20 favorite baby and toddler toys

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We don’t give our toddler too many toys; we much prefer that he has a few that he really likes and not clutter him with too many options. And even the ones we assume he’ll love aren’t hits with him; for instance, I bought him a toy phone thinking he’d love pressing the buttons and pretend like he was talking on the phone. But other than a few times when he’s held the phone to his ear (at my insistence), the phone sits on the floor waiting to be played with.

That said, there are quite a few toys that he’ll easily devour. And while anything can be considered a toy, from craft materials to household items (colander, anyone?), I wanted to list the more standard toys that have kept him happily occupied (pictures and reviews below the list):

  1. Magnetic letter and number links
  2. Textured foam balls
  3. Block crayons
  4. Bowling set
  5. Art easel desk
  6. Latches board
  7. Shape sorter
  8. Magna doodle
  9. Hammering toy
  10. Legos
  11. Blankies and lovies
  12. Magnetic letters and numbers
  13. Play Doh
  14. Sophie the giraffe
  15. Activity triangle
  16. Riding fire truck
  17. Alphabet animals flash cards
  18. Stacking and nesting blocks
  19. Farm animals
  20. Crayons

Magnetic letter and number links
1. Magnetic letter and number links

This was our toddler’s Christmas gift, and for a measly $16 he got hours of fun in return. He liked identifying the letters and math symbols (particularly the minus sign, for some weird reason).
Pros: Alphabet, numbers and math exposure
Cons: Not all pieces fit well with each other, I wish they were more conscious of color-coordinating (for instance, all numbers are red, all consonants are blue, all vowels are yellow, etc)

Textured foam balls
2. Textured foam balls
These balls are probably one of those toys that will age well with any child. When he was a baby, LO liked squishing these, and now that he’s older, it’s all about throwing the balls everywhere.
Pros: Versatile, interesting shapes and textures, bounces well
Cons: None

Block crayons
3. Block crayons

I thought this toy was so unique because they’re crayons and stackable blocks, there are numbers and letters inscribed on the sides, and they even have animal- and people-shaped blocks.
Pros: Unique way to stack, multi-use
Cons: Crayon-quality isn’t all that great

Bowling set
4. Bowling set

My two-year-old doesn’t really use this toy to bowl per say, other than knocking down maybe one or two pins at a time, but he likes matching the colors and inspecting the holes on the bowling ball.
Pros: Good quality foam toys (the bowling ball even has weight to it)
Cons: None

Art easel desk
5. Art easel desk

LO has since declared this desk as a “rocket ship” where he says he flies to the moon. Can’t beat that! He also likes to lift the desk up and down.
Pros: One side is an easel while the other side is a desk
Cons: The desk part is a little bit small for large art activities

Latches board
6. Latches board

The first day LO played with this toy, I was blessed with 45 minutes straight of uninterrupted silence as he tried to figure out how to lock and unlock all these doors. He paused for dinner but resumed for another 15 minutes after he was done.
Pros: Encourages problem-solving, interesting animals, numbers and colors
Cons: None

Shape sorter
7. Shape sorter

Nothing beats the first time a kid figures out how to sort shapes through their correct holes. It’s like a light bulb just switched on in their heads. He received this toy over two years ago and he still plays with it now (just today, in fact). After the shapes are sorted inside the elephant, he can press down on its ears and out come the shapes.
Pros: Sorting skills, the elephant spins
Cons: Sometimes the shapes can get stuck inside the elephant

Magna doodle
8. Magna doodle

You know a toy is good when you yourself played with something similar as a kid. I loved magna doodles and so does my kid. We like to write and draw shapes, and he especially enjoys erasing what we just wrote.
Pros: Encourages writing and drawing
Cons: This particular toy has a small frame to write on

