Buying Guide for Toddler Toys
Why buy toys for toddlers?
First, it’s okay to spoil them a bit. Besides, they’re only little once. But more importantly, toys help toddlers build connections; relationships between objects and themselves. Little ones all over the world enjoy toys that are bright, colorful, and have moving parts or whimsical designs. Whether they’re plush toys, learning toys as simple as blocks or as complicated as electronics, outdoor toys, or toys with their favorite characters that bring the joy of recognition, toys can excite and encourage hours of play.
What should you consider in toys for toddlers?
- Play Style: The right toy for your toddler should speak to your child and fit their personality and interests. That’s a little harder when your child is little and may not have the verbal skills to tell you what they like. But if they naturally gravitate toward certain things like puzzles, blocks, or dolls, it doesn’t hurt to nurture those interests by adding more toys that fall under those categories.
- The Right Balance: In addition to providing a surfeit of fun, it’s important that the toy you buy also be able to teach your toddler age-appropriate basics like letters and numbers, relationships between objects, caring for something (like a doll or animal toy), or fine motor skills. Toys are already predisposed to get children moving around; however, some of the most entertaining options are designed to not only gauge your child’s love of learning but strengthen their cognitive skills and motor skills as well.
- Safe Guarding: It’s also imperative that your toddler’s next toy is safe and made from chemical-free materials that you can feel good about. Make sure your toy is crafted from non-toxic and safe plastics, silicone, wood, or other materials that are safety rated for daily play. Additionally, if you’re buying a battery-operated toy, make sure the overall construction aims to keep any wires or batteries firmly concealed inside the product.
Which toddler toys will last the longest?
Any toy made from durable materials should stand the test of time naturally. But when it comes to keeping your child’s interest for more than a few short months, look for toys that can grow with them. Dolls, action figures, puzzles, toys that mimic adult items, toy cars, and stuffed animals will usually grow with your child because of the multiple ways in which they can be enjoyed and also, in some cases, because of sentimental attachment.
Our Picks for the Best Toddler Toys
Lydaz Bubble Lawn Mower for Toddlers
Cute and colorful, this battery-operated toy mower includes several bubble solutions and wands.
Pros: Watch iridescent suds bloom from the front of this colorful miniature play push lawnmower, a playful replica of an adult item that makes for great backyard use and role-playing while parents tend to the yard. The complete contents of the toy include one push mower, three bubble solution bottles, and three bubble wands, and it’s easy to use for kids ages 18 months and up. Its three AA batteries drive the revolving bubble wands at the front of the mower while creating realistic engine sounds when in motion.
Cons: Batteries are not included. And since it’s lightweight, the bubble solution may spill or leak.
Bottom Line: This cute little toy push mower helps kids imitate adult behaviors, allowing them to “help” with yard work. It makes bubbles, so kids can enjoy hours of backyard fun during warm months.
Jasonwell Aqua Magic Doodle Mat
This creative play mat encourages your little one to stretch their artistic muscles all while surrounded by colorful designs and the alphabet.
Pros: This drawing and doodling mat is a great way for kids to stretch their creative muscles without also creating an epic mess. The mat is 40 x 32 inches with letters printed on the side, leaving more room for your kids’ doodle art. It’s recommended for ages 2 and up, so it can last through the years. The five included aqua pens are easy to fill with plain water, and the mat also comes with stencils, a storage box for the pens, a design booklet, and stamps. It has four suction cups, so you can hang them from a wall or window, or your child can use it on the floor or a tabletop. This mat also folds up tightly for easy storage when not in use.
Cons: The markers are not very durable and can wear out quickly. Also, this is a toy that requires water, so there could be the possibility of slips and falls.
Bottom Line: Bigger than the competition, this extra-large doodle mat has plenty of space for your little ones to draw and create. It comes with a drawing guide that walks your child through basic shapes, animals, and letters. And it doesn’t make a huge mess like markers or paint.
