Have you recovered from the holidays yet? I know some of us are still in a state of spending shock from all the gift-giving madness.
But- Valentine’s Day, Easter, and all sorts of other holidays are fast approaching.
So, I’m going to set you up with the ultimate list of affordable, educational toys that both you and your kids will love. Better yet, they can all be ordered on AMAZON! #SUHWEET
I consider myself a very well-informed, self-proclaimed expert on kids toys. As a former teacher turned mom – I have been surrounded by kids my whole life. Plus, with 7 brothers and sisters and over 12 nieces and nephews – I have lots of experience with buying toys. Some are big hits; others are expensive misses.
That’s why I am only going to share the big wins with you today so you can make your gift-giving count.
How To Pick Toys For Toddlers:
There are a lot of toys out there marketed to toddlers – but they’re really just a waste of your money. The hallmarks of the toddler years are:
- Short attention span
- Limited fine motor skills
- Short attention span
- Easily distracted
- Short attention span
- Easily frustrated
Can you guess what I’m going to say next? Short attention span!
So, a lot of toys marketed for toddler will not get you very far because if they aren’t entertaining almost immediately, the toddler will just move on to something else.
Believe it or not, the ones that do a whole bunch of blinking, talking, walking, singing, and entertaining are usually the ones they give up on first. Just too over-stimulating.
But, give them something tactile they can play with, something they can create with, or something they can carry around – and you’ll get them hooked.
With toddlers, simpler is usually better.
Let’s check out the toddler-and-mom-approved toys!
1. Water Doodle Play Mat
This thing is so cool! It rolls out, comes with everything you need, and is total mess free entertainment. Kids love it. Heck, I even love it.
And, I really love that it takes almost no prep, almost no effort, and rolls right back up for easy storage.
Great entertainment for around $20?
As my toddler says, “WANT DAT.”
2. Sesame Street Alphabet Case
Cannot count how many times my daughter will do this. Or, how many times she will do this IN A ROW.
It keeps her attention when nothing else will.
And, from playing with this, she knows all her alphabet letters. It’s adorable.
Money well spent. #PatMyOwnBack
3. Kinetic Sand Play Set
Every kid loves kinetic sand. It stay pretty well together and doesn’t make a huge mess, although I did get a little bin for it so that it is easier to play with.
You can use cookie cutters, a little pack of diggers, even grab those toys from a play-doh set. Get creative and then sit back and watch in awe as your toddler totally zones out for ages.
We’ll keep it between us that they’re actually working on fine motor skills.
4. LeapFrog Learning Friends Book
This is a reallllllly cool book. A toddler’s soft touch will get this book talking and with several different settings, they’ll never get bored. This book has 100 words on all sorts of subjects, with beautiful graphics. Plus, a handle makes it easy to carry around – great for travel – great for your diaper bag when you need a distraction at a restaurant – great when you want to have an adult conversation for 5 minutes on the phone.
Great. Great. Great. And under $20?
5. Magna-Tiles Set
Another super cool gift that you will even enjoy, too. There are tons of sets for Magna-Tiles, so I just grabbed one in the affordable price range (hint, this one is around $30). Just check out the reviews and you’ll see how many people love these.
I like to grab reusable zipper pouches to keep things like this in. I have them for lego sets, games with little pieces, art supplies, you name it. It really helps to keep them organized, and then it’s so easy for kids to open a cupboard or drawer, see what the sets are, pull one out and start playing.
It also really helps when toting them around on-the-go.
6. Dreambuilder Magnet Tiles
Similar to the above, but these are open in the middle for easy grabbing. My daughter prefers these while my son prefers the tiles above. Both store really easily and make for lots of creative play time.
Both of these make great gifts, too. Even if the child happens to have them already – they can always use more to expand their collection and what they can build. Can’t go wrong.
7. Music Toys Backpack
I’m going to get real real with you for a sec:
I wished my kids liked their musical toys LESS.
