Babies are adorable, but godparents, aunts, uncles and even parents love it when the children in their life can start to interact with toys. This, after all, provides so many more gifting opportunities. Luckily, creative play and toy interaction usually starts during the toddler years (from 12 to 36 months). But, beyond offering a great many options for birthday and Christmas gifts, the best toddler toys do serve an important function in the development of young minds.
By about the age of two, little people start to thrive with unstructured, creative playtime. This means they’re using non-electronic toys to create moments of joy for themselves. But, it’s important that the adults in their lives provide the right toys for learning. The best toddler toys should:
- Improve their speaking skills
- Increase cognitive skills
- Develop motor skills (particularly hand-eye coordination and balance)
- Create an environment for imagination play
So, if you’re trying to pick out the best toy for the toddler in your life, you might want to consider purchasing:
- An action figure, doll or stuffed animal
- Toddler-friendly arts and crafts supplies
- Blocks and easy puzzles
- Make-believe items
- Books or letter games
- “Fitness” related items, like balls, ride-on bicycles or push toys
Any of the above toys will go a long way in helping a toddler to grow into their school years while having fun. Keep reading to learn more about our top 23 picks for the best toddler toys of 2021.
1. Playskool Sit ‘n Spin
The best toddler toys combine fun with motor skill development. That’s why the Playskool Sit ‘n Spin takes the number one place on our list. For generations, toddlers aged 18 months and up have been sitting and spinning using this Playskool favorite. To make the base go around, children simply need to spin the top, but this requires toddlers to learn balance and coordination. Before long, they’ll be obsessed with this toy and won’t be able to stop laughing as they use it. The Playskool Sit ‘n Spin is recommended for kids age 18 months and up.
2. Play-Doh Modeling Compound
Squish it, squeeze it or create with it. Play-Doh is the ultimate affordable toddler toy. For under $10, you get ten two-ounce cans of the modeling compound in a variety of colors. Toddlers aged 24 months and up have been enjoying this fun goop since 1956, and that’s because it allows for fun, educational and inspirational play. Think about it. With Play-Doh in your favorite toddler’s hands, he or she can create whatever comes to mind, learning colors and developing motor skills along the way.
3. Munchkin Fishin’ Bath Toy
BEST FOR BATHTIME
Make bathtime more exciting with the Munchkin Fishin’ Bath Toy. The aim of the game is to catch the three bobbing sea-life creatures using the child-friendly magnetic fishing rod, all of which come included. Made with durable materials and designed to be airtight, this fun bath toy can avoid unwanted mold and mildew, even in a wet environment. However, it’s still important to ensure you dry the toy after each use to maintain the best condition.
4. Bedtime Originals Choo Choo Express Plush Elephant
BEST STUFFED ANIMAL
Everyone has that one stuffed animal that they will always keep or always remember. The Bedtime Originals Choo Choo Express Plush Elephant could be that toy for your favorite toddler. Humphry is a nine-inch tall elephant made of 100% polyester. He also has cotton eyes, so he is completely soft and safe for babies or toddlers. In addition to this traditional, grey elephant plush, Bedtime Originals also sells a pink elephant named Hazel. As an added bonus, these stuffed animals can be machine washed on the gentle cycle and tumbled dry on low.
5. FoxPrint Beach Sand Toy Set
BEST FOR THE BEACH
The FoxPrint Beach Sand Toy Set includes 16 colorful pieces of sand castle equipment. With animals, buckets, castle molds, a water can and a shovel, your little one is equipped to build the best sand castle on the beach. The various pieces in this set mean there are endless creative combinations of how to set up your sandy scene. This is a must buy for any upcoming beach-based vacation.
6. LeapFrog LeapBuilders 123 Counting Train
BEST BUILDING TOY
LeapBuilders is an innovative line of toys that encourages toddlers to use logic and motor skills to build moving objects. This 19-piece set has everything your toddler needs to create a working train. As the blocks are inserted, the Smart Star cube plays sounds and phrases to coordinate with the numbers and colors on the blocks. There’s also a question button with more information on occupations related to trains. The music button, on the other hand, plays songs and other learning melodies. This toy is suitable for ages two and older, and it requires two AAA batteries.
