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7 Best Educational Toys for 2-Year-Olds | 2021 Guide and Reviews

Mark Coster, BSc(Hons) PhD

Last updated: December 3, 2020

The best educational toys for 2-year-olds are open-ended and allow the child – and not the toy – to direct the play. Learning toys should also help develop the things your child is working on right now, like pre-literacy and fine-motor skills.

Our best overall is the MOLUK Bilibo, a cleverly designed toy that can be anything you dream up. It supports creative play, physical development, and 100% child-directed play. Are you aiming for your child’s physical development? You could go with a balance bike since it encourages outdoor exploration and independence while supporting gross motor skill development.

For a budget-friendly option, we highly recommend the Melissa and Doug Upper and Lower Case Alphabet Puzzle. This affordable toy, made with wood letters and board, supports language development, dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and cooperative play. It includes brightly colored letters and pictures.

Our Top Picks
Best Overall
MOLUK Bilibo Blue
Best for Physical Development
Strider - 12 Pro Balance Bike, Ages 18 Months to 5 Years, Blue
Best Budget Option
Melissa & Doug Upper & Lower Case Alphabet Puzzle
Name
MOLUK Bilibo
Strider Sport Balance Bike
Melissa Doug Upper and Lower Case Alphabet Puzzle
Features
Designed in Switzerland with child development experts and is sure to engage your child with hours of free play.
This active toy supports your child’s development as they learn to balance, propel, steer, and glide.
This classic game for two players is a great guessing game that you can play in 5-10 minutes.
Best Overall
Our Top Picks
MOLUK Bilibo Blue
Name
MOLUK Bilibo
Features
Designed in Switzerland with child development experts and is sure to engage your child with hours of free play.
More info
Best for Physical Development
Our Top Picks
Strider - 12 Pro Balance Bike, Ages 18 Months to 5 Years, Blue
Name
Strider Sport Balance Bike
Features
This active toy supports your child’s development as they learn to balance, propel, steer, and glide.
More info
Best Budget Option
Our Top Picks
Melissa & Doug Upper & Lower Case Alphabet Puzzle
Name
Melissa Doug Upper and Lower Case Alphabet Puzzle
Features
This classic game for two players is a great guessing game that you can play in 5-10 minutes.
More info

Best Learning Toys for 2 Year Olds – Reviews and Buyers Guide

Best Overall – MOLUK Bilibo

Best Overall
MOLUK Bilibo
Designed in Switzerland with child development experts and is sure to engage your child with hours of free play.

The Moluk Bilibo is a deceptively simple toy. At first glance, the design looks like a chair. It was designed to encourage open-ended creative play. And it fully lives up to that challenge.

It is our best pick overall because it supports open-ended creative play, critical in a 2-year-old’s cognitive developmental milestone. The Moluk Bilibo features a non-toxic material that is also weather (and toddler) proof, making it an excellent and versatile toddler learning toy.

My nephew received this toy for his second birthday. The motto “whatever you want it to be” turned out to be true! My toddler has since inherited it, and I will attest to its ability to support creative and pretend play in many forms.

As we often point out in our articles about toddler learning, open-ended play is critical for a toddler’s development. The Moluk Bilibo, available in a few colors, is a very versatile toy. Your little one can use it as a balance toy, encouraging gross motor and fine motor skills. It can also be a hat, a bucket, a spinner. Boys and girls can play with it inside or outside, in water, on the lawn, or in the living room.

The quality, versatility, and educational value make this an excellent option for your 2 year old.

Best for Physical Development – Strider Sport Balance Bike

Best for Physical Development
Strider Sport Balance Bike
This active toy supports your child’s development as they learn to balance, propel, steer, and glide.

If you have or know a young child, chances are you’re familiar with balance bikes. If not, it’s a great time to say hello to this marvelous toy!

Balance bikes have been a revolution in teaching children to ride bikes. Most kids can skip training wheels after they master propelling themselves without pedals. Strider Sport Balance Bike is one of the top names in balance bikes. Many top brands are available. Some of them have additional features like a hand brake and a lower seat height.

Balance bikes help children refine their gross motor skills like balance, steering. They will also get confident moving faster than they can walk or run. It’s an exciting experience, to say the least!

Two is a sweet spot for balance bikes, as kids 18 months to age 2 are tall enough and strong enough to handle the bike and quickly gain confidence in their physical abilities. In addition to the evident skills, balance bikes offer children access to outdoor spaces to play more independently. Whether they are alone or with friends, they’ll enjoy all the benefits and learning advantages of being outside.

Best Budget Option – Melissa Doug Upper and Lower Case Alphabet Puzzle

Best Budget Option
Melissa Doug Upper and Lower Case Alphabet Puzzle
A classic alphabet puzzle that includes both upper and lower-case letters in chunky, brightly colored wood.

