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You might think buying gifts for 2 year olds is as easy as grabbing a baby doll or set of blocks from the local Target. If, however, you’re in the market for toddler gifts that will challenge, educate, and entertain, it’s important to consider what a two-year-old really wants and needs.
Gone are the days when you can set them up with a cute stuffy or one of the best books for babies and assume they’ll be satisfied.
They’re also not quite ready for the “big-kid” toys some older children might enjoy.
So, if you’re 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, you’ll find tried-and-true favorites that include the best educational toys for 2-year olds.
These gift ideas are all either developmentally appropriate or basic necessities–you really can’t go wrong with any of these toddler-approved gifts for 2-year-olds!
This site contains affiliate links, meaning that we earn a small commission for purchases made through our site. We only recommend products we personally use, love, or have thoroughly vetted.
Understanding 2 Year Olds Developmentally
Developmentally, 2 year olds are in a super fun place. Did you know that Artistic Options Make Great Educational Toys for 2 Year Olds?
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-to’s for understanding my child at all ages), 2-year olds undergo a number of major developmental milestones we can help them achieve by choosing appropriate gifts and toys.
Some of the ways they’re developing include:
- Fine Motor Skills
- Social Skills
- Emotional Coping and Emotional Intelligence
So if you’re asking what toys are age-appropriate for a 2 year old, the answer is simple–anything that helps them develop the skills above!
When it comes to Gifts for Two Year Olds, 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 enjoyable 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 also developed a basic understanding of past, present, and future. My baby went from telling me, in slurred words, what book he wanted, to being able to recite it with me.
He also 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!
The Best Gifts for 2 Year Olds to Develop Movement and Fine Motor 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 little hands and fingers, so it’s helpful to give them toys they can practice movements with like building, buttoning, zipping, buckling, and more.
Gifts For Two Year Olds: Basic Movement Skills
Improving mobility and walking is essential during toddler years. 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 one 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!
Learning to pedal and maintain balance on a bike is a crucial skill for little ones. If you want to take a different approach rather than traditional training wheels, a balance bike might be an excellent alternative.
Since these bikes landed on the toy scene, they’ve proven themselves to be an incredible tool for any little one who wants to learn how to ride a bike. In fact, many parents find them more useful and effective than training wheels.
I’ve talked to many friends whose kids learned how to ride much faster on a balance bike.
Best Gift For 2 Year Old 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 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.
Even as little ones get older and are learning their ABCs, this will still be a valuable option during playtime.
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!
It may sound crazy to personalize something like a rolling pin, but stay 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, but 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.
Best Toys For 2 Year Old: Montessori Toys
While Montessori for infants is great for their development, these trusted learning practices become even more significant as your little one starts to grow. That’s why we wanted to be sure to include a section on the best Montessori toys for 4 year olds and under!
Here are some of our favorite Montessori toys for toddlers:
If your little ones are anything like mine, puzzles are probably a big hit in your houseshold. These adorable wooden toddler puzzles make a great gift for a 2 year old boy or girl.
Featuring bright colors and exciting designs, these are a great brain-building activity for any toddler.
It’s also a great way to help your child start fine-tuning their motor skills.
Playing games is a great tool when it comes to teaching your child new things. That’s why we love this cute wooden fishing game from Coogam.
Not only will your kids have tons of fun trying to catch little magnetic fish with the wooden “rods” that come with the game, but they’ll also be developing motor skills and learning great lessons in letter recognition and colors.
Popular Sensory Gifts For 2 Year Olds
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
This is where sensory play comes in!
Rather than just telling or showing your little one something, why not choose a birthday gift or holiday present for toddlers that lets them interact and get their hands dirty?
Tactile sensory learning provides learning opportunities through exploration – plus, these types of toys are always some of the most fun!
This was hands down the most used toy in my house during Jack’s second year. It creates opportunities 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, leaves, sand–anything we can find that he can’t choke on! But especially oats.
Come summer; it’ll be a water table again.
Are you looking for sensory toys that are a bit more mess-free? If so, you and your little one will love this light-up, doodle board!
It has a gel surface that children love to interact with as well as music and lights to keep their attention. One of my favorite things about this toy is that it’s portable.
I’m always looking for options to bring with us on the go and this has been a lifesaver!
3. Bath Toy Set
Whoever said the tub is only for getting clean? If you’re looking for a simple way to offer some sensory fun, why not throw your 2 year old in the bath and let them play with these awesome tub toys!
I love this kit because it provides so many play options. From squirting toys to fishing poles, your tots will have plenty to keep them busy!
Don’t forget a Tub Cubby to create easy storage for all of your bathtime toys and accessories!
Why Artistic Options Are Great Educational Gifts 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:
1. Doodle Mat
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 handprint.
So, grab your favorite set of Crayola finger paints and let your little artist go wild on a paint pad.
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 same effect.
Painting with brushes simply takes finger painting to the next level in terms of dexterity.
You’re probably wondering 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.
Best Gifts For Two Year Olds: Coloring
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 been honed that much yet.
Jumbo crayons get rid of this problem while still helping with grip and allowing for colorful artistic expression.
Another good option are egg-shaped crayons that are designed to help with grabbing.
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.
Best Gift For 2 Year Old: Pretend Play Ideas
Did you know pretend play not only helps expand a 2 year olds creativity but also allows them to expand their language and communication skills?
Plus, make-believe gifts for two year olds are among the most popular with kids. If you’re stumped about which pretend play gifts to purchase, here are a few of our top picks.
Dinosaurs are always a classic toy for little ones. This particular set is fantastic because it not only comes with the dinosaurs themselves but also includes a felt mat, pretend trees, and other accessories.
Your toddler will love creating their own dinosaur worlds to play in.
Play kitchens are an amazing option for creative play and one of the best toys on the market, in my opinion. Not only do they allow kids to use their imaginations, but they also present a realistic setting they can learn in.
Toy kitchens have come a long way since most of us were kids. My husband and I are big fans of the KidKraft products, like their corner wood play kitchen with lights and sounds. These items are durable, realistic, and feature much more than just a fridge and stove. This KidKraft product even comes with a microwave and dishwasher!
Whether you choose a small, starter dollhouse, like the Fisher-Price Little People Surprise home, or something lavish, like the KidKraft Shimmer Mansion, doll homes provide hours of make-believe entertainment for your little ones.
Do you have a child who dreams of becoming a doctor? If so, a doctor kit makes a great gift for 2-year-olds! They can set up an at-home clinic for all of their favorite toys.
Kits like the one from Kidzlane come with tons of different medical devices your toddler will be familiar with, such as a thermometer and stethoscope.
Popular Non-Toy Gifts For 2 Year Old
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.
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.
Tickets and Memberships
If you want to avoid toys, why not gift your toddler experiences instead? From local museums to kid gyms, there are tons of great options available. You could purchase a one-time pass or even an annual membership to keep the fun going all year long!
Best Gifts For Two Year Olds: Make It Count
As you can see, just because something is labeled an “educational toy,” it doesn’t mean your toddler will hate it. In fact, most of the items on this list are favorites among the 2 year old community.
So, don’t worry too much about buying the right or wrong thing. Just focus on items that provide value, and I guarantee your little one will love it!
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
- Importance of first aid: why you should be certified!
Toddler Book Recommendations
Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, mom, recurrent miscarriage survivor, & owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and 2 children (Jack & Branham). She believes our society puts too many expectations on women that make womanhood and motherhood 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, Romper, Scary Mommy, Love What Matters & more.