9 Best Learning Toys for Toddlers 2018 (Ignite Their Imagination)

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, we will now explore some special learning toys that are simple and 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 Top Picks

Best Toddler Bricks and Wooden Blocks

We all can 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.

Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube

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 your little one has 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

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LEGO DUPLO Creative Play All-in-One-Box-of-Fun

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 really 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

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Melissa & Doug Extra-Thick Cardboard Building Blocks

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, and can even build 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

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Best Crafts for Toddler Learning

There are few better ways to help your child’s mind grow than allowing them to put their creativity into crafts. These toys help unlock your toddler’s imagination as well as provide ample decorations for your refrigerator door.

My First Crayola Fingerpaint Kit

We know what you’re thinking; fingerpaints and toddlers? Really? Sure, it might not be the cleanest thing in the world, but it certainly will do wonders for keeping your tot occupied. Plus, this fingerpaint is extremely easy to wash off your kids…and furniture…and pets. In all seriousness, despite the obvious con of this being a bit messier than other toys, your little one will be able to grow their imagination while learning all about colors and what happens when you mix colors 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

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ALEX Jr. Tots Art Start

Your child can unleash all kinds of creativity with this craft set. It comes with all the necessities 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 wish that more activities came included 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

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Play-Doh Super Molding Mania Toy

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 while your toddler plays and, since you can always buy or make more Play-Doh (see recipe here), the fun never has to stop.

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

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Best Electronic Learning Toys for Toddlers

Since this is the modern age, we would be remiss 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.

VTech Baby’s Learning Laptop

An Amazon Best Seller, this battery operated toy is built to resemble a laptop, so hopefully, your real computer will be a bit less attractive to prying fingers. The top screen lights up based on the “keyboard” buttons that your child pushes so that they can connect pictures with vocabulary words. It also plays songs, teaches the names of shapes, and the names of 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
Promotes: Hand-eye coordination, color recognition, vocabulary enhancement, facial expression recognition, music appreciation

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VTech Touch and Teach Word Book

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 many learning experiences. Your child’s vocabulary and reading abilities will get a significant boost with this battery operated toy and they will love the book’s main characters, Cody and Cora, who help guide them through their learning experiences. It’s also compact so your little one can pop it in her backpack and take it on a play date.

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

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LeapFrog Interactive Learning System

Another pillar of electronic learning toys, LeapFrog 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 a little more expensive than other learning toys, and you will probably want to expand its library beyond the included sampler books, it is certainly going to engage your child even when they begin to 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

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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 learning skills that grow their minds and prepare them for school. Whether your child prefers the latest technology or the simple classics, they will be learning life skills and gaining confidence well before they ever set foot in a classroom, and having a blast while they do it. Since you can play with them using any of the above activities, you will also get to reclaim a small part of your own childhood while strengthing the bond that you and your child already enjoy.

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

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