The holidays are right around the corner and you may be looking to pick up just the right toy for your toddler. There’s so many to choose from, so how do you pick the best learning toys for toddlers?
Personally, I love toddler toys that encouraging my toddler’s development and help him learn and explore through his senses. So, I try to pick toys that are going to entertain him for more than 5 minutes.
Toddlers learn a lot through play and different types of toys serve different purposes for a toddler’s development, so keep that in mind when choosing.
As a teacher, I’ve explored with my little friends to see what they love best and how it helps them learn and grow.
So here is this teacher’s list of must-have developmental toddler toys.
The best part is you can grab any of these awesome toys from Amazon, making your shopping a little easier.
Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but this comes at no additional cost to you.
WHAT ARE THE BEST LEARNING TOYS FOR TODDLERS?
Personally, I think less is more. A great educational learning toy for toddlers doesn’t always mean the most expensive toy or the one with the most bells and whistles.
I actually love toys that are simple and open-ended. These types of toys allow your toddler to explore through play. It allows them to create, build, manipulate, test things out, and try try again.
There are also so many different types of toys for different types of play. They learn different skills with each kind so we’ll explore different types of toys and their benefits for different kinds of play.
As we have learned, play is crucial for a child’s healthy brain development so we want to maximize those opportunities and provide the best learning toys that boost cognitive, social, and physical development. If you want to learn more about the importance and benefits of play-based learning you can read this article in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
BEST CONSTRUCTION TOYS FOR TODDLERS (CONSTRUCTIVE PLAY TOYS FOR TODDLER LEARNING)
Construction toys or building toys are a definite must-have learning toy for toddlers. It provides them with an understanding of how things fit together as they explore their spatial awareness, shapes, and colors.
It teaches them to think critically about how to manipulate a shape’s direction and judge whether it fits. They learn how to problem-solve when they discover their structure isn’t as stable as they thought (after a tantrum of course).
It’s also fantastic for their gross motor and fine motor skills. Think about the hand control and precision they require to stack or build a tower. It really helps them to master that hand-eye coordination.
Make sure to choose something that’s age-appropriate for your toddler. Younger toddlers will need building toys that are larger in size to avoid choking so avoid anything with smaller pieces.
Here are a few of my favorite construction toys every toddler should have.
SNAG A DEAL
If you can get it for
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it’s a steal!
These Mega Bloks are a great choice for any emerging builder.
They’re nice and big so even if your toddler still loves putting everything in their mouth, you won’t have to worry about them swallowing or choking on them.
My kiddo doesn’t struggle with putting them together or pulling them apart so they’re totally toddler friendly for independent play.
I also love the reusable bag they come in, it’s the perfect quick and easy storage solution. It’s got a cute little handle too so it’s portable for little hands.
They also come in pink in case your toddler has some fierce options like my guy.
If you want to see them in action, this mama shared a cute video with her review on amazon. Take a peek!
I don’t know if I would call them giant, but they certainly are big (these are what I personally consider giant blocks)! These foam blocks are always a hit with toddlers, they keep them entertained for hours and they’re great for their development too!
Just like the other blocks, they’re great for hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, and cognitive thinking.
These are super easy to clean as well since they’re waterproof. Just give them a soapy rinse and you’re done. We actually love them for water play in the tub too.
If you want to see how big they actually look in person (I find the stock photo size kind of misleading, I was expecting bigger) check out this customer photo.
You can’t go wrong with a Montessori classic toy, like wooden blocks. The Melissa & Doug wooden building blocks set includes 100 durable wooden blocks in 4 different colors and 9 shapes.
It’s a classic educational toy that provides hours of hands-on, screen-free play and learning.
I think these would be best suited to toddlers 3 years and older as they’re quite a bit smaller in size than the others. I don’t think it’s small enough to chock on but why take the risk.
This is a fantastic starter train set for toddlers made of great quality materials. The magnets trains design let the little train can be played on its own separately without the tracks.
My little guy can spend hours with his set building and pretending. You’ll have to show your little one how to do it initially but they catch on pretty quick.
