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

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

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

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 (usually $30), 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, Walmart

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

Janod Xylophone Roller Toy, $31, Amazon

This xylophone doubles as a pull toy.

Hape Little Drummer Kid's Wooden Drum, $14 (usually $20), Amazon

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

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

“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

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 (usually $200), 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.

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.

Recycled Plastic Sand Play Set, $24, Amazon

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

Play-Doh Fun Factory, $10, 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, $19 (usually $48), Amazon

Also available for $32 at 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.)

Best books and puzzles for 2-year-olds

“Say Zoop” by Herve Tullet, $10 (originally 16), 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.”

Little Excavator, $14 (originally 18), Amazon

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

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

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

Ada Twist, Scientist, $16, Amazon

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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