Before learning to read, little ones need to know their letters. The easiest way to teach a toddler this skill is through play. Even 2 year olds have matured enough to start learning the difference between a “B” and a “D.”

Getting your toddler a Wooden Alphabet Puzzle is a great way to introduce them to their letters in a playful manner. This set comes with upper and lower-case letters and pictures on the board to help associate letter sounds with words. Different puzzles: one with lowercase letters and another with uppercase letters.

We love that this set includes lowercase letters since these are the most frequent letters when your little one is just learning to read. The letters and letter-shaped cut-outs are very chunky and larger than most. That allows your child to play with them and do the puzzles independently.

Best for Motor Skills Development – QZM Shape Sorter Toy

Best for Motor Skills Development
QZM Shape Sorter Toy
Comes with 19 colorful wooden geometric shapes plus a wooden sorter box. Supports a wide range of learning!

You really can’t go wrong getting a shape sorter toy for your 2 year old. The QZM Shape Sorter Toy is a classic toddler toy that we associate with learning shapes, matching, motor skills, and hand-eye coordination.

This set includes colorful blocks with some unique shapes. The bright colors and shapes can support a wide range of learning outcomes, shape recognition, and fine motor skills, including matching.

Besides, the high-quality wooden blocks can double as building blocks for free play. It makes the set an excellent option for open-ended play as well as more directed learning. The sturdy wooden shape sorter comes with carrying handles. I can imagine many toddlers carrying the box and using it as part of pretend-play with other toys.

Best for Music Learning – Ehome Toddler Musical Instruments

Sale
Best for Music Learning
Toddler Musical Instruments Ehome
This comprehensive musical instrument toy set comes with 15 instruments (22 pieces). It will surely delight all 2 year olds.

Music incorporates a wide range of intellectual skills and has long been shown to support academic achievement, including readiness to learn, math skills, physical skills, and social development. The Toddler Musical Instruments Ehome Set includes a wide range of instruments focused on percussion, shakers, a recorder, and even a xylophone.

Your child can explore sound and rhythm independently or with parents and friends. This instrument set is designed to appeal to young children. They can hold each instrument in one or two little hands and make noise by banging, shaking, or blowing air. A world of joy for toddlers! All of that allows young kids to hear (and possibly even see) immediate results from their playing.

Music is ubiquitous in modern culture and is a vital part of intellectual and physical development. Children of all ages are exposed to it in many ways. They love to do what grownups do. Hence providing opportunities to play instruments and make their own music is a great way to encourage learning, develop motor skills, and connect with the songs and sounds kids love.

Even though they are not directly related, music has to do with numbers too! Math and music are BFFs in many ways. That’s why musical toys are often the best toys for 2 year olds and up!

Best Puzzle Set – AOLIGE Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles

Sale
Best Puzzle Set
AOLIGE Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
An excellent, colorful, and unique set of animal-shaped puzzles that encourage learning through play.

The AOLIGE Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles are mosaic-style puzzles in brightly colored animal shapes that support critical toddler developmental skills. Your little one will improve their hand-eye-coordination, fine motor skills, shape and color recognition, and problem-solving.

These unique puzzles include a cutout outline with various sized and shaped pieces that fit together to represent different animals. They are a bit more complicated than the board and peg-style puzzles. That may pose a challenge for young toddlers. But it’s still simple enough for them to complete independently or with support from a parent or older sibling.

I love these puzzles because they are a bit different from other options. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge fan of peg and board puzzles like this Melissa and Doug Puzzle Set. They are an excellent introduction for children to learn how to place and match puzzle pieces independently. But I selected the AOLIGE set because they are a little more complex, include exciting shapes and pictures, and really help encourage your two-year-old to push their boundaries. It’s one of the best learning toys due to developmental aspects, but it also promotes imaginative play.

My daughter has a small set of these: at age 2, she loved the colors and the pieces. And it was entertaining to help her put them together. At ages 3 and up, she started pulling them out herself and can now do them independently. The sense of pride in herself and her skill is enjoyable to see. I highly recommend this fun and truly educational set of puzzles.

Best for Fine Motor Skill Development – Montessori Busy Board

Sale
Best for Fine Motor Skill Development
Montessori Busy Board for Toddlers
This high-quality, wooden busy board is designed to engage young children while helping them develop essential fine motor skills.

Busy boards are popular toys these days. And not without reason! They’re a great way to keep kids occupied, especially in a constrained space like a car or airplane. This Montessori Busy Board for Toddlers is an excellent and high-quality option. It includes 10 sensory activities related to every-day actions such as zipping, shoe tying, and clipping buckles. The wooden board makes for a sturdy toy that won’t flop around, but it’s small enough to travel with you and your little ones.

This toy offers your child an excellent opportunity to work on fine motor skills and hand eye coordination using everyday objects. The bright colors and a nice variety of activities will be sure to keep your toddler engaged and excited to learn through play. The Montessori parenting approach is all about getting kids busy in a beneficial and productive way. A busy board is one of the most rewarding ways to do it!

