Scratching your head trying to figure out what to buy for the little one in your life? I feel you! That’s why we’ve compiled this simple, easy list of practical gifts for 2-year-olds. In this “best of” gift guide, find tried-and-true favorites that include the best educational toys for 2-year olds.
Let’s face it. Buying for kids is hard. If you’ve never had a child that age, how are you supposed to know what toys are suitable for a 2 year old?
If you have older children, all the younger ages run together. If the child is your own, how do you know which toys are the most educational or developmentally appropriate?
What is the best gift for 2 year old boy? Or girl?
If you’re like me, you’re likely feeling stumped by the question, “What is a good gift for a 2 year old?”
We’ve created this list of practical gifts for 2-year-olds to help you find the best educational toys when shopping for young toddlers.
These gift ideas are all either developmentally appropriate or basic necessities–you really can’t go wrong with any of these gifts for 2-year-olds!
2 Year Olds Developmentally
Developmentally, 2 year olds are in a super fun place. Their brain synapses are constantly firing, and they’re learning every moment of every day. So why not buy the best educational toys for 2 year olds that can help them develop appropriately?
According to healthychildren.org (one of my favorite go-tos for understanding my child at all ages), 2-year olds undergo a number of major developmental milestones that we can help them achieve by choosing appropriate gifts.
2 year olds are developing in so many ways, such as:
- Fine Motor Skills
- Social Skills
- Emotional Coping and Emotional Intelligence
So if you’re asking what toys are suitable for a 2 year old, the answer is simple–anything that helps them develop the skills above!
Why Buy Educational Gifts and Not Fun Gifts?
This is actually one of the coolest things about 2 year olds, and the reason it’s my favorite age so far.
Everything can be fun! Educational gifts are especially fun because 2 year olds are developing SO rapidly.
In the first 6-months of his second year, Jack went from only saying two-word phrases to making complete sentences.
He developed a basic understanding of past, present, and future.
He went from telling me, in slurred words, what book he wanted, to being able to recite it with me.
He learned to tap to the beat, sing mostly on key, and keep rhythm.
2-year-old brains are learning every second of every day, so why not give practical, educational gifts that let them have fun while developing mentally and physically?
Their homes are already covered in toys. Let’s give them gifts that actually help them grow while they play!
Gifts for 2 Year Olds that Help Develop Movement Skills
In terms of movement, these little ones are honing skills like walking, running, standing on their tiptoes, pulling toys behind them, and even pedaling their feet.
They’re also working on fine motor skills, especially involving their hands and fingers. It’s great to give them toys where they can use their hands and fingers to build, button, zip, buckle, splash, and more.
Gift Ideas for Basic Movement Skills
Improving mobility and walking is essential at 2. 2-year-olds are usually past the age of push carts, but they still need to learn to push, guide, and navigate.
A mower that blows bubbles will keep them excited while they hone this skill, still working on their grips and “helping” perform an essential household chore!
Buying for a little who doesn’t have a yard? A toddler vacuum can have the same effect, just without the bubbles.
Oh how my toddler has developed on this trampoline! It’s actually in my living room, and when he first turned two, he just bent his knees and yelled “Jumping, jumping, jumping!”
By 2 1/2, he could hold the bar well enough to swing on it (excellent for working on grip), jump with both feet (an important skill at this age), and use it to create obstacle courses (honing his imagination and physical development)! And this, my friends, is why I didn’t mind this thing being in the middle of my living room.
This is an awesome gift for development because it allows kids to ride before they learn to pedal, but they can transition to pedaling with their feet or actually pedaling.
They can also practice their grips with the handlebars, setting them up to learn to ride a bike. Plus, this is a great toy for allowing them to play securely outdoors!
Gift Ideas for Fine Motor Skills
2 year olds need to develop their fine motor skills–the ability to pinch things between their fingers, grip with their hands, turn knobs, and more. These gifts will help them do just those things.
A pull cart is an especially great gift for a young 2 year old, as they’re (seemingly strangely to most adults) very interested in pulling things behind them.
Holding the string is great for their grip, and this toy doubles as letter blocks, making it one of the best educational toys for 2 year olds because it’s multifunctional.
This is, in my opinion, the BEST gift that helps 2 year olds hone their fine motor skills. By 2 1/2, most pediatricians look for kids to be able to dress and undress themselves.
They haven’t quite gotten buckles and buttons down yet, and they definitely can’t tie their shoes, but these are all next steps. I LOVE this gift for any 2 year old!
This was hands down the most used toy in my house during Jack’s second year. It creates opportunity for amazing sensory activities. As a water table, Jack watched water trickle from the top level to the bottom, learning where to pour, that the holes were the conduit for the water to fall, and more. So much cause-and-effect here!
Kids love sensory tables, so when it got cold outside, we turned it into a sensory table. Instead of water, we filled the table with raw oats, buckets, leafs–anything we can find that he can’t choke on! But especially oats. Come summer, it’ll be a water table again.
Personalized Rolling Pin
It may sound crazy to personalize something like a rolling pin, but go with me on this one. The squeezing of the thumbs around a rolling pin makes a huge difference in hand strength, and the ability to properly hold pencils, scissors, and more.
A personalized rolling pin is not only a practical gift. It can also be one of the best educational toys for 2-year-olds. While they make play doh artwork, they also see letters and get to start learning to spell their names.
Artistic Options Make Great Educational Toys for 2 Year Olds
In addition to improving fine motor skills (feeling the sensations of hands in paint vs on paper, holding a paintbrush or crayon and moving it on paper), artistic gifts also allow toddlers to practice creativity.
