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The Best Toys for Developing Cognitive Skills in Toddlers

little girl playing with alphabet blocks and paint and homework nearby
FamVeld/Shutterstock

The toys of one’s youth always provide us with entertaining memories to recall. However, some toys can provide us with more than just a few laughs, as they can even serve as our first teachers. Toys for toddlers that are steeped in cognitive development balance the necessity of early learning skills and the joy of rolling around on the floor with a favorite figurine. So, if you’re in the market to gift your toddler with a new type of playtime experience, then here are a few learning toys we think you should check out.

What to Look for in Your Child’s Next Learning Toy

Consider these factors when making a selection:

  • Intent: When selecting a new development toy for your toddler, it’s important that you understand which area of understanding it has an influence over and if that’s an area your child could benefit from with a playful learning session. Some toys tackle motor skills paired alongside minor critical thinking, while others teach those vital youth skills, like grouping, color coordination, and creativity.
  • Interactivity: Working hand-in-hand with a toy’s intent, it’s crucial that you find a toy your toddler will, above all else, lose themselves in. You want a toy that’s hands-on, an item that can be revisited hour after hour, veiling its ulterior teaching capacity with multilayered playful traits your toddler may never tire of.
  • Safety Precautions: It’s also important that your toddler’s next cognitive toy feature ample room for safety. If the toy you seek out features harder plastic construction, then you should also ensure that it employs an equally lightweight construction (minimal size and weight) while remaining sturdy to prevent shattering.

Best for Problem Solving: Buckle Toy – Blu Whale

a young girl playing with a stuffed blue whale toy

A child development toy that just as well may be their favorite nap time companion, this Buckle Toy Blu Whale is a cuddly and engaging stuffed animal that accomplishes a variety of tasks for children. This 9-by-6-inch plush whale features six child-friendly straps and buckles, each of which dons a different color and clasp style. The bold colors appeal to a child’s love of what catches the eye, while the variety of buckles engages their curiosity for anything they can put together with their hands.

Best for Problem Solving

Buckle Toys - Blu Whale - Develop Motor Skills and Problem Solving - Counting and Color Recognition - Easy Travel Toy - Learning Material Pre K Activity Toy

This plush whale strengthens a toddler's color recognition and motor skills while providing them with an adorable nap toy, too.

Best for Physical Activity: VTech Smart Shots Sports Center

a toddler kicking a soccer ball into a goalie toy

A two-in-one sporting system that gets a toddler moving and scoring up top and down low, this VTech Smart Shots Sports Center combines two sports with plenty of entertaining features. At the top of the 24-inch system are a digital display backboard and net for basketball practice, while the entire bottom half of the toy is a plastic soccer goal. No matter which system they play on, toddlers will be cheered on by the sound of points being tallied electronically and over 50 songs and phrases.

Best for Physical Activity

VTech Smart Shots Sports Center (Frustration Free Packaging) , Yellow

A sporting system that gets the most out of a toddler's exercise for the day.

Best Interactive Book: Melissa & Doug Children’s Book – Poke-a-Dot: Old MacDonald’s Farm

a kid's book open to pages with illustrated pigs

Featuring 20 pages of interactive images, sounds, and learning opportunities, this Melissa & Doug Children’s Book brings the colorful world of Old McDonald’s farm to your fingertips. Toddlers will read the central story, learning about several unique animals, their environment, and what kind of sounds they make. Additionally, featured on every book page are several buttons that make different clicking and popping sounds that depend on how they’re poked.

Best Interactive Book

Best Building Toy: Soyee Magnetic Blocks Building Tiles

a built town or castle-like colorful block structure

Looking for a suitable challenge for your toddler? This Soyee Magnetic Blocks Building Tiles set includes 52 brightly colored panels that can be stacked together to produce some mighty fine shapes. It’s all about tapping into your child’s creativity here, whether they chose to build a miniature castle or a means of transportation. Young users will not only gain an understanding of geometrical shapes and creative thinking, but they’ll also learn to appreciate how to work together properly if building alongside others.

Best Building Toy

Magnet Toys for 3 Year Old Boys and Girls Magnetic Blocks Building Tiles STEM Learning Toys Montessori Toys for Toddlers Kids

This 52-piece set of geometrical panels grants toddlers an appreciation for shapes, color coordination, and creative thinking.

Best for Grouping: Learning Resources Farmer’s Market Color Sorting Set

a box of a farmer's market set of toy vegetables and fruits of five colors

Like its title suggests, this Farmer’s Market Color Sorting Set from Learning Resources is intended to yield color-recognition skills at an early age while teaching them a thing or two about eating right. Within this produce bundle are five bushel baskets with color labels and 25 assorted fruits matching the shade labeled on the container. A toddler will recognize that lemons and bananas, while certainly far and away different flavors, belong together in the yellow basket, while grapes and eggplants follow suit.

Best for Grouping

Learning Resources Farmer's Market Color Sorting Set - 30 Pieces, Ages 18+ months Pretend Play Toys for Toddlers, Play Food for Toddlers, Play Kitchen for Toddlers, Stocking Stuffers

This pretend farmer's market setup teaches toddlers not only about how to correctly sort, but which fruits and vegetables are necessary for a well-balanced diet.

Hollis Mills Hollis Mills
Hollis Mills is a freelance journalist and a content writer for LifeSavvy. He has a bachelor's degree in English literature, and as an undergraduate at Texas A&M University, Hollis wrote and edited for the nationally recognized student newspaper, The Battalion. When he's not writing, you can find him complaining about Boston Celtics basketball or giving plenty of peanut butter biscuits to his always-hungry Catahoula dog, Blue. Read Full Bio »
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