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When shopping for a toddler, the child's learning abilities, interests, and safety should be top of mind.
We researched the best options on the market, considering each pick's educational factors, entertainment value, and age suitability. Our favorite picks include fashionable plush pets from GUND, simple arts and crafts from Alex Toys, and a push toy from Melissa & Doug for early walkers.
Here, the best gifts for toddler boys and girls.
LeapFrog Number Lovin' Oven
The Number Lovin’ Oven by LeapFrog has a whole lot of fun and learning baked in. Over thirty different songs and phrases, plus sixteen different ingredients let kids explore numbers, temperature, time, and basic math through interactive play.
Designed for kids as young as 2 years old, the Number Lovin’ Oven includes an easy-to-follow recipe card for things like fried eggs, pizza, and cupcakes. Little chefs can slice the loaf of bread or pizza for sharing, hear the skillet sizzle when it’s placed on top of the oven, or bake up a batch of cupcakes.
GUND P.Lushes Designer Fashion Pets
Add a designer fashionable pet to your toddler's stuffed animal collection with this adorable furry friend from GUND. Each one of these award-winning plushies feature detailed embroidered accents. These include sparkles, bows, collars, and more. Little ones will treasure their new snuggly pal for years.
Reviewers love the quality of these stuffed animals, ensuring they will last for years as your toddler grows with their fuzzy friend. Each one is unique with their own name and design and toddlers of all ages will love collecting them all.
Peppa Pig Lights & Sounds Family Fun Car Vehicle Playset
For the Peppa Pig or car-obsessed toddler in your life, combine their interested with this play set as they join Peppa and her family on a road trip! The interactive car plays music, makes realistic sounds, and recites popular phrases from the show. Young ones ages 2 and up can collect other Peppa Pig characters to chauffeur around in their cherry red convertible.
Little Tikes First Slide Toddler Slide
Add some thrill to your toddler's life with this introductory slide. Now, you can bring the fun of the playground to your living room or backyard for outdoor play. Your toddler will love conquering their fears and sliding into a mountain of pillows or piles of leaves. The best part is they can enjoy it as they grow, starting as young as 18 months.
Mega Bloks 80-Piece Big Building Bag
Award-winning Mega Bloks are the perfect gift for toddlers. The Mega Bloks Big Building Bag comes with 80 durable, high-grade plastic pieces that are ergonomically designed for a toddler's hands to easily manipulate. They effortlessly snap together for hours of building and rebuilding fun.
Alex Toys Button Art Activity Set Kids Art and Craft Activity
Button Art is specifically designed as a toddler toy. It is aimed to increase hand-eye coordination, develop fine motor skills, and encourage creative play. With chunky buttons that easily snap in and out of place, Little Hands Button Art includes a variety of activities. Toddlers can complete any of the 10 different brightly-colored pictures.
VTech KidiBeats Kids Drum Set
VTech is a leader in kids electronic learning toys. The KidiBeats Drum Set promotes interactive learning that keeps little hands and minds busy. With three drum pads and a cymbal, the KidiBeats Drum Set lets toddlers rock ‘n’ roll to their own beat or to nine different melodies. The set has four different modes that teach letters, counting skills, phonics and memorization with follow-along tunes. The drum and cymbal pads light up in follow along mode to help kids keep the beat.
P is for Potty!
P is for Potty — and for the perfect present! The toddler years are the time when every parent is challenged with potty training. P is for Potty is a best-seller for kids between one and 3-years old and is essential to helping moms and dads ease little ones into this stage. P is for Potty has over 30 lift-and-peek flaps on 12 pages to keep tots curious and engaged.
Hide N Side Ball Pit, Play Tent and Tunnels
Before purchasing this, just be prepared for your child to never want to end playtime. This set consists of a ball pit, tunnels, and a few tents. It's suitable for ages one through six and is sure to provide hours of fun. The material is durable, easy to clean, and the set comes with a convenient carrying case.
