The best educational toys for toddlers – or for any child, for that matter – should provide hours of fun and learning in terms of physical, mental, and social development. Keep in mind that children learn their three R’s as well as their social skills when they have fun while doing it. Child development experts choose toys that best appeal to their visual, tactile and auditory senses so they will remain engaged in playing with them.
Toddlers in general shouldn’t be inactive for over an hour at a time during the day except when they’re taking their naps and eating their meals. Parents and caregivers will then have their hands full finding suitable activities for them. With the following age-appropriate tools, fortunately, the job becomes easier, if not more fun for both adults and children.
Buying Guide – Best Educational Toys for Toddlers
Toddlers learn by exploring and doing so gives them the opportunity to develop new skills and practice old ones at their own pace. When choosing toys for toddlers, parents are well-advised to consider their physical and mental skills first, their unique interests second, and their developmental goals third.
For example, early toddlers (12-24 months) can walk on their own, start to learn to run, walk backwards, and go up and down stairs by holding on to the railing. They also like to pull and carry toys while walking. Older toddlers (24-36 months) run and walk well, bend over easily, and start to pedal a tricycle.
Here are more tips about buying the best educational toys for toddlers.
Choose toys with multiple play options
Toddlers love to take things apart and put them back together, putting in and pulling out things, and building up small structures. The best toys for them should then be open-ended, which means that these can be played in several ways. The best examples are plastic or wood interlocking blocks that can be made into different types of structures, as well as nesting blocks and cups.
Choose toys that promote problem-solving, exploration and action in toddlers
Toddlers should be allowed to figure things out on their own with little to no coaching, although parental supervision is still a must for safety reasons. The toys should then encourage them to build on their cognitive thinking skills, develop their problem-solving skills, and develop their spatial relationship skills, as well as their fine motor and hand-eye coordination skills. These include art materials, puzzles, and shape sorters.
We also suggest choosing toys that will grow, so to speak, with children. This means that even as the toddlers grow older, they will still continue to play with these toys. The examples include dollhouses, toy animals and action figures, and stuffed dolls and animals.
Most important, choose toys that will spark children’s imagination and creativity. Many of the best toys can be used for purposes other than what they were initially intended for, such as a block of wood that can act as a piece of cake.
5 Best Educational Toys for Toddlers
Here are our top picks in the best educational toys for toddlers. Choose a few or choose all depending on your child’s needs in educational toys and your own budget.
|Fisher-Price Little People Surprise & Sounds Home||$||4.9/5|
|VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker||$||4.7/5|
|ALEX Jr. My Busy Town Wooden Activity Cube||$$||4.4/5|
|Skip Hop Explore-and-More Amazing Arch Activity Gym||$$||4.2/5|
|Fisher-Price Little People Caring For Animals Farm Playset||$||4.6/5|
|VTech Alphabet Activity Cube||$||4.5/5|
|Bright Starts 2-in-1 Silly Sunburst Activity Gym and Saucer||$$$||4.2/5|
|Hape Master Workbench Kid’s Wooden Toolbench Pretend Builder Set||$$$||4.5/5|
|Little Tikes Activity Garden Baby Playset||$$$||4.2/5|
|Skip Hop Baby Treetop Friends Activity Gym/Playmat||$$||4.9/5|
Fisher-Price Little People Surprise & Sounds Home
The dollhouse-type toy is recommended for toddlers from one to five years. At this age, children will be old enough to handle the little figures without swallowing them. But for safety purposes, adult supervision is a must for younger kids.
Comes as a complete set
This is an interactive dollhouse designed for toddlers so there are already a few individual things that come with the home unit. The home unit, by the way, requires assembly but it’s fairly easy. The overall design means that it’s a matter of locking in the pieces so that the unit can be made whole.
The set also comes with three figures – Dad, Mom, and Emma –as well as a table and three chairs. The rest of the toy appliances are built into the toy house. The table and chairs set can be used when the three figures are sitting down for their lunch.
Plenty of interactive features
Toddlers like their dollhouses to have interactive features and the Fisher-Price Little People dollhouse has plenty of them to go around. The fun starts with the front door, which opens and closes just like a real door. The dollhouse also provides kids with the opportunity to sing along to the 50-plus songs, sounds, and phrases, many of which may even be new to younger kids just learning their words.
The alarm clock also has a lifelike sound that allows kids to imagine Emma, the daughter figure, to wake up and prepare for school. Many parents with school-age children even use it as a learning tool for their kids.