7. Pinkfong Baby Shark Sing-Alongs
BEST NURSERY RHYMES
There’s no doubt that after reading the title of this top toddler toy you already have “Baby Shark (dooo doo doo)” playing in your head. The Pinkfong Baby Shark Sing-Alongs book is official Baby Shark merchandise and ideal for teaching your toddler the words of the famous tune as well as eight other shark-based nursery rhymes. Nine buttons featuring cute shark illustrations can be used to control which song plays through the integrated speaker as you read and sing along. Two AAA batteries are required, but they come included so you’re ready to roll.
8. TOP BRIGHT Magnetic Worm Game
They say the early bird catches the worm, and your little toddler can make this fact with the TOP BRIGHT Magnetic Worm Game. Give your kid a boost with their motor skills development as they master this game. Once the eight worms are in the tree trunk holes, the mother bird can be used to remove them and feed into the baby bird’s mouth at the top using magnets. This toy is recommended for toddlers over 24 months and can be used either standing on its base or laid on its side for extra sturdiness.
9. B. Toys Doctor Toy
BEST MAKE BELIEVE
Playing make-believe is an excellent way to allow toddlers to explore the world around them. Playing doctor, in particular, can build feelings of empathy and social skills in children. But, it also makes the whole experience of going to the doctor far less traumatizing when the tools used in the doctor’s office are the same as those children play with at home. The B. Toys Dr. Toy comes with a stethoscope with a heartbeat sound, an otoscope, a blood pressure cuff, a syringe, a thermometer, tweezers, safe scissors and a mirror. Plus, all the items are made from non-toxic plastic.
10. TOP BRIGHT Wooden Race Track Car Ramp
BEST FOR CAR FANS
For toddlers that love to play with toy cars, there’s no better toy than the TOP BRIGHT Wooden Race Track Car Ramp. Safe for ages 18 months and up, the wooden ramp comes with four bright mini cars that race down the four wooden ramps, creating a mesmerizing display. This toy is known to stimulate concentration, curiosity and thinking skills. And, as an added bonus, because this toy is made from high-quality wood, it’s more durable and more environmentally-friendly than many other toddler car toys on the market.
11. Learning Resources Toddler Gardening Set
BEST FOR LITTLE GREEN THUMBS
Grow your toddler’s imagination and their pretend garden with the Learning Resources Toddler Gardening set. This toy set is fantastic for sharing educational information about growing plants and vegetables. All the included pieces, such as plants, pots and a watering can, are washable to ensure you can keep them clean after use. They also have real-life detailing, such as a mud texture for an authentic play experience.
12. Buckle Toy Blue Whale Learning Toy
BEST UNDERWATER THEMED
Great for a cuddle and for improving problem-solving skills, the Buckle Toy Blue Whale Learning Toy is a brilliant buddy for all toddlers. It features six child-friendly straps which can be joined together under the whale’s belly using the different clasps. There is only one of each type of clasp included among the six options, so your toddler must find the corresponding pair to make the connection. The straps are also great for attaching to a stroller, a shopping cart or diaper bags for portability, too.
13. Hape Pound & Tap Bench
The three colorful balls located across the top of the Hap Pound & Tap Bench can be hit out of place using the included hammer. Once dislodged, they slide down the xylophone located underneath. The multi colored xylophone can also be pulled out to give easier access to the musical piano, so that it’s ready to be hit with the hammer. This toy is great for musical education and hand-eye coordination. To hear the best sounds, your toddler will need to be hitting in the best places. All paints used to make this toy so wonderfully colorful are water based to ensure a chemical-free finish.
14. Fisher-Price Little People Noah’s Ark
BEST ANIMAL- RELATED
Specifically designed for young ones, the Fisher-Price Little People Noah’s Ark is a durable toy complete with eight animal characters. The deck of the ark can be removed to make the bottom deck, where animals can be stored, accessible. Four pairs of animals are included, namely lions, zebras, giraffes and elephants, as well as Noah himself. Further sets of animals are also available to buy separately. This toddler toy is a great go-to gift for any toddler birthday party.
Related: Best Toys for the 1-Year-Olds
15. Wonder House Books My First Complete Learning Library
The Wonder House Books My First Complete Learning Library is a set of 20 durable board books made to withstand tugging and chewing as your toddler learns to read. A wide range of topics are covered by colorful illustrations and large fonts, including toddler favorites such as animals, colors and food. Each book is brightly colored to catch your young book worm’s eye, and the full set can be stored neatly in the presentation box.
