You know the old joke about how babies care more about the wrapping paper and the bows than the actual present? Well, that no longer applies once your little bundle turns into a toddler. Just like that, the pressure to find the perfect gift for a toddler is on.
The best toys combine learning and play seamlessly. An awesome toddler gift has got to be fun above anything else, but, as a parent, you want your child to be learning while they play. The toy should also be fairly indestructible, because, well, toddlers.
Still, it can be hard to decide which of the endless products out there are really worth it. It's always disappointing to have toys break or see them sitting unused on a lonely shelf in the playroom. Whether the gift is for a birthday, holiday, special occasion, or just because, you want it to be something that lights your little one's face up when they open it — and something they'll want to play with over and over again. (In other words, not socks.)
The perfect gift is out there, and thanks to the miracle that is Amazon, you'll never have to battle Black Friday crowds or race another mom to snag that last toy ever again. Armed with this roundup of some of the best toys for toddlers, you can all but guarantee your gift will put a big smile on your little one's face — and that's the best gift you could ask for.
1. A Balance Bike For Beginners
Yep, that's a two-wheeler for your toddler (and no, I'm not crazy.) This sporty balance bike is specially designed without pedals or training wheels to promote balance, giving kids a head start on bike-riding. (And speaking of heads, make sure to protect your little one's noggin with a helmet.) The Tour de France may or may not be in your little one's future, but with this bike, the sidewalk definitely is.
2. A Little Red Wagon
What kid doesn't want a bright and shiny red wagon? There are countless ways this classic toy will get used, from hauling children around (think pumpkin patches, neighborhood walks, or the beach) to storing toys (hello, stuffed animals that you don't know what to do with). Singing "Bumping Up And Down In My Little Red Wagon" is entirely optional, but highly recommended for maximum wagon enjoyment.
3. An Active Game For Toddlers
Most toddlers have trouble with board games, because they can't keep their energetic little bodies still long enough to actually play the game. This Roll and Play game invites pint-sized players to roll a colorful cube, then pick a card of a corresponding color to see what action they have to take. Actions may be silly, like making an animal sound, or physical, like moving a body part. The cards tuck neatly inside the cube for easy storage once play time is finished.
4. A Stuffed Animal That Plays Hide-And-Seek
Hide-and-seek is a perennial favorite game for toddlers. But if they're anything like my toddler, hiding often means curling up under the table and squealing "I'm right here! Try to find me! Mommmy! I'm under the table!" Up the ante with this Hide And Seek Safari Junior stuffed elephant, which comes with a special wand to carry on the big seeking adventure. As the wand gets within range, the elephant calls out to help guide your child to the secret hiding place. The toy comes in several other designs, including lion, cow, and monkey.
5. Monster Bowling
Bowling doesn't often get many points in the cool department, but when your pins and ball are covered with silly, furry monsters, that may change things. This monster-themed bowling game will have your little one laughing as the pins tumble over (or don't, if you bowl like me). The best part? No dorky shoes required.
6. A Pet That Seems Real (But You Won't Have To Pick Up After)
If your little one has already started asking for a puppy, but you're not quite ready just yet (or allergies mean puppies simply aren't happening in your house) — come to a cute compromise with this lifelike pal. Not only does its furry little face move as it "breathes," but bottle feed the little pup, and it falls right asleep in your arms.
7. LEGO Blocks Safe For Toddlers
Having LEGO blocks is basically a rite of passage for kids, just as stepping on those tiny, sharp things in bare feet is a rite of passage for moms. Toddlers can get in on the fun with LEGO Duplo, which function the same as the original version, only they're larger to avoid being a choking hazard. Let your child's imagination run free, or build one of the suggested scenes included in the kit.
8. A Rock 'N' Roll Guitar
Whether you already have a place reserved for your toddler at Juilliard or if you just want to introduce the Do-Re-Mis, this doggie guitar (as it's called in our house) will help them play their way to musical greatness — or at least let them have fun trying. Don't forget a drum set and a keyboard to complete your future rock star's band, and for the truly committed, you just may need to buy your kid a ridiculously cute rock-star costume, too.
9. Artwork That's Cute As A Button
One thing you learn quickly as a mom is that kids make a lot of art projects, and it can be really hard to throw out your child's creations. (Two scribbly lines?? Be still my heart, this one's a keeper!) Save your storage space with a pegged button-art board that helps little hands develop fine motor skills while creating colorful artwork.
