9 Best Learning Toys for Toddlers (Ignite Their Imagination)

Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on April 19th, 2023

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When it comes to educational toys for toddlers, simplicity is key. Don’t let the marketing gurus pressure you into educational toys that come with all sorts of electronic bells and whistles. Of course, there are plenty of flashy toys on the market that will engage your child and help them learn. But so too will a cardboard box!

Toddlers have the knack of playing with joyful abandon and using their imaginations to create whole worlds. We believe that our responsibility isn’t to force learning upon our children, but instead to create a rich environment in which they can lead their own play. Play = Learning.

With that said, let’s now explore some special learning toys that are simple, yet enrich a child’s play space. We’ve chosen them because they foster curiosity, boosting your child’s intelligence while still keeping them entertained.

Our picks of the best toddler bricks and wooden blocks

We can all at least vaguely recall playing with blocks in some way, shape, or form. Blocks are great for teaching colors, shapes, letters, and just a good old-fashion game of “build ’em up and knock ’em down.”

Top pick

Our opinion

With twelve shapes in various colors, this toy is a timeless game of fitting a block into its matching hole in a box. The blocks themselves are large enough for tiny hands to pick up easily and manipulate, and make an audible knocking sound when dropped into the correct slot. You can play with your child while teaching them colors along with shapes, or let your little one stack them and knock them over again and again. When finished playing, simply pile the blocks inside the box and slide the lid shut for easy storage.

Recommended ages: 24 months – 4 years
Material: Wood
Promotes: Problem-solving, hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, shape recognition, color recognition

Our second choice

Our opinion

You can’t talk blocks without bringing Legos into the conversation. This 64 piece set of large lego blocks is sure to amuse your toddler through the years. Your child can build a house, a vehicle with wheels that actually turn, and even engage in free-building with the extra blocks the set includes. Some of the Legos come with numbers printed on them, so your little one can work on some counting skills while playing. Although the blocks are a good size, some parents recommend taking away the dog and boy figures, or supervising play if you have a child prone to putting things in their mouths. That said, Lego sets are a staple of every childhood, and your toddler is sure to enjoy this set if they like building blocks.

Recommended ages: 18 months – 5 years
Material: Plastic
Promotes: Hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, number recognition, color recognition

Our third choice

Our opinion

These blocks are great for those young, burgeoning architects. This set includes 24 blocks that come in three sizes. While lightweight, they are extremely durable and hardy; the red blocks can even hold up to 150 lbs without collapsing! Some parents are not thrilled that you have to fold the blocks into shape, but most find the assembly to be quite simple. These blocks are great for fostering increased dexterity in your toddler’s playtime, even offering sharing skills among groups of tots as they create together.

Recommended ages: 12 months – 4 years
Material: Heavy duty cardboard
Promotes: Hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, color recognition, sharing

Best crafts for toddler learning

There are few better ways to help your child’s mind develop than encouraging them to explore their creativity through crafts. These toys help unlock your toddler’s imagination, as well as providing ample decorations for your refrigerator door!

Our fourth choice

Our opinion

We know what you’re thinking; finger paints and toddlers? Really? Sure, it might not be the cleanest plaything in the world, but it will certainly work wonders while keeping your tot occupied. This finger paint is also extremely easy to remove from your kids, furniture, and pets. Seriously, despite the apparent drawback of this being a bit messier than other toys, your little one will be able to expand their imagination while learning all about colors and what happens when you mix them together. This kit also includes ten large pieces of paper that won’t become oversaturated with the paints.

Recommended ages: 12 months and up
Material: Non-toxic paints
Promotes: Hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, color recognition, cause and effect

Our fifth choice

Our opinion

Your child can unleash all kinds of creativity with this craft set. It comes with everything needed to complete six different projects, including easily-gripped crayons, stickers, and fun-shaped paper. This art set has won multiple awards, including the Academics Choice Award and Oppenheim Gold Seal Award for Best Toy. While some parents felt that more activities could have come with this product, it’s certainly a great starting point to gauge how much your child enjoys crafting.

Recommended ages: 18 months and up
Material: Various
Promotes: Hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, color recognition, following instructions

Our sixth choice

Our opinion

For your older tot, Play-Doh is another childhood staple to nourish their creativity. This set comes with three cans of Play-Doh in red, blue, and green, and includes multiple molds and tools for your little one and their friends to use. The squishy Play-Doh provides great sensory stimulation for toddlers and, since you can always buy or make more Play-Doh (see recipe here), the fun is never ending!

Recommended ages: 3 years and up
Material: Plastic (molds)
Promotes: Hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, color recognition, sharing

Best electronic learning toys for toddlers

Since we’re in the modern age, it would be remiss of us not to include a few toys that utilize technology. They are certainly great at expanding different areas of learning and can give your child a leg up on the basics before they walk into a classroom for the first time. Always remember when a toy contains batteries, make sure that they are securely fastened into the toy and that you dispose of the old batteries properly. It can be very dangerous for little ones to get a hold of batteries.

Our seventh choice

Our opinion

An Amazon Best Seller, this battery-operated toy is built to resemble a laptop, so hopefully your actual computer will become less attractive to prying fingers. The top screen lights up based on the “keyboard” buttons that your child pushes so they can connect pictures with vocabulary words. It also plays songs and teaches the names of shapes and feelings associated with facial expressions pictured on the buttons. Perhaps, best of all (at least for you moms and dads,) it also comes with a low volume option.

Recommended ages: 6 months – 3 years
Material: Plastic

Hand-eye coordination, color recognition, vocabulary enhancement, facial-expression recognition, music appreciation

Our eighth choice

Our opinion

VTech is certainly a leader in educational electronic toys, and this product is no exception. The pages are activated by your child’s touch, and four different modes; What’s That Word, Letter Fun, Music Time, and Find it, allow for numerous learning experiences. Your child’s vocabulary and reading abilities will receive a significant boost with this battery-operated toy and they’ll love the book’s main characters, Cody and Cora, who help “guide” them through their learning adventures. It’s also compact enough for your little one to pop into their backpack and take on a playdate.

Recommended ages: 18 months – 4 years
Material: Plastic
Promotes: Hand-eye coordination, color recognition, vocabulary enhancement, music appreciation, reading

Our ninth choice

Our opinion

Another leader in the field of electronic learning toys, Leap Frog provides seemingly endless activities with this fun gadget. This robust product is activated by the (included) stylus as it touches the pages, prompting a voiceover to engage your toddler with songs, jokes, questions, and more. While it’s slightly more costly than other learning toys, (you may also want to expand its library beyond the included sampler books,) it will certainly engage your child, even as they grow out of the toddler stage.

Recommended ages: 24 months – 4 years
Material: Plastic
Promotes: Hand-eye coordination, color recognition, vocabulary enhancement, music appreciation, reading, math skills, problem solving

Wrapping up

Whoever said learning is a chore has clearly never heard of any of these great gadgets. Your toddler will find endless delight in these toys, all while developing skills that nurture their minds and prepare them for school. Whether your child prefers the latest technology or the simple classics, they will learn life skills and gain confidence well before they ever set foot in a classroom, having a “blast” while they’re at it. Since you can also play with them while they use any of the above toys, you will also get to reclaim a small part of your own childhood while strengthening the bond that you already enjoy with your child.

We’ve also written articles on science kits for kids, science toys and solar system toys. Each includes toys or kits suitable for toddlers.

Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on April 19th, 2023