Best for Imaginative Play – Mega Bloks First Builders

Sale
Best for Imaginative Play
Mega Bloks First Builders Big Building Bag With Big Building Blocks
With this set, toddlers get to make various shapes and models while learning color, numbers, counting, planning, strategizing.

These days, there are thousands of brilliant, high-tech toys with bells and whistles. And I am all for technology! It has already permeated all of our lives. Coding and robotics toys can really prepare your kiddo for their life ahead, plus they are super fun.

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But guess what toy I would bring to a deserted island? A humble bag of blocks! In fact, a Big Building Bag With Big Building Blocks. Also known as Mega Bloks.

There are reasons why this set is wildly popular with parents and teachers alike. It’s a classic toy that has reared generations of kids! These particular blocks are small enough for the little hands to use, yet too big to swallow or displace. There are 80 of them, so the combinatorial possibilities are endless! Your little one can build houses, walls, animals, humanoid models.

The reason why I appreciate blocks to such an extent is that they help flex imagination. Plus, they require lots of planning and deliberation! There are numbers, math, color, shapes. You really need creative thinking skills to put them all together. And, of course, that fantastic feeling of pride when the kids manage to make something complex! Which is, of course, often followed with an even joy of knocking down the building. It’s all part of early childhood!

By the way, Mega Bloks has lots of editions and products. The great thing is that they are all mutually compatible. So, if your kid ever needs more blocks, you can always expand this set with another!

What to Consider When Buying an Educational Toy for a 2 Year Old – Buyers Guide

best educational toy for 2 year old

Your child’s brain develops and grows a ton during their second year. They learn rapidly, often quadrupling their vocabulary. Self-awareness and an understanding of cause and effect are starting to kick in.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to nurture your child’s brain growth with age-appropriate educational toys that support both their curiosity and developmental needs. Some of the critical skills 2 year olds learn in addition to language are problem-solving, social skills, and rapid physical development.

What do they like?

By ages 2 or about, many toddlers already have apparent preferences and things that boost their curiosity. If you buy a toy with a theme your child already likes, they’re more likely to engage with it and remain interested. For example, a kid that likes vehicles may be delighted to get a train set. And they can learn a whole lot from playing with such a toy! From refining their dexterity to problem solving and engineering, such toys are real treasure troves.

What are their skills?

Between the ages of two and three, kids develop quickly, moving from the baby side to the kid side of toddlerhood. Every kid develops at a different pace, so it’s good to consider a child’s developmental level to ensure that you buy something challenging but achievable.

It’s a great idea to get toys that can help them bridge the gap from their current skill to the next. You can do that either by challenging them physically (balance bikes, playmats, etc.) or intellectually (alphabet games, counting games, shape recognition/matching activities). Or both at the same time!

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top learning toys for 2 year olds

Is it fun?

It’s essential to choose fun learning toys since young kids learn best through play and observation. At this point, they’re not likely to stay engaged with a toy that requires long periods of sitting still. If your child is enjoying the activity, they are likely to learn.

And don’t worry if they have their own ways of using toys. That’s a sign that they are developing their creative and make-believe skills, which are also really important!

What do they have already?

By the age of 2, many children already have a lot of toys, many of which are probably educational in one way or another. If you can, consider what the child you’re buying for has already and aim for something that encourages learning in new ways. For example, if your child already has many blocks and pieces, consider something aimed more at gross motor skill development.

Frequently Asked Questions

2 year old educational toys

What does a 2 year old need?

At two, children are growing and developing quickly. Their language skills are expanding, as are their physical skills, including both gross and fine motor skills. It’s a great idea to get toys that engage them both physically and intellectually. That can push their boundaries in both areas. Toys like puzzles and blocks are great for motor-skills development, while books and music also support language development. Pick something that is engaging, interesting to your child, and can support multiple learning outcomes.

Which learning toy should I get for my 2 year old?

They can benefit from an array of different learning toys. However, the best educational toy for 2 year old would be the one that aligns with your child’s interest. A child that likes cooking will benefit most from a play kitchen. One that loves dress-up will benefit most from things like play silk. Children will be most interested in what they like, so take advantage of their likes to maximize their learning… and their fun!

What activities should 2 year olds do for education?

At such a young age, playing is the most adequate way to learn. You can’t expect such a small kiddo to stay focused for prolonged periods. What you can do is offer them a variety of activities to engage them. That’s the best way to stir up their imagination, which is the fuel for learning!

This age group’s educational activities could involve finger painting, counting things, tracing objects, collecting and comparing various items. Toddlers love everything that has to do with water. Tap into that and play sink and float with multiple waterproof items. (Just make sure not to give them an idea to try it with their older sibling’s robot!)

You can also have them match like with like. That will boost their critical thinking skills.

Mark Coster, BSc(Hons) PhD

Last update on 2021-01-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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