Harvard may be years away, but it's never too soon to introduce your budding little Einstein to the best educational toys for toddlers out there. After all, even though most toddlers still poop in their pants, their powerful brains are learning and growing every single day. To facilitate that process, there are countless educational products for toddlers that will stimulate a toddler's mind and encourage learning.
Children are naturally inquisitive — I have yet to meet a kid whose favorite word isn't "why" — and the toddler years are ripe for taking that innate curiosity and turning it into a lifelong love of education. At our house, we even delved into a bit of biology, albeit unwittingly, when my three-year-old son asked me if his thumbs were the same age. (Meanwhile, I had never thought about the fact that my thumbs have an age, but I guess they technically do, right?)
Of course, the whole world can be a toddler's classroom — watching clouds blow lazily across the sky, finger-painting a masterpiece, and even witnessing a humble piece of bread turn into toast can all be learning opportunities for kids. Amplifying those real-world learning examples with dedicated brainy toys for toddlers doesn't guarantee your child a place on the Harvard admissions list, but it doesn't hurt.
1. An Electronic Book To Encourage Reading
VTech Touch and Teach Word Book
Think of this as your child's first e-reader – just with lots of happy bears and colorful shapes and lights. Twelve touch-sensitive pages use sound and music to expose your toddler to letters, spelling, and over 100 words (none of them "No!" or "Mine!"). Each spread is dedicated to a different subject, including home, food, and animals, to help expand your little one's vocabulary in a bright and playful way.
2. A Bilingual, STEM-Focused Turtle
VTech Count and Learn Turtle
Turtles may be slow, but your toddler will be on the fast-track to bilingual success with the Count and Learn Turtle. With multiple learning modes, this light-up toy switches between Spanish and English to teach kids the basics in both languages, with a focus on STEM-related subjects like numbers, counting, and shapes.
3. A Cookie Jar For Counting
The Learning Journey Learn With Me Count And Learn Cookie Jar
With the help of nature's most perfect counting aid — the chocolate chip, obviously — the smiley-faced Count and Learn Cookie Jar will help introduce your toddler to the numbers one through 10. Featuring two different play modes (three if you include "let's pretend to eat cookies!"), this talking cookie jar teaches both counting and number-recognition, offering sweet (sugar-free) praise along the way.
4. An Interactive Globe For The Young Adventurer
VTech Fly and Learn Globe
Your little explorer can take a trip around the world with this electronic talking globe and still manage to be back by nap time. Using the easy-to-control joystick, toddlers can pilot their way around the planet to learn about geography, places, world wonders, people, languages, and music. There's a lot to learn about this big, beautiful world, and it's never too early to inspire wanderlust — no passport required.
5. An Alphabet Puzzle With Sound
Melissa & Doug Alphabet Sound Puzzle
You gotta crawl before you can walk, and in the world of literacy, learning to identify and pronounce letters is the equivalent of crawling. In other words, walking : running :: learning letters : reading. This electronic alphabet puzzle speaks the letters and corresponding objects when they're placed correctly in the puzzle, helping kids get a head start on their SAT studies (or, you know, learning to spell their names). Check out the numbers and shapes version of the puzzle, too.
6. A Smart Piggy Bank
Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Piggy Bank
You can, ahem, bank on this toy piggy bank being a hit with your little one. Beyond just working on fine motor skills, this little piggy helps teach your future investment banker how to count, as well as other essential financier skills like singing and animal names. Featuring the Fisher-Price Smart Stage technology, the learning content can be adjusted to correspond with your child's age and stage.
7. A Magnetic Game That Teaches Handwriting
Kid O A to Z Magnatab
Backwards E's are adorable and all, but at some point, your kid should probably know how to write the alphabet properly. The Magnatab, a magnetized writing board, teaches even the littlest of hands how to form capital letters using a stylus and magnetic beads. When finished, simply push the beads down to "erase" the board, and it'll be ready for your budding writer's next masterpiece. (They also offer boards for lower case, numbers and even cursive, too.)
8. A Multi-Use Learning Train
VTech Sit-to-Stand Alphabet Train
Want to make sure your toddler is on the right track — no pun intended — when it comes to learning? Check out this versatile, education-centric train, which offers kids multiple ways to engage with numbers, letters, colors, and more. The train is cleverly designed to grow with your child, functioning as both a ride-on and push-toy for younger babies, and an educational learning center as they grow.
9. Upper- And Lower-Case Learning Through Popsicles
Learning Resources Smart Snacks Alpha Pops
I didn't include these solely because they're amazing-rainbow-ombré popsicles – although, let's be real, that's reason enough. No, these double-sided Smart Snacks Alpha Pops offer more than Insta-worthy sweetness: They snap together to teach toddlers about upper- and lower-case pairings, a skill that's not necessarily intuitive for kids. (It took my toddler a while to believe me that "E" and "e" were the same letter.) They're a great addition to any play kitchen, to boot.
10. Pattern-Recognition Cards
Learning Resources Three Bear Family Pattern Cards
STEM-lovers unite! Help your toddler begin to develop early math skills with these pattern and sequencing cards. With the help of Learning Resource's counting bears (note: these must be purchased separately), kids can identify and complete the patterns on the 16 double-sided activity cards. First, pattern-recognition; next, calculus! Or, you know, counting.
11. Rhyming Rockets
Learning Resources Rhyme and Sort Rockets
Even before knowing their letters, toddlers can begin to practice the fundamentals of readings. Blast them off into phonological awareness with these Rhyme and Sort Rockets. Snap one of the included picture cards onto a rocket, and ask your toddler to find and sort cards that rhyme, begin with the same sound, or even end with the same sound.
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