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

These toys help them grow new skills, so they're great gifts for parents, too.
by Lisa Tolin /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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What are the best toys for 2-year-olds boys and girls? Are the best gifts for 2-year-old girls and boys even toys at all?

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 toddler toys 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-old boys girls 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.”

These are the best gifts for 2-year-olds:

Best toys for 2-year-old boys and girls

TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! Just so you know, TODAY does have affiliate relationships. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.

Green Toys Fire Truck, $20 (usually $28), Amazon

Best toys for 2 year olds
Green Toys

Wheeled toys are fun for 2-year-olds to push around. Older toddlers will create stories with them, too.

Constructive Playthings Tree Blocks, $57, Amazon

Gifts for 2 year old boy
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

Gift for 2 year old girl
Melissa & Doug

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

HABA Mod Blocks, $30, Amazon

Gifts for 2 year old girls
HABA

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

Lego Duplo All-in-One Box, $24 (usually $30), Amazon

Best toys for 2 year old boy
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

Gift for 2 year old
Hape

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

Janod Xylophone Roller Toy, $44, Nordstrom

2 year old toys
Janod

This xylophone doubles as a pull toy.

Hape Little Drummer Kid's Wooden Drum, $18 (usually $20), Amazon

Best toys for 2 year olds
Hape

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

Playmobil School Bus, $50, Amazon

Gifts for 2 year old boy
Playmobil

Klein loves little buses that kids can take figures in and out of, like this one. (Kids might also enjoy Playmobil’s ice cream truck.)

Tonka Classic Steel Mighty Dump Truck, $19 (usually $24), Amazon

Gift for 2 year old girl
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, $18, Target

Gifts for 2 year old girls
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, $110 (usually $200), Amazon

Best toys for 2 year old boy
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.

Melissa & Doug Tabletop Art Easel, $40, Nordstrom

Gift for 2 year old
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.

Recycled Plastic Sand Play Set, $24, Amazon

2 year old toys
Green Toys

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

Play-Doh Fun Factory, $10, Amazon

best gifts for two year old girls
Amazon

“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, which is available for $24 on Amazon.

Green Toys Rescue Boat with Helicopter, $22 (usually $48), Amazon

Best toys for 2 year olds
Green Toys

Also available for $32 at Target.

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

Micro Mini Kick Scooter, $80, Amazon

Gifts for 2 year old boy
Micro Mini

Scooters, tricycles and balance bikes all encourage coordination.

Nutcase Little Nutty Helmet, $60, Amazon

Gift for 2 year old boy
Nutcase

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

Best books and puzzles for 2-year-olds

“Say Zoop” by Herve Tullet, $11, Amazon

Gift for 2 year old girl
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.”

Little Excavator, $15, Amazon

Gifts for 2 year old girls
Penguin Random House

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

Old MacDonald’s Farm Sound Puzzle, $13, Amazon

Best toys for 2 year old boy
Melissa & Doug

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

Ada Twist, Scientist, $14, Amazon

Gift for 2 year old
Abrams

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

Looking for more suggestions? Check out our other guides according to child development experts:

Or try Good Housekeeping’s 2017 ‘Best Toy Award’ winners.

This article was originally published Nov. 17, 2017 on Today.com.

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