Figuring the best gifts for 2-year-old toddlers can be frustrating. What do they need that they don’t already have? Their parents already have all the essential baby gear, as well as some favorite toys like a push car or an outdoor playset for burning off all that toddler energy. So how can you make sure the 2-year-old birthday gifts you’re buying will enrich their lives and help support their continued need for creative learning?
What is the best gift for a 2-year-old?
Learning and educational toys are the answer— especially when you’re thinking toddler gifts. The best educational toys for toddlers will stimulate their creativity and encourage them to mimic the behaviors of adults around them. 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.” She continues, “Kitchen toys like cups, plates, pitchers, and more allow children to mimic what they see at home during mealtime.”
Finally, Sutton suggests interactive toys that allow children to nest, stack, open, close, or tuck inside one another. For instance, she says you can give children a ball or stuffed animal that they put in and take out of a box or lidded container (as long as it’s safe to play with, of course). “All of this play will help children strengthen their fine motor skills,” she says.
With all these recommendations in mind, here are some of the best educational toys and gifts for 2-year-olds. And if none of these are fun *enough*, you can always buy them (I mean, you) Disney+, which turns learning time into free time for you.
**Please note: All these picks are great for either boys or girls, but since some people like to search for gifts based on gender, we wanted to include some options!**
Best Gifts For 2-Year-Olds
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.”
This fun, farm animal-themed puzzle is ideal for toddlers just learning to put things together. The chunky pieces are not only pleasantly tactile, they’re easy for little hands to handle as each shape finds its place. In addition to solving this puzzle the regular way, kiddos can use the self-standing pieces for free play and can even trace them on paper for a fun art project.
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).
Best Gifts For 2-year-Old Boys
Any toy that multitasks is a great choice in our book and this awesome pirate ship is perfect for any boy or girl who can’t wait to set sail. In addition to being a large-scale play set with 2 pirate figures, a cannon, and other interactive parts, junior sailors can hop right on to scoot their way along the seven seas. When they’re done playing, the extra pieces can even be stashed in a “secret” compartment beneath the seat.
Any little boy or girl will love watching these soft cars zoom about. Pull them back to wind ’em up, then let go, and they zip around as if they’ve got teeny-tiny motors. Although this toy is suitable for babies 9+ months, kids in their early toddler years get excited as they start figuring out cause and reaction (plus wheeling them around is just plain fun). And if these plush vehicles bump into an ankle or furniture leg, don’t worry; they won’t do any damage.
Best Gifts For 2-Year-Old Girls
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.”
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.”
Best Christmas Gifts For 2-Year-Olds
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.”
Unique Gifts For 2-Year-Olds
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.”
Who doesn’t love avocados? Add in some interactive play and there’s even more to love. This set is simple but it provides the the interactive, problem-solving entertainment that kiddos this age crave: The “pits” spin to reveal different faces, the halves can be taken apart and put back together, and each avocado has its own little resting place on the yellow tray. Bonus, it’s a sound-free, battery-free toy that’ll keep your LO occupied without excess noise.
This critter and its accessories are a similar concept to Mr. Potato Head, but in a cuter, cuddlier way. Mixaroo comes with plush add-ons like dragon wings, fox ears, a lion’s mane, and more so the tiny creator can dream up their very own buddy then re-arrange it to their heart’s content. In addition to sparking imagination, Mixaroo helps develop motor skills and can encourage cooperative play, which makes it better than your typical stuffed animal, if you ask us.
Practical Gifts For 2-Year-Olds
At this age, toddlers are less like babies and more like tiny humans (if that makes sense), and they’re starting to get dressed as such. For the highly mobile tot who can’t wait around for onesie snaps to be secured, comfy and easy-to-dress pieces are key. So get the 2-year-old in your life some staples from MooMooz, which both the little one and their parents will adore. Like a Uniqlo for kids, this company specializes in affordable, quality, gender-neutral “essentials with a modern twist” that can be mixed, matched, and worn again and again. (They’re also sized to cover at least 2 years for added longevity.) Take, for instance, these Supima cotton joggers — they’re so soft and easy to put on, they’re an instant favorite for both kiddos and parents. (BTW, they’re available in lots of other colors, too). Pair them with a classic crewneck sweatshirt and goes-with-anything striped t-shirt for a gift that’s equal parts thoughtful and practical.
This gift is as much for the little birthday boy or gal as it is for the parents (you’re welcome). Thanks to its height and easy-to-lift, detachable lid, this toy box is especially accessible for kiddos looking to pull out or stash their toys. At just 6 pounds, it’s also super lightweight, and mom/dad will appreciate how it’s a handy place to store the extra clutter.
Everyone can enjoy a little fresh air with this adorable swing that’s specifically made for Baby’s comfort (and it looks chic, to boot). Since it comes with its own stand, you won’t have to worry whether there’s a safe tree to hang it on, plus it’s also suitable for indoor use. Most toddlers appreciate a change of scenery from their playpen, so this is a great way for them to spend time outside (with supervision, of course) while still being contained.
For more products to keep your kids entertained, check out our toy age-appropriate toy picks here.