They may have a “terrible” reputation, but 2-year-olds are also a blast.
Now that they’ve mastered walking, they love pulling wagons and other things behind them, and playing with the kinds of things you may already have in the house: kitchen tools, or dustpans and brooms.
“I always encourage families to buy everyday materials,” says Marie Conti, the head of the The Wetherill School in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, and a board member of the American Montessori Society.
And as they learn to speak in full sentences, 2-year-olds are also figuring out how to interact and engage in the beginnings of pretend play.
“Two-year-olds are entering pretend play and figuring out who they are. Kitchen items, cars, trucks, baby dolls, allow them to pretend, to be in the adult-world in their play,” says Tovah Klein, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of “How Toddlers Thrive.”
Green Toys Fire Truck, $21, Amazon
Wheeled toys are fun for 2-year-olds to push around. Older toddlers will create stories with them, too.
“Say Zoop” by Herve Tullet, $13, Amazon
Nina Lindsay, president of the Association for Library Service to Children, loves Herve Tullet’s classic “Press Here” for little ones who are learning about the excitement of turning pages and making things happen: “The idea that you can interact with a book in that way is really exciting.”
Constructive Playthings Tree Blocks, $58, Amazon
Conti loves these natural blocks that she calls more open-ended – there’s no specific way to build them.
Melissa & Doug Dust, Sweep & Mop Toy Set, $30, Nordstrom
At 2, toddlers love mimicking household chores. These pint-sized versions are perfect.
HABA Mod Blocks, $30, Amazon
These colorful blocks come in a variety of shapes to keep building creative and open-ended.
Lego Duplo All-in-One Box, $24, Amazon
Let the Lego-mania begin. Kids will be enthralled by Legos for years to come. Conti suggests sticking with a big bucket of them, not a specific kit.
Hape City Cafe Play Kitchen, $100, Nordstrom
Cooking with parents and pretend cooking are favorite activities at age 2.
Janod Xylophone Roller Toy, $44, Nordstrom
This xylophone doubles as a pull toy.
Hape Little Drummer Kid's Wooden Drum, $18, Amazon
Mom and Dad may not love this, but banging away on a drum is a great entrée to musical instruments.
Little Excavator, $14, Amazon
This is from the late Anna Dewdney, creator of the beloved "Llama Llama" series.
Playmobil School Bus, $29, Amazon
Klein loves little buses that kids can take figures in and out of, like this one. (Kids might also enjoy Playmobil’s new ice cream truck.)
Melissa & Doug Tabletop Art Easel, $40, Nordstrom
“Due to a heightened sense of curiosity, imagination and discovery, 2-year-olds will appreciate drawing tools and chalk boards,” says educational toys expert Lauren Leisk.
Old MacDonald’s Farm Sound Puzzle, $13, Melissa and Doug
This puzzle is age-appropriate and makes sounds to confirm the right placement.
Tonka Classic Steel Crane, $47, Amazon
“There’s nothing like a good old Tonka truck. Put them in a sandbox with them and they’ll spend hours,” Conti says.
PlanToys Doll Family, $17, Target
Hape All Seasons Kid’s Wooden Doll House, $129, Amazon
At 2 and 3, toddlers are often pretending to be Mommy or Daddy and working through ideas about separation. Doll houses are a great way to fuel their imaginations.
Ada Twist, Scientist, $14, Amazon
The rhyming romp from Andrea Beaty and David Roberts features an empowering message.
Recycled Plastic Sand Play Set, $16, Amazon
Toddlers love digging in sandboxes or the dirt. Give them tools to explore.
Play-Doh Fun Factory Retro Pack, $15, Target
Green Toys Rescue Boat with Helicopter, $32, Target
Bathtime fun continues with this floating boat-and-helicopter set.
Micro Mini Kick Scooter, $80, Amazon
Scooters, tricycles and balance bikes all encourage coordination.
Nutcase Little Nutty Helmet, $60, Amazon
Be sure to get a helmet, too. (Small or X-Small.)