Toys for tots and toddlers aged two to three years old

Great toys that pass the parent, and teaching, test Photo: Montage of gifts for little kids

Finding toys for the 2-3 age group can be hard. When perusing the recommend ages of toys on the shelves of the stores, it can seem like these little in-betweeners have been left out. Not quite old enough for all the preschool toys, yet having outgrown the crawling toys and rattles of infant and toddlerhood, it can be hard to find a gift.  But there are some great selections out there for your gift giving this year.

Letter Factory PhonicsTM & Numbers


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The Letter Factory PhonicsTM & Numbers by Leapfrog is a  small, self-contained alphabet learning toy uses 36 learning tiles to teach letters and their sounds, as well as numbers, using customizable learning paths that lay the foundation for reading and math in a fun way. The actual device sits on top of the plastic storage container for the letter tiles that act as electronic keys to tell the letter factory which sounds to make.

Nesting & Sorting Barns & Animals

Melissa & Doug have long been a popular favorite with their wooden toys, and their new Nesting & Sorting Barns & Animals is sure to join the line of favorites in the toy box.  While toy barns have long been popular favorites with children, this set includes the stacking and nesting concepts that intrigue very young children. The set of six nesting barns and six animals helps children learn numbers, animals and size concepts. But children are not limited only to putting the correctly numbered animal in the same number barn. It encourages mix-and-match, hide-and-seek, and imaginative play as well. 

My First Train Set


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Trains are a popular toy with young children, and while there are many variations, duplo® has created a set that combines the imagination of train play with the creativity and fine motor skills of construction. The My First Train Set comes with 22 inches of track and the blocks needed to create a ticket window with a fueling station, a signal, a passenger car, and a steam engine, along with conductor and passage characters.  The steam engine even has sound effects to help bring the railroad to life.  One of the wonderful things about duplo sets is that the blocks are compatible with each other, allowing children to use their other blocks to expand on their current designs. There are also other duplo train sets available, including an accessory set that focuses on being able to expand your track options.

Leappad2

While you may be familiar with Leapfrog and their LeapReader systems, if you are the parent of a young child you may not have yet considered any of Leapfrog’s electronic toys. However, if your little one is approaching the 3 year mark, you might want to consider their latest offering. The Leappad2 won the 2013 Educational Toy of the Year Award and the People’s Choice Award for toys. Rated for ages 3 to 9, this is a device that grows with your child and will be used for years to come. With over 800 games, apps, and ebooks available to use with the Leappad2 there is something that will capture your child’s interest and help them learn phonics, reading, math, foreign languages, or problem solving. These programs not only help your child learn, they track your child’s progress and adjust the difficulty level as he masters new skills so the programs remain challenging and fun. The device can be purchased alone or as part of one of numerous bundle deals available with all sorts of combinations from the device plus the rechargeable battery pack, or the device plus a case and a game cartridge, etc. 

Baby Doll


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Around their second birthday, many children start to take an interest in babies. Both boys and girls tend to exhibit this interest.  For some children this interest may be due to the arrival of a younger sibling, some may want to pretend they are the mommy or daddy, others may be fascinated with someone smaller then they are, and still others may like the idea of being the “big kid.” 

Regardless of the reason, a  Baby Doll is a great gift for the 2 -3 year old. Dolls encourage pretend play and imitation of their parents. While dolls have a distinctively girl stereotype to them, boys can benefit from play with dolls as well. This is especially true if he has a younger sibling at home and sees dad helping with the baby, he may want to do the same. 

There are countless brands and sizes of baby dolls on the market today. Everything from the Baby Alive, which are animated or have voices built in so they can burp, cry, move their mouth to eat, kicks, and even wets its diaper, to smaller store specific brands like Target’s Circo baby dolls that are smaller and easier for little hands and arms to manage.

Whether you want a hard plastic body or a soft body, a doll that interacts, or a doll that stays quiet, there is something out there for your little one.