10. A Toy To Build, Take Apart, And Build Again
Toddlers are endlessly curious about the way things work, so rather than let them take apart, say, your laptop, give them a take-apart toy — complete with their very own, fully functioning drill. Swap out the multiple drill bits to twist, turn, and screw the different pieces of the toy together, and then take it apart to do it all over again.
11. A Play Kitchen
For better or worse, your toddler watches everything you do, and if you're like me, about 94 percent of what I do every day is in the kitchen. With this adorable vintage-inspired play kitchen, your culinary cutie can pretend to sauté, sear, and simmer, just like Mom or Dad. Add in some stainless steel pots and pans, so little chefs can have the full cooking experience — with enough practice, maybe you can even train them to cook dinner for you.
12. Farmer's Market Food For Learning And Play
Even if it's the middle of winter and fresh produce is hard to find, you can still bring the flavors and colors of the Farmers Market to your playroom with this bright and cheery fruits and vegetables set. With realistic designs, they're perfect for playing pretend, or increase the learning factor and sort them into color-coded baskets.
13. An Inflatable, Ride-On Horse
Made of a virtually indestructible, latex-free vinyl, this inflatable, ride-on horse named Rody has big-time bounce-ability. He does important things like help your toddler develop balance and coordination, but he's also just a lot of fun to bounce on. If slow and steady is more your little one's speed, consider purchasing the rocking base. On the other hand, if you've got a crazy jumper, you might need the hand pump to fill Rody back up when he's looking a little squished.
14. A Practice Potty
I know, I know. A toilet isn't exactly the gift of anyone's dreams — unless you're a toddler. Whether you're full-on potty training or just getting your child used to the idea of not pooping in a diaper, this cheerful, rewarding training potty will bring a smile to your little one's face. It features a pretend flusher (complete with sound effects, of course), plus it plays music when it senses your child has used the potty to encourage potty-training. With this toy, the end of diapers is in sight.
15. Toddler-Friendly Literature
Got a little bookworm in your life? Get a head start on introducing them to the classics with the BabyLit series, which toddler-ifies everything you read in English class. Each classic serves as a different "primer" for a variety of categories, so — for example — Pride and Prejudice teaches counting, Les Misérables introduces French, and The Jungle Book covers animals. Educational, and they look adorable on a bookshelf? They're basically a necessity.
16. Sweet Shape Sorters
These smart snacks can be pulled apart to reveal different shapes, which your little one can then put together and match up to the pan's bottom. The pieces' fake frosting tops can be used as an opportunity to learn colors, too, and there's no messy clean-up after.
17. A Playtime Parachute
Think back to your childhood, and just try naming a toy that was more fun than the parachute. You can bounce balls on it, shake-shake-shake it, give friends "sleigh rides" on it, sit under it to make a bubble — there are countless ways to play with a big, durable parachute. Let your little one's imagination run wild, and your next play date will be the talk of the town (or at least the preschool).
18. A Smiling Backpack
Toddlers may not have heavy textbooks to carry around, but that doesn't mean they can't rock an adorable, lightweight backpack sized just for their little bodies. Perfect for preschool, taking to Grandma's, bringing on an airplane, or just carrying treasures around the house, this Skip Hop backpack comes in an array of animal designs, including dinosaur, unicorn, and dog. Good luck trying to choose between all the cute options. And don't forget the coordinating lunchbox.
19. A Motorized Train Set For Toddlers
Wooden train tracks are great for older kids, but the tiny pieces can be dangerous for littles. A motorized, colorful train set like this one by VTech allows even the littlest of engineers to build a track, then watch the results of their hard work as the train makes its way through tunnels, curves, and swerves. As the train passes over each of the eight SmartPoints, it will play music, sounds, or phrases (in multiple languages, no less).
20. A Tunnel For Crawling
What could be more fun than crouching down and crawling through a tunnel? If you're a toddler, the answer is, "not much." This six-foot play tunnel features a breathable, see-through top that allows you to keep an eye on your little one as they crawl, squirm, and wriggle their way through to the other side. Once your toddler decides to be upright again, the colorful tunnel collapses for easy storage.
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