Once your child becomes a toddler, a whole world of toys opens up. This guide will help you choose the best toddler toys for your 1 , 2 , 3 year old.
Things to Consider
When choosing toys for toddlers there are several things you need to consider, but most importantly there is safety, quality, and age appropriate learning.
Once your child starts toddling around the house, they get a sudden grown-up look about them, and it’s easy to relax the safety rules without even thinking. A toy you wouldn’t dream of leaving with your 8 month old is often given to an 18 month old without much thought. The reality is, the same basic safety rules apply.
- Toys should be bigger than your fist, and contain no small parts. As a general rule, if any part of the toy can fit into a film canister – it is not appropriate for your toddler.
- Toddlers still put things in their mouth, so toys should be made from non-toxic materials.
- Sharp edges can easily cause injury if your child trips and falls, and trust me – they will! Make sure that your toddler’s toys have rounded edges, with no sharp or protruding parts.
- Toddlers enjoy toys that they can drag along behind them as they toddle about, but be aware that long strings and cords can cause strangulation. Make sure your toddler uses these toys under close supervision.
Quality is a huge issue when it comes to buying toys, not only because high quality toys are generally safer, but because they last longer as well.
Many of the toys which are appropriate for this age group, will be enjoyed by your child (and subsequent children) for many years to come. It is worth paying a little bit more to ensure they last the distance.
During the toddler years you will see your child develop enormous physical capabilities. They will develop gross motor skills as they begin to run, jump, climb, carry and dance, and fine motor skills as they practice building, collecting, sorting, filling and pouring.
They repeat the same actions over and over, as they start to master specific physical movements, and they begin to develop real skills for creativity, problem solving and discovery.
At this age your child will start to imitate you, and will enjoy hours of role playing. Whether it’s talking on the telephone or doing the garden, they will want to do whatever you’re doing, and you will start to see them copy your most common activities.
For the most part, toddlers will still play by themselves, but will be happy to do it alongside others with little interaction. You will still be their favourite friend.
Best Toddler Toys 1 – 3 Years
Toddlers will still enjoy many of our best baby toys, as well as our homemade sensory toys, especially imaginative toys, musical instruments, and bath toys. In addition to these, our Top Toddler Toys are:
1. Baby Dolls and Accessories
Toddlers love to role play and copy your actions, and taking care of them is one activity they see you do a lot.
Both girls and boys will spend hours carrying around their ‘baby’, feeding it, changing nappies, pushing a pram, and putting their baby to bed. If you have a real baby in the house, then this game will become even more prevalent.
Look for ‘baby’ dolls that can be nurtured, rather than figurine type dolls which are more appropriate for older children. Accessories such as pushchairs, cots, highchairs and feeding equipment will encourage role playing, and you will be amazed at how much of yourself you see in your child’s games.
2. Dress Ups
Dressing up really stimulates your child’s imagination and takes role playing to another level. You can buy all sorts of specific costumes, but generic type dress ups are much more versatile.
Get an old suitcase and fill it with items such as hats, scarves, shoes, jewellery, sunglasses and bags. You will be surprised by what your child comes up with, and just how long they will play pretend.
3. Balls and Hoops
Toddlers are always on the go, and they will continuously challenge their physical capabilities by exploring the world around them. Adding sports toys such as balls and hoops will give them new challenges and help them to develop different physical skills.
Look for balls of different shapes and sizes, but make sure they are soft and light enough for your toddler to carry easily. Hula hoops, soccer goals, ribbon sticks and ball buckets are all great toys which can be added as your child develops.
Your child can never have enough books, although they will most definitely have their favourites and gravitate towards a chosen few. Toddlers enjoy looking at board books and picture books on their own, and delight in being read stories with repetitive text.
New Zealand has some great children’s authors who tell stories which New Zealand kids can relate to.
Exposing your child to any sort of books is a great way to develop pre-reading skills. They will learn how a book works, and begin to understand simple things like text going from left to right, and stories being read from front to back.
5. Sand Toys
Toddlers love the sand pit and will spend hours digging, building, scooping, carrying, molding, and scraping. There are dozens of great sand pit toys you can introduce, all of which help your child develop gross and fine motor skills, as well as an understanding of basic science and maths concepts. Before long they will take their sandpit skills into the garden!
Good sandpit toys include:
- Buckets of different shapes and sizes
- Small spades for scooping
- Large spades for digging
- Watering Cans
- Plastic pipes which can be used for tunnels
- Diggers and Dump Trucks
6. Building Blocks
Building blocks and toys help children to develop all sorts of skills – intellectually and physically. For the most part, children at this age will be building for buildings sake, rather than building something specific.
They delight in stacking blocks one on top of the other, before toppling them over to a satisfying crash. As they develop their role playing in other areas, block play will turn into sprawling farms and cities.
The best blocks for toddlers are large blocks that do not need to be fitted together. Flat wooden blocks are my favourite pick, but there are some large style plastic blocks on the market as well.
7. Ride On Toys
Ride on toys are a great way for toddlers to let off steam, and there are plenty to choose from. Look for ride-ons without pedals, as pushing the toy with their feet gives toddlers more control.
Decide how long you want the ride-on to last, as there is vast differences in quality and price for this type of toy. You really do get what you pay for.
Balance bikes also fall into this category, and there are specialist balance bike designed for 2 and 3 year olds. But not all children will have the coordination to ride a balance bike this early on.
8. Peg Puzzles
Single piece peg puzzles are a great way to introduce your child to the puzzle concept, and help them to develop all sorts of problem solving skills. Peg puzzles are puzzles where specific shapes are cut out of a wooden backing, and each piece has a peg or handle so that it can be lifted out, and replaced.
Usually there is no overall picture to a peg puzzle, but instead the single pieces are basic items like fruit, animals, toys, or letters of your child’s name. The picture is painted both on the puzzle piece itself, and in the space it leaves behind. This gives your toddler a helping hand in finding the right spot.
The pegs or handles on single piece puzzles help your child to develop fine motor skills, and they are a great introduction to more classic jigsaw toys.
9. Cars and Trucks
Anything that moves will be popular with your toddler, as they flit between walking and crawling for several months.
Cars, trucks, diggers, tractors, and motorcycles all provide your child with a chance to play pretend, and they will take these toys into several areas of play. These toys will stay popular for many years, so make sure you buy quality products which will last the distance.
For more expert advice on toddlers, check out our Preschoolers: Toys section.