
  • Discs click together super easily
  • Comes with an idea booklet with instructions
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • They promise hours of endless fun and an engineering education
  • They are a revolutionary addition to the world of children’s construction toys

Matilda writes about her travels along with her sister on their website, The Travel Sisters.  She lives in Chicago with her husband, their two young children and beloved yorkie.

The Travel Sisters

Mega Bloks

I purchased Mega Bloks for my son's first birthday and he still plays with them two years later.  He has gone from just being delighted with whatever mom and dad build to gleefully knocking over our creations to build his own masterpieces.

Sale
First Builders Big Building Bag
  • 80 classic-colored building blocks, including special shapes
  • Perfect for little hands
  • Hands-on play for early child development
  • Comes with a storage bag for easy clean up
  • Can be combined with other Mega Bloks
  • Great for stimulating their imagination and encouraging discovery, fine motor skills, and open-ended play

He has built everything from planes to gorillas and proudly shows us his work. I love that this is an open ended toy that promotes creativity but also fine motor skills. We even used blocks to practice his colors and counting. As an added bonus, when playtime is over everything goes back in the conveniently provided storage bag.

Christina, from Raising Biracial Babies, has two kids, (5 ½ and 3 ½) and helps moms navigate the journey of motherhood! She writes about pregnancy, birth, parenting, having mixed kids, and mixed hair care. 

Raising Biracial Babies

Espresso play kitchen

My kids love their Kidcraft play kitchen because there’s so many imaginative and creative ways to play with it. They love to play restaurant, where someone orders food and they serve it, they also cook the food, they play grocery store, and they play house with it. 

KidKraft Espresso Kitchen
  • Includes a pretend ice machine in the refrigerator door
  • Microwave, dishwasher, oven, freezer, and refrigerator doors all open
  • Raised burners fit pots and pans
  • Plastic sink can be removed and cleaned
  • Microwave turntable rotates 360°
  • Smart, sturdy construction
  • Large enough for multiple kids to play at the same time

I love it because both my son and daughter use it frequently and we’ve had it for almost 3 years now. They both STILL love playing with it! This toy keeps my kids interested, engaged, and boosts their creativity and imagination. Plus it stands the test of time!

Activity desk

We also love this activity desk​. This is another toy that has stood the test of time. We got this when my daughter was 2 and there were activities she could do at that age, and as she got older, there were other ways to play and interact with the desk. My son also loves this, so again, it’s great for girls and boys.

VTech Touch & Learn Activity Desk
  • Interactive desk has 5 activity pages with engaging content
  • LED display shows letter and number stroke order and how to draw shapes
  • Transforms from a desk into an easel and chalkboard with storage space for art supplies
  • Encourages play and discovery
  • Comes with a stool
  • You can buy additional expansion packs with more lessons

It’s a great educational tool as some of the learning activities include memorization, the alphabet, spelling, time, seasons, music, animals, and so much more. My kids have learned a lot using this desk!

Val Breit is a stay-at-home mom of 2 toddlers. She runs The Common Cents Club, where she shows stay-at-home moms how to make money from home and experience family and financial freedom.

Common Cents Club

Art easel

So far, this art easel has been used most for painting, and the cup holders for paint cups are incredibly convenient. However, when they get tired of painting, we liven things up with drawing shapes and letters with chalk or dry erase markers.

The storage underneath the easel actually allowed us to get rid of a bulky desk that just didn't suit us right and it holds a ton of craft supplies. Generally speaking, art easels are a great toy for toddlers.

Lifestyle kitchen

My kiddos love making food for me and my husband (or even each other or their babies) in this play kitchen. I keep most toys out of the kids' rooms, but the play kitchen and babies are in my 3-year-olds' room because she loves pretending to be a mom. 

Sale
Step2 Lifestyle Kitchen
  • Includes 30-piece accessory set, including pot and pan, dishes, bowls, salt and pepper shakers, food set, etc.
  • Features microwave, refrigerator, and oven
  • Includes coffee pot with molded-in coffee maker
  • Special frying pan and boiling pot with lid activate frying and boiling water sounds in stove’s front burner
  • Fantastic for imaginative play

Motorized train set

This train set is another must-have in our house and I love seeing the tracks they create together. Each one is different and they get to test a lot of theories about how to make a certain shape, or what will happen if they put something in the train's way. 

We've had lots of toys collect dust, but these are the toys my toddlers actually use and play with regularly. They have provided many  hours of creative and imaginative play.

