IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Here’s what you should be buying 2-year-olds, according to experts

These toys will help your little ones grow new skills and help parents get through the 'terrible twos.'
Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

They may have a “terrible” reputation, but toddlers are also a blast. And the most unique gifts for 2-year-old boys and girls may not be the hottest toys, but things you 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 Wetherill School in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, and a board member of the American Montessori Society.

What should I look for in a gift for 2-year-olds?

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 and 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.”

From hot toys to must-haves on sale, we have more than enough gift options for you to surprise your 2-year-old for birthdays, holidays and other occasions.

Developmental and educational toys | Dolls and stuffed animals | Cars, trucks and vehicles | Play sets | Blocks and building toys | Outdoor toys | Books | Meet the experts

Shop TODAY Snapshot

Bestselling gifts for 2-year-olds

Best developmental and educational gifts for 2-year-olds

VTech Turn and Learn Driver

This toy is just under $11, making it one of the most inexpensive gifts for two-year-olds. Even though your toddler is more than a decade away from taking the wheel, this turn and learn drive toy will allow them to channel their imagination and learn the rules of the road.

LeapFrog Yum-2-3 Toaster

Their imagination will be put to work as they whip up all kinds of tasty combinations with their pretend toaster. They can play with the levers and settings to learn about numbers, counting and colors.

Art 2 the Extreme Personalized Crayons

Teach letters as you color with these beautiful, personalized crayons that could double as art. Two-year-olds will appreciate the larger size of these crayons that makes them easy to grip. "I loved these much more than traditional crayons," said Shop TODAY editor Rebecca Brown. "My daughtger kept these in tact and wasn't compelled to break them apart the way she did with her Crayolas."

Play-Doh Fun Factory Deluxe Set

Play-Doh is an excellent source for developing the skills of imagination and play through touch and feel, according to child development experts.

Fisher Price Classic See 'N Say

Remember See ‘N Say? It’s back! The classic toy will give toddlers hours of exploration and help them identify animal sounds and words. Pull the cord to spin the dial and hear the animal's sound.

Toyk Water Doodle Mat-

Encourage your little one to express their artistic side with this water doodle mat that has over 20,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. This educational toy features a reusable mat plus pens, drawing mold and drawing template for hours of fun.

Learn With Me, Count and Learn Cookie Jar

Help your child improve their motor skills and counting abilities as they try to stick each cookie correctly into the jar. Each cookie is numbered, so they can practice counting from 1 to 10 as they go.

iPlay, iLearn Unicorn Bouncy Pals

This bouncy toy is an eye-catching invitation to active play. They’ll use their strength and balance to bounce around and coordinate their movement. According to the brand, its sturdy legs and short stature help protects against falls and promote muscle strengthening. "My little cousins loved it," wrote one reviewer, before including a helpful tip. "Don’t lose the plug since this is what keeps the air from escaping."

Blockaroo Magnetic Foam Builders

This building toy uses magnetic foam, which is easy for little hands to grasp and put together, and it even floats in the tub.

Fisher-Price DJ Bouncin’ Beats Interactive Musical Toy

With three different buttons that teach children colors, numbers, the alphabet and opposites, this bouncing musical toy does so with over 75 songs and phrases, sure to keep them entertained for hours on end. One reviewer wrote, "Two year old loved this present. His sister will be one next month, and by the end of the day she was trying hard to play with it, too."

Melissa & Doug Tabletop Art Easel

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

Best dolls and stuffed animals for 2-year-olds

Educational Insights Plush Mixaroo Stuffed Animal

Why get one stuffed animal when you can get several in one? The Mixaroo lets toddlers remix one body with accessories to make all different configurations. Mixaroo comes with a plush body, dragon wings, an elephant trunk and more.

Fisher-Price Soothe and Glow Seahorse

If you're looking for a multifaceted stuffie, grab this soothe and glow seahorse, which can play music and light up whenever your toddler squeezes it. The stuffed animal is machine-washable if you take out its electronics.

Fisher-Price Meditation Mouse

Introduce mindfulness to your little one with this soothing meditation mouse that includes guided stretches, breathing exercises and a bedtime wind-down.

Manhattan Toys Wee Baby Stella

Dolls allow 2-year-olds to pretend to be the grown-up, and this soft version is a cuddly introduction. They can carry, feed and rock it just like their parents — especially great if a younger sibling is on the way.

Cocomelon JJ Light-Up Interactive Plush

If their days are filled with Cocomelon, yet they can't seem to get enough, gift them with this interactive doll that brings the show to life right in front of them. With plush bandages, this plush doll helps children say "bye bye" to JJ's boo-boos.

Cuddle + Kind Sebastian the Lamb

These hand-knit dolls also give back: For every doll purchased, 10 meals are given to children in need. Their texture is inviting for small hands.