Hammering toy
9. Hammering toy

Melissa and Doug put a spin on a classic toy and made a pounding tower with balls instead of a bench with pegs. My toddler doesn’t really care too much for the hammering part but loves to push the balls through the holes with his hands and watch it move down the tower.
Pros: Good quality
Cons: None

Legos
10. Legos

I love open-ended toys like Legos that let you build and imagine anything. Seriously, anything. As of today, these Logos have been: feet, slides, pasta, road hazard lights, airplanes and garage doors. Somehow my kid has conjured all those images from a bunch of squares and rectangles.
Pros: Encourages imagination
Cons: Some Legos don’t stick well to each other to withstand toddler manhandling

Blankies and lovies
11. Lovey

We wanted to give LO a special lovey to help ease him into sleeping through the night, and this little duck has delivered and then some. This is the toy that he’ll grow up with and spend practically every waking and sleeping moment with.
Pros: Great for young infants (we bought this as a safe toy to avoid SIDS), soft, washes easily
Cons: None

Magnetic letters and numbers
12. Magnetic letters and numbers

As if we couldn’t get enough of magnetic letters, we bought these to stick up on the fridge. I credit this toy for helping my toddler overcome his speech delay. He would play with the letters and he learned the sounds to each one first (“buh”) before finally  sounding out the letters (“B”).
Pros: Alphabet and number exposure, helps kids easily assemble words
Cons: Again, I wish they were more purposeful with their colors so that all numbers were one color and all consonants were another, etc.

Play Doh
13. Play Doh

Another open-ended toy that I am in love with. My toddler first started out with picking bits and pieces from the balls of play doh. Now he likes to poke things into them and pretend that they’re food for his stuffed animals.
Pros: Limitless ways to play, good practice for fine motor skills
Cons: Play Doh needs to make products that don’t dry up when left out of their cups!

Sophie the giraffe
14. Sophie the giraffe

We blamed teething for every crying fit our baby had, never mind that not a single tooth popped out until one week after his first birthday. Still, Sophie the teething giraffe came in handy because he really did like to chew on her. Now he also likes to squish her and hear the funny sounds she makes.
Pros: Durable, great for teething and biting
Cons: The orange spots are starting to fade

Activity triangle
15. Activity triangle

Our toddler still plays with this toy even though he’s had it since he was a few months old. He likes spinning the beads and shapes.
Pros: Interesting shapes, lightweight
Cons: None

Riding fire truck
16. Riding fire truck

When he first received this toy, we were a bit disappointed that he didn’t exactly ride on the truck and play “the right way.” We quickly realized though that he loved inspecting everything else about it: the seat that goes up and down, the siren and bell sounds, and the wheels that spin underneath. Oh, and yeah, he now likes to ride it too.
Pros: Little compartment can be a fun place for kids to stash smaller toys in, simple and small for easy riding
Cons: None

Alphabet animals flash cards
17. Alphabet animals flash cards

Flash cards have such a bad rap these days, and I was never one to use them, at least in their intended use. These cards, however, feature artwork and would probably work just as well in a book format. I think flash cards aren’t popular when used as a quizzing tool, but when left lying around the house for toddlers to stack and identify letters and animals, I figure they can’t be all that bad.
Pros: Durable cardstock, well-designed container
Cons: Some drawings are super modern that it’s hard to identify the animals


18. Stacking and nesting blocks

When my little guy was younger he played with these blocks by stacking them up and nesting the smaller blocks into the larger ones. Now he also likes to read the numbers and words as well as identify the pictures.
Pros: Stacking and nesting skills, comparing big and small, sturdy material
Cons: None

Farm animals
19. Farm animals

This particular toy not only features farm animals, but each animal is divided into two pieces so that you can hide them under egg halves for a matching game. Our toddler prefers a simpler game of “Let’s just connect and disconnect the farm animals.”
Pros: Unique game, matching skills
Cons: I wish the egg halves actually connected the way the animals do

Crayons
20. Crayons
Not only does my kid love scribbling and drawing, he also likes organizing the actual crayons in his little box. Seriously, I don’t know how interesting this can be, but the boy can play crayons for half the day. He especially likes the triangle-shaped Crayola crayons.
Pros: Open-ended toy, creative uses, color identification
Cons: None

Weekend links

What are your kids’ favorite toys that keep them occupied for a long time? Which ones have lasted the test of time?