What’s great about this one is that it’s compatible with any other major brands if you need to mix and match.
Want to see it in person? This mama shares some cute photos of her ‘slightly train obsessed’ little man playing with his.
MORE AWESOME CONSTRUCTION TOYS FOR TODDLERS
BEST TODDLER TOYS FOR IMAGINATIVE PLAY
Imaginative play is so important for our little friends. It gives them the opportunity to practice their communication, language, and socialization skills.
It encourages them to problem solve, build their confidence, as well as co-operate, and learn about their feelings and others.
Here are some of my favorite toys that encourage pretend play and foster a child’s imagination.
This adorable pretend play kitchen set has it all! Give your budding chef everything they need to cook up a gourmet meal.
This toy is fantastic for pretend play and sequencing steps. Your little one can ‘cook a meal’ from start to finish. The adorable little fruits and veggies have velcro in the middle so kiddies can ‘cut’ them’ and then throw them in the pot to cook.
My little guy loves cutting his veggies! He doesn’t always get to the actual cooking part because he can literally do just the cutting all day!
We talk about foods, colors, and how things taste when we play.
I would suggest adding some more velcro food since this set only has a few.
This cute pretend play doctor set is another great option for encouraging imaginative play. If your little one gets nervous about doctors’ appointments, this could help them face their fears by acting it out.
It even has a working stethoscope! That’s pretty cool.
You can see how it looks up close in this mom’s video + review.
We practice ‘writing prescriptions’ to work on our literacy and we even have a pharmacy station where we fill our prescription by counting colorful beads.
This imagination play camping set has to be one of my favorites! It’s the perfect thing for camp-outs in the living room. You could use the tent that’s included or make blanket forts instead (that’s our favorite).
You can take a closer look in this video. Look how the little campfire lights up, so cute!
MORE DRAMATIC PLAY TOYS FOR TODDLERS
BEST PUZZLES AND SORTING TOYS FOR TODDLERS
Puzzles provide lots of fun and stimulation for our toddlers. Manipulating, grasping, and turning the pieces helps them to practice those fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
They’re a fantastic cognitive exercise for problem-solving. They learn to use their reasoning skills and the importance of perseverance as they continue to try different solutions until something fits.
My little guy had such a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence the first time he was able to finish a puzzle all by himself. It teaches them to keep working even when things are hard.
Here are a few of our favorites! We love wooden jigsaw puzzles for younger learners. As they get older you can look to puzzles with more pieces.
This Disney themed wooden peg puzzle set is an awesome deal with 3 sets of puzzles! You get a little bit of everything: letters, numbers and shapes made with sturdy wood construction to survive toddlers at play.
Check out MORE MELISSA AND DOUG WOODEN PUZZLES
Sorting toys like these rainbow bears are a great activity for your toddler’s cognitive development. They can practice sorting by colors, counting, and even practice their fine motor skills using the scoop.
They’re a great toy that can grow with your toddler as they learn more concepts like adding and subtracting, counting to 100, and creating patterns.
Wanna see how good it looks in person? Check out this customer’s photo and review.
If you have a younger toddler, then a shape sorter is perfect! It’s a great toy that can grow with your little one.
They’ll have tons of fun trying to get the different shapes through the correct slot and as they get older it can be used to teach shapes and colors along with sorting.
MORE TODDLER PUZZLES AND PROBLEM-SOLVING TOYS
BEST CAUSE AND EFFECT TOYS AND FUNCTIONAL PLAY TOYS FOR TODDLERS
Cause and effect toys are a definite must! They teach toddlers that their actions can cause things to happen. They pick up that repeating this action continues to make that same thing happen.
They begin to learn how they impact the things around them.
It’s pretty exciting stuff!
Functional play is basically just using toys or things as they are intended (based on its function) like rolling a ball or car on the floor.
This type of play is also important for toddlers because it teaches them about how things work in the world and what they can expect. It teaches them how to categorize things that are similar and make inferences.
This car ramp + garage is such a fun way for little ones to see how their actions can cause things to happen. My little guy could do this all day!
