Figuring out what toys to give two-year-olds can be frustrating. What do they need that they don’t already have? How can you make sure you’re not contributing to the ever-growing pile of plastic crap but instead providing them with gifts that will enrich their lives and help support their continued growth and education?
Gifts and toys that will stimulate their creativity and encourage them to mimic the behaviors of adults around them are your best bet. Two-year-olds are “at the beginning stages of pretend play,” says Monica J. Sutton, a New York and New Jersey based Early Childhood and Special Education expert. “At this age, they are feeling confident with walking and moving around on their own. Now they’re ready to really figure out their world.” Sutton recommends giving gifts that allow two-year-olds to play pretend. “Dolls, baby dolls, and accessories encourage children to mimic what they see adults do with babies and with them. They can hold the dolls, feed the dolls, etc.” Dolls are obviously not just for girls, by the way! Sutton also suggests food-related toys that allow children to pretend they are serving a meal, which allows them to work on “social skills, fine motor skills, and language skills.”
With all these recommendations in mind, here are some of the best development gifts and toys for the two-year-old in your life. And if none of these are fun *enough*, you can always buy them (I mean you) Disney+ which is makes learning time=free time.
Things With Wheels
Sutton explains that using toys with wheels help children mimic what they see outside in the world or on TV.
It’s never too early to teach toddlers about cleaning up after themselves. This toy vacuum is a replica of a Dyson ball upright vacuum but in a brightly colored, kid-friendly size. It’s packed with realistic features like noises, cyclone action, twist and turn movement, a removable dustbin, and working suction that can pick up tiny messes. You’re still going to have to do the heavy lifting in terms of cleaning, but you mini can help you vacuum rooms as a fun activity (fun for them, at least), and every little bit counts, right? Think of this toy vacuum as a minor investment now that will pay off in the future when your kid is old enough to actually be helpful with chores around the house. By then, they’ll be such a pro around cleaning tools and techniques that you’ll be able to kick back on the couch and just relax (#wishfulthinking).
You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream (though hopefully screaming with inside voices). Your toddler can learn and play by pushing around this LeapFrog Scoop & Learn ice cream cart, take customer orders, and serve scoops to the whole family. There are six animal order cards with instructions on how to make certain treats, and the “magic” scooper will tell them if they picked up the right ice cream flavor. They can also sing songs and practice their counting by pressing the pretend syrup pump. One enthusiastic reviewer says, “I can’t say enough good things about this. I had no idea what to expect. My 2 year old and 3 year old are obsessed with it! The features are so neat and really help build their comprehension skills, colors, counting and allows them to use their imagination with playtime. It’s such a great learning toy! It’s excellent quality, as well. I would definitely buy it again.”
Children learn caregiving skills. They can “hold the dolls, feed the dolls, dress the dolls, and even attempt to brush or comb their hair,” says Sutton.
This French-styled doll is the perfect size for toddler boys and girls to hold and play with. It’s 12 inches long and has a soft body, so your little one’s hands and arms will be able to cradle and carry the doll wherever they go. The doll is dressed in pajamas and has sleepy eyes that close when it is laid down, making it a great nap or bedtime buddy. Baby Carolle is also made of vanilla scented soft-to-the-touch vinyl. One mom and reviewer, says, “Well, this doll exceeded my expectations. When the doll arrived, my daughter was immediately captivated (“Oh, cute!”). I couldn’t get it out of the package fast enough, and she attached herself to it immediately. It has not left her side since. If she falls asleep with it and it isn’t immidiately [sic] available when she wakes up, she will have a meltdown (when moving her from the car to her bed, the doll got left behind). If she is eating or playing or watching a movie, the doll is situated next to her. It has become her best friend.”