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15 thoughts on “20 favorite baby and toddler toys

  1. I love this; such a helpful list. I have never heard of latch boards but am sure that is something Josh would love. I am guilty though of allowing Josh too many toys at once. I have a drawer full of toys I try and rotate out, but even then it still feels like he has far too many!

  2. I’m thinking about boxing up the unused toys to cut out the clutter. There are so many toys that we think would be hits that get shoved to the side. That be said at our house we love our stuffed animals. Mickey and Minnie are the favorites along with a few baby dolls. Anything dress up related: necklaces, tutus, hats and sunglasses. Crayons, play dough, stickers and stacking blocks are huge, too. And we have a bin of wooden blocks that have been life saving. Thanks for giving me some more ideas!!

  3. Such great descriptions of the toys you presented. I’ve seen the crayon blocks/shapes and hesitated to buy them. After reading your review, I think it’s a good purchase even if the crayon doesn’t work so well. Using these for multi-purpose is really a good reason for me.

    I rotate his toys and books from the family room to his room. I also put some away and pull them out again later. Right now, Oster is loving the Melissa and Doug clock. There are 12 different shapes with the numbers listed on one side of each shape. The whole purpose of the toy (to teach time) is WAAAYY too advanced for him now, but I figured if he gets used to seeing and playing with it, it may be easier to help him learn time later down the road.

    His Rocket Town book keeps him occupied for at least 20 minutes. When I need to do housework, etc…I put him in his pack-n-play with Rocket Town and he reads it until I grab him. Grant it, I can only use the pack-n-play once a day, so I really think about when a good time to put him in there is.

    He also loves the stacking blocks. It’s so much fun to watch him knock them down and then point to them so I can count the ones that fell.

  4. This is a helpful list… I like that you included pros and cons for each one. My son is really into musical instruments, especially guitars and drums. We’ve found he much prefers “real” guitars with strings to strum. He has one child sized one that he does use often but the one he loves most is his father’s old adult sized guitar which is now barely held together with duct tape from over loving. Plan Toys has a tea set that has given countless hours of enjoyment since he received it for Christmas. A wooden train which he uses with a family of dollhouse dolls and a set of 100 colored animal counters are used daily. His other favorite “toy” is a simple sensory bin of a large bag of rice poured into a large rubbermaid container.

  5. There are some great toys on that list, thanks for sharing. I am especially intrigued by the latching board.
    Livi hardly shows any interest in toys. She loves her books and likes to play with common household items. But some of these toys might be worth a shot.

  6. Great post. I’ve been guilty of overwhelming our LO with toys. Now we operate on a rotational basis. It’s so easy to buy stuff and for them not to be interested. Despite the promise by the manufacturers that it’s the latest craze. My LO’s favourite toy at the moment is a gravy tin and lid. She loves putting ‘treasures’ in there and closing the lid. Thanks for the super simple ideas.

    • There could be a whole post dedicated to the strange toys that kids make up. What is it with lids and containers? My kiddo was obsessed with storage tupperwares and recipe boxes. I love it though; it’s nice when they can make up anything from regular items.

  7. What a great resource! Where was this when we started out buying toys and I had a sense of what I *didn’t* want, but I didn’t quite know what I did! My 2.5 yo loves his latch board. He also loves his pretend fruits and vegetables (with play blunt knife) – he has a plastic set he received as a gift and a set from Plan Toys as well.

  8. Your posts are always so great, I just had to nominate for another award, the “Very Inspiring Blogger Award.” A post with all the details will be up tomorrow.

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