Finger Painting and Painting
Artistic toys give toddlers a means of creative expression and help develop their imaginations for the stages that are to come. In this way, artistic toys are among the best educational toys for 2 year olds.
Here are some of my favorite artistic toys that Jack loved at this age:
This mat is great because it lets kids practice coloring, rolling, using stamps, and more. It’s a great artistic toy, but kids learn so much as they let their imaginations run wild while working with colors, shapes, letters, numbers, and more.
Finger painting is amazing for 2-year-olds because they get to practice imaginative expression and develop artistic skills while also feeling exactly how the paint goes onto the page.
If they cover their fingers in paint, the paint will follow their finger on the page. If they dip their whole hand, they can make a hand print.
The skills they learn by finger painting then translate to regular painting. While they can no longer feel the tactile motion to understand how the paint is being transferred, they can practice gripping the brush and stroking in a certain motion to achieve the sam effect. Painting with brushes simply takes finger painting to the next level in terms of dexterity.
You’re probably wonder why I’m crazy enough to recommend finger painting and then brush painting to you moms/family/friends of two-year olds. But wait! I also have an art smock recommendation for you so that paint doesn’t end up everywhere…
These are my favorite smocks because, not only do they keep a toddler clean, but they also help them hone their fine motor skills further.
Pulling paintbrushes and crayons out and putting them back in is great for fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination!
And of course, if you’re gifting paint supplies, make sure the family has a drop cloth! Otherwise, we can all imagine the mess that might ensue. See, I told you I wasn’t a monster.
These are my absolute favorite on-the-go toys. A great idea for a road trip, restaurants, errands, and more!
They’re the perfect practical gift for 2 year olds because parents can take them ANYWHERE without worrying about a mess. Simply put water inside the brush, screw it on, and kids can color.
The pages will automatically change color with they come in contact with the brush, which comes out slowly and doesn’t make a mess.
Many kids can start using these pads as early as 18 months.
I love jumbo crayons for 2 year olds because they’re harder to break. At this age, little ones are still learning how much strength they need to apply to different activities, and broken crayons can be hard for them to grasp and use if their fine motor skills haven’t honed that much yet.
Jumbo crayons get rid of this problem while still helping with grip and allowing for colorful artistic expression.
Obviously, kids need somewhere to do their drawing. 2 year olds can’t color inside lines yet, so plain white drawing pads work wonderfully to let them color and draw until their little hearts are content.
What Can I Get Kids Besides Toys?
At 2 years old, toddlers take in everything they hear, and adding visuals to what they hear creates an entirely new, multi-sensory learning experience.
Reading aloud to young children has been shown to “support cognitive development,” “improve language skills” and vocabulary, “increase concentration and discipline,” “improve imagination and creativity,” and “cultivate a lifelong love of reading.”
Even before he turned 2 years old, reading was among Jack’s favorite activities. He recognized books by their covers and could tell you which books he did and didn’t want to read.
These were his favorite books as a 2 year old.
- Little Blue Truck
- Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
- Moo Baa La La La
- Pete the Cat: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
- Goodnight Moon
What does he love about these books?
When we read books with animal sounds, he would squeal with giddy excitement, yelling whatever animal sound he knows is coming next.
In his favorite book without animals, he dutifully shouted “Oh no!” and “Boom boom!” when the words appeared, before I could even utter them.
His animation was hilarious and an incredible reminder of the importance of reading for toddler learning.
What’s the best way to build a toddler’s book collection?
One of my very favorite gifts for 2 year olds is a membership to Little Fun Club, a monthly book subscription service that will send the toddler 2 or 3 new books per month (depending on subscription purchased), curated based on the child’s age.
If you are purchasing books independently, the above suggestions of Jack’s favorites are great.
Or, check out more ideas and buy on Amazon on the 2-Year-Old Birthday Wishlist on my Amazon Storefront. This list also includes some ideas not listed in this article.
At 2 years old, most kids are getting to the point where they like turning paper pages, but they also tend to rip them.
Thus, paper books are okay, but board books are still the easiest choice for some of the best educational toys for 2 year olds.
Looking for everyday gifts, such as clothing? My favorite clothes come from Janie & Jack–the quality is great, most pants have extenders so they fit for longer, so they’ll hold up through the size changes.
I’m also a huge fan of clothes from Target regardless of kids’ ages! They’re affordable and hold up well.
When buying a pajamas for a 2 year old, there’s no better place to go than Leveret. Why? The pajamas are soft, and in my experience, they don’t shrink in the dryer. Super mom bonus.
Pajamas are among the most repurchased items because they never fit long enough, so having some that will hold up and not shrink is AMAZING!
Most companies make hooded towels for babies, so they can be hard to find in toddler sizes. But we all still want them for our toddlers. My favorite place to snag them is from Kidorable.
What are your favorite practical gifts for 2 year olds?
Posts for Toddler Parents
- Dealing with potty training problems
- What is free play and why is it important
- Does my child need speech therapy?
- How to wean toddler off the bottle
- Moving with kids
- Importance of first aid: why you should be certified!
Toddler Book Recommendations
- Childrens books about diversity
- Empowering books for girls
- Feminist books for boys
- Books about winter
- Kids books about moving
Posts for Mom
Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, toddler mom, and owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband (affectionately known on the internet as “Husband,”) son (Jack), and dog (Charlotte). She believes our society has historically placed too many expectations on women, defining womanhood and motherhood in a way that is restrictive. Her goal is to shift the paradigm about what it means to be a woman and mother, giving all women a greater sense of agency over their own lives. You can find Katy and her work featured in places like CNN’s Headline News, Scary Mommy, Motherhood and Social Exclusion, and various other podcasts and websites.