Essential Toy Guide: 2-Year-Olds

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These are essential toys, the high value gender-neutral toys that your kids will enjoy and then later you’ll hand down to friends’ kids. These are not posh. They’re reality toys that you don’t have to mortgage your home to buy. Be sure to weigh in below with your opinion about other essential toys.

24 months

Photo of an Aquadoodle Travel N Doodle.

Aquadoodle Travel N Doodle by Spinmaster — Draw with the water-filled marker, and the “ink” evaporates in a minute or two. It’s marketed for travel, but who wants to refill a water pen on the road, one that is not tethered to the board? Nonetheless, it’s perfectly sized for jumping on the couch and doodling away. $17.

There is also a floor version available, Aquadoodle Draw N’ Doodle Mat, (rated for 3-year-olds for some reason). It’s more of a hassle to store. $19.

Photo of a Geometric Stacker.

Geometric Stacker by Melissa and Doug — You can find stacking rings rated for 6-month-olds, but be honest, a baby will either throw or dine on the rings. Here’s a stacker that truly gauges development at 24 months. Stack ‘em any which way at first, then slowly teach how to properly sort shapes on each of the three stakes. $14.

Photo of a Little Tikes shopping cart.

Shopping Cart by Little Tikes — Graduate from walkers to shopping carts. They’re not so much about playing grocery store (although that does happen) as they are a transport vehicle for ferrying toys and stuffed animals between your child’s room and the family room. $28. If that’s too pricey, consider a comparatively cheap $17 no frills model from American Plastic Toys.

Photo of the My First Matching Game.

My First Matching Game by Ravensburger — It’s a fabric memory game, not broken like bent saliva-soaked cardboard or thrown hard like wood. $13. [review]

This toy guide is not finished! We need your expertise. Surely there are more great toys for 2-year-olds! Help other parents by posting a comment below with your suggestions for must-have toys that your child(ren) have loved. And if you have strong feelings about toys in this guide, or similar ones, share those thoughts too. Thank you!

And be sure to check out all of our toy guides:


9 Responses to “Essential Toy Guide: 2-Year-Olds”

  1. Kelly K says:

    Just an infou :
    And I thought I finally could trust a toy company… silly me. (the recall does not spec. match the stackers but you know how these things snowball)

    November 28th, 2008 at 5:25 am

  2. lara says:

    How about a rody jumping horse with or with out the rocking base. Toy farm animals

    November 28th, 2008 at 6:26 am

  3. Ticia says:

    toy cooking stuff
    in place of aqua doodle, magnadoodle, similar function, great for car rides

    November 28th, 2008 at 9:10 am

  4. Jen says:

    PLAY-DOH… my girls can spend hours with that stuff!

    Art supplies… coloring books, finger paints, etc

    Doll house/farm for pretend play

    play kitchen


    I’m giving my 2 year old, a Barbie hair styling head… she loves doing my hair, and I think she’s going to love it!

    November 28th, 2008 at 6:22 pm

  5. Tiffany says:

    Play kitchen- although it’s tough to find a gender-neutral one that’s not 200$. My son loves his Little Tikes Cook ‘n Learn kitchen (although we never put in the batteries…) along with the felt play food we’ve bought and made. He spends hours playing picnic and cooking and carrying his groceries around in a lunchbag from Target (5$)

    November 29th, 2008 at 1:00 pm

  6. Jen says:

    you should check out Walmart for a play kitchen, they’ve got the really nice Step 2 lifestyles kitchen for under $100! it’s smaller than they more expensive styles, but it’s big enough for my 2 kids. They love it!

    also, is great for finding deals on big items like that.

    November 29th, 2008 at 3:20 pm

  7. Lara says:

    Some prettend play toys perhaps either little people or wow toys if you can stand the noise of the frictin motor. Iwas going to suggest a kitchenor larger prettend toy. I would second looking for larger toys second hand. Its more environmentaly friendly to buy a secnd hand plastic toy then buy a nice rubber wood or bamboo toy new. The kids won’t nottice for a while especially if you build larger items before the gift giving.

    November 29th, 2008 at 8:04 pm

  8. Amber says:

    My son just turned two and is OBSESSED with the toy trains they have at daycare.

    You can get a small starter set from IKEA’s website for about 15 bucks. Supposed to fit with most commercially available wooden sets, too.

    November 30th, 2008 at 11:45 am

  9. Amber says:

    Speaking to Lara’s comment about building larger items before the gift giving, I’ve found it useful, especially with very young children, to de-package ALL gifts before wrapping. I pull toy lawn-mowers, trains, cars, action figures, etc out of their cardboard-and-wire prisons and slide them freely back into their boxes so that all the little one has to do is tear, open, and go. Similarly, when I gave my sister a bunch of barbies, I took all the accessories out and put them in a little carrying pouch for safe-keeping, so they didn’t get tossed out with the plastic packaging and paper. It really helps to avoid that frantic, hopping, shoulder poking excited impatience while you struggle and fumble with hundreds of twist-ties, irritably shouting “just a MINUTE!”

    November 30th, 2008 at 12:37 pm