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Best Toys for Kids: Toddlers 2-3

Laura Hahn

 We made this Ikea play kitchen with Pinterest upgrades for our son's second birthday.

We made this Ikea play kitchen with Pinterest upgrades for our son's second birthday.

Once kids turn 2, it’s like a switch goes off in their brains. Suddenly their language is exploding, they’re sturdier on their feet, and they’re creative and imaginative little beings. They’re ready for some big kid toys, and will definitely be able to handle more complex things as they approach 3 years. Here’s our list of things to keep toddlers ages 2-3 busy and growing in their confidence:

  • Play Kitchen. You could even introduce this closer to 18 months old, but 2 year olds seem to love pretending to cook and act like mommy or daddy in the kitchen. It’s a great tool that fosters imaginative play, especially with a cutting board and knife set for play food.

  • Scooter. Your toddler is probably running and jumping, and will be able to use a scooter. Depending on how tall she is, you could either get one with a rounded handle or just go straight to the big kid handles. Don’t worry if she doesn’t totally get it at first--she’ll be much sturdier on it closer to 2.5-3 years and will be zooming around. Just don’t forget to get a helmet too!

  • Balance Bike. These are a great warm up for riding a two wheel bike. They are essentially regular bicycles without pedals, so kids learn how to balance themselves on it better and can forgo training wheels. If you’re handy, you could just get a regular bike and take the pedals off, then put them back on once your child is ready. Just make sure his feet can touch the floor since he’ll be pushing off the ground.

  • Arts+Crafts. At this age, kids love to use their hands and you can (hopefully!) trust them to not put them or the craft straight to their mouths. Go for as much as you can handle cleaning up: play doh, finger paints, sidewalk chalk, washable markers, toddler scissors, construction paper, and more.

  • Balls. It’s so important for kids to go outside and develop their physical abilities. Small and large balls for throwing and kicking help them with their motor skills and building strength.

  • Stickers and Sticker Books. At this age, stickers won’t be ingested and kids can peel them off themselves. Reusable stickers in particular are a great thing to have on hand when on flights or car rides.

  • Story Books. Your child’s attention span is growing, and he can actually sit through a story and be engaged in it. Some board books are still great, but books with more of a storyline and bright, colorful pictures are sure to be a hit. At this age you can also use a book to help teach a lesson or explain a situation, like potty training.

  • Costumes. Kids love playing pretend, and dressing up is a great way to help foster their imagination. Even if you don’t have official children’s costumes, adult clothing or accessories can work just fine.

  • Stuffed animals or dolls. While we aren’t a fan of a ton of stuffed animals since they’re space killers, it is great to have at least a few around for your child to snuggle with at night, or to play pretend. Baby dolls are also a great way to help introduce a coming sibling.

  • Building Blocks or Train Sets. Now that they’re much more dextrous, toddlers love to build things like block towers or train tracks. They can also help develop their problem solving skills. Building a tall tower then knocking it down is a favorite at our house.

At this age, kids are testing boundaries--not just in their language and behavior, but also physically. Running around at the playground in free play with a ball or on a scooter is just as developmentally important as learning letters and numbers. What else do your 2-3 year olds love playing with?