You may have heard of the Terrible Twos, but here at FamilyApp, we think the toddler years are some of the most fun: playing, imagining, and learning in new ways! We spoke with toy expert Amy Mabry about some of the most essential educational toys and activities for 2-year-olds.
Sometimes it seems like it's hard to find great toys for your little one, whether you're looking for wooden blocks for your baby, an easy wooden puzzle for your 1-year-old, or a fun truck or vehicles your 3-year-old might want to pull along. But there are so many great options out there, beyond the basic wooden Melissa and Doug toys (which are also great)!
Amy Mabry is a child development specialist and Skip and Play co-founder, and she knows all about quality baby and toddler toys. Read below for her favorites from baking to animals to trucks and blocks and more. Whether you are searching for the perfect toddler gift or just want to shake things up at playtime, you’ll love learning from our expert guest!
Amy, thanks for chatting with us! First things first: 2 is a fun age! What’s going on in a 2-year-old’s mind at this stage in their development?
At 2 years old, children are developing their curiosity. Kids start to understand how things piece together which is why puzzles are so important at this stage. They are also developing their imagination: a child may go to outer space, become a veterinarian, or any other fun idea that comes to their mind. It’s important to cultivate this. Imaginative play is an important part of brain development for toddlers, especially at age 2.
What are your favorite toddler toys (specifically for 2-year-olds)?
Here at Skip and Play, we love imaginative play toys and games. We have an adorable Kid O Imaginative Play House that lights up when you put the people in each room. Toddlers love this toy for the cause and effect function. They get to see it light up from their efforts.
We also love this Shape Sorter on Wheels. What’s exciting about this toy is that it is multi-functional. It’s a shape sorter, building your child’s cognitive skills as they match the pieces. And it is a fun pull toy to take with you. Pulling the toy along strengthens gross motor development: the child is learning to walk while they pull, enhancing their balancing skills.
Great ideas! For parents on a budget, what are some of your favorite free or low-cost toys?
You probably have a ton of items in your own home that are perfect for this age. For example, host a pretend cooking or baking party with cooking materials you already have that are safe. Who doesn’t love baking cookies? Or, turn an old Amazon box into a spaceship. And, painting and coloring! That’s the beauty of 2-year-old boys and girls; they have such fun imaginations!
Why are books important at this age?
Books are so helpful to teach language skills. As you are reading, your child will take in images of what’s on the page while also seeing the letters. This supports letter recognition which later helps them read and write. Books also take children on an imaginative journey, expanding their horizons. Most importantly, reading is fun! Instilling a love of reading in your kids at an early age will set them up to enjoy reading the rest of their lives (bonus: this can also reduce screen time. A win-win!).
What are your favorite books for 2-year-olds?
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is fantastic for this age! The little mouse goes on an adventure that is fun and easy for a 2-year-old boy or girl to understand. We also like this book because it’s funny and there are great ways to incorporate dramatic pauses and gasps, like “I can’t believe the mouse did that!” Laughing with your child is a great stress reliever for adults, too.
What’s your favorite non-toy activity for 2-year-olds?
Outside playtime is so good for this age! Look for a local with swings and playsets. This gives children an opportunity to build their gross motor development by maneuvering around the playset. And, you’re giving your child a chance to build peer relationships as he or she interacts with other children outside on a playground.
Thanks, Amy! Now we’d love to hear from our FamilyApp community: What are your favorite toys and activities for 2-year-olds?
Special thanks to our guest, Amy Mabry! Before founding Skip and Play, Amy worked as a Child Development Specialist in Los Angeles. After each session, the most common question every family would ask was: “What toys should I get my child?” It was that question that gave her the idea to start Skip and Play, solving this question for families. She loves finding educational toys that inspire creativity!