Parents

The best gifts for 2-year-olds, according to child development experts

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

Green Toys

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

Chronicle Books

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

Constructive Playthings

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

Melissa & Doug

At 2, toddlers love mimicking household chores. These pint-sized versions are perfect.

HABA Mod Blocks, $30, Amazon

HABA

These colorful blocks come in a variety of shapes to keep building creative and open-ended.

Lego Duplo All-in-One Box, $24, Amazon

Lego

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

Hape

Cooking with parents and pretend cooking are favorite activities at age 2.

Janod Xylophone Roller Toy, $44, Nordstrom

Janod

This xylophone doubles as a pull toy.

Hape Little Drummer Kid's Wooden Drum, $18, Amazon

Hape

Mom and Dad may not love this, but banging away on a drum is a great entrée to musical instruments.

Little Excavator, $14, Amazon

Penguin Random House

This is from the late Anna Dewdney, creator of the beloved "Llama Llama" series.

Playmobil School Bus, $29, Amazon

Playmobil

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

Melissa & Doug

“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

Melissa & Doug

This puzzle is age-appropriate and makes sounds to confirm the right placement.

Tonka Classic Steel Crane, $47, Amazon

Tonka

“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

PlanToys

These little figures come in a variety of shades and family styles, and help little ones understand families and engage in pretend.

Hape All Seasons Kid’s Wooden Doll House, $129, Amazon

Hape

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

Abrams

The rhyming romp from Andrea Beaty and David Roberts features an empowering message.

Recycled Plastic Sand Play Set, $16, Amazon

Green Toys

Toddlers love digging in sandboxes or the dirt. Give them tools to explore.

Play-Doh Fun Factory Retro Pack, $15, Target

Play-Doh

“Play dough is good for developing the skills of imagination and play through touch and feel,” says toys expert Leisk. Green Toys also makes an organic dough.

Green Toys Rescue Boat with Helicopter, $32, Target

Green Toys

Bathtime fun continues with this floating boat-and-helicopter set.

Micro Mini Kick Scooter, $80, Amazon

Micro Mini

Scooters, tricycles and balance bikes all encourage coordination.

Nutcase Little Nutty Helmet, $60, Amazon

Nutcase

Be sure to get a helmet, too. (Small or X-Small.)

Looking for more suggestions? Check out the gift guide for babies and 1-year olds. Or try Good Housekeeping’s 2017 ‘Best Toy Award’ winners.

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