Best toys for 2-year-olds

Our learning experts explain how to choose the best educational toys for your curious toddler.

Learning Stages

By Jody Sherman LeVos, Ph.D.

LeapFrog Math Expert

As the math development expert on LeapFrog’s Learning Team, Jody works on products across all platforms to teach math and science concepts in developmentally appropriate ways using research-based techniques. Before joining LeapFrog, she was a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, a researcher and instructor, and a math textbook author. She is a contributing author to The Encyclopedia on Early Childhood. She is also the proud mother of two LeapFrog-aged boys. She earned her doctorate in developmental science (specializing in mathematical and cognitive development) at the University of Alberta, in Canada.

Just like their slightly younger peers, 2-year-olds continue to be extremely curious about the world. In addition to improved motor skills allowing them to walk, crawl, run, jump and climb, many children at this age are equipped with blossoming language skills. They can now begin to ask questions, listen to stories and follow some very simple instructions.

With a more sophisticated mind, 2-year-olds are ready to explore some basic academic skills such as colors and shapes, as well as learn simple words and phrases. The best toys for 2 year olds will entertain and engage them while teaching basic skills, fun and educational.

Emotionally, toddlers are developing a sense of self and independence while still enjoying praise and encouragement from their parents. To support them, look for toys that allow them to master and show off new skills.

Shopping guide: Best learning toys for 2-year-olds

  • Active Play Toys: Two-year-olds are constantly on-the-move, so the best toys are ones the can pull or tug behind them (bonus when they can give “rides” to their other toys!). As they become increasingly confident walkers, a whole new world of ball-based play patterns can emerge. Simple educational games that involve tossing or kicking a ball can provide hours of fun while building motor skills and coordination.
  • Pretend play toys: Toddlers are learning words that will help them communicate about common experiences in their environment. Dolls or stuffed animals they can “talk” to as they go about their daily routines, or familiar objects like kitchen utensils, will help children incorporate these first words and phrases into their ever-growing vocabulary.
  • Math toys: Shape sorters, colored blocks and count-along toys further enhance a toddler’s vocabulary as they lay the foundation for important math concepts.
  • Social play toys: While play can be largely solitary at this age, you might see toddlers making small gestures or attempts to socialize with others. Children might begin to “share” by offering toys or objects to another child. Toys such as tea sets or train sets that allow multiple kids to play in parallel in a small group but do not require coordination and communication amongst them can provide room for early social experiences. When your child is ready, these same learning toys become materials to help foster more sophisticated and coordinated play among peers.
  • Creative play toys: As they grow, pretend play toys that inspire more elaborate scenarios can foster children’s budding imaginations. They may use a plastic stethoscope to listen to their teddy bear’s heartbeat, pull out the tea set to plan a party for their stuffed animals or write their aunts and uncles emails from their toy laptop. Creativity can bloom as children use crayons, stamps, and colored paper to design birthday cards for loved ones or pieces of art to adorn the refrigerator.