With “Back to School” season upon us, it sometimes seems like the big kids get to have all the fun–but that doesn’t have to be the case!
Whether your toddler is home with you or in daycare, they’ll love getting a new toy to play with. But shhh! Don’t tell them that the best educational toys for toddlers are actually designed to help them learn. Maybe you’re deciding between a Waldorf vs. Montessori approach, or maybe you just need new toys now that your baby is 1 (or older!). Either way, toys that pull double duty are the best toys of all.
We’re rounded up 10 learning toys for toddlers that are engaging, educational, and maybe our favorite feature of all: not-at-all annoying.
Here are our favorite educational toys for toddlers:
- Best for fine motor skills: Go Go Gears
- Most musical toddler toy: Mega Bloks First Builders ABC Musical Train with Big Building Blocks
- Most colorful: Grimm’s 12-Piece Wooden Rainbow Stacking Tunnel
- Most versatile toddler toy: Melissa and Doug Sort and Snap Color Match
- Best for hand-eye coordination: Hap’s Pound and Tap Bench
- Best water toddler toy: Boon Pipes Building Bath Toy Set
- Best STEM toddler toy: Magna-Tiles Jungle Animals
- Best multi-purpose toddler toy: Musical Lili Llama
- Most interactive toddler toy: Best Learning Mushroom Garden
- Best for teaching writing: Gojmzo LCD Writing Tablet
Best for Fine Motor Skills
Go Go Gears
Your toddler might be a bit young for puzzles, but this one keeps the concept simple. The toy comes with eight different sized gears and five puzzle templates. Your tot can arrange the gears following a template or create their own machine. Either way, they’ll have fun and develop their fine motor skill as they put the gears in place. Next, they can learn about cause and effect as the interlocking gears move together. With no noise, the Go Go Gears are perfect for when you need a quiet but engaging activity.
Most Musical Toddler Toy
Mega Bloks First Builders ABC Musical Train with Big Building Blocks
This toy is a hit because it combines the things toddlers: trains, block, music and more. The set includes three rolling platforms and an array of Duplo-like blocks with a thick design that makes them easy for tots to handle. Each block has a letter, so that you can begin to introduce the alphabet to your toddler in a way that feels completely natural. When you’re not available, your child will enjoy playing with the train and blocks on their own, encouraging independent play that is crucial for kids and their moms.
Most Colorful Toddler Toy
12-Piece Wooden Rainbow Stacking Tunnel
The possibilities for this toy are as endless as your child’s imagination. The 12 pieces of the rainbow can be used to make a skyscraper, a fort, an obstacle course or anything else that you can dream up. Your child can refine fine motor skills and experiment with logic as he learns how to build with the rounded pieces. The vibrant stains are perfect for teaching your child about colors, and because the toy is made from a single log, it presents an opportunity to learn about the natural growth and life cycles of trees, bringing nature right into your living room.
Melissa and Doug Sort and Snap Color Match
Your toddler might not be ready to name her colors yet, but she could start by learning to recognize and categorize them. This toy from Melissa & Doug encourages kids to put red, yellow, green, and blue snap caps on thier corresponding colors in pictures of kids’ favorite sea animals. The snaps are designed for tots, but they’re small enough to be a bit challenging, helping your little one build their fine motor skills. Best of all, when you want a bit more creativity you can flip the cards over, where the images are in black and white, just waiting to be colored in using your little one’s imagination.
Best for Hand Eye Coordination
Hap’s Pound and Tap Bench
Parents are always wary of toys that make noise, but this one offers the perfect amount of music, engaging your toddler without grating on your nerves. The Pound and Tap bench consists of three balls, suspended over a xylophone. When your little one hammers them in (perfecting their hand-eye coordination in the process) the balls falls down onto the instrument, playing it as they roll along. You can also remove the xylophone if your toddler wants to put on their own concert. With bright colors and instant cause-and-effect, the bench will keep your one-year-old entertained for hours.
Best Water Toddler Toy
Boon Pipes Building Bath Toy Set
Toddlers adore pouring water from one container to the next. Pouring isn’t just fun — it’s a popular Montessori activity that teaches children about cause and effect, precision and motor skills. The Boom Pipes Building Bath Toy Set brings the joy of pouring water to the next level. Toddlers (or parents) can make different arrangements, all of which funnel water back into the bathtub, rather than onto the bathroom floor. The toy comes with five pipes, but if you love it you can also purchase gears and additional pipes for more bath time fun. A learning toy that helps a toddler stay clean? Yes please!
Best for STEM
Magna-Tiles Barnyard Animals
Experimenting with magnets never gets old. Magna-Tiles have brought long-lasting, durable magnet toys into playrooms across the nation, but this fall they’re stepping up their game with new animal-themed magnet sets. These are great on their own, or in addition to Magna-Tiles that you already have. Building with magnets is fun because toddlers can stack them and they naturally stick together for a more sturdy structure. Learning which combinations work — and which don’t — is a great way to introduce STEM concepts to the youngest crowd. Plus, we all know parents love playing with Magna-Tiles too.
Musical Lili Llama
This little llama is cute enough to be displayed on a shelf, but she’s also durable and absolutely packed with engaging, educational activities for toddlers. It’s no wonder that Lili Llama won a 2019 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award. This learning toy is all about music: she has notches, crackling blankets, a xylophone, mallets and a maraca all wrapped up in an adorable package. Your child can get an array of audio stimulation, without having small instruments everywhere. Plus, as your child gets older, he can learn about putting everything away in its proper place — a lesson that’s important to teach early.
Most Interactive Toddler Toy
Best Learning Mushroom Garden
While wooden toys are great, there’s something undeniably engaging about a toy that lights up, moves and makes noise. The Best Learning Mushroom Garden does all of that, with four modes that teach your child about numbers, colors, music and games. As your little ones gets older you can work on counting the spots on each mushroom to learn about numbers, but the youngest toddlers will love watching the garden light up and move when they press buttons. Parents will adore the two-level audio control, which will keep this toy from becoming overwhelming.
Best for Teaching Writing
Gojmzo LCD Writing Tablet
Toddlers love to draw, but the constant mess from crayons and papers can make parents want to scream. The Gojmzo writing tablet solves that by providing a reusable art space that your child can color in again and again, without generating any waste. The one-click erase button means there’s no lag time between when your tot finishes one drawing and when they can start the next. The 11-inch tablet is hearty enough for toddlers, but small enough to fit in a purse or diaper bag. The drawing pad will also keep your tot busy on long car rides, without stressing you out about screen time.
When you’re shopping for educational toddler toddler toys, remember: simple is best.
Toddlers are just starting to learn about their world, and something as easy as coloring, watching a ball roll, or seeing magnets click together can open up new possibilities for them
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