The oven and refrigerator door can also be opened and closed for a more realistic effect. These also come with their own built-in lights and phrases for more fun!
The toilet seat can also be flushed, in a manner of speaking, which also comes with silly sounds. This is a great way to encourage children to be potty trained.
- Made of strong and sturdy plastic from the dollhouse to the little figures and table-and-chair set
- Offers children fun activities as well as lights and sounds
- Portable design with folding capability for easy storage, too
- A few customers complained about the stereotypical family and the absence of other colors, such as an Hispanic or blended family
The Fisher-Price Little People is an affordably-priced dollhouse that provides kids with hours of playtime activity, either on their own or with their playmates.
VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker
The recommended age for the VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker is nine months to three years, mainly because of the toy’s measurements. These are 16.5 x 14.2 x 18.1 inches, just enough for a three-year old to use it as a toy walker. The toy uses adaptive technology in transforming it from a crawler for a baby to a walker for a toddler.
Plenty of interactive features
Children will definitely be entertained for an hour or two, perhaps for longer periods, because of the wide range of interactive features. The toy provides kids with opportunities to push buttons, engage in role play, and learn new words, to name a few learning opportunities.
There are five piano keys that kids can use in playing music by pressing on them, as well as more than 70 sing-along songs and fun phrases. Kids will learn several lullabies, nursery rhymes, and words that will expand their repertoire and vocabulary that, in turn, will increase their confidence to learn more.
The walker has two spinning rollers, three light-up buttons, and three shape-sorters, all of which are in bright and bold colors that hold their attention and develop their fine motor skills. There are also mechanical elements, such as the pretend telephone handset, for fun role playing games. The set already comes with its two AA batteries, so it’s easy to set up and play for parents and toddlers.
This is a toy that grows with your child because of its two-in-one design. When your child can only lie down and crawl, it’s a standalone activity panel that should be placed on the floor. Your baby will enjoy looking at the vibrant colors and shapes of the animals and numbers on the panel.
When he’s a toddler learning to walk, he can still use the toy. Just attach the activity panel to the walker so that he can continue learning colors, shapes and numbers.
- Durable materials and construction
- Offers plenty of activities for babies and toddlers to engage in
- Settings for adjusting the music volume and walker speed
- With engaging music, sounds and phrases
- Tire traction isn’t as firm as expected so occasional falls is a possibility especially for toddlers still learning to walk
The VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker is such a versatile toy in that it can be used from infanthood to toddlerhood – and that means more value for parents’ money!
Alex Jr. My Busy Town Wooden Activity Cube
Child development experts recommend wooden activity cubes for toddlers because most of its sides can be filled with learning activities and tools. The Alex Jr. My Busy Town wooden activity cube is an award-winning toy – it won the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal award – so it’s a great choice.
Five sides filled with learning opportunities
This activity cube, which measures 16 x 12 x 12 inches, is recommended for children one year old and above. There are five sides filled with a wide range of built-in mini toys so that children playing with it will always have something to occupy their hands and minds. These toys include peek-a-boo doors, curvy wire rides, ABC word tiles, spinning animals, and racing car rollers, to name a few.
Such is the number of possible activities that your child will likely spend an entire morning or afternoon just playing with it. This will decrease the number of hours he spends watching television and increase the number of hours he spends learning, albeit in a fun environment and at his own pace. Children who play with it develop their visual and tactile skills, which are essential in their overall physical and mental growth.
Each of the five sides are filled with bold and bright colors. Children are then attracted to it and, thus, play with it more, especially when the colors are combined with fun activities like matching the animals and playing with the curvy beads.
Stable and sturdy base
The durable construction of the wooden activity cube can immediately be seen as soon as you get it out of its box. The wood looks thick enough to withstand several hands playing with it for several years, while the non-wood materials also seem sturdy enough. The stable base ensures that it stays upright even with a few children playing with it simultaneously.
- Built to last for several years since the wood can resist breakage, scratches, and other types of damage over time
- Offers a wide range of fun learning activities for toddlers from learning ABCs to racing cars
- No choking hazard as the toys are built into the cube
- Children below one year old are recommended to play with it
- Weight (6.26 kilos) may be an issue in terms of portability
The Alex Jr. My Busy Town wooden activity cube is an excellent choice for parents who want a durable, versatile and beautiful toy for their children. The single cube already provides dozens of play-and-learn activities that promote children’s fine motor, cognitive, and logical thinking skills.
