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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Lisa Tolin

They may have a “terrible” reputation, but 2-year-olds are also a blast. And the best toys for 2-year-old boys and girls may not be toys at all, but things you already have in the house: kitchen tools, or dustpans and brooms.

“I always encourage families to buy everyday materials,” said Marie Conti, the head of the The Wetherill School in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, and a board member of the American Montessori Society.

Now that they’ve mastered walking, they love pulling wagons and other things behind them. And as they learn to speak in full sentences, 2-year-olds are also figuring out how to interact and engage with others.

“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,” said 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 and books for 2-year-old boys and girls

  • 1. "Hello, Hello," by Brendan Wenzel, $11 (originally $18), Amazon

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.

Brendan Wenzel's colorful introduction to the world of animals encourages exploration and preservation.

  • 2. “Press Here," by Herve Tullet, $11, 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.”

  • 3. "Say Zoop, by Herve Tullet, $14, Amazon

"Say Zoop" is another interactive installment from Tullet's series.

  • 4. Green Toys Fire Truck, $18 (usually $28), Amazon

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

  • 5. "Tyrannosaurus Wrecks," by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, $8, Amazon

This rhyming book by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Zachariah OHora, gives toddlers a playful perspective on their destructive preschool impulses.

  • 6. Melissa & Doug Dust, Sweep & Mop Toy Set, $20, Walmart

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

  • 7. Grimm's Mosaic Square Blocks, $56, Amazon

These colorful wood blocks are perfect for open-ended construction.

  • 8. Lego Duplo All-in-One Box, $24, Walmart

Let the Lego-mania begin. Kids will be enthralled by Legos for years to come. Conti suggested sticking with a big bucket of them, not a specific kit.

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  • 9. HABA Mod Blocks, $30, Amazon

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

  • 10. Costway Wood Kitchen, $70 Walmart

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

  • 11. Jellycat Bashful Bunny, $23, Amazon

Stuffed animals are good for imaginative play and comfort.

  • 12. Way to Play Flexible Road Track, $53, Amazon

Easy setup allows this flexible road to go anywhere your toddler does, for plenty of play with cars and trucks.

  • 13. Janod Xylophone Roller Toy, $40, Amazon

This xylophone doubles as a pull toy.

  • 14. 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.

  • 15. Playmobil School Bus, $28, Amazon

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.)

  • 16. Old MacDonald’s Farm Sound Puzzle, $12, Walmart

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

  • 17. Tonka Classic Steel Mighty Dump Truck, $24, Amazon

“There’s nothing like a good old Tonka truck. Put them in a sandbox with them and they’ll spend hours,” Conti said.

  • 18. Kids' Doll House, $110, 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.

  • 19. PlanToys Doll Family, $13, Target

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

  • 20. Melissa & Doug Tabletop Art Easel, $35, Amazon

“Due to a heightened sense of curiosity, imagination and discovery, 2-year-olds will appreciate drawing tools and chalk boards,” said educational toys expert Lauren Leisk.

  • 21. "Little Excavator," by Anna Dewdney, $15 (originally 18), Amazon

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

  • 22. Recycled Plastic Sand Play Set, $27, Amazon

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

  • 23. Play-Doh Fun Factory, $12, Amazon

“Play dough is good for developing the skills of imagination and play through touch and feel,” said toys expert Lauren Leisk. Green Toys also makes an organic dough, which is available for $20 on Amazon.

  • 24. Green Toys Rescue Boat with Helicopter, $19 (usually $48), Walmart

Also available for $22 at Target.

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

  • 25. Micro Mini Kick Scooter, $80, Amazon

Scooters, tricycles and balance bikes all encourage coordination.

  • 26. Nutcase Little Nutty Helmet, $60, Amazon

Be sure to get a helmet, too.

  • 27. "Ada Twist, Scientist," by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, $16, Amazon

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

  • 28. Constructive Playthings Tree Blocks, $59, Amazon

Conti loved these natural blocks that she calls open-ended — there’s no specific way to build them.

  • 29. "Our Great Big Backyard" by Laura Bush and Jenna Bush Hager, $8, NBC Store

Little ones of any age can enjoy the story of Jane and her brother, and gaze at the beautiful illustrations by Jacqueline Rogers that go with it!

Finding the perfect present can be a challenge, but Shop TODAY's up to the task. No matter who you're looking for, we've got gift guides for everyone on your list, including:

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This article was originally published on November 15, 2017 on Shop TODAY and updated in October, 2018.