Christmas Planning: Awesome Toys for bright 2 year old?
September 22, 2015 3:22 PM   Subscribe

What's your best toy(s) recommendation for a bright 2 to 2.5 year old?

Bring it on, all ideas welcome! I would like to spend wisely this Christmas so I'm looking for ideas for really great toys for a 2 to 2.5 year old, bright toddler. What held/holds your child's interest at that age? I'm hoping to find a few toys that she can grow with for at least a few months. Also, it really should be store bought. I was not given the crafty/DIY gene and as a single, full time working mom I honestly do not have the time.

Thank you for ANY suggestions!

In case it matters: She already loves puzzles, books, play kitchen, play broom, duplos, water table and tricycle. Right now she is thrilled to see and recognize a random letter or number out in the world, "4! Mommy, mommy, foooooooour!!!"

(As a side note, there really should be a parenting category!)
posted by crayon to Shopping (22 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
My almost three year old son loves the hell out of his Playmobil Noah's Ark. He got it right before his second birthday and still plays with it all the time. I like it because there are a lot of different ways he can play with it--he used to like just manipulating the animals, then labeling them, and now he's doing little stories with them. It was gift, and if you, like my husband, would be vaguely annoyed about the religious implications, Playmobile also does a farm set, zoo, and other things. (although those more small parts. I like how self-contained the ark is). Any toy that lends itself to thematic play (like her kitchen set) are great at this age.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 3:31 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wooden blocks, they're simple, infinitely complex, and can last a life time (Unless you glue them together...) I'm sure someone online sells hand crafted/luxury sets that would be appreciated for years to come.
posted by FallowKing at 3:34 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Vtech alphabet apple (would link but I'm on mobile). A good friend w a bright 2 year old recommended it and I bought it for both of my 2 year old nephews and they're both obsessed. It also has a volume off setting, which parents appreciate.
posted by melissasaurus at 3:35 PM on September 22, 2015

Any set of things, where you can put the things inside other things. A farm with animals. An airplane with people. A trash truck with trash cans. All of these my daughter loves. In out. in out. move around. in. out. in. out.
posted by nickggully at 3:37 PM on September 22, 2015

One of my kids at that age loved a doll called Dapper Dan that had buttons to button, snaps to snap, shoes to tie, belt to buckle. All these were attached to the doll so they could not be taken off or lost.

I got a similar toy for my cousin's grandchild a few years ago, and it was a big hit.
posted by mermayd at 3:49 PM on September 22, 2015

Some Tolo Toys -
posted by Sassyfras at 3:52 PM on September 22, 2015

-A ride-on toy (I like one with caster wheels, if you have hard floors rather than carpet)
-Stomp Rocket Jr (especially if you're in a warmer climate where you can play outdoors at Christmas)
-Chopping veggies
-"My First Train Set" -- different companies make different versions but: a small set of curved track pieces to make a loop, at least two train cars, maybe a little person to put in the train.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:56 PM on September 22, 2015

Playmobil 123 was in constant use from age 1 to 4, and around 2.5 some regular Playmobil with the smaller bits set aside was starting to enter the mix. Kid is now 8 and we are still very heavily invested in Playmobil...

The ark Ideal Impulse linked to is from the "123" line designed for younger kids. A 2.5yo would totally thrill to that set. It is very well-made; the stuff in constant use for three years here looked like new when it was finally outgrown.

One of the great things about Playmobil is that you can usually make it pretty "relatable." Search the sets and find a "you" child figurine, a "mummy" figurine, the family pet if you have one, a "Grandma," etc, etc. It was hard to find all of our favourite real people in the 123 series but we found good enough replicas to play with in the full Playmobil range and both had a blast playing with the figurines as people we knew/ourselves.

Playmobil sells a nice wide range with tiny sets with a figurine and a few accessories for a few dollars so you can throw in little treats (treats that renew the interest in existing toys are my favourite kind of treat) throughout the year, and huge $$$ sets that make a Christmas memorable.

In re. enjoying puzzles and number/letter recognition stuff: check out Lauri puzzles. I had some as a kid and remember them fondly. They're made out of an interestingly sturdy material, and the company will replace lost pieces if they go astray. The quality is terrific and so is the price. A basic kit like the Primer Pak will mean hours and hours of spare time for you. We also got an enormous amount of use out of the Fit-A-Space -- in retrospect, I wish I'd bought more Lauri sets.

Gotz "muffin" dolls are very nicely made -- ours was accidentally bashed into walls and drooled on and so on and still looks nice -- they have nicely made bodies with bean bag bums, great for cuddling and carrying around and so on. They also have nice faces, unlike a lot of baby dolls. The "muffin" dolly was so well-made that even my kid recognized this and was happy to throw American Girl under the bus and get an American-Girl-size Gotz doll instead of the American Girl many of her friends had when she was starting to outgrow the baby doll (which was in the toy mix often from age 1-5ish).
posted by kmennie at 4:14 PM on September 22, 2015

I remember Dapper Dan! Never knew he had a name, but he was fun.

