Active toys for my two year-old
September 23, 2014 10:18 AM   Subscribe

What toys can you recommend for a two and half year-old kid that needs to develop a bunch of skills?

I want to get my two and half year-old boy some toys to stimulate different skills. He has some developmental delays, mainly, not speaking yet, but is also a lot less active than other kids his age. He's already in therapy during the week, but I have a playroom in my house that I would like to fill with things for him to play and learn at the same time, specially since winter is coming and there'll be less opportunity to play outside.

From this AskMe I loved the idea of this trampoline, and through Amazon's "related items" suggestions I also got this balance board and this Sit and spin toy.

What other toys could you suggest for me to get for my kid's playroom that will keep him moving and gaining skills? All types of toys that will encourage fun and learning in any way are welcome, not just those for gross-motor skills.
posted by CrazyLemonade to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
large wooden blocks are a classic for a reason, esp to gain fine motor skills for making tall towers
we found our rocking horse was a great way to burn off energy in the rainy / cold winter
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:23 AM on September 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Absolutely 100% seconding the recommendation for blocks. I had this set as a kid. They are expensive. They are also very well made, corner-free and of a good weight, and I literally played with them for years. Years. And then my brother played with them when he came along, and we played with them together--again, for years. I'm not ashamed to admit I was still playing with those blocks well into middle school.

They can be anything. Even if that thing is just a stack that you get to knock down while roaring because you're a godzilla.

See also: foam bathtub blocks.

Blocks are the best.
posted by phunniemee at 10:28 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

A toy kitchen with lots of food and dishes, and a baby doll with a cradle and clothes. Both are really great for fine motor skill development.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:28 AM on September 23, 2014

My kids' favorites for years and worth the money:
Basketball hoop (fine inside when they were little)
Large cardboard blocks
Play Dough - good for fine motor skills
posted by maxg94 at 10:30 AM on September 23, 2014

A battery powered boom box to play cds for dancing and singing. (I recommend Music Together classes too!)

A basketball hoop and t ball (plastic Fisher Price models).

Low, open shelves where toddler can see and select toys for himself (montessori playroom style).

Big bouncy balls.

Small plastic slide or playhouse with door if it will fit.
posted by yarly at 10:33 AM on September 23, 2014

My three year old has been fascinated by and playing regularly with Magnatiles for over a year now - they're a great tool for fine motor skill and spatial reasoning development.

An unexpected hit was filing up the kitchen sink and giving him a bunch of plastic cups, measuring cups, and bowls to play with. It probably drove up our water bill some, but it helped him learn to pour his own drinks and will occupy him for half an hour at a stretch. We also got to work on using a sponge and rag for the inevitable clean up, and he's gotten pretty good at that, too.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:34 AM on September 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

My son loves this sort of sticky sand stuff called "Kinetic Sand", I think. His dad bought it for him so I'm not 100% sure of the name.

He also likes loud drums, things that have this age I'd just buy a crazy variety of things and see what he is interested in. If he likes videos I'd also recommend youtubes of people moving/dancing and--this is key--you have to get up and dance to the video. It always gets my son up and moving :)
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:37 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, stickers and allowing him to put them anywhere he wants. Pipe cleaners. Feathers. Playdough.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:39 AM on September 23, 2014

Large balls he can roll on top of in addition to kicking, etc.

Fill a pack'n'play up with some of those little plastic balls like in a ball pit.

Lots of blocks. Wooden blocks. Megablocks.

Things that other things can go into --- stacking cups, shape sorter toys, etc.

Those hammer-peg boards.


Build a tent out of blankets and furniture. Bring in a flashlight and read books for quiet moments you may need.

Pretend to be animals. "Let's bounce like kangaroos! Let's slither like snakes!"

Also --- look into children's music that involves dancing.

Bop til You Drop and lots of other songs by Greg and Steve.

The Sit Down Stand Up Sit Down Stand Up Sit Down Stand Up Sit Down Stand Up song.

Here's a pretty good list of Action Songs.

Throw pillows on the floor and have the spaces between them be lava, so you have to hop from one to another. Get a small hula hoop that he can skip through or jump on, etc.

Twister! Adjust the rules to his age level (like, maybe not get particular about left or right foot.)
posted by zizzle at 10:41 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can buy things, or you can do things, or both. Take him for walks in a park or playground. There will be low walls you can walk on, or a downed tree. Play catch with an inflated beach ball (light and easy) or koosh ball. Go fly a kite - you fly the kite and he runs with you and holds the string when it's aloft. Sing along with Raffi and other cds. Fisher Price has toy sets with little humanoids that fit into slots; they're pretty good for coordination, and many kids like to play with them for a while, even on their own. Cook with him, and play with the nesting measuring cups and spoons. If you allow tv, tape lots of Sesame Street; it's really good.

One of our favorites when my son was a toddler, and for quite a while after, was hand puppets of animals. I would tell stories about the stuffed animal and a mythical Prince with my son's name, and the Prince and the animals would have adventures that always ended with the Prince safe at home, where his Mom, the Queen, tucked him into bed, ready for sleep. My son could see my hand in the puppet, could see my lips move, but he still talked to the puppet as if it were real. Good practice for talking, and, later, he would tell the puppets things he wouldn't necessarily tell me, like what scared him, or why he didn't want to go somewhere. They were really excellent toys for us.
posted by theora55 at 10:42 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mr. Wiggle and Mr. Waggle is an excellent story to use with your own hands that he may pick up on. So I'd say hand clapping games with him would be something else to do as well.
posted by zizzle at 10:45 AM on September 23, 2014

Any toy that has different outfits you can put on them would help. I know your child is a boy but stuff like Barbie. Those outfits aren't entirely easy to get on and off. Even one of those fabric books that has buttons and zippers and ties etc. so that he can practice.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:56 AM on September 23, 2014

