Here is an overview of our top toy categories for two year olds, with links to our top picks in each section:
- Blocks & building toys
- Trains & vehicles
- Pretend play
- Musical & electronic toys
- Ride-ons & bikes
- Arts & crafts
- First games
- Bath toys
Also don’t miss our guide to buying safe/non-toxic toys.
Two-year-olds are more confident in their physical play, and will be ready to fully enjoy ride-ons and start riding tricycles and balance bikes. Many toddlers will start showing interest in more complex building toys and train sets, and may also be ready to start tackling multi-piece puzzles and even simple board games. Pretend play will open up whole new worlds: for example, play kitchens and food, vehicles, dolls, and so on. Art supplies such as crayons, finger paints, and Play-Doh will promote fine motor skill development as well as artistic expression; stickers are sure to capture your little one’s attention as well.
Two-year-olds are old enough to start enjoying basic block and building sets. Any set made of safe materials (including safer plastics and non-toxic paints/finishes) is a good choice. Here are a few of our favorites:
These old-school, quality blocks are great for stacking and open-ended building, and have great educational value as well (they feature letters, numbers, and animal pictures on the sides). Uncle Goose also produces blocks featuring a number of other alphabets/languages.
We love HABA, and this 102-piece block set is no exception. The blocks are made from solid, untreated beach wood, and are satin smooth and incredibly well crafted. When you’re ready, you can easily expand your child’s collection by adding on other HABA block sets, people, ball tracks, etc. Also check out similar but smaller (and less expensive) wooden block sets from Hape, Plan Toys, and Melissa & Doug.
This is one of our to picks for a great starter DUPLO set. Other favorites include My First Construction Site and My First Fire Station. These themed sets are often a good choice for younger kids, but if you want something more open-ended, try a basic set like this one.
We also love this DUPLO set: not only can it be used to learn numbers and counting, but it also includes a great basic train with an engine and three cars that can be mixed and matched with the rest of your child’s collection.
Train sets are top favorites for two year olds. Consider also getting a train/activity table or floor mat with roads on it to complete the scene.
Brio is the original wooden train set brand, and still makes some of the best-quality wooden trains around. This is the perfect starter set, including a basic figure-8 track, a locomotive with two trains, a station, and decorative trees.
This wonderful puzzle-meets-train will keep your child occupied for hours. Note that Melissa & Doug has had something of a suspect history with toxic paints, so we don’t recommend this item for children who are still mouthing things.
Aspiring firefighters will love this large fire truck. It has an extendible, pivoting main ladder and two removeable side ladders. The same line also includes a dump truck, a school bus, a recycling truck, an airplane, a race car, and more. All Green Toys are made of recycled milk jugs (#2 plastic) and are BPA, phthalate, and lead free.
If chunky or peg puzzles still provide sufficient challenge, see our top recommendations for those (along with our general primer on the different stages of puzzles) here. When your child is ready to move onto multi-piece puzzles, see our top recommendations below. Start with jigsaw puzzles with just a few pieces each, then graduate to increasingly greater numbers of pieces.
Djeco First Puzzles, $12
This set of four mini-puzzles (3, 4, 5, and 6 pieces each) is the perfect introduction to multi-piece jigsaw puzzles. See also this similar mini-puzzle set from Haba.
You can’t beat the value of these tiny 12-piece puzzles from Melissa & Doug. They come four to a box and store up very compactly. These puzzle sets are available in multiple themes, including vehicles, construction, dinosaurs, zoo, farm, pets, sea life, and more.
We love these 9-cube block puzzles from Hape, which can be combined to form six distinct images. You can give a younger child a head start by turning all the cubes to the correct side (e.g., all sheep pieces have a red background). Older kids will be able to sort the cubes and put all the puzzles together on their own. Available in Farm and Zoo themes.
Hape Alphabet Puzzle, $17
Two year olds have the capacity to start engaging in imaginative play. Popular toys for this age group include play kitchens & food, tea sets, market and grocery store toys, toy shopping carts, toy vacuums and lawnmowers, fire stations, barns with animals, dollhouses, dolls and doll strollers, etc. Here are some of our favorites:
Hape is our top pick for play kitchens — they make one that both kids and parents will love. It’s made with real wood, is finished with non-toxic paint, and won’t be an eyesore in the kitchen or playroom. Also check out their coordinating cookware set.
Hape’s play fruit and vegetable sets can be used along with their kitchen, or for standalone play. They come with a play knife and have velcro for easy cutting and reassembly, and are made of high-quality wood and finished with non-toxic paints. See also similar fruit & veggie sets from Plan Toys, Haba, and Melissa & Doug.