Hape All Seasons Kids' Doll House

Dollhouses with a little more room to play are a great way to fuel a 2-year-old's imagination. Figures can travel up, down and around as they mimic everyday life, a favorite activity at age 2. Better yet, this doll house made it on Amazon's "Toys We Love" list during a previous holiday season, making it one of the best Amazon toys for kids.

Best cars, trucks and vehicles for 2-year-olds

Fisher-Price Little People Food Truck

Whether your toddler is a little gourmand or a budding business person, this food truck set will capture their imagination. As one of the more unique gifts for two-year-olds, this play set has earned a strong average on Target for its durability and value for money.

VTech Pop-a-Balls Push and Pop Bulldozer

Buzz around the living room with pop-a-balls or take a break with musical push buttons — this bestselling bulldozer will keep your toddler busy for hours.

Target Toy Shopping Cart

Get them started on their Target obsession while they’re still young. Modeled after a real-life, adult-sized shopping cart, each set comes with miniature versions of produce, branded market items, a coffee cup and more.

Green Toys RV Camper Set

This three-in-one play set includes a pick-up truck, camper, and boat that comes off its own trailer for bathtime fun.

Green Toys Fire Truck

Wheeled toys are fun for 2-year-olds to push around. Older toddlers will start to create stories with them, too. This sturdy fire truck inspires imagination while being easy to grip and rounded for extra gentleness.

Very Hungry Caterpillar Train Set

This wooden train set is perfect for pushing, pulling and taking apart — all favorite things for 2-year-olds.

Little Tikes Lil’ Wagon

Whether they want to wheel around their stuffed animal crew or transport their toys around the backyard, they can do it with this little wagon. The brand says it is gentle on indoor floors but is rugged enough for outdoor use.

Green Toys Construction Trucks

This set includes one front loader, one dump truck and one mixer, so they’ll have a whole fleet of construction vehicles! Included with each truck? A bulldog construction worker to man the vehicle.

Playmobil School Bus

Klein loves little buses and car toys that kids can take figures in and out of, like this classic school bus from Playmobil.

Top Bright Wooden Race Track

You can take this wooden race track anywhere your toddler goes, and it features plenty of bright ramps and mini cars to play with. It’s mesmerizing to watch.

Fisher Price Laugh Learn 4-in-1 Farm toMarket Tractor Ride-on Learning Toy

Landing on Geoffrey’s Hot Toy List last year, Fisher Price’s tractor isn’t just fun for toddlers to ride on — it’s also a fantastic learning tool for blossoming minds. It offers three Smart Stages as they develop their fine motor skills and foster their imagination.

Best play set gifts for 2-year-olds

LeapFrog Choppin' Fun Learning Pot

This play cooking set will teach your two-year-old basic kitchen skills. Complete with four snap-apart veggies, utensils and more, your toddler will be whipping up five-course meals in no time.

LUOLAO Wooden Kids Safe Baking Set 

Or if they've shown interest in helping in the kitchen, consider getting them a child-safe cooking set. Shop TODAY editor Rebecca Brown introduced her 2-year-old to simple baking tools and found it was a great way to spend time with her daughter. "Around the age of two my daughter was ready to use the whisk. I gave her a plastic mixing bowl and the whisk and let her be in charge of mixing up easy things like cookie batter. I held onto the knife until she was older and ready."

Lego Duplo Classic Brick Box

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.

Melissa & Doug Dust, Sweep & Mop Toy Set

At age two, toddlers love mimicking household chores. These pint-size versions of a mop and broom are perfect for playing house. They might even clean the floor.

LeapFrog Touch and Learn Wooden Activity Cube

If they always seem to cling towards the wooden activity cube at the doctor's office, gift them with one of their own. This LeapFrog one (toted as one of The Toy Insider's hottest holiday toys last year) includes four sides and a top that feature interactive toys to slide, push, pull and flip. They also help to introduce infants to shapes, colors, animals, music and more.

KiwiCo Doctor's Kit

Is there a doctor in the house? This adorable play kit has everything your little one needs to explore the world of medicine, from a stethoscope to a thermometer and even a cold pack. Brown loved pretending to be the patient with her daughter: "I'd tell her that I didn't feel well and watch as my then-two-year-old would mimic things she'd seen her pediatrician use to try and help me feel better. It's a toy we went back as she got older."

Haba Kullerbu Kringel Domino Playset

A wooden ball run gets even more exciting with the addition of dominoes that the ball can knock over on its journey. Follow instructions to set up the track or create your own system for free play. It comes with two sets of rainbow-colored dominoes, some of which can fit on the track to get knocked over, releasing another ball to continue the roll downward.

Kidcraft Vintage Kitchen

Cooking with parents and pretend cooking are favorite activities at age two. This play kitchen could even fit next to the “real” stove to keep toddlers engaged as you cook.

Lovevery Play Kits

These expert-designed play kits come in three-month increments to find the just-right toy for your toddler. Buy a subscription for $120 per box, or shop a la carte from their Montessori-inspired offerings.

