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Great Toys for Toddlers

great toys for toddler boysThe best toys for 1, 2, 3, and 4-year-olds.

Great toys for toddlers are developmentally appropriate, create learning opportunities, develop small and large muscles, are played with regularly, and are durable enough to survive multiple children. Good developmental and learning toddler toys are also open-ended. They should not have a preset outcome or way that it must be used. They should allow a child to use their imagination. Blocks are not just for stacking, they can be art projects, ramps, or play food. Play food could be balls, alien creatures, or anything else your child invents.  The best toddler toys should allow a child to create or explore with few restrictions and rules, giving the child control over his or her own playtime and discoveries. This list is comprised of toys tested by toddlers that have proven to have long lasing appeal for several years and a long lifespan.

toddler natural blocksBlocks

Stacking blocks is actually considered a milestone, one that doctors use to help determine the developmental stages of an infant or toddler. But they need some blocks to stack to practice this milestone. Large wooden blocks without artificial colors are safe for mouthy toddlers and allow for developing building and demolition skills. The natural wood blocks by Melissa & Doug are the highest rated with 5 stars from over 500 reviewers.

thomas wooden train setWooden Train Set

Both boy and girls all seem fascinated with trains at some point in their toddler years. The wooden train sets are more durable and easier for toddler hands to put together than the plastic train sets. Thomas the Train is of course the most popular, but unfortunately the expense of Thomas train sets turn many parents away. However, the Thomas sets are worth the cost with their durability and variety of pieces you can add. These will survive your children’s playing and still be saved for your grandchildren. Look for coupons and sales on Thomas the Train sets to get a better deal. But whichever wooden train set you decide to buy, you typically have to continue to buy that same brand when adding to the set. Companies do not make train sets interchangeable with other brands.

busy ball popperBusy Ball Popper

Hasbro and Fisher-Price make different ball popper toys. With these the child puts a ball into the toy, turns it on, and the balls are pushed out by air. This a best toy for a 1-year-old birthday gift because it will keep an infant or toddler giggling and chasing balls. And the kids will learn some physics lessons when they put other toys and objects in the ball popper to see those fly out. Heavy objects won’t budge, but leaves will.

kitchen for kidsKitchen

Kids loved to mimic their parents. And since parents spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing food for their kids, a play kitchen will get a lot of use. When choosing a play kitchen, note the size of the kitchen. This is something even your 5 or 6, or 7-year-old will play with. The taller the kitchen, the longer it will be used.

kitchen toys for kidsPlastic Kitchen Supplies

With or without a kitchen, toddlers will spend time “cooking” their plastic food and preparing meals for mom and dad. Pretend frying pans and a blender that spins will complete the set.

best water tableWater Table

Water tables not only allow for water play in hot summers, it can be a self-contained science center. Kids learn what sinks and what floats. Add some dish soap and you have bubble play and a place for kids to clean toys. In the winter, move it to a covered patio and fill it with sand or crushed walnut shells and trucks and cars for year round use.

art play for kidsArt Supplies

Paint and paintbrushes should be on every best toddler toys list. Buy art supplies that allow for open-ended creativity, not the sets that dictate how a project should turn out. Send a child outside with washable non-toxic paint, chalk, and paintbrushes and you won’t have to worry if he paints on the walls. You can both wash it off with a hose when he’s done. However, you may want to add art paper to your list for indoor art time.

legos for toddlersLegos

It seems you can never have enough Legos. Buy larger sized Legos for toddlers so they don’t present a choke hazard. And you can often find these for cheap at garage sales.


 balance bike for toddlersBalance Bike

A balance bike is a bike without wheels. The toddler has to use his legs to move the bike by pushing against the ground and his core muscles to keep the bike upright and balanced. Toddlers can’t typically pedal a bike until age 3 to 4. So a balance bike allows them to learn bike riding skills, such as balance, without the frustration of pedals. And when you watch just how fast your toddler can zip around on his balance bike, you’ll be tempted to try it out yourself.

tunnels for toddlersTunnels and Tents

The pop-up tunnel and tent sets can be used indoors and out. Infants and toddlers love the adventure of climbing through the tunnel and the sense of freedom it gives them when “hiding” from others.  This is another best toy for a 1-year-old gift because a crawling infant will be fascinated by the tunnels.

The Outdoors

Great toddler toys sometimes don’t require a trip to a toy store or any money. Go outside with your toddler and follow his lead. You’ll remember that rocks, twigs, dirt, leaves, worms, and curiosity are sometimes the best toddler toys.

A note of caution: some of these toys for toddlers are not made for  children under the age of 3, such as most Thomas the Train pieces, because small parts can fall off and become a choke hazard.

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