This realistic New York Doll Collection doll is 11 inches tall, has a soft body, and is dressed in a cute onesie and matching hat. The doll has been safety tested for kids ages two and up, and it’s hand washable to help deal with the daily spills that are usually inevitable by toddlers. There are also various ethnicities available. Think dolls are just for girls? This mom and reviewer says otherwise: “I purchased the ‘Hispanic’ one in a little blue outfit for my 2 and a half yr old son. My 5 and a half year old daughter has a baby doll that my son would always play with so I figured I should just get him one too. He is in love with his new doll! I went with the Hispanic one because the skin tone matched my kids complexion and I like getting them dolls that look like them. I’m Latin American. The doll has a really nice completion and the little hat/outfit is super cute. My son takes his doll everywhere now that he finally has his own. Very happy with my purchase.”
“Kitchen toys like cups, plates, pitchers, and more allow children to mimic what they see at home during meal time.”
This full kitchen set will have your little chef cooking up a storm! They’ll be able to prepare a dish on the stove, which has lights and sizzling noises, or heat up pretend food in the microwave or oven. They are even toy coffee pods for making a cup of coffee in a mug or a to-go travel cup. And importantly, after they’re done cooking, they can wash the dishes in the sink and store them in the disk rack or organizational bins. This decked-out mini kitchen comes with an assortment of accessories, including condiment bottles, place settings, plates, bowls, cups, a colander, pots and pans, and even a play phone (in case you want to call your toddler and put in a takeout order). With all those options, the Step2 Fun with Friends Kitchen should keep your kids entertained, or at least out of your actual kitchen when you’re trying to make dinner.
Teach your youngster about healthy food groups and nutrition in a fun, colorful way. This set comes with four crates and 21 common food items, such as milk, bread, fruit, and cheese. The pieces are sturdy and big enough to not be choking hazards (because you know almost every one of them is going to end up in your little one’s mouth). You can help your kids learn the names of different foods and sort them into groups (dairy, produce, grains, and meats and fish), by color, or whatever other creative way they choose. They’re also a great accompaniment to any play kitchen you may already own. One reviewer says, “The toys are exactly what we wanted, they’re good quality wooden ‘food’ items with little wooden crates. I would recommend these toys to anyone that’s looking for make believe food for their little ones to enjoy. Happy parents and a very happy 2 year old that’s enjoyed them straight out of the box.”
Boxes or Containers
Sutton suggests toys that “allow children to pick up, put in, close and open […] You can use anything with a top that children have to pull off and push on.” She also says that you can give children a ball or stuffed animal that they can then use to put in and take out of a box. “All of this play will help children strengthen their fine motor skills,” she says.
These stackable farm animal blocks feature adorable nesting figurines, numbers, and bright pops of colors to help foster pretend play and develop fine motor skills. The set comes with six boxes that can stack or nest, as well as six small farm animals that can fit inside them. You and your toddler will love playing with all the pieces and creating animal stories together. They’re also great language learning toys. Says one reviewer, “I am a pediatric speech/language pathologist, specializing in children aged 18-36 months. I use this toy almost daily. The children love the animals and the ‘houses’ and are motivated by the opportunity to play with them over and over. We stack the boxes, put the animals ‘in’ and take them ‘out.’ We bring the animals ‘up’ and ‘down,’ make animal noises and much more! I love that using this toy, I can promote multiple language targets for children at different levels of language learning. This is a definite favorite.”
The Battat Educational Stacking Cups are fun, development toys for your toddler, who will enjoy
stacking the cups up in different ways and likely enjoy knocking them over even more. There are 19 colorful pieces, including a bucket with a handle and lid, stacking cups, and different shapes that can fit through the bucket lid. The cups also have numbers and different colors and designs on them, helping kids learn counting, different animals and foods, and more. One happy reviewer says, “It’s the perfect toy for learning shapes, colors, and practicing fine motor skills, growing with your kid. I love that you can stack every cup inside of each other to store and clean up and the largest one has a handle so you can take them every where with you. They are made of heavy colorful plastic with included stickers. A good quality toy at a very convenient price.”
For more products to keep your kids entertained, check out our toy picks here.