Nugget Play Couch

These rearrangeable foam pieces can be a couch, a slide, a ramp, a fort ... whatever your growing 2-year-old imagines.

Best blocks and building toy gifts for 2-year-olds

Mega Bloks 80-Piece Building Blocks Set

This bag of blocks is one of the best toys on the market. With 80 pieces in different shapes, colors and sizes, the set will give your two-year-old the tools to create without boundaries. It even comes in a large storage bag for easy cleanup.

Associate editor Kamari Stewart recently gifted this to her nephew and he was immediately enthralled with the set. "I was surprised that something actually managed to capture his attention for more than five minutes," she says.

Montessori 3-in-1 Toys Bundle

This set has three sets of toys that'll grow with them. It comes with a set of 12 soft blocks, six stacking sensory toys and six soft teething rings. According to the brand, each item is made with food-grade silicone which is perfect for the little ones that are still learning everything doesn't go in their mouths.

Lolo Toys Jumbo Foam Building Blocks

These soft-to-the-touch foam building blocks are perfect to ensure they'll be safe during playtime and save you the pain from accidentally stepping on a hard block (it's truly a pain like no other).

Tegu Magnetic Blocks

These magnetized blocks make for frustration-free building for little hands. Conti is a big fan of wooden magnetic blocks for easy manipulation with less frustration. Brown loves tossing a handful in her purse. "It's always a good idea to have Tegu magnetic blocks at the ready. You never know when your 2-year-old needs to be entertained; the blocks are incredibly useful at restaurants."

Best outdoor toys and gifts for 2-year-olds

Lydaz Bubble Lawn Mower for Toddlers

Your 2-year-old will enjoy making bubbles with this pretend push mower that features realistic sounds. This outdoor toy includes a flexible handle and has 17,000+ five-star reviews on Amazon.

Little Tikes Toddler Slide

Even as a toddler, your little one may still have an appetite for thrill. Little Tikes' toddler slide will be the perfect exposure to these thrills. At just three feet long, the slide is small enough to be placed in the backyard or living room. "Having a slide in the backyard has been great for those days when we can't make it to the park but still want to spend time outside," says Brown.

Radio Flyer Little Red Roadster

This ride-on toy promotes coordination as they motor along, and the beginnings of pretend play as they imitate cars and other vehicles.

Micro Kickboard Mini 3-Wheeled Scooter

Scooters, tricycles and balance bikes all encourage coordination. According to the brand, this one has a two-year warranty and can hold kids up to 110 pounds, meaning it will stay with them as they grow.

Strider Balance Bike

Balance bikes are a great way to learn to ride without training wheels. Two-year-olds can touch the ground while learning to balance, building the skill they can use once it's time for pedals.

Best books for 2-year-olds

“Press Here,” by Herve Tullet

Nina Lindsay, president of the Association for Library Service to Children, loves Herve Tullet’s classic “Press Here” for 2-year-olds 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,” she says.

“The Little Book of Joy,” by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Rafael López

This joyful read from two Nobel Peace Prize winners, a picture book adaptation of their bestseller “The Book of Joy,” gives a beautifully brief lesson about how to overcome sorrow and embrace and spread joy.

“Two Dogs on a Trike: Count to Ten and Back Again,” by Gabi Snyder and Robin Rosenthal

This counting book features nine hilarious dancing dogs, one very grumpy cat and all manners of transportation — including jet packs. It’s newly available as a board book, too.

“Lou,” by Breanna Carzoo

Lou is a fire hydrant who also happens to be the toilet for neighborhood dogs. But deep down, he knows he’s meant for greater things.

“Moonlight,” by Stephen Savage

The moon’s light is the focus of this bedtime picture book, but the art is the star. Beautiful linocut illustrations accompany gentle, soothing text to fill your toddler with wonder.

“The Blur,” by Minh Lê and Dan Santat

A child enters the world with superpowers, including the one parents seemingly know all too well — the power to speed up time. This may leave grown-ups blurry-eyed, too.

“If You Were a City,” by Kyo Maclear and Sanna Francesca

“If you were a city, how would you be?” This exploration of different types of cities features rhyming text, lush illustrations and plenty of room for imagination to take flight.

"The Rainbow Fish," by Marcus Pfister

If you're looking to teach your two-year-old about the value of inner beauty and friendship, stop right here. "The Rainbow Fish," by Marcus Pfister centers around "the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean" who learns how to share his beauty with the rest of the sea.

Literati Kids Book Club

Get a curated box of essentials that grow with age and discovery. Developed with literacy experts, these books are designed to target developmental skills while leaving room for a child's interests.

Meet the experts

  • Marie Conti is Director of Regional Community Relations for American Montessori Society. She was the former head of The Wetherill School in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. Conti is based in Greater Philadelphia.
  • Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D., is Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development in New York, as well as the author of “How Toddlers Thrive." She focuses on young children's social and emotional development, as well as parents' experiences raising them. Klein is also an adjunct associate professor and teaches a year-long course on toddler development.