Fisher-Price Thomas & Friends Motorized Train
  • Redesigned TrackMaster engines feature enhanced speed and performance
  • Each engine can be added to your Thomas & Friends collection
  • Compatible with most TrackMaster tracks and playsets

Audrey has two kids, three cats, and three dogs at home. She's a parenting blogger at Mommy Enlightened, where she seeks to help moms build confidence in motherhood. 

Mommy Enlightened

Peppe Pig figurines

When I bought this Peppa Pig set, I didn't think it would become a favorite in my house, but it has. My three-year-old plays with these for quiet time (and has consistently for the last eight months), which lasts two hours at my house. She stays entertained the whole time, and at the end of the two hours, I usually have to tear her away from it.

Kids at this age are really big into pretend play. It's beneficial for learning social skills, problem-solving skills, and emotional regulation. The characters themselves model behavior that we want to see in our kids.

Sale
Peppa Pig’s Deluxe House
  • Playhouse has 4 floors of play space with a bedroom, living room, kitchen, and bathroom
  • Comes with more than 15 play pieces and 3 figures (Peppa, George, and Suzy)
  • Washing machine flips to reveal clean clothes, fridge opens to reveal food, bathtub flips to reveal bubbles
  • Folds closed to store the pieces
  • Promotes imaginative play

You definitely have a myriad of pretend play toys to choose from, but we particularly love these for their practicality. They are small enough to carry around but big enough they can't be swallowed. 

The figurines are easy to stabilize (which is important because we've all seen a toddler frustrated by the fact that their baby doll falls when they try to stand it up). There is also a myriad of different scenes you can purchase to mix it up.

Lauren blogs at My Favorite Job Title is Mom. She is also a veterinary pharmacist for her day job and a mom to a toddler. She's passionate about helping other parents navigate travel with young children.

My Favorite Job Title is Mom

Alligator push toy

This alligator push toy is great for an older baby or toddler as they are learning to walk as it provides a sturdy base for them to start figuring out their feet.  It’s also great for a toddler that likes to discover how things work.

Because the alligator pieces move up and down when the toy moves, it’s also great for a toddler to start learning about cause and effect.  

Sale
Melissa & Doug Alligator Push Toy
  • Has 3 alligators, whose mouths click and clack when the toy is pushed
  • Features 3 wooden buggy beads that kids can slide and spin
  • Easy to operate and to grasp
  • Encourages gross motor development, coordination, and color recognition

Classic wooden blocks

Classic wooden blocks are a classic for a reason. This toy has so much educational value.  Once baby starts to sit up, the blocks can help teach fine motor skills, from picking up a small toy to stacking and putting the blocks into a container. 

Once you have a toddler, the block towers get more impressive, and they transition into the pre-school and kindergarten years by teaching letters, reading and spelling. The fact that these blocks are wood make them durable for the long haul.  My son is currently the third generation to play with his block set.

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Blocks Set
  • 50 alphabet and 123 blocks
  • Traditionally-styled 1-inch wooden blocks with pictures, letters, and numbers
  • Ideal for toddlers and preschoolers
  • Helps kids develop strong skills, including matching, stacking, sorting, and word recognition
  • Comes with a cloth bag for easy storage

Baby University books

My third favorite isn’t technically a toy; however, I try to instill in my son that reading is a fun, entertaining activity. All books are educational – it’s the reading to a baby/toddler that is beneficial.  

The Baby University book series​ is a collection of board books covering things like rocket science, quantum physics, and general relativity all in their most basic form so that they make sense to a toddler.

These books have lots of white space with bright colored objects to illustrate the concepts. Despite not having the fun “gimmicky” things some other baby/toddler books have, my son loves these books.  I’ve also learned a lot by reading the books to him.

Sale
Baby University Book Series
  • The perfect way to introduce basic scientific concepts to the youngest of scientists
  • Series includes Quantum Physics, Rocket Science, General Relativity, and Newtonian Physics

Pooja Malkani, the founder of Colossal Umbrella, is the mother of a 4-year-old little monkey. She loves to travel and to stay healthy. 

Colossal Umbrella

Magnetic sticks

My 4-year-old was introduced to toys at a very early age since our aim was to keep him away from television and gadgets as much as possible. 

As a result, and after a lot of trial and error, we introduced him to construction and assembly toys. He’s had them for the past two years and loves playing with them. He particularly loves these magnetic sticks,  interlocking tubes, and this interlocking building set.

