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The best educational toys for 2-year-olds are those that 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. If you’re 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, the Melissa and Doug Upper and Lower Case Alphabet Puzzle is highly recommended. Made with wood letters and board, and including brightly colored letters and pictures, this budget-friendly item supports language development, dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and cooperative play.
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- Best Educational Toys for 2 Year Olds
- 1. Best Overall – MOLUK Bilibo
- 2. Best for Physical Development – Balance Bike
- 3. Best Budget Option – Melissa and Doug Upper and Lower Case Alphabet Puzzle
- 4. Best for Motor Skills Development – QZM Shape Sorter Toy
- 5. Best for Music Learning – Toddler Musical Instruments Ehome
- 6. Best Puzzle Set – AOLIGE Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
- 7. Best for Fine Motor Skill Development – Montessori Busy Board
- What to Consider When Buying an Educational Toy for a 2 Year Old
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Educational Toys for 2 Year Olds
1. Best Overall – MOLUK Bilibo
The Moluk Bilibo is a deceptively simple toy with a design that at first glance (to an adult), looks like a chair. It was developed in conjunction with child development experts to encourage open-ended creative play and lives up to that challenge. It is our best pick overall because it supports open-ended creative play which is critical in a 2-year-old’s cognitive development. The Moluk Bilibo is made from 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, and it was described as “whatever you want it to be.” My own toddler has since inherited it and I will attest to its ability to support creative and pretend play in many forms. As pointed out in the first version of this article, open-ended play is critical for a toddler’s development. The Moluk Bilibo, available in few colors, can be used as a balance toy, encouraging both gross motor and fine motor skills. It can also be a hat, a bucket, a spinner, can be used inside or outside, in water, on the lawn, or in the living room. The quality, versatility, and educational value makes this a great option for your two-year-old.
2. Best for Physical Development – Balance Bike
If you have or know a young child, chances are you’re familiar with balance bikes. If not, it’s a great time to get acquainted!
Balance bikes have been a revolution in teaching children to ride bikes, and most kids skip training wheels after they’ve mastered propelling themselves without pedals. Strider Sport Balance Bike is one of the top names in balance bikes, making them easy to find and maintain. There are other top brands available, some of which have additional features like a hand brake and a lower seat height. You can also check out other brands if you are looking for specific features.
Balance bikes help children learn gross motor skills like balance, steering, and get confident moving faster than they can walk or run. Two is a sweet spot for balance bikes, as children that age are tall enough and strong enough to handle the bike, and quickly gaining confidence in their physical abilities. In addition to the obvious skills, balance bikes offer children access to outdoor spaces where they can begin to play more independently alone and with friends and enjoy all the benefits and learning advantages of being outside.
3. Best Budget Option – Melissa and Doug Upper and Lower Case Alphabet Puzzle
Before learning to read, every child needs 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 gently introduce them to their letters in a playful manner. This set comes with two both upper and lower-case letters, and pictures on the board to help begin associating letter sounds with words. Different puzzles: one with lowercase letters and another with uppercase letters.
We loved that this set includes lowercase letters since these are the letters your child is going to encounter most when they’re learning to read. The chunky letters and letter-shaped cut-outs allow letters are very chunky and larger than most, allowing your child to play with them and do the puzzles independently.
4. Best for Motor Skills Development – QZM Shape Sorter Toy
You really can’t go wrong getting a shape sorter toy for your two-year-old. The QZM Shape Sorter Toy is a classic toddler toy that we associate with learning shapes, matching, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. This set includes colorful blocks with some unique shapes. The bright colors and variety of shapes can support a wide range of learning outcomes in addition to shape recognition and fine motor skills, including matching.
In addition, the high-quality wooden blocks can double as building or other free-play blocks, making the set a great option for open-ended play as well as more directed learning. The sturdy wooden shape sorter comes with carrying handles, and I can imagine many toddlers carrying the box and using it as part of pretend-play with other toys.
5. Best for Music Learning – Toddler Musical Instruments Ehome
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, as each instrument can be held in one or two hands and makes noise by banging, shaking, or blowing air, all of which allow young kids to see immediate results from their playing.
In addition to being a vitally important part of intellectual and physical development, music is ubiquitous in modern culture, and children are exposed to it in many ways. They love to do what grownups do, so providing opportunities to play instruments and make their own music is a great way to encourage learning, developing motor skills, and connecting with the songs and sounds they hear and love.
6. Best Puzzle Set – AOLIGE Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
The AOLIGE Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles are mosaic-style puzzles in brightly colored animal shapes that support important toddler developmental skills such as 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 complex than the board and peg-style puzzles, offering a challenge for young toddlers, but 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 a great 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 interesting shapes and pictures, and really help encourage your two-year-old to push their boundaries.
My daughter has a small set of these: at 2, she loved the colors and the pieces and it was really fun to help her put them together. And at 3, she pulls them out herself and can now do them independently; the sense of pride in herself and her skill is really fun to see. I highly recommend this fun and truly educational set of puzzles.
7. Best for Fine Motor Skill Development – Montessori Busy Board
Busy boards are popular toys these days, 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 child.
This toy offers a great opportunity for your child to work on fine motor skills and hand-eye-coordination using objects they see used every day. The bright colors and nice variety of activities will be sure to keep your toddler engaged and excited to learn through play.
What to Consider When Buying an Educational Toy for a 2 Year Old
Your child’s brain develops and grows a ton during their second year: they learn rapidly, often quadrupling their vocabulary and beginning to develop self-awareness and an understanding of cause and effect. It is essential that you nurture your child’s brain growth with age-appropriate learning toys that support both their curiosity and developmental needs. Some of the key skills your two-year-old learns in addition to language are problem-solving, social skills, and rapid physical developments such as hand-eye-coordination.
What do they like?
By 2, a lot of toddlers already have obvious preferences and things they are curious about. If you buy a toy with a theme your child already likes, they’re more likely to engage with it and remain interested.
What are their skills?
Between the ages of two and three, kids develop very 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 by either by challenging them physically (balance bikes, playmats, etc.) and intellectually (alphabet games, counting games, shape recognition/matching activities).
Is it fun?
It’s important that learning toys are fun 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 use the toys differently than how it’s supposed to be – 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 a lot of blocks, consider something aimed more at gross motor skill development.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a 2 year old need?
At two, children are growing and developing really 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, and 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, if you can pick just one, we recommend going 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 play silk. Children will be most interested in what they like, so take advantage of their likes to maximize their learning… and their fun!
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Last update on 2020-09-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API