Skip Hop Explore-and-More Amazing Arch Activity Gym
Yet another toy that grows with your child is the Skip Hop Explore-and-More activity gym. This can be used from infanthood, as young as one month old, to toddlerhood, as well as being safe because it doesn’t contain BPA, phthalates, or PVC, among other harmful chemicals found in inferior toys. The arch-shaped activity gym measures 38 x 38 x 20 inches.
Multiple play positions
The toy can be used in three ways depending on the child’s age and preference, namely, on his back, on his stomach, and while sitting up. This is possible because of the two-position arch design that can be placed overhead and for play while sitting.
There’s even a soft comfortable mat that should be placed on the floor for added protection; it shouldn’t ideally be used for other purposes, such as a diaper changing mat, or placed in other areas aside from the floor. The soft tummy time pillow also provides more comfort for your child as he lies on his stomach on the floor.
Multiple development activities provided
Despite its relatively small size, the toy provides 20 fun playtime activities for your child. The activity gym has just the right number of mini-toys – neither too many as to overwhelm a child nor too few as to fail to sustain his attention. These mini-toys include a sound-activated fox, which children love, as well as a pull-string peek-a-boo owl with hooting sounds and a musical hedgehog.
As your child learns that pulling a string or pressing a button results in specific results, his logical thinking skills also become more developed in time. He will also learn to distinguish between colors and shapes, which will hone his visual and tactile skills, while his auditory skills become more developed with the fun sounds.
With parent pocket
Parents want to take pictures of their babies so the parent pocket is a useful feature. Just place your smartphone with its camera on into the parent pocket so that your child’s special moments can be recorded or he can interact with others via a video chat.
- Grows with the child so more value for the money can be enjoyed from it
- Provides children with numerous play-and-learn opportunities from infanthood to toddlerhood
- Sturdy toy with robust construction
- Easy to set up
- Comes with accessories like mat and pillow
- Only the battery on the dancing fox toy can be replaced
The Skip Hop Explore-and-More activity gym can be among your child’s favorite toys from the time he’s a baby to the time he can walk on his own. The two-way mode of play is a relatively unique design that makes it among our top choices.
Fisher-Price Little People Caring For Animals Farm Playset
Children are fascinated by animals, whether on television, through toys, or in real life. The Fisher-Price Little People Caring for Animals play set is popular because children like to imagine themselves caring for animals on a farm.
Comes as a set
This toy can be considered as a dollhouse with a farm theme but it’s a step up from the traditional doll house because of the wide range of interactive features. Aside from the relatively sizable toy barn, the set comes with the Farmer Jed figure as well as four animal figures – a cow, a calf, a chicken, and a horse, for example, although a set may also have another combination of animals, such as a duck or a pig.
The toy barn itself is designed like a real one. There are four stable areas where the animals can sleep at night, as well as a nesting area for the hen and her chicks, a hayloft for the feed, and a corn crop tower. Many of these features can also be moved, such as the rotating corn crop tower and the metal bell.
Plenty of interactive features
Children will love that it works like a working farm albeit in miniature. There’s a discovery button that, when pressed, activates the fun songs and sounds, as well as short phrases that children can learn from. The button even pops open the doors of the stalls and turns on the lights in the barn.
Learning about how life comes about is also fun for children and the discovery button for “hatching” the chicks is as much fun as watching real-life chicks coming out of their eggs.
- Folds for easy transport and storage
- Promotes child development via the songs and sounds, bright colors, and various textures, aside from the activities
- Encourages children to learn about life on a working farm
- Strong and sturdy materials
- Easy to assemble
- More animal figures will be appreciated
Both boys and girls will love playing with the Fisher-Price Little People Caring for Animals play set. They will then not only develop their physical (i.e., fine motor skills) and mental (i.e., logical reasoning) skills but also enhance their communication and relationship skills.
The best educational toys for children aren’t just toys that give them hours of fun. These are also valuable partners, in a manner of speaking, for parents who want appropriate toys for their children to learn their shapes, colors and spatial relationships, even their numbers and letters. These mental skills can then be applied in other play and non-play situations, especially when they are preparing for formal school.
But it isn’t just mental skills that will be developed when children play with these toys. Just as important are the physical and psychological skills that come from developing their hand-eye coordination, gross and fine motor skills, and communication and negotiation skills. Indeed, there’s always something good to be said about letting your kids play with age-appropriate toys.
But don’t just let them play on their own. Parents should also spend at least 30 minutes of structured play time and 30 minutes of free play time with their children. In so doing, the familial bonds can be further developed and that’s the most important benefit of all.