This one includes 3 garages, a repair shop, and a little gas station at the bottom and 4 cars. We use our hot wheels on here too. Check out this video of it in action!
It’s a fun and simple toy that’s perfect for little ones.
This interactive 100 First Words Leap Frog book is a great way to start practicing language and speech with 100 age-appropriate words chosen by learning experts.
It’s super simple and easy to use so even young toddlers will have no trouble.
For older toddlers, you may want to try one of the more advanced Leapfrog books. You’ll notice they have different levels so check what’s right for your age group.
How cute is this natural wood first musical instrument set for toddlers?! Music is a must for toddlers! It sparks learning in all areas of a toddler’s development like motor, language, and overall literacy.
Sharing the world of music with toddlers during early development helps them learn the sounds and meanings of words, rhythm, and patterns.
This set in particular is such great quality. Take a look at what it looks like in person.
There are no small parts to worry about and everything is non-toxic so even if you have a younger toddler who loves to stick everything in their mouth, you don’t have to worry. I also love that it comes with a little drawstring bag to put everything away.
BEST TODDLER BOARD GAMES + COOPERATIVE GAMES
Once your toddler has mastered toys, it’s time to start introducing some fun games to teach them how to take turns, follow rules, and cooperate with another tiny human and being a good sport.
It’s a lot for our little friends! But board games make it fun.
Make sure that whatever you choose is SIMPLE. Too many rules and gizmos and gadgets can lead to a toddler tantrum. I would suggest games with 1 or 2 part directions at the most.
Here are a few fantastic first board games to introduce your toddler to.
It’ll be tons of fun for everyone!
Seek-a-Boo! is a fun and engaging way to work on your toddler’s memory, vocabulary and introduce the elements of following rules and taking turns.
What’s great about this game is that you can start off by playing the game independently as you don’t need a 2nd person to play but it can easily be modified to include friends when your little one is ready.
It’s an easily adaptable game that can be played in so many different ways. We pretty much never play the same way twice.
I also love how big and colorful the cards are. Take a look. The pictures are bright and very large which attracts my little learners to them and I love that they can be placed around the room and the students can get up and go look for the larger pictures when I give them the smaller pictures.
Snakes and Ladders is a perfect first board game for toddlers! It’s simple and easy to learn but allows your toddler to practice the basics of taking turns, following rules, and dealing with disappointment (being a good sport).
I particularly like this set because they have oversized playing pieces and dice which are easier for small hands to manipulate. Look how big!
Once your kiddos have mastered the basics, you may even want to try this Jumani-esq life size version of Snakes and Ladders where you are playing piece.
It’s a blast at toddler parties! We love doing this in the backyard in the summertime.
Another childhood classic board game that’s perfect for toddlers is Candy Land! It doesn’t require any reading so it’s perfect for toddlers 3 and up.
I particularly like this retro version. It’s not identical to the original but it’s pretty close.
They have a new updated version but I find this one too busy for little ones as a first introductory game. Plus some of the parents said they found the fairies a little too ‘sexy’. However, on the plus side, it’s cheaper.
Hi Ho Cherry is another fun and easy cooperative game for toddlers. It’s a great game to work on cooperation, taking turns, and counting.
Your little one will have a blast picking pretend fruit from the trees on the game board, and filling their buckets. The spinner lets them know the number of pieces to pick — or put back.
They even have a Disney Club House version (it’s usually a little more $$ than the original one but I’ve seen it on sale a few times)!
MORE TODDLER-FRIENDLY COLLABORATIVE PLAY GAMES
BEST EDUCATIONAL TOYS FOR TODDLERS 2020
That wraps up the best learning toys for toddlers that you can snag from Amazon.
Kids are little sponges designed to absorb information so I love open-ended toys that let them explore and discover independently.
Remember to just offer a few toys to choose from when they play. Too many choices can be overwhelming for little ones. You can leave out 3 or 4 toys and rotate them weekly to keep things new and exciting.
What’s your toddler’s top pick of the moment? Let me know in the comments 🙂