Toddlers – their brains are growing exponentially every day, which can be incredibly exciting for parents and loved ones, but also sometimes difficult to keep up. Purchasing the best toddler toys for your little one not only helps aid in their brain development, but it can also help hold their attention, leaving you more time to tackle those five loads of laundry waiting downstairs.
From grocery stores and pharmacies to children’s stores– there is an abundance of options for your toddler basically wherever you go. The choice can feel overwhelming, and investing in toys that will keep your child engaged and growing are key. “Open-ended” toys, or play that allows for children to choose their options and creativity, are also essential.
Prioritizing play time and open play is also a great way to limit or eliminate screen time, which can pay off big time in the long run. Recent research shows that children around two years old who spent less than an hour a day on electronics and exercised daily showed better cognitive skills than those who did not, according to scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve done the hard work for you! After combing through 10 expert websites, StudyFinds compiled a list of the five most recommended, best toddler toys on the market. Let us know if we missed a favorite of your little one’s in the comments below!
The List: Best Toddler Toys, According to Parents
Making noise is a favorite pastime of just about every toddler, so why not make it a learning experience while you’re at it? Child development experts and parents agree– whether it’s a xylophone, piano and microphone or guitar, instruments are a great way to explore sound and touch.
“The Baby Einstein instruments are very on brand as being interactive, educational, and irresistibly fun. Equipped with a wireless, wooden piano and guitar, the set works like a walkie talkie via radio signals, perfect for collaborative playing. Babies will find it very easy to use and love making their own tunes. Even older siblings will want to join in the fun, making this a great toy for families with kids of varying ages,” writes Parents.com.
To opt for the most useful and educational music toys, look for ones that allow for learning and creativity. “Most are toys, not tuned instruments. Our toddler played this set of eight resonator bells in a music class, and we got a set for home. They’re durable, sound good, and allow for all kinds of musical (and other) exploration. Kids can get a hands-on feel for the sequence of a diatonic octave by ordering the blocks by size or note,” adds The New York Times.
Many also consider music and instrument sets a great investment as they will stand the test of time for later years, siblings, and beyond. “If you’re shopping for the best toddler toys that’ll entertain them for years to come, you may have just found the perfect one,” says The Bump.
Whether it’s the widely popular Mega Bloks or a simple wooden block set, building blocks are a dynamic and versatile toy for your toddler that encourage creativity and fine motor skills. “Award-winning Mega Bloks are the perfect gift for toddlers. The Mega Bloks Big Building Bag comes with 80 durable, high-grade plastic pieces that are ergonomically designed for a toddler’s hands to easily manipulate. They effortlessly snap together for hours of building and rebuilding fun,” explains The Spruce.
While you may think of blocks as a simple toy that only the most beginner level toddlers will enjoy, seasoned parents say otherwise. “I’ve had these blocks in my house since my son was one—he’s now nearly 10, and his three younger siblings have all continued to play with them,” adds a reviewer from Forbes.
If you’re looking to take it up a notch, consider investing in a block set that includes a variety of shapes and open-play options (tunnels and bridges, anyone?) “The Block Set by Lovevery encourages open play by offering endless possibilities of shapes, colors, and activities,” notes Parents.com. “And, because the creators thought of everything, there are no small parts with choking hazards. So you can feel comfortable letting your toddler pass blocks to your baby (these blocks are built to last, so they’ll be playing with them together soon enough). Festive colors and beautiful packaging make it the perfect gift.”
Will it be a cheese pizza today or a scoop of ice cream with sprinkles? Setting up a play kitchen for your little one will spark their imagination and lead to endless possibilities. “Whatever play kitchen you choose, your young chef is sure to stock it with all kinds of ingredients, edible and otherwise, soon enough (think stray socks, rotting strawberries, forgotten field-trip permission slips). You can add Learning Resources’ big baskets of colorful fruits and veggies to that treasure trove,” writes The New York Times.
A big part of the appeal of a play kitchen is our little ones’ fascination with adult behavior, and encouraging this curiosity can lead to independence. “Most kids gravitate toward pretend kitchens, and it’s easy to see why—they’re just fun. They get to act like grown-ups, there are a bunch of cool accessories and sometimes these things make actual noise or light up,” says Forbes.
Options for which toy kitchen you choose to buy are pretty extensive, but expert websites encourage investing in one that is as realistic and detailed as possible, with the addition of some fun props. The Bump loves the Melissa & Doug wooden play kitchen: “There are plenty of details that give it an adorable yet realistic feel, including a spinning microwave plate, a grocery checklist and moveable hooks. The best part? It’s super easy to assemble.”
Equally as important as nourishing the mind is encouraging outdoor play and physical activity. That’s where investing in a quality scooter for your little one is a great choice. “This ride-on is designed to grow into a scooter as your toddler gets bigger. First, it’s a ride-on with a seat. Then, the seat removes, and it’s a scooter with an O-shaped handlebar. Finally, it becomes a scooter with a T-shaped handlebar,” points out Good Housekeeping about the Micro Kickboard 3-in-1 Deluxe Ride-On Mini Scooter.
Most parents agree that choosing a scooter that can transition to different comfort levels is the way to go. Forbes loves the Skip Hop Kids’ 3-In-1 Ride On Scooter And Wagon Toy. “The handlebars easily adjust up and down with your child. This was gifted to my 3-year-old last year, and she’s used it as a rider and scooter. It’s incredibly easy to pop the seat on and off, allowing her to switch between the two stages.”
When you buy a scooter for a little one you’ll also be opting for a toy that will last for more than just a few months, good for your wallet, and the earth. “A good scooter is often a much-beloved part of a child’s toy collection. The Mini Deluxe Eco is easy to ride, giving kids the chance to focus on balancing and scooting without worrying about falling over. Designed for ages 2–5, it’s meant to last a long time, much like our planet,” says Parents.com.
5. Baby Dolls
You might be surprised how many hours of entertainment a baby doll or child doll can provide. In addition to helping toddlers understand the basics of the human body, what could be more fun than having a little friend to tag along on all your adventures? Whether it’s strolling along in a stroller, feeding them pretend cereal, or brushing their hair– dolls are a hit for tots.
“Kids can use their imaginations and foster empathy by caring for babies. The hats are attached, but the nightgowns come off, if they’re working on their fine motor skills and want to dress and undress the dolls,” adds Good Housekeeping.
It can be hard at times to be a toddler, especially when surrounded by adults who don’t always understand you– investing in a doll may even make your child feel a little less alone. “They offer your little one companionship and comfort, along with a number of other socio-emotional developmental benefits that will stick with them for years—if not a lifetime—to come,” mentions The Bump.
And if you may be thinking of expanding your family, having a realistic baby doll for your toddler is a great way to get them accustomed to helping out mom and dad before the big day comes.
The New York Times recommends the American Girl Bitty Baby for your toddler. Why? “First released in 1995 to help children acclimate before the arrival of a baby sibling, this American Girl classic has evolved over the years. Today’s Bitty Baby comes in different combinations of skin tone, hair color, eye color, and outfit color; you can even customize a set of Bitty Baby twins. The doll is a hard-to-find hybrid; its soft fabric torso and brushed knit outfit offer some of the cuddliness of a plushie, while the molded face and operable eyelids provide the interactivity of a doll.”
You might also be interested in:
- Best Children’s Books
- Healthiest Cereal for Kids
- Best Children’s Mattresses
- Best Children’s Multivitamins
- NY Times
- Good Housekeeping
- The Spruce
- Busy Toddler
- Reach for Montessori
- The Bump
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links.