Toys for Toddlers

A Teacher’s Guide to the Best Toys for 2 Year Olds

How Many Toys do Children Really Need?

This is the question I’m always asking myself. Along with, which toys are WORTH buying? My family lives in a pretty small house, and clutter drives me nuts (especially now that I’m home all day). About every 4 months I go through and round up many shopping bags full of toys to donate. Most of the toys I choose to give away are single-purpose. This means you can only use them one way and kids get bored with them as soon as the novelty wears off. My teaching years taught me that the best toys are open-ended. There are endless ways to play with these types of toys, so they get used over and over again, in so many creative
All the toys listed are ones that we own. Even while running a family childcare, I believe that less is more and that play is more focused and intentional when there are fewer choices (plus, it makes clean up easier!). Following are the select few toys that I make available on a daily basis. There are other toys I rotate into the mix, but these are the best of the best. They are essentials for any toddler play environment.

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1. Magnatiles

I have as much fun playing with these as my daughter does. My daycare kids pull these out at least 3 times a day! There are so many possibilities, from making 2d animals to 3d houses and towers. We started with this 32 piece starter set, but have already ordered more!
BONUS: I have taught children from age 2 through age 8, and this product is a hit for all age levels! This is a product that will grow with your child.

Magna-Tiles 32-Piece Clear Colors Set

2. Duplos

This is a given. As with legos, you can never have too many. There are countless sets out there, but I prefer the simple creative sets. Without any of the fancy single-purpose bricks (like a slide or window), tots can focus on using their imaginations.

LEGO Duplo My First My First Bricks 10848

3. Stacking Bowls

We bought the First Years stacking cups when my daughter was 6 months old, and they are still favorites. I splurged on the Grimm’s bowls once she stopped putting things in her mouth (the wood is not supposed to get wet). I can’t even count the number of times in a day that each of these are used. Toddlers love containers. A set of bowls or cups from your kitchen works as well!

Grimm’s Set of 5 Small Wooden Stacking & Nesting Rainbow Bowls, Ocean Blue

The First Years Stack Up Cups

4. Push and Pull Toys

Another thing toddlers love is pushing and pulling! When children visit my house for playgroups, these are usually the first toys snatched up! We have the following wagon, and a similar doll pram, and the kids use them equally. The wagon works great outdoors as well.

Green Toys Wagon Toy

Badger Basket English Style Doll Pram

5. Baby Dolls

Dolls are an amazing toy for both boys and girls! They promote nurturing, empathy, language and early social skills. We own a couple soft dolls like Wee Baby Stella below, but also have a couple hard-bodied dolls. These are great for water table play, outdoor play or bath time.

Manhattan Toy Wee Baby Stella

6. Loose Parts

While not technically toys, these are essentials for play! The biggest benefit is their versatility, which encourages imagination and invention. And toddlers love them. Napkin rings, for example, can be bird nests, bracelets, beads, and likely, some sort of food. Endless possibilities.

JPSOR 50 Pcs 2.2″ Natural Wood Rings Circles Unfinished Wood for DIY Pendant Connectors Jewelry Making

Other great ideas for loose parts:

  • Cut sections of plastic straws
  • Corks
  • Rocks
  • Pinecones
  • Plastic bottle tops
  • Spools
  • Vase fillers

**With young toddlers, make sure no loose parts you give them are choking hazards, could fall apart, or are made of toxic materials. I like to look for larger, unfinished wood pieces.

7. Animal Figures

This is another obvious one. Kids love animals! They will play with these from babyhood on up to Elementary school! My favorite brands are Schleich and Safari, Ltd. for small animal figures. We like Folkmanis for puppets, and Ostheimer when we feel like splurging on an heirloom!

Pictured are the Schleich North America Forest Animal Babies Set. We don’t have these yet, but Christmas is coming. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here is a beautiful Whitetail Buck from Safari Ltd.

Folkmanis has an adorable Hedgehog puppet!

And here’s a gorgeous Robin Redbreast from Ostheimer. They are expensive but the good news is that as long as you take care of them, they hold their value.

8. Sand and Water Table

We absolutely love playing with our sensory table every day. Beyond water, we fill it with snow, shaving cream, ice, kinetic sand, or play dough, to name a few. We chose this one from Step2 because it’s the right size and height for toddlers. It has two separate sections for sand and water. As a primary teacher, this was still popular with my first graders. So it definitely has some staying power!

Step2 Splash N Scoop Bay Sand and Water Table

9. Waldorf Play stands and Arches

This is the only toy on this list that I do not currently own (but wish I did). Most Waldorf Preschools and Kindergartens will have these. We currently own a toddler-size play kitchen, but we’d like to switch to something more open-ended. Play stands fit the bill. They can act as a kitchen, but they can also be a house, or a car, or anything your child dreams of. I would recommend getting two Play Stands, an Arch, a Rainbow Playsilk and some Clips. Even 8 and 9 year olds still enjoy pretend play, so these will get a lot of use over many years.

Little Colorado Play Stand in Natural

Arch for Play Stand Finish: Sanded / Unfinished

10. Pikler Triangle

Here’s one that is not available on Amazon. It’s called a Pikler triangle, it’s made for climbing, and it’s a Montessori staple! These aren’t cheap, but are well worth it. They’re fantastic for climbing, swinging, and fort building, and work for ages 1-6. There are many different shops on Etsy that make them. We bought ours from MaFabrique and couldn’t be happier. Check out the fun accessories available too!

That’s it! I hope you were able to find something useful here! Do you have any of these at home already? Are there some your toddler doesn’t play with, or something I’ve left out? Drop me a comment!

๐Ÿ‘ง Toddler mom. ๐ŸŒˆ Reggio and Waldorf Inspired Childcare๐ŸŒฒ Forest School ๐Ÿ” Dillingham, Alaska

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