I think being intentional with what toys we buy has a huge impact on how much our toddlers interact with their toys an truly play. Basically, the more a toy does, the less the child has to do. So as eye catching as those flashing, singing, tech-y, toys can be, they are also the toys a child will play with for a very limited time and then quickly become tired of.

The key is buying toys that will grow with your child, and that are also open ended and can be played with in a variety of different ways. However, I think it is also important to follow your child’s interest and purchase toys for them that you know will align with what they are into.

I talk a little more about intentional play spaces in this post: 5 Steps to Encourage Independent Play

So, today I wanted to put together a list of great toys for toddlers, that are open-ended, and that can (and will) be played with for years. 

 

1 | Dramatic PLAY

Play Kitchen

Play kitchen’s are a great option as they can grow with a child from toddlerhood well into school age. They provide great open-ended and dramtic play options and are great for building imaginations. We have the Ikea kitchen and love it, but you can find some of our favorite options below:

Play Kitchen Accessories

You can’t have a play kitchen without the play food and accessories! Having play food and kitchen accessories in your playroom is a must. They can be played with in so many ways and are a great staple for dramatic play. You can find some great options below:

ROLE PLAY & DRESS UP

Toddlers love to dress up and role play. Not only is dramatic play fun, but it also a great for developing self-regulation and language, and can actually be very empowering for your toddler! You can find some great dramatic play options below:

DOLLS 

Doll play is a fantastic option for toddlers, no matter their gender. Doll play promotes social skills, language development, empathy, compassion, and imagination. Dolls are also a great way to introduce race and diversity into your playroom! Plus, is there really anything cuter then a toddler taking care of a baby doll? Here are some of our favorite dolls and accessories:

2 | GROSS MOTOR PLAY

 Indoor gross motor play

There are so many amazing indoor options for gross motor play. One thing we all know about toddlers is how busy they are! Having gross motor play options available inside can promote active play and encourage the development of many motor skills. Here are some great indoor options:

OUTDOOR gross motor play

While the outdoors in general is one big gross motor play opportunity, there are definitely toys that can complement your outdoor space. Even having something as simple as a soccer ball, or chalk to draw some hopscotch, are great options. I have included some other great options below:

gross motor GAMES

There are also so many amazing gross motor games aimed at toddlers and preschoolers. Introducing structured games early on is great for problem-solving skills, encouraging healthy competition, and learning how to take-turns and follow instructions. Here are some of our favorites:

3 | FINE MOTOR PLAY

FINE MOTOR TOYS

There are an endless amount of amazing fine motor toys out there which have the obvious benefits of fine motor development. It was honestly hard to only choose a few options, however, I chose toys that also provide pre writing skills, learning components, can grow with your child, and be used in a variety of ways. 

You may also find this post helpful: 9 Fine Motor Activities for Toddlers

4 | SENSORY PLAY

SENSORY BASES

Sensory play is such a fantastic option for toddlers, and it makes a great option if you have multiple children who are all different ages. There are endless ways to play when it comes to sensory play, including the huge variety of sensory bases! We often just use what we have in our pantry (dry pasta, rice, black beans, water, etc.), however we do have a few favorites that we keep handy as well. I have included our favorites below:

SENSORY TOOLS

We always like to compliment our sensory base with some great sensory tools! We often just use bowls or measuring spoons that we have around the house, but their are a few sensory tools we have purchased, that have been great and well used and loved!

5 | LEARNING TOYS

SHAPES

There are many great toys out there that are great for learning shapes, letters, colors, etc. When I buy toys I always want to try and buy toys that can be used in a variety of ways. I have tried to compile some of our favorites below.

 

lETTERS

We always like to compliment our sensory base with some great sensory tools! We often just use bowls or measuring spoons that we have around the house, but their are a few sensory tools we have purchased, that have been great and well used and loved!

6 | CLASSICS & EVERYDAY PLAY

BUIlding toys

If I can recommend only one thing, it will be some form of building toy. My toddler loves toys that involve building and stacking. She has multiple varieties, and each of them get played with regularly. Often daily. They are a great option when you have kids ranging in age, because they are great for all ages! Here are the four favorites in our house:

ARTS & CRAFTS

There are so many benefits of introducing art to children from an early age. Art promotes problem-solving abilities, creativity, literacy, fine & gross motor skills, connection, and understanding. Plus art supplies can be used for years so they are always a great investment. Here are some of our favorites: 

Imaginative play

I was originally going to put this under pretend play, however I think it is important to include this under this category of “Classics & Everyday play” because animal figures, doll houses, etc. are such playroom staples. Play animals are always on my list of recommendations when I get asks about the best toys for toddlers. Things like animals figurines and doll houses will be well played with and played with for years. Great for imaginative and open ended play!

So, there you have it, our ultimate list of toddler toys! I tried my best to ensure the list was made up of toys that were well worth the price, would be played with for a long time, and are versitle and more open ended. For the first year of Mia’s life I was buying all these junky plastic, flashy toys. They did everything under the sun (sang, lit up, made noises, etc.) but I quickly realized that the more the toy did, the less my child actually interacted with it. Sure, it does all these cool things, but if all she had to do was press a button, the excitment quickly faded, and I had a toddler who hardley ever touched her toys. She would play more with a shoe or an empty water bottle. Once we started being more intentional and buying toys that were more open ended and frankly, did less, she started to play and interact with her toys much more. Now she is great at independent play and will often play for long periods in her playroom.

My goal is always to buy toys that will grow with my child and are versitle or can be played with in different ways. I don’t want to be trying to get rid of hoards of toys every 6 months because she no longer plays with them. There of course will always be some that we sell or donate, but I really do try focus on toys that will give us the most use. 

I hope you find this somewhat helpful or that it provided some value for you! I am no expert, just a mama who is figuring it out one day at a time just like you! This is what has been working best for us from a toy perspective, and changing the way we buy toys has drastically changed the way my child interacts with her toys! 

The Best Toys for Toddlers: The Ultimate List