With such a large and diverse selection of toys out there, choosing toys for growing toddlers can be such a daunting task. We are huge fans of toys that nurture creativity and imagination through free play so when a reader asked us to share our favorite toys for our children, we thought it would be perfect for a post. I chose these specific toys because I find that they engage with important cognitive, physical, and social skills including but not limited to:
- simple reasoning
- spatial awareness
- symbolic thinking
- problem solving
- pattern recognition
- visual discrimination
- depth perception
- cause and effect
- muscle control, balance, and coordination
- working memory
Keep in mind that our kids are 2 and 3.5 years old so be sure to check the minimum age requirement on a toy before you make a purchase. Although we included links where to find these on Amazon, we recommend to check yard sales, local toy shops, and thrift stores because you never know what you might find! Many of the toys we have such as wooden blocks, cookware, and train sets we purchased from IKEA for a very reasonable price so if you live near one check there first.
This was one of our children’s first toys and a huge hit even to this day. We build everything from trains and animals to houses and zoos. When the kids were younger, we also used playtime with blocks as an opportunity to explore concepts like colors and numbers.
This is a more recent investment as we wanted to expose our kids to more STEM activities. Not only do children learn about the physical properties of magnets through discovery, but the possibilities in connecting and constructing are endless.
Although we don’t have these at home, we do play with these often at the local museum where we have a membership. It’s another excellent building activity and I love it because it engages with a variety of cognitive skills.
We highly recommend having a set of puzzles in your toy arsenal. There are so many kinds and they’re an excellent way to teach concepts through exploratory play; everything from animals to shapes, colors, and letters.
This may seem similar to the MegaBloks but these are made of wood and have a variety of different shapes. Building with them requires a different kind of skill set and I love how nicely they go with a wooden train building set.
The kids love to take out the animals and let their imaginations run wild. The thing I love about these is you can incorporate them into activities with other toys such as building blocks or play-dough. Our kids get really engaged in activity time when we give them play-dough and animal/people figures.
Play dough is a staple in our household and for good reason. Shaping and manipulating dough engages a variety of fine motor skills and symbolic thinking as children use their imagination to transform the dough into something more complex. Our kids enjoy cutting out shapes, rolling out pizza, and sculpting their own unique “masterpieces.”
We recently invested in a play kitchen but even without one the kids enjoyed playing with kitchen tools for the longest time. Add some play food into the mix and the kids will have a blast preparing all sorts of tasty pretend meals for you.
Instead of a chalkboard, we DIYed a chalkboard wall but the concept is the same. Chalkboards offer hours of unlimited doodling fun. The best part? Unlike paper it’s reusable and the clean up is super simple.
Believe it or not, building a working train track requires important problem solving skills. Although these will take time to learn, building a train track is so much fun. Add in animal/toy figures, blocks, or play dough and you can create complex cityscapes for even more fun and developmental learning.
There you have it! Ten of our favorite toys that foster creative and imaginative play. If you’re a parent of a toddler (or toddlers), we would love it if you shared some of your favorite toys in the comments below. And as always, if you found this post helpful please like and share.