Sale
Magnetic Building Sticks
  • Includes 145 colorful pieces and comes with a bag for easy storage
  • Pieces are durable and are made from environmentally-friendly materials that are non-toxic and BPA-free
  • Stimulates spatial thinking and hand-eye coordination
  • Teaches colors, architectural design, symbolic thinking, and problem solving

Interlocking tubes

He started by creating something simple and very basic, like a line, and eventually started innovating to complex designs like a robot. We invested in way too many toys but his love for these has been constant. 

Interlocking Tube Set
  • Made from high-quality, environmentally-friendly ABS material
  • Non-toxic, round corner design, and very durable
  • Helps with hand-eye coordination and hand strength
  • Teaches color recognition and color matching
  • Promotes creativity and imagination

Interlocking building set

I kept adding similar toys to make sure he builds more creative things. These construction toys have enhanced his creativity, imagination, perseverance and have definitely played a huge part in development of language and social skills.

Interlocking Building Set
  • Includes 100 colorful pieces and comes with a bag for easy storage
  • Smooth edges and safe for kids
  • Helps with fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, logical thinking, and problem-solving skills
  • Promotes teamwork and collaboration, builds social skills, supports creativity, and improves imagination through interactive play
  • Pieces are easy to wash and free from phthalate, lead, cadmium and BPA
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Alexis is a writer and mother to three beautiful children. She’s a stay at home mom who survives off of coffee and sleep deprivation. She runs and operate the blog ​My Little Wildlife​.

My Little Wildlife

Wooden puzzles

My family and I have always enjoyed puzzles. To get them interested early I suggest wooden puzzles, and either picture puzzles or learning puzzles. That way they can learn shapes, colors, and letters all while figuring out how to match it up! 

Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
  • Set of 4 puzzles
  • Themes are numbers, vegetables, villages, and animals
  • Perfect size for little hands
  • Helps develop kids’ imagination and supports hand-eye coordination
  • Made of high-quality wood

Magic sand

For ages 3 and up, magic sand​ is a fun sensory pastime my kids enjoy. They can build and cut out shapes and it's also surprisingly easy to clean up. I supervise my 2-year-old when he plays with it and he loves the feeling of it! They learn about texture and dexterity, and this toy allows them to get creative.

Sale
Kinetic Beach Sand
  • 3 pounds of magic sand
  • Oozes, moves and melts and sticks only to itself
  • Made with beach sand and polymers and is hypoallergenic and non-toxic
  • Easy to sculpt and holds it shape
  • Stimulates children’s imagination and enhances their manipulative ability

Amy is a mom of six. Through her blog, Starting Parenting Over, she encourages parents of toddlers as they guide their little ones through their days—the days of wanting to throw in the towel as well as the days of never wanting this time to end. 

Starting Parenting Over

Personalized memory game

We love this memory game is a unique twist on the beloved childhood matching games. We just gave it to our little ones last Christmas, and they love it! You can customize the cards any way you want.

I did one for each person in our family, with their picture and their name, and added some others such as brothers, sisters, family, etc. It’s a great way for little ones to learn family words and reading names, or really whatever you want. So fun!

Trampoline

This trampoline is a great way to help little ones burn off energy when they can’t get outside and run! When our four boys were younger, we had so many inside toys to help them stay active. When they don’t have an outlet for their energy, things can quickly get out of control.

Sale
Kid’s Mini Trampoline
  • Supports up to 200 pounds
  • Easy to assemble and non-foldable design offers extra stability
  • Full foam covered handrail has comfortable gripping
  • Padded trampoline spring cover to keep away from potential injury
  • Offers a low-impact, low-injury risk activity
  • Helps kids develop coordination, agility, and balance
  • Burns energy and improves kids’ sleep quality

This was a lifesaver for us with our little girls this winter, in the midst of multiple inside days! We had contests to see who could jump the most times in two minutes, or who could jump for the longest time without stopping, or if they wanted an extra TV show, we’d tell them they could watch as long as they were jumping.

You can't go wrong with a toddler trampoline!

Amber is a full-time teacher of middle school robotics and blogger at Low Carb Quick for low-carb and health-conscious recipes. She’s a mommy to an active 2-year old active son who keeps her on her toes. 

Low Carb Quick

Basketball set

My toddler loves this basketball set because he’s very active and it's really easy for him to score.