Related: Best Toys for 2-Year-Olds
16. Little Tikes First Slide
If you want to give your favorite toddler a gift that will wow them, consider the Little Tikes First Slide. As the largest toy on our list, this perfect-for-toddlers playground addition will keep most young children active and entertained for hours. Yet, the three-foot height allows for safe play that enhances balance, coordination and fitness. Plus, the entire slide folds down on itself to be compact for movement and storage. No tools are required for assembly, and the blue and red slide is manufactured in the USA.
Related: Best Toys for 5-Year-Olds
17. VTech Mix and Match-a-Saurus
As one of the Toddler Toys of the Year 2020 as awarded by TOTY, the VTech Mix and Match-a-Saurus offers a fun way to learn emotions through role play. The dinosaur comes with three character tiles, three emotion tiles and three dance tiles. Children have to plug in one of each on the dinosaurs back to activate one of 27 different performances to match the combination chosen. Not only does this help toddlers learn hand-eye coordination, but it also helps them to explain their emotions. The Mix and Match-a-Saurus is suitable for kids age two and up.
18. SplashEZ 3-in-1 Sprinkler for Kids
Summer is officially here, and your toddler definitely wants to beat the heat as much as you do. The toddler in your life will love having the SplashEZ 3-in-1 Sprinkler for Kids in their backyard for those hot summer days. This water toy can function as a sprinkler, splash pool or the two combined. In addition, it’s printed with letters and animals across the bottom to promote playful learning. And, because all kids love playing in water, this is one toddler toy the child you give it to won’t grow out of.
19. RioRand Kids Dress Up Superhero Capes Set
BEST DRESS UP
Dressing up is fun for kids of all ages, but toddlers, in particular, have a lot to gain from pretending to be someone else. For children in this development phase, dress up represents an opportunity to interact and communicate with others about what they are trying to do. It also increases their imagination and can help physical development as the child runs and jumps, acting like their favorite characters. The RioRand Kids Dress Up Superhero Capes Set comes with eight capes, eight masks and eight cuffs with superhero themes. This set is suitable for children 18 months and older.
20. Lydaz Bubble Mower
Who doesn’t love playing with bubbles? These liquid, floating circles capture the attention of all on-lookers, both young and old. And, while you could give the toddler in your life a simple tube of bubbles and a bubble wand, why not upgrade on traditional with the Lydaz Bubble Mower? As the child pushes the mower along, a fan blows air through rotating bubble wands, creating a cloud of bubbles from the front of the toy. Ideal for kids 18 months and older, this bubble mower comes with three bottles of bubbles and three additional bubble wands.
21. Just Smarty Electronic Interactive Alphabet Wall Chart
Just like everything else, technology has moved on since you were a kid. Now, electronic wall charts, like the Just Smarty Electronic Interactive Alphabet Wall Chart, can help kids as young as two years old learn their numbers and ABCs. The chart, which measures 16 inches by 24 inches, includes all the letters, a photo to correspond to each letter and numbers one to 10. Behind each letter, picture and number a button provides an interactive experience. When the toddler pushes the button, a voice says the letter, number or names the object in the picture. There are also songs, find the letter/number games and a learn-the-ABCs-game built right in.
22. Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike
BEST FOR MOTOR SKILLS
Gone are the days when a children’s first bike requires training wheels. Now, children can start “riding” a bike from just 18 months old thanks to bikes without pedals, like the Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike. With this toy, any toddler gets to experience the power and freedom of riding a bike. Plus they can more easily keep up with their parents when enjoying a day out. The bike itself boasts a durable steel frame and puncture-proof tires to keep up with your toddler. Plus, it features an adjustable seat and adjustable handlebars to grow along with its owner.
23. METAKOO Ride on Tractor
Kiddie cars have consistently been one of the hottest toys on the market. These mini vehicles allow kids to drive just like their parents, but the METAKOO Ride on Tractor may be the coolest one we’ve ever seen. This tractor comes with wheels that can take on grass, gravel, dirt or pavement. It also boasts an attached trailer for hauling stuff like toys or the family dog from point A to point B. Plus, this mini John Deere features a working FM radio, an adjustable seat and flip-up armrests. Any toddler would love to have this toy in their garage.