Melissa and Doug Puzzles

Puzzles are important for helping to develop children’s problem solving skills, and while there are other manufactures that make puzzles, few do it better than Melissa & Doug.  

Melissa and Doug Puzzles come in a variety of engaging different styles, all of which have some sort of educational angle, so in addition to working on problem solving while trying to figure out which pieces goes in which hole, children are also learning other crucial elements. There are animal puzzles that make animal sounds when the piece is correctly placed, fish puzzles that help teach colors, alphabet puzzles, number puzzles, puzzles to learn shapes, and the list goes on.

Most of Melissa & Doug’s Puzzles are labeled for either 2+ or 3+ , although a few are designed for younger or older children, so check the puzzle you choose.

Dado Cubes

You, probably already have blocks, maybe even multiple sets and types of blocks, but none of those are as versatile as Dado Cubes by Fat Brain Toy Company. These blocks are different from every other type of block on the market, not only because they can stack in horizontally as well as vertically, but they also can be nested. When building the blocks can interlock with the grooves cut into the sides of the cube, allowing them to interlock and stack at angles no other block can maintain.

These unique building abilities stimulate children’s spatial and problem solving abilities as well as their creativity.  Aside from simply being a new, innovative type of block, Dado Cubes have won 14 different awards, including the National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval. A set contains 10 blocks that range from 1 inch to 5 inches, and one set alone is enough to make creations up to 32 inches tall.

Crayola washable products

Children are endlessly creative, and while some may spend hours with blocks, others are inseparable from their crayons. Art supplies are a staple that every young child loves. Whether it is crayons, finger paints, paintbrushes, coloring books, or a pad of construction paper and safety scissors, you will be giving a gift that sparks creativity and provides hours of entertainment. While there are some hazards with children and certain art supplies, Crayola washable products can mean the difference between ruined furniture or drawings on the wall, and keeping the art on the paper.

Available washable products include markers, crayons, paints and sidewalk chalk. These make cleanup easy, and take some of the stress off the parents when children get overexcited in their creative outbursts. One caution, while they are washable, it is still difficult to get paint and markers out of fabric, so do not forget to get a smock too!

Imaginarium Master Studio Easel

What budding artist can be without an easel to where he can create his masterpieces? Aside from just art projects, easels offer a good creative space where children can experiment with writing letters and numbers, as well as mixing colors and creating pictures.

There are many easels on the market, but the Imaginarium Master Studio Easel does several things well. It is double sided, with a magnetic dry-erase board on side and a chalk board (eraser included) on the other. Then on top is a holder for paper roll which can be flipped down to draw or paint. What many less expensive easels miss is storage.

The Master Studio Easel has five fabric storage bins, two paint cups and two storage cups which keeps all his art supplies within reach and organized. It has two height settings so it can adjust to your growing child, and if you need to free up some space for a play date or family function, simply fold it up.

A Dress Up Trunk

It is during the toddler years that children begin to immolate the behaviors of the adults in their lives, characters in story books and things they see on television. This type of imitation play is normal and part of healthy development.  

A dress up trunk is an ideal gift for a 2 to 3 year old, and it is something you can assemble yourself and build on over time. It gives them many different characters that they can emulate. Dress-up is not just for girls either. Just think of boys playing ninja, cowboys, or firefighters.

This counts as well. While there are multiple pre-packaged options out there such as the Imaginarium Adventure Hat & Cape Trunk, or the Dream Dazzler’s Fabulous Dress Up Trunk, they are not the only options. Whether it’s a doctors bag, a tool box, a box of costume jewelry, a princess dress, or a cape, you can find items to add to your own dress up kit that will help your child become whoever he wants to be at the moment.

While there are endless toy options for older children, these are some great gift ideas that can help the little one on your list learn while having fun, and are sure to please when the wrapping paper goes flying.


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Brighid Moret

Brighid is a freelance writer and first time mother.  She holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.  Find her on Facebook @Brighid Moret

 

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