Best Toys for Toddlers in 2021

Playtime can be INCREDIBLY essential in developing your toddler’s skills - from motor to sensory and social skills! This quote from nidirect sums it up:

‘Play improves the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and young people. Through play, children learn about the world and themselves’.

There’s a world out there for your growing child to explore. And, with play, we can nurture, educate and inspire our little ones! 💙

🧸 Developing your toddler’s play: 1-3 years of age. 

General development milestones tend to vary at this age. Be mindful that your toddler is unique; so they’ll be developing at their own pace (and sometimes, toddlers skip milestones altogether). As a rule of thumb:

  • By 12 months your toddler may be using a few words here and there, pointing, turning pages of a book, crawling, playing peek-a-boo, pushing and pulling things and stacking objects.
  • By 18 months your toddler may be speaking basic words, playing with objects around the house, copying you (and other adults around them), and developing a real curiosity and engagement with the surrounding world. This is also generally the age when toddlers develop frustration, start exercising temper tantrums and become possessive of their toys.
  • By 2 years of age your toddler may be walking, talking, climbing, running, jumping and basically everything else that involves energy! Your toddler is also probably developing a vocabulary by this point and developing their toilet training. And, remember those temper tantrums at 18 months? Your toddler is also likely mastering the art of throwing big temper tantrums (probably in a public place, when you least expect it…).
  • By 3 years of age your toddler might be more active than ever. They’ll probably also be communicating with you, engaging with the world around them (maybe making friends!) and learning to share. ‘Why’ might be becoming their favourite word, fast (sorry about that, KendaParents - that one tends to stick around) and they’ll most likely be able to feed themselves.

So, let’s dive into the different types of toys on the market and how they can help in developing your toddler’s individuality, skills and more. ✨

🎁 Some of the best toys for toddlers:

  • Push and pull toys for motor skills. 
  • Art materials for creativity skills
  • Books for expanding vocabulary and sensory skills.
  • Problem solving toys, like puzzles and building blocks, for executive function, memory and cognition.

Also, it’s important to note if your toy is open or close-ended. Both types of these toys are important in developing your toddler’s skills.

✨ Close-ended toys count as any activity which has an end, like a puzzle or book. These teach your toddler how to be goal-oriented. 🧩

✨ Open-ended toys can be played with no end - they include dolls, cuddly toys, blocks and so forth. These types of toys can help foster your toddler’s language development, imagination and creativity, amongst other things. 🧸

🌍 12 to 18 months: you may be getting your toddler engaged!

12 to 18 month old baby / toddler toy recommendation

The moment your toddler turns 1, they’ll likely be very tactile, interested and engaged with the world around them.

Best toys for toddlers 12-18 months old: Stimulate your toddler’s budding curiosity by reading to your little one to develop their vocabulary, push and pull toys to hone those motor skills, peek-a-boo to improve object permanence and playing with blocks and puzzles (with some supervision) to get them to operate independently. Balls, wagons, pop-up or textured books, riding toys and simple blocks are great toys to get your little one engaged and occupied!


Top tips. Your toddler is likely learning how to scribble, use their words, walk and climb and hide objects. Set up time for activity, be consistent with playtime and constantly talk to your child! 

🎨 18 months to 2 years: your toddler may need time for creative play.

18 to 24 month old baby / toddler toy recommendation

From 18 months to 2 years of age, your toddler is definitely building a personality. This is a wonderful time to nurture your toddler’s budding independence. 

Best toys for toddlers 18 months - 2 years old: To really get your toddler stimulated, make sure to include lots of books, creative activities, imaginative play, puzzles and physical activity to really foster your toddler’s self-esteem, cognitive development, confidence, executive function, creative skills and physical development (let’s get them walking!). Blocks, kitchen sets, dolls, cars, toy telephones and toys which stimulate imagination are also great.

We also love ANYTHING arts and crafts! Scribbling, drawing (maybe even painting, if you dare!) can be a fabulous way to foster creativity, independence and imagination.

Top tips. Alongside helping your little one become quite the creative mastermind, take time to nurture their physical development, too. Holding your toddler’s hands as they practice walking is a great way to get your little one moving.

💃🏽 2-3 years: your toddler may be running, jumping, dancing!

2 to 3 year old baby / toddler toy recommendation

From 2, your toddler is probably growing a personality ALONGSIDE their vocabulary. They may have a lot of excess energy, excitement (and maybe a bit of a temper!). 

Best toys for toddlers 2-3 years old: This is the time for physical activity and movement. Advance your toddler’s motor by rolling a ball back and forth, running around, singing, dancing and going for walks to the park. 

To really get your energetic toddler engaged during playtime, try exercising together, having dance parties, wearing dress up clothes together and playing with riding toys. Make sure your playtime routine is consistent. 

Top tips. Talk to your little one often. Fostering your toddler’s language skills and executive function is incredibly important right now. This is ALSO a great time to teach your little one how to use the toilet, independently (with support from you). 

Outside time at the park is a great way to get your toddler engaged with other children their age. This will teach your little one to share and form social bonds with other children.

Need some tune-spiration for those dance parties we suggested? Check out our playlist on Spotify here (trialled and tested by us for dance party approval, of course)

💬 3 years: your toddler may be communicative and active!

As your toddler grows into a little person, at 3 years of age, they might be chatting away, using the toilet all on their own, playing ‘make believe’, dressing themselves (to a degree), forming an imagination and maybe developing small fears, too.

This is a creative, cognitive time for your little one. So, combining all your skills and really engaging your toddler in meaningful play is important. 

Best toys for toddlers 3 years old and up: Counting, reading, pushing and pulling with toys, singing songs, playing dress up, drawing, painting and colouring, letting your little one help with chores (toy mops are great for this!), setting up playdates and puzzling with your little one! All these activities can be crucial in helping your toddler become the independent, creative individual they’re destined to be. 

Top tips: By 3, your little one might be able to speak full sentences. So, encourage this language development (and cognitive milestone) by reading with your toddler often, engaging them in puzzles and maybe even try dipping their toes into board games and interactive play! 

🧸Toy safety for toddlers, 12 months to 3 years old.🧸

The right toy can be a wonderful way to stimulate and develop your little one's functional, motor, cognitive and independent skills. It's vital to also consider your toddler’s safety. When choosing the best toys for their age. 

  • Look for the CE and UKCA marks on any toy you buy. This means that the toy meets regulatory requirements.
  • Look for the voluntary BTHA lion mark. This stands for the British Toy and Hobby Association and ensures the toy meets statutory safety requirements. 
  • Avoid toys with long hair, loose ribbons and other hazards.
  • ALWAYS check the age grading before purchasing ANY toy.

🤩 To conclude… your toddler’s developing skills are amazing!

To really make the best of your toddler’s development milestones, let’s conclude some of the important skills your little one is likely developing day by day.

  • Problem-solving. 🌏
  • Imagination. 🤯
  • Life skills and executive function. 🧠
  • Vocabulary skills. 💬
  • Physical activity ⚽
  • Motor development.💪
  • Visual development. 👀

It’s incredible how a simple, playtime activity (one that’s fun!) can actually be such a formative and productive time for your toddler. So, cherish every moment of playtime. Minute by minute, your little one is developing into their personality. 💙✨

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