These Guidecraft Step-Up Helpers are great in the kitchen. He can have his own bowl with some stirrers, mixing cups, etc., while you cook. And he can help stir and measure your food, which is (a) great kinesthetic learning (b) good bonding time for the two of you and (c) great for his eating/food habits!
posted by barnone at 11:05 AM on September 23, 2014

Are there any play/music classes in your area? We do kindermusic once a week and it really helped get some ideas for activities/songs at home.
posted by typecloud at 11:22 AM on September 23, 2014

My daughter started OT at 3 for low muscle tone and other motor skill delays. I'll tell you what their playroom had in case it's helpful:
Low balance beams
River rocks and hills
Trapeze, rings, indoor swings (I don't know about this specific brand but you get the idea)
With the balance beams and rocks, we would make little obstacle courses. He may be a little on the young side for the rings and trapeze but eventually he'll love to hang from it. All the kids want to use them when they come over.
posted by biscuits at 11:42 AM on September 23, 2014

Response by poster: From some of the answers I get the feeling some of you might wonder about him getting enough stimulation, so just in case: he's in a pre-k program from 9am to 1pm in an place that's very invested in their students' development of cognitive, sensory-physical and learning skills. It's a great place and he comes out happy and tired. Then he has a sort of combination occupational therapy with speech therapy three times a week.

Most of your answers are great and much appreciated, except for specific songs and videos in english, since spanish is our native tongue and I wouldn't want to confuse him with another language right now that he's not verbal yet. Although if you have a suggestion that I could adapt to spanish, that would be great.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 12:06 PM on September 23, 2014

Strong recommendation for this specific table from Leapfrog, which all three of my kids used extensively. It's very engaging in a lot of different ways, and also motivates the kid to keep moving around the table to see what else it will do.
posted by jbickers at 12:07 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

You already mentioned the trampoline, which would be my suggestion, and there are plenty of great suggestions here, so I'll just add the general suggestion to not have too many items.

When there's a room full of toys, I've found kids get overwhelmed. He's more likely to play with things he hasn't seen before or recently. So try to keep the number of toys down - maybe 10 or 20 at most. Keep the others hidden away, and every few days take a couple out and add a couple of new ones.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:23 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Talk with his teachers, and in particular with his OT. They will give you great recommendations for toys that specifically support things they're doing with him in the classroom.
posted by anastasiav at 12:24 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

How about a Brio Trainset (or the many knock-offs) - I loved those as a kid and would still play with one now if I still had it!
posted by Middlemarch at 1:20 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Balloons are great fun. They encourage lots of running and batting.

NERF balls or other soft balls.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:29 PM on September 23, 2014

I recommend the Fischer Price house/door, which obsessed my kid for about a year around this age. It has balls to put down a pipe, letters to put into and out of a mailbox, a clock with hands that turn, the door and window open and close, and every single action results in a sound effect or music. Really great, and it can stick around a bit longer to be the entrance to a play house when more imaginative play becomes possible. Check Craig's List, as the things wear like cast iron and can have several lives, but I'd gladly have paid full price had I known how much my kid would play with hers... (Also the Leapfrog table mentioned above. Overlapping eras...)
posted by acm at 2:10 PM on September 23, 2014

One that hasn't been mentioned that I love is Bilibo because it can be used in a variety of ways, including supporting core strength/stabilization, as well as vestibular simulation, and can be used for imaginative/interactive play.
posted by DebetEsse at 3:38 PM on September 23, 2014

We have an easel/chalkboard that my 2-year-old loves a whole lot. Drawing with the chalk is fun and easy to clean up.

Depending on your tolerance for mess, he also loves painting. I have some washable paint and he has a great time going to town with it. I try to time it so he can go in the bath after because usually he paints all over himself. But he's having fun and it cleans up easily.

Also wanted to second or third the trampoline. It is hands down the best toy I've ever purchased for my kids. I keep one right in the path we have between the kitchen and the stairs and both my kids will stop and take a few bounces before carrying on - it's great.
posted by sutel at 5:04 PM on September 23, 2014

A light table! With a bunch of different objects for your kid to manipulate, layer, and just generally mess around with. Good for transitioning to quiet time, or when he's physically tired but his brain's still running fast. Depending on what you get or make, it can double as storage or a building surface. Light tables are good for learning about different colors, textures and materials, and it gives kids a lot of safe choices to pick between without overwhelming them.
posted by Mizu at 6:09 PM on September 23, 2014

Get a big storage cupboard that he can't get into and plastic stacking boxes to store 80% of his toys in there for easy rotation. Have one big low shelf and a low table with a bench or tiny chairs where you keep 5 or so toys out all the time, and then rotate often. He'll play with more intensity and pleasure in a quiet open playroom with a few toys than a crowded room, and it'll be easier for you to keep clean. My kiddo went through a phase of no interest in duplo, so we put it away and then three months later when we rotated it out, went nuts for a week building things. Things that we always keep out are crayons and paper for drawing, playdough, a tea set/kitchen set, and a couple of favourite dolls.

Also, it's nice to have a basket for outdoor treasures - when you go for a walk int he park, to pick up sticks and leaves and whatever and then bring them back and play with them for a while. The stick and box are big favourites for a reason because they can be played with until they're shredded and then new ones salvaged.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:05 PM on September 23, 2014

This is like the most low-tech toy ever, but my kid loves it: those little fabric pom poms in a tall cup/plastic bottle. Pouring out tons of pom-poms! Putting them back in! The fun goes on for hours! And if we play together, I will talk about colors and count them, etc as we move them around.
posted by freezer cake at 5:22 PM on September 24, 2014

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