Green Toys Tea Set, $18
No one does tea time better than Green Toys. Your child will love this set as much as his stuffed animals do. The dishes are food-safe, in case you want to add some real beverages or snacks. Also check out their matching cookware & dining set. All Green Toys are made from recycled milk jugs (#2 plastic) and are BPA, phthalate, and lead free.
Janod Story Boxes, $24
We love Janod’s Story Boxes for their high quality wooden pieces, non-toxic paint, and playset backdrop (which cleverly doubles as a storage box). They come in several themes, including Farm, Circus, Firefighters, City, Safari, and more.
The entire Fisher Price Little People line is great for two year olds. This Farm set is a classic gender-neutral pick. Another very popular set is the Disney Princess Songs Palace.
The PLAYMOBIL 1.2.3 playsets are designed for youngest builders, from 18 months old. They feature larger scale, less complex parts than the main line. The Large Farm is one of our favorites; see the complete PLAYMOBIL 1.2.3 line here.
Corolle dolls, $30
When your child is ready for her first doll, our pick is these Corolle dolls from France. They are lifelike, lightweight, soft, and bean-filled (for posability). They are available with different skin tones and outfits; accessories (e.g. stroller, cradle, etc.) are also sold separately. See the entire Corolle line here.
See our top musical instrument picks for toddlers here.
When your child places a letter tile into the reader in the lid, the speaker plays a song about the letter and the sound it makes. Educational and fun! See also the magnetic fridge version if you’re having trouble keeping your kids occupied during dinner prep.
Traditional ride-ons (either foot-powered or parent-powered), scooters, tricycles, and balance bikes are all great choices for this age. Here are some of our favorites:
This classic trike from Radio Flyer has a long lifespan: it converts from a push trike (up to 24 months, with parent handle and no pedals) to a transitional trike (24-36 months, with pedals and parent handle) to a classic trike (3-5 years, with pedals but no parent handle).
The FirstBIKE is our top pick for balance bikes for kids 18 months through three years old. It rides great, and has unmatched safety features including recessed bolts, a hand brake, and a turning limiter to limit over-steering. The tires are air-filled, and so provide excellent cushioning and traction. It will fit older toddlers (wearing 3T pants) out of the box; an optional lowering kit ($15) is recommended for younger kids (wearing 2T or 24 mo. size pants).
The Strider is the most popular balance bike in the US, and with good reason. Like the FirstBIKE, it’s also an excellent choice for two-year-olds, and is slightly more affordable. One of the highlights of the newer Sport model is its adjustability: with the included extra seat and seatpost, it fits most kids 18 months through 5 years. As a result, it’s a great choice if you want a bike that will last for several years, and/or if you want to be able to share a bike between multiple siblings. Other features include a footrest, an optional brake, and foam tires (which are lightweight and will never go flat, but won’t provide quite as much cushioning or traction as air-filled tires).
Crayons and paints (either finger paints or paints applied with jumbo brushes) are great basic choices to encourage two year olds to explore color and express themselves. Most two year olds also love (and have sufficiently developed fine motor skills to manipulate) Play-doh, rubber stamps, and stickers.
Sure, you can pick up Crayola crayons anywhere… but for smoother glide and more vibrant color, try beeswax crayons. These Faber-Castell crayons are our pick for a reasonable compromise between performance (great glide and color, and jumbo size and triangular shape perfect for youngest artists) and price. If nothing but the best will suffice, check out Stockmar crayons, which are very expensive but are used in Waldorf schools.
Melissa & Doug stamp sets are excellent value: they include not only a broad range of stamps and a washable, non-toxic ink stamp pad, but also a small set of colored pencils for additional detail. They come in a number of themes, including animals, vehicles, rainforest, fairy garden, alphabet, etc.
These ingenious auto-coloring boards (your child just colors the pictures with a water pen, and the colors are revealed) are perfect for occupying toddlers who don’t yet have the fine motor skills to draw detailed objects on their own. They’re also completely mess-free, making them perfect to take along to restaurants or on a trip.
These large sticker books feature multiple scenes and reusable stickers. The stickers will also adhere to glass, mirrors, etc. around the house. They are available in a range of themes including farm, city, vehicles, play house, food, faces, and more.
This is one of the few (board or board-like) games rated for two year olds, and it’s very highly rated. It is a cooperative game (meaning the players all work together to win), and teaches basic counting and color recognition skills as well as the concept of taking turns.
Transitioning to the big tub opens up lots of new possibilities for bath toys! Not only can you go bigger, but your two year old will probably also be ready for some educational content with his bathtime fun. Here are some of our favorites:
Green Toys makes some fantastic bath toys, and this is one of our favorites for the big tub. It’s a large ferry that comes with two mini cars — which your child can drive on or off of the ferry via an extendible ramp. Like all Green Toys, it’s made from recycled milk jugs (#2 plastic) and is BPA, lead, and phthalate free.
Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
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