But, that’s not a bad problem to have – because playing with musical instruments that make different sounds has an incredible effect on the brain.
Sometimes, I’ll put a little Kidz Bop on the TV, get out these toys, and they have a little dance party, musical showdown.
I realize that this one probably isn’t groundbreaking.
But, that’s why it’s so good.
Everybody knows kids love these – because they DO.
You can get out this backpack, shake them out, and watch your kid go to town. Stay a few minutes to get them started – or stay awhile and build the tallest tower so your kid can run through and destroy it.
9. Wooden Puzzles
Wooden puzzles, how much do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love them A LOT.
They really keep a toddlers attention – and they’ll come back and do them again and again!
Plus, this one comes with a little storage rack, which is also great for getting them back in a cabinet somewhere so you don’t step on one in the middle of the night.
Don’t try it. It hurts.
10. Stacking Boxes
Oh man, toddlers LOVE THESE!!! They will build that tower to run through it over and over again, laughing with glee every time!
They do come in lots of colors and types – including wooden boxes.
Personally, I would stay away from the wooden ones – since I know that they will absolutely run through them, spraying boxes everywhere – and the thought of a wooden box flying through the air and potentially beaning another kid in the head is #NotCool
But, that’s just me – trying to keep my kids out of the ER.
I know. I know. What kind of mom AM I?
11. Educational Insights Design & Drill Take-Along
Slightly Less Affordable Options…
Truth is, our definitions of “affordable” may be different. What is considered affordable for one may be outrageous to another.
Or, you may have relatives like ours who have a certain price point in mind for gifts – and sometimes it’s better to give them one $75 priced item to buy, rather than 3 or 4 small ones.
Here are 5 really popular, engaging (and educational) toys that are going to be higher than $30.
12. Little Tikes 2-in-1 Food Truck
My daughter was given a similar one of these shortly before her 2nd birthday and she plays with it every day.
My son who is 5 also plays with it – pretty much every day.
Every kid that comes into this house plays with this food truck.
While I would say the toddler age is the perfect age for purchasing this truck – this is the gift that will keep on giving because every kid loves this food truck.
Plus, there are lots of opportunities to practice questions and responses, counting, food names, colors, sharing, serving, and more.
13. Play Kitchen
There are so many options when it comes to play kitchens and it really comes down to the space and budget you have – because they are all great!
This is another engaging toy that provides so many ways to practice talking, practical life skills, sharing, working together, and more.
14. Paint Easel, Brushes, Smock & Paint
Painting is one of those clear winners. Sure, it’s messy. Sure, you’ll need a tarp or some kind of dropcloth underneath and you’ll want to wash them up as soon as they’re finished –
but MAN will they just LOVE every minute of it!
My son started painting at just 18-months-old. Not finger painting – but using brushes. He’s still very artistic and I am very curious how that will take shape as he gets older.
But, I wouldn’t know that if my mom hadn’t sent him an art easel and paint as a toddler.
Seriously, a great gift.
15. Water Table
Finishing strong with this amazing toy that will keep your little one engaged all summer long! You can fill it with bubbles and turn it into a toy and car wash, you can rotate different sets of toys to create new learning experiences: It’s a dinosaur swamp! No, it’s a pony bath! Wait, now it’s a water park! The sky is the limit.
Just be sure to find a nice spot outside where splashing is okay and the floor won’t get slippery and let your toddler do what they do best.
WOW – what a list! Are you inspired yet?
Toddlers are at such a magical age of excitement, engagement, and exploration. Their energy and impulsiveness can seem impossible at times if you don’t have activities to help use all that energy in a positive way.
You don’t need the brightest, blinkiest, most expensive toy – just one that will engage as many of their senses as possible.
Also, I have good experience selling a lot of these after my kids are done with them and they sell very quickly on Facebook marketplace and Nextdoor. Just a thought.
Do you have a favorite toy for your toddler? Let us know in the comments below!
Have a fabulous day,