Because playing is learning, it’s important to be well-stocked with great toys that facilitate certain learning concepts.
As a rule, I like to keep clutter in our home to a minimum so anything that I buy has multiple uses and typically encourages lots of open-ended play and I have learned what seems to be most intriguing to many children and multiple ages. While geared towards tots, these gifts will go well beyond 2 or even 3 year old kids. Buying great learning gifts means planning according to developmental needs and knowing what is already used often.
For more gift lists based on age, interest, gender, and need please visit Reviews and List of the Best for Gift Guides for the whole family.
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Gift Guide for Inquisitive Toddlers
Whether you are a parent, grandparent, extended family, or friend, sometimes it can be difficult finding just the right toys for your kids. If you (or the parents) are like me, I don’t want a lot of stuff in my house and clutter is my enemy. Therefore, finding great toys for your two year old is something that takes a little thought. Not only is it about what you might use, but also about what will be used the most, in the most meaningful ways, and will be longest lasting. This gift guide for two year olds is broken into 4 sections for ease of navigation and to help you get great ideas for whatever your need is! All products are ones we have, use, and recommend!
5 Toys that quickly get used up
Stickers – Stickers are great for teaching and working on fine motor sills. One really great thing about stickers too is that most of the time they are groups in a specific category. For instance stickers that are leters, numbers, or even some of the great sets from Melissa and Doug like the Habitats Reusable sticker pad. Having a bunch of stickers with several themes is great to correspond to learning themes, holidays, and other occasions.
Clay and play-doh – Great for hand strength development, open-ended play, and for use with free printable play-doh mats that you can easily find around the web. Plus, what toddler doesn’t love play-doh?!
Pipe Cleaners – Again, great for use with fine motor activities. So many uses though and they always seem to go fast. We have used them for letter formations, number recognition, threading, and crafts.
Crayons – My daughter personally loves to break them, but either way crayons are something that will always and forever be used by every toddler. And getting a fresh, new box of crayons is a treat!
Paper or Drawing Pads – The thicker the better. So having a great stash of cardstock for painting, drawing, making crafts, etc. is great. This would be a great gift if you couple it with the stickers and crayons mentioned above!
5 Stocking Stuffers and small gift ideas for young toddlers
Wacky Tracks Fidget – We have one because it keeps my daughters hands busy and can be used for a lot of learning activities and just for entertainment. We even made some printables for a fidget busy bag and it has been great for shape recognition and I am sure we will continue to make more on our tot school adventure. You can also buy the Fidget from Project Sensory to help support a great cause of getting sensory tools into classrooms across the country!
Tweezers, Tongs, and other Fine Motor Tools – Fine motor skills are so important for kids that are 2-5 because it can help develop muscles in the hand and dexterity to write. So having tweezers, tongs, scoops, and other fine motor tools is a fun way to work on educational concepts in sensory bins and other unique ways.
Kinetic Sand – There’s really nothing like it and it’s a great sensory material, just like play-doh. It’s just a bit more expensive. From motor skills to texture and using it in sensory bins, it’s a great learning gift and one that is sure to please any 2 year old, young toddler, and even adult caregiver 😉
Tambourine or Bells – Music is an integral part of language and math skills, plus using a tambourine can help work on motor skills. Plus, we love making and singing songs in tot school and this is one of the easiest and most universal instruments for toddlers.
Magnifying Glass – We love encouraging curiosity and fostering an inquisitive nature. A magnifying glass can be used while on outdoor hikes to look at bugs or inside to explore size, light, and more.
5 Mid-Level Gifts for 2 year olds and 3 year olds
MindWare Pattern Blocks – Blocks in general are a great open-ended toy, but now that your toddlers are getting a little bigger, they can understand and explore patterns a little more fully. These blocks add such an artistic flare to basic math exploration.
Magnadoodle – Great for in the home or in the car. It can be used to draw and trace and can be used in so many different ways in tot school. Plus, unlike paper, it can be used over and over again.
Sorting Board – While the one linked is not 100% the one we own, it is VERY similar. It’s a great toy because it is all about patterns, sorting, and even has that beloved open-ended element to it. My daughter very often will stack them in patterns, line them up along the floor, and more. She has found a surprising number of ways to play with them even on her own.
Crayola Light Up Tracing Pad – We do not have a traditional light box, so this is a smaller more economical and even portable version. We explore shapes, colors, and do all sorts of activities on the tracing board. The light helps my daughter focus on what she is playing with. It’s also a great lap game in the car which is a characteristic most light boxes don’t have.
TinkerToys – While we are just getting into tinker toys right now, they are a great tactile toy to have for toddlers. They can build cars, building, and anything their little minds seem to think up. It’s also great practice in dexterity for the younger learners that haven’t quite mastered those skills yet.
5 Larger/More Expensive Learning Gifts for Toddlers
Magformers – These are similar to magnatiles, but like their first cousin. We have a set of about 50 with triangles and squares. These coupled with the Crayola Light-Up tracing pad would make a phenomenal gift as it’s something we play with constantly. They are fun to make 3D shapes with, build structures, and just explore magnetism.
A Book Set, collection, or lots of books – I personally would look into Amazon’s Top 20 Books from the year and buy 10-20. I will never turn down great books, especially those that are exceptionally educational. For a fun math book, don’t forget to check out my own book, Adventures of Dot.
Table and Chairs/Practical Life materials – Fostering independence is an important part of raising a toddler. Having their own size table and chairs can be a place where activities are done all the time. It can also be where they eat all of the time. Learning practical life skills is important and in my book a table and chairs or indoor/outdoor picnic table , some pitchers, and a great silverware set are just the thing to help out toddlers in this department. (We have all of these mentioned and my daughter is thrilled with them. Having the picnic table is nice because it’s easy to clean and can be taken outside.)
Museum Pass(es) – This is such an invaluable gift. They can be used over and over throughout the year. SO grandparents take note! This is a great idea. We have a wonderful science museum near us that we would go to, but it’s so expensive. But if we had a pass, we would consider going far more often.
Time – While it doesn’t cost you actual money, it can be hard to give up your time. No matter who you are in the child’s life, they can always use play time and interactions from you!
Don’t forget to find other gift guide lists for kids & adults here.
Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!