From age one to three, you have a curious, busy, excited, bombastic toddler on your hands. Their brains are developing rapidly, they’re getting more confident in their bodies and sense of self, and literally go from crawling to running in these years. When looking for toys to occupy these little wonders, the best advice comes from Dr. Roberta Golinkoff, professor of child psychology and author of Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children: “Don’t constrain them”. Toddlers need open-ended toys that allow them to explore and invent. A quick explainer: open-ended toys are ones that can be used in a multitude of ways e.g. a doll can be a baby in a stroller, a monster terrorising LEGO people, or a cafe customer. Close-ended toys are ones that have a set purpose and goal, like a puzzle or paint-by-numbers kit. These also have a developmental purpose in teaching specific skills or educating them about something, it can lead to them getting really good at something and give them a challenge, but these toys best come into play from the pre-school years. Taking Dr. Golinkoff’s advice, ahead, some of the best toddler gifts to develop their imagination, discover their own ways to have fun and occupy them for more than a few minutes.
Something to keep them moving
When you’re two, a blow-up pool is just as fun as a real one (and much easier for parents to manage). It’s great for hot days, particularly because this one fits three adults, but also as a play thing for your kid. Add some bubbles and it’s an outdoor bath for them and all their wash-able dolls. Add just a few cms of water and some animal figurines and it’s an underwater aquarium! A new space for their imagination to get wet.
Balance bikes let kids (from about two and a half, up) master balance before worrying about pedaling, which potentially eliminates the training wheel phase. It also lets kids move more easily (and with more oomph) earlier, and if you’ve seen your toddler become disenchanted with a trike or ride-along because they can go faster on their feet, a balance bike is going to be their Ferrari.
It’s a small window (one to three) in which you can enjoy a rocking horse, and this design makes it a time to remember. Developing confidence, motor skills and burning maximum energy, it provides so much to a toddler. Unlike the one you may have ridden as a kid, the Moover Rocking Horse is created with safety as priority one. It has a brake curve which prevents it from rocking too high and the wide seat lets your child sit safely and securely.
Something open-ended for imaginative play
This kitchen has all the functions, all the cuteness in a thoughtfully small space. Let your little one get inventive in the kitchen with the addition of some pots and pans and a few choice veggies, and indulge when they ask you to come taste something or place an order at their cafe.
These rainbows make for beautiful decor, sure, but they offer so much as a toy. Stack them up (from the outer to the smallest) to learn about balance, turn the pieces on their sides to make circles (and homes for their little animals), colour sort, or make marble-runs with them. It’s an opportunity for things to get very exciting.
One of the best things about this simplistic, modern dolls house is that it could be a home with a family, or an animal hospital, or a monster's lair, or a fairy kingdom… the only limit is their imagination. It’s so chic too that you won’t mind having it one display even when the kids have gone to bed.
Something for creative play and motor skills
Playdough that you’ll enjoy too. It smells good