Little Tikes Easy Score Basketball Set
This child-sized basketball hoop is a lightweight and safe option, so toddlers can build confidence shooting hoops.
Pros: If you have active little ones, this indoor/outdoor basketball hoop from a trusted brand name in children’s toys may be a great toy for them to hone their athletic skills. It has an adjustable height, so it will grow with your child for at least a few years. It’s recommended for children 18 months to 5 years old. And your little one can get more baskets with the extra-wide rim and junior-sized basketballs that are included with the hoop. The base can be weighted with sand or water for extra stability. And it holds up beautifully against rough weather and lots of use.
Cons: This hoop is not recommended for dunking, as those activities may loosen the rim.
Bottom Line: This adorable basketball hoop is a great toy to keep young children engaged and active. It encourages motor skills while also encouraging teamwork, taking turns, and fun. And it’s great for indoor or outdoor use.
Melissa & Doug Let's Play House Dust! Sweep! Mop! 6 Piece Pretend Play Set
With everything they need to join in while cleaning up, this set helps them imitate adults and exercise their motor skills.
Pros: This complete set of educational cleaning toys includes a wooden play broom, mop, duster, brush, and organizing stand. The red dustpan conveniently clips into all handles for storage and convenience of use. It’s crafted to inspire hours of pretend play while parents commit themselves to the real chores. The mop, broom, duster, brush, and organizing stand feature durable wooden construction for a real, hefty feel in their hands. Kids will feel an earned sense of responsibility by playing house in their own simple way. Overall, this is a great educational toy for children ages 3-6.
Cons: The stand is lightweight and therefore may be a little wobbly.
Bottom Line: From the gold standard in realistic kids’ toys for over 30 years, this set really delivers a realistic feel for kids to play along with adults. The set is beautifully crafted to look and feel like the real thing. And kids can actually clean with this set as well, earning them brownie points, stickers, or other rewards for helping around the house.
Melissa & Doug Vehicles 4-in-1 Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
This jigsaw puzzle set features four depictions of modern vehicles.
Pros: A simple but engaging set of four, these Melissa & Doug Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles feature vehicle-themed brainteasers: a race car, steam engine, school bus, and fire engine. This four-in-one comes in a sturdy wooden storage box that doesn’t just provide easy portability but also doubles as a board where kids can piece together each puzzle. You’ll buy it for the hand-eye coordination and problem-solving perks, but in the end, you’ll always enjoy its lively depictions of classic and modern transportation. It makes a fabulous gift for kids ages 3 to 6.
Cons: The pieces don’t lock together like a traditional puzzle. And there are only small pictures of the finished products for reference.
Bottom Line: With multiple puzzles in one set, this toy is a money-saver for parents, caregivers, and grandparents looking to entertain and stimulate the minds of young kids. The classic vehicles featured in the puzzles are recognizable and well-drawn. And kids can get a sense of accomplishment from putting them together on their own.
Nuby Floating Purple Octopus
Get ready for the tub! This fun and interactive toy stimulates a little one's developmental senses.
Pros: This is a fantastic little toy for bathtime that can keep young ones 18 months and older entertained. It has three rings that encourage interactive play. And it helps them develop hand-eye coordination as well as recognize the relationships between objects. It’s vibrant and bright, with textures and shapes that engage the senses. The rubber toy has no holes to prevent mold and is also BPA- and chemical-free for added safety.
Cons: The octopus only has six arms instead of eight.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a great bath toy for a toddler, this may be the one for you. It features colorful rings that can be tossed over the tentacles for tons of bathtime fun. Just try not to let it bother you too much that it’s a six-legged octopus.
It’s not just that toddlers enjoy toys for recreation; it’s that they need toys to stimulate brain development. Toys such as puzzles, games, and blocks allow children to create and build relationships between objects while enhancing motor skills. Toys such as dress-up clothes, dolls, and real-life toys such as toy food, toy cleaning materials, toy cars, motorcycles, and lawnmowers help children realize adult experiences as kids and develop imagination and problem-solving skills.