Educational Toys and Books for Toddlers

Play is an important part of a child’s development. Here are tips to finding the right toys and books to help child learn, grow, and enjoy themselves.

Toddlers are natural explorers and adventurers. During play time, they're building language and early literacy skills; they're working hard to strengthen the muscles in their bodies and hands; and they're learning about the world through hands-on experiments. Forget complicated toys with lots of lights and sounds. Toddlers need simple toys and books that encourage creativity and problem-solving.

Choosing Educational Toys for Your Toddler

When it comes to the best educational toys for toddlers, look for ones with classic appeal—a set of large blocks (perfect for little hands), chunky board books, or an assortment of wooden cars, horses, or other animals. Toys should be made from durable, natural, safe materials. Recommended ages should be clearly marked. As you evaluate toys, look for those that offer more than one way to play. Toddlers don't need a lot of toys, which can be overwhelming. Instead, opt for a few thoughtfully selected toys and educational books that reflect your toddler's developmental needs and interests. Below are a few of our favorites that you can find online and at educational toy stores or bookstores.

Stack and Pour Cups. Toddlers love to experiment with stacking and pouring, and these safe, colorful cups will provide hours of fun. Fill them with water and watch the water drip out of the holes in the bottoms of the cups. Fill them with wet sand to make sand castles. Or stack the cups into a tower. 9 cups. Ages 2 and up.

Triangle Stacker
. Aesthetics and functionality meld beautifully in this simple toy. The Triangle Stacker features six rounded hardwood triangles that toddlers can stack on a center shaft. The triangles slide easily up and down and rotate on the shaft. This deceptively simple toy builds fine motor skills, shape awareness, and size and pattern discrimination. The soft, naturally-finished wood is a pleasing sensory experience. Ages 18 months to 3 years.

Classic Wooden Walk ‘n’ Roll. Learning to walk and run is a major developmental milestone for toddlers. Once your toddler is off and running, she’ll want new challenges like pushing, pulling, and jumping. The Walk ‘n’ Roll is an old-fashioned wooden push-pull toy, featuring a wooden drum filled with wooden balls that tumble as they roll along. Young toddlers will enjoy pushing and pulling the Walk ‘n’ Roll. Older toddlers are at the beginning stages of imaginative play, and may enjoy transforming the Walk ‘n’ Roll into a vacuum or a lawn mower. For 12 months to 3 ½ years.

First Shapes Puzzle. We love educational puzzles for so many reasons! They build visual discrimination and fine motor skills; they help children recognize patterns. And, they boost attention and focus. This simple puzzle features four wooden shapes. Each shape is a different color. The color of the base matches the color of the shape, which makes it self-correcting. Recommended for toddlers, ages 1 to 2 years.

Hape Maple Wood Building Blocks. Building blocks offer so many opportunities for learning. They build fine motor skills, support creativity and problem-solving, and boost visual discrimination, patterning, and early math skills. This set of 50 chunky blocks is the ideal size for older babies and toddlers. The blocks are brightly painted with a durable, non-toxic finish for years of use. For 18 months to 6 years.

Melissa and Doug Animal Magnets in a Box. These durable wooden animal magnets are versatile for play that grows with your child. Place them on the refrigerator, add them to block play, or pop them in a back pack for on-the-go fun. The set includes farm animals, such as cows, sheep, and horses, as well as wild animals like giraffes and monkeys. Recommended for older toddlers, ages 3 to 6.

And finally, books. We love sturdy, durable toddler books made for exploring. We look for educational books with simple, colorful artwork and engaging, high-quality content. A few of our favorites for toddlers include "1, 2, 3 Peas" by Keith Baker, "No Two Alike" by Keith Baker, and "Strawberries are Red" by Petr Horacek.

As you think about toys for your toddler, look beyond the toy aisle of your nearest super store. Check out specialty catalogs and online sources to find some of the best educational toys and books. Consider natural materials, such as smooth rocks or large seashells. And don't forget materials you already have in your home. A bright length of fabric becomes a cape for a superhero. Pots and pans become an instant drum set. Even the box a toy came in can be as enticing as the toy itself!

When you purchase any books, toys, music, and more through this dedicated Amazon link, 8% of your purchase will be donated to the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children.

More on This Topic

Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

July 15, 2020

About The Bright Horizons Education Team

Teacher reading to a toddler boy and girl

Whether you’re looking for parenting advice, or trying to figure out how to bring learning from the classroom to the family room, let Bright Horizons early education experts be your trusted, knowledgeable resource. Get our weekly newsletter for all things early child development—from the benefits of pretend play to at-home STEM activities, and teaching kindness—along with encouragement for every stage of your parenting journey.