Little Tikes Basketball Set
  • Can be used indoors and outdoors
  • Adjusts from 2.5 to 4 feet
  • Has oversized rim and comes with 3 junior size basketballs
  • Base can be weighted with sand for better stability
  • Helps develop social and motor skills as well as balance and coordination
  • Encourages active play and independent play

Talking doggy

My son, Hendrix, is learning to talk and this talking Fisher-Price dog provides comfort and a reinforcement of language skills needed at his age. 

Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Puppy
  • More than 50 sing-along songs, tunes, and phrases
  • Paws, tummy, ears, and light-up heart respond to baby’s touch
  • Introduces body parts, letters, colors, and counting
  • Includes Smart Stages technology, with 3 levels of play, learning changes as baby grows
  • Helps give sensory and fine motor skills a big boost

Latches board

We first found this latches toy at our local library and he just had to have it. It allows him to practice his fine motor skills without taking it out on our own doors and latches at home.

Melissa & Doug Wooden Latches Board
  • 6 different latches
  • Helps kids build fine and gross motor skills
  • Teaches kids about animals, colors, numbers, and more
  • Made from smooth-sanded solid wood

Samara is the mama behind this blog, Tiny Fry. She has two adorable kids that keep her very busy, and when she’s not hanging out with her fam, she works as a VA specializing in SEO and writing.

Tiny Fry

Mini roller coaster

We have this mini roller coaster at our house and it is hands-down the most popular toy in our arsenal. My 2 and 4 year olds cannot get enough of this, and the cool thing is that they can do it themselves.

They can push the little car back to the beginning by themselves and then ride it on their own. It’s easy to put together and endlessly entertaining.

Sale
Up & Down Roller Coaster Ride
  • 10-foot long roller coaster ride on track
  • Perfect for outdoors or indoors
  • 2 non-slip steps lock securely into the 3-piece riding track for access from both sides
  • Specially designed track holds the car in position while your child climbs in
  • Riding car has high back, handrail, and foot rests for riding securely down the track
  • Promotes independent play
  • Helps develop gross motor skills, balance, and confidence

Water table 

Both my kids absolutely love playing with water: they love the pool and the beach, they love being in the bathtub, and they can stand at the sink for hours playing with toys.

Little Tikes Sandy Lagoon Waterpark
  • Engaging and colorful sand and water play table allows for character play
  • Table is elevated for standing toddlers
  • Includes 2 characters, 2 inner tubes, 1 shovel, 1 cup, and 1 custom-fit plastic cover
  • Built-in drain plug for easy clean up
  • Promotes hand-eye coordination, active play, and social play
  • Holds up to 50 pounds of sand and 4 gallons of water

This water table is so awesome because we can set it up outside, with water or with sand, and they can play for hours, giving their toys a bath, making up stories, and just experimenting in general.

STEM engineering blocks

We have tried all kinds of blocks at our house, but my toddlers’ favorite are these STEM engineering blocks. The best part is when they work together to build something. They can make trucks, transformers, helicopters—all kinds of cool stuff.

They come in their own storage box and there are 101 different pieces they can use. It also comes with a book to give them some ideas on new designs.​

STEM Engineering Blocks
  • Helps kids develop math, engineering, science, and technology skills
  • Comes with 101 pieces
  • Helps kids with fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination
  • Supports logical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and collaboration
  • Pieces are non-toxic and BPA-, lead-, and phthalates-free

Play-Doh

My 2- and 4-year-old cannot get enough of this stuff. I often buy a huge box (great investment!) and then ration it out over time. They get so excited and they sit on the floor and play for long periods of time independently. 

I brought some on a transatlantic flight this year and it kept them quiet and in their seats for a very long time. I always carry a container or two in my bag for emergency situations.

Play-Doh
  • Play-Doh starter set comes with 10 2-oz containers
  • Squishy, bright and non-toxic
  • Lots of bright colors
  • Gets kids thinking creatively

Finding the best toddler toys

​​Parenting is a series of struggles. 

Should you sleep train? How do you deal with temper tantrums? How do you get your kid to eat vegetables? 

These are all stressful situations, and toy selection should not be one of them.

Hopefully this list—which also makes for great gift ideas—either provided you with some new ideas or at least some inspiration before you go toy shopping. 

Nothing pleases me more than giving my kids a toy, or receiving one as a gift, that looks fun, educational, and built to last.

Toys for Toddlers

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