I vote for tub toys - letters and numbers to stick on the tub, a squirty rubber ducky, tub crayons unless you think that'd be confusing about "we write on the tub with these crayons, but we don't write on aaaaanything else but paper with other crayons."
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:14 PM on September 22, 2015

My friends were recently talking up this Sparkbox toy subscription service. Her child is a few months younger than yours but they found that it meant they had novel age-/development-appropriate items regularly that didn't accumulate in the house, and anything they wanted to keep, they could buy from the service.

Would it make sense to sign up for the service and wrap the first few as Christmas items?
posted by vunder at 4:27 PM on September 22, 2015

Duplo Lego
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:58 PM on September 22, 2015

Stickers that come off easily, ometimes called reusable
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 5:06 PM on September 22, 2015

Things my 2.25 year old is really into right now:

Toy cash register - unfortunately I can't find this specific one on Amazon but it has three different learning levels, so for now it's just about colors and numbers but as she gets older we can change the settings to start teaching adding and subtracting. If I remember, I will post the brand later.

Leapfrog fridge phonics set - if you don't mind having a cluttered refrigerator, it's fantastic and I think it's helping her to recognize letters in a really fun way.

Play tent - for hiding and secret tea parties.

Lawnmower and gardening set - Maybe not the best christmas gift unless you live somewhere warm
posted by echo0720 at 6:13 PM on September 22, 2015

Dressy Bessy is the female counterpart to Dapper Dan.
posted by brujita at 7:29 PM on September 22, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you all for the great recommendations, I really appreciate it!
posted by crayon at 5:32 AM on September 23, 2015

We bought 2 sets of these wooden blocks when my kids were 3 & 5 and they're still a favorite toy 3 years later. (One set isn't enough to build anything really cool.) If you watch for sales, you can often find them for about $45/set.
posted by belladonna at 6:05 AM on September 23, 2015

My 2.5 year old is way, way into this bouncy pony. I got mine at a second hand store and would buy it 10 times over for the amount of fun it has provided. Even the neighbor kids come over and ask for it to be brought out.
posted by danielle the bee at 7:23 AM on September 23, 2015

My 2 year old is just on the cusp of being able to ride his rocking horse (once MY rocking horse). Does she having a rocking horse/animal yet? Etsy should have some great ones or keep an eye on Woot or Zulily for the padded and stuffed rocking animals that will go on sale again before the holidays.
posted by jillithd at 7:41 AM on September 23, 2015

A big Playmobil set of whatever subtype you think she'd be interested in. The Noah's Ark is great, so is the airplane if she likes people and machines more than animals.

Magnatiles are *just* on the edge; my kid started getting into them at 3. But a great one for growing. The real magnatiles are pricey for a reason; they'll last for ever and ever.

Likewise, good quality big wooden blocks.

An easel with a giant roll of paper on one side and a giant whiteboard on the other.

Even though you're not crafty, going to a big box craft store and getting a bunch of glue, construction paper, and brightly-colored doohickeys (pompoms, glitter glue, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks) is great fun. That's less Christmas than rainy day, but in our house that kind of stuff is just this side of sensory table. We don't make A Thing, we just make piles and stick things together and have fun. Also at the big box craft stores: Magic Sand.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:48 AM on September 23, 2015

Our 2.5 year old also likes the M&D blocks and the bouncy horse mentioned upthread. And magnatiles (as well as magformers and something like this, both of these came from Marshalls).

He's also into this M&D wooden folding castle, which is a pretty good deal and comes in pink if she likes pink. Or the Peppa Pig house if she's into Peppa Pig, it's really quite cute and nicely furnished :).

And he's really into his scooter (this one I think), but that's more of an outdoor toy.

He's also really likes these reusable sticker pads.

And I have this "drill" and take apart truck on our Christmas list.
posted by pennypiper at 10:12 AM on September 23, 2015

Do you have something like the Benny Bike?
It's a mixed blessing though because holy cow do kids become fast! You'll have to run after him on inclines and he'll love that.
My kid goes nowhere without hers now, and she's 22 months old. On the plus side, she has learnt all about how to move safely on side walks, that we stop and wait for mommy before we cross, that "stop" means stop or mommy takes the bike away and also "watch where you're going." (We're working on that last one.)
It's also supposed to improve their sense of balance and makes it easier to learn how to ride a real bike later.

Counterintuitively, they are easier to ride than toy cars because they are less wide.
posted by Omnomnom at 10:50 AM on September 23, 2015

The Duplo train sets are favorites around our house.
posted by rebeccabeagle at 6:16 PM on September 23, 2015

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