Melissa & Doug Slice and Bake Cookie Set
This colorful, sturdy play baking set is nice enough to rival the tools you have in your own kitchen. It comes with 12 sliceable cookies that can be stored in a tube, 12 toppings, a knife, spatula, cookie sheet, and kitchen mitt. Kids will just know they're having a blast making pretend treats for each other—not that they also happen to be practicing early math concepts and fine motor skills.
Melissa & Doug Chomp & Clack Alligator Push Toy
For those who aren't quite walking yet, this toy will help them learn to keep their balance. For when they are officially on the move, they'll love to zoom this around the house (and probably into your walls and furniture, so watch out!).
Besides helping them get on their own two feet, your toddler will also be entertained by the chomping alligators, spinning butterflies, and ladybug wooden beads that clatter as they move this toy.
Learning Resources Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog
Spike the Hedgehog has a lot going for him. His removable quills—12 of them in four different hues—help toddlers practice their fine motor skills as they maneuver them in and out of the holes, and kids can also use the pegs to practice sorting, counting, and color recognition. But the thing parents may appreciate the most is that his quills pack up neatly into his shell when it's cleaning time.
Little Tikes Activity Garden Baby Playset
This play center might take up some valuable real estate in your home, but it's packed with activities guaranteed to delight your little one at a mix of ages and stages. It can be switched from a closed structure for babies to an open, two-sided design for toddlers. There's an archway to encourage crawling, a ball drop, shape sorter, toy piano, and telescope.
Fat Brain Toys Shape Factory
Fat Brain consistently creates exciting toys for kids. This toy requires kids to fit all 10 shapes into the appropriate slots. Not only do they learn about shapes, but this is also a great way for kids to enhance motor skills. This is an ideal toy for kids two years old and up and the chunky pieces are designed for their little hands.
Manhattan Toy Tree Top Adventure Activity Center
Though this toy is all about encouraging motor skills, kids will just appreciate how fun it is. The wooden activity center has pretty much everything to captivate a child's attention, from spinning dials, beads, gliders, and more. The toy measures just over 22 inches tall and has a sturdy base.
Learning Resources Smart Snacks Number Pops
Learning about numbers and colors can be fun, especially when it comes in the form of ice cream. Kids have to match the popsicles with their corresponding shells, which have different colors and numbers of dots. This simple, but fun toy is intended for kids 18 months and up.
Lamaze 3-in-1 Airtivity Center
Kids grow so fast, so it can be hard to find a toy that grows with them. However, this 3-in-1 center is just that. The water table alternative can be played on the floor or table, depending on whether your child is learning to sit or stand. The fun toy uses air to create movement with the fish, seaweed, and other sea creatures which swim and spin.
WowWee Pinkfong Baby Shark Official Song Puppet
If your kids still can't stop singing "Baby Shark," why not give them one of their own? This one sings four verses of the popular song, and comes in Mommy, Daddy and, of course, Baby versions. You turn it off and on by pressing its tummy, and it runs on replaceable cell batteries that sit in a secure compartment.
Melissa & Doug Examine and Treat Pet Vet Play Set
Your young animal lover and possible future veterinarian with love this 24-piece vet set. It includes everything they'll need to take care of their plush cat or dog, including a stethoscope, bandage, thermometer, and even an exam checklist. Everything can be stored away in a handy tote bag that has a cute paw print on the outside.
Petit Collage Floor Puzzle
As your child gets older, puzzles might naturally be a fun pastime for them, or even the family as a whole. You can get their love of puzzles started early with Petit Collage floor puzzle, available in various fun designs. The 24 pieces are made from recycled materials, printed with vegetable inks, and the puzzle sizes are perfect for kids three and up.
Radio Flyer Inc. 3-In-1 EZ Folding Wagon with Canopy
Schlepping small people and their stuff just got a lot simpler with this foldable red wagon, which can be used in three ways: to haul two children around (there are even seatbelts and back cushions), to carry all the gear you might for the park or beach, and, when you drop the zipper, as extra, bench-style seating. The kid-friendly wagon also has two cup holders and the foldable canopy protects kids from the sun.
Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Servin' Up Fun Food Truck
When looking for a toy for a toddler, pretend play toys are a great place to start. Not only is it adorable watching your kid act out scenes, but it's also fun for parents to get in on the action.
This food truck can have your toddler slinging out tacos, pizza, burgers, and more. When your order is ready, don't forget to pay up with the adorable talking cash register. This food truck will be a fun activity for the whole family.
Sesame Street Love to Hug Elmo
This Elmo doll loves to give hugs and will sing and dance when you give him a cuddle. He stands are just over a foot tall, and he speaks English and Spanish when requesting hugs. Just note that while is fur is soft and plush, the robotic elements aren't as cuddly when you squeeze him for an embrace.
Little Tikes Shopping Cart
There’s a reason why the Little Tikes Shopping Cart has been a favorite toddler toy for years. This is one toy that boys and girls will use for hours, engaging in imaginative role play as they fill the cart just like mom and dad do at the store.
The Little Tikes Cart stands at two feet tall and is made from durable, BPA-, latex-, PVC and phthalate-free plastic. The easy-push wheels are designed to protect indoor surfaces, yet they’re durable enough for outdoor use.
Fisher-Price Linkimals Smooth Moves Sloth
The smiling sloth, which is part of the Linkimals line, claps his hands and bobs his head to the music. When your toddler presses the buttons on his feet, they'll hear phrases relating to numbers, colors, opposites, and the alphabet, with plenty of flashing lights and music to keep them entertained.
There are other Linkimals sold separately, including an otter and a moose, and if you pair two or more together they're designed to interact with each other by singing and talking.
Learning Friends 100 Words Book
Designed for kids 18 months and up, this interactive toy was created to help toddlers build early vocabulary skills in both English and Spanish. There are three play modes: Words (more than 100 are covered), fun facts, and music, and each page is devoted to a different category, such as animals, food, opposites, and body parts.
VTech Mix and Match-a-Saurus
With this VTech toy, toddlers are exposed more to role play with a mix of emotions, music, and characters to help work on their feelings.
Children ages 2 to 5 will work on their fine motor skills as they load up the dinosaur with different tiles. When the dinosaur comes to life, your kid will learn how to express different emotions all while having fun.
Fisher-Price Bounce and Spin Interactive Puppy with Lights and Sounds
Aimed at kids ages 1 and up (with a maximum weight of 55 pounds), this adorable canine provides a stable-yet-bouncy play spot. The handlebars feature a snazzy light-up roller that little ones will love to spin, and parents can choose between having the ride-on toy play music only, or sing the alphabet, numbers, and other simple words.
What to Look For in a Gift For a Toddler
When you’re buying gifts for children, you want to make sure that the one you pick is age-appropriate. It might not seem like a big deal to buy a toy suited for 5-year-olds for a 3-year-old toddler, but products for older kids often have smaller pieces that can be dangerous in the hands of young children, says Kristin Morency Goldman, senior advisor of strategic communications for The Toy Association. Refer to the age recommendations on the packaging as a good judge of how safe and engaging a toy will be.
Toddlers are busy practicing new skills all the time. Because they’re learning constantly, you may want to consider purchasing a gift that has some sort of educational value. That doesn’t mean it has to be boring, though—block sets, dollhouses, and toy ovens can all teach young children cognitive reasoning while helping them practice their fine motor skills, says Dr. Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician in South Overland Park, Kansas.
Stability and Durability
Toddlers are notoriously rough with their toys, so it’s a good idea to look for toys that can withstand heavy use and the inevitable drops that’ll happen as your toddler develops better coordination and organization. Thick, durable plastics or solid wood toys are best equipped to withstand this type of usage.
Why Trust The Spruce
This article was updated by Julia Fields a lifestyle writer for The Spruce covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays since October 2021. Before that, she covered similar topics including toy reviews, product round-ups, expert-focused articles, and more.