The Best Educational Toys for 2-Year-Olds, According to Educators

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What kiddo doesn’t love a new toy? However, once that excitement dies, we often find said toy abandoned in the house somewhere. This is especially true for our wild 2-year-olds. 

Keeping a 2-year-old (or any toddler) entertained and engaged is no easy task. Playing is a huge part of their childhood and development. But, there are ways we as parents can support this playtime, while also supporting their cognitive development. That’s where learning toys come in. 

Alessandra Pinheiro and Lisa Perez, childhood educators with over 35 years of experience in child education combined, are big proponents of educational toys. According to them, “learning toys are anything a child can grasp and explore.” 

Learning toys—also known as educational toys—don’t always have to be store-bought, either. “It can be anything in our environment and our surroundings, such as a stick, mud, pots and pans or just the time to explore,” they say. To learn more about these types of educational toys, their benefits and what kinds of toys they recommend, we sat down with both Alessandra Pinheiro and Lisa Perez. 

Best Educational Toys for 2-Year-Olds At a Glance

What Should a 2-Year-Old Know Academically? 

According to Lisa and Alessandra, two-year-olds experience many different milestones during this formative age. Here is a list of some of the most essential cognitive milestones our little ones may experience. 

Cognitive milestones: 

  • Showing interest in sequencing and patterns
  • Exploring cause and effect
  • Recognizing colors and exploring color relationships
  • Practicing counting to 10

According to UNICEF, they may also experience: 

  • Shorting shapes and colors 
  • Completing sentences from books
  • Pretend play through make-believe games 
  • Building towers with several blocks 
  • Developing a dominant hand 
  • Following two-step instructions 

During this time, it’s important to encourage these milestones by supporting your toddler verbally. For example, encouraging your little one to explore the house and giving them hints on where to find things. 

What Are the Benefits of Educational Toys? 

The most important benefits of educational toys are exploration and “igniting of the senses which will, in turn, help build the brain,” say Alessandra and Lisa. 

For example, “when a two-year-old puts their hands into a bucket of slimy paint, or powder feet flour or oozy mud, they are stimulating connections in their brain. Then when a parent, teacher, nanny or grandparent is there to narrate and articulate the experience for the child, language and understanding are built. The benefits are enormous,” they say.

Other benefits of educational toys include

  • Developing fine motor skills 
  • Increasing hand-eye coordination
  • Encouraging problem-solving skills
  • Inspiring imaginative play 
  • Supporting child development
  • Empowering early learning 

8 of the Best Educational Toys for 2-Year-Olds

“A good educational toy is open-ended and can grow as the child grows,” say Alessandra and Lisa. Here are the best educational toys for two-year-olds that Alessandra, Lisa and our Gear Experts recommend. 

1. LEGOs

LEGO duplo Grow Caterpillar Grow 6758

LEGOs are a great option for all types of kiddos as they inspire creativity and imaginative play. To encourage even more creativity and problem-solving, Alessandra and Lisa recommend giving these to your little one without the booklets. 

Our GBG pick: 

2. Floor Puzzles 

 Melissa & Doug Floor Puzzle, World Map

Floor puzzles are a highly educational toddler toy. Pick from a variety of options like world maps, solar systems, fire trucks and more. The best part? You can join in on the fun too. 

Our GBG pick: 

3. Shape Sorters 

 Melissa & Doug Match and Roll Shape Sorter

Shape sorting toys are one of our favorite learning resources for two-year-olds because they encourage everything from hand-eye coordination to problem-solving skills. 

Our GBG pick: 

4. Button Boards 

lovevery mosaic button board

With colorful button boards, our little ones can work on fine motor strength while exercising their creativity and making 3D art.

Our GBG pick: 

5. Wooden Blocks 

Tegu Magnetic Wood Blocks 42 Piece, Tints

Building blocks come in several variations and can entertain your little one for hours. Wooden toys in general are a great gift idea for kiddos of all ages as they come with many benefits like fostering creativity and development. 

Our GBG picks: 

6. Felt Playsets 

Melissa & Doug Felt Play Pizza & Sandwich Set

Felt playsets encourage our little ones to use their imagination while also offering a unique sensory experience. 

Our GBG pick:

7. Magnet Tiles 

 Magna-Tiles Qubix 85 Piece Set

To keep little hands busy and get their wheels turning, bright-colored magnet tiles are a great option. They encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills. 

Our GBG pick: 

8. Cooking Playsets

Hape Toddler Kitchen Set

Cooking playsets are great for imaginative play. To add an educational element, have your little one count the food and bowls in their kitchen or organize the fruits by color. If you have small wooden cooking utensils on hand (like a spatula) these can work as well. 

Our GBG pick: 

Keeping Your 2-Year-Old Entertained 

While your little one is sure to love any of these toys, nothing beats the gift of quality time. Whether it’s something small like singing during bathtime or something larger like a trip to the park, Alessandra and Lisa agree, “there’s not a toy on the planet that is more useful, educational or beneficial than connection.”

“Quality time with our children will always keep them entertained,” they say. However, as parents, it’s not always easy to find the time to really connect with our tots. As two working moms, they especially understand. “It’s important for us to slow down a bit and get down on the floor and relive our childhood with our children,” say Alesandra and Lisa. 

Here are a few budget-friendly ways to keep your little one entertained at home: 

  • Build a rocket ship with blocks or Magna tiles 
  • Build a fort and role-play a princess and a dragon 
  • Play with cars and trucks 
  • Read books and color
  • Play musical instruments together 
  • Have them cook with you, preparing ingredients in cups and transferring mixes 

Whether you have a one-year-old, two-year-old, three-year-old or five-year-old, every kiddo will appreciate quality time over a toy. And while we love to spoil our littles, it’s important to be mindful of purchasing too much. The best gifts are educational and encourage thoughtful play. 

If you’re looking for more thoughtful gift ideas, check our out toy gift guide for curated recommendations based on your little one’s interests. 

Expert Bios 

Alessandra Pinheiro

Alessandra Pinheiro

After 19 years servicing both the private and public sectors in various administrative roles in both Brazil and the United States, I am honored to provide my knowledge and experience, combined with my passion for early childhood education, to Brella. This school not only aligns with my educational philosophy, but also aims to provide the highest quality of early childhood education.

My fascination for early childhood education was naturally deepened with the arrival of my son, William, who is now 6 years of age. It is truly incredible how much I have learned from him. I especially enjoy our endless imaginative play experiences with my son, husband Clint, and our cat Max.

Lisa Perez

Lisa Perez

I have been working in early childhood education for the past 18 years. I have a passion for play-based curriculum and I fully embrace Brella’s vision for early education. I strive to support children, families, and teachers by creating high-quality educational experiences.

Outside of Brella I enjoy spending quality time with my family, my husband of 9 years and our 4-year-old son David, who happens to be my favorite person in the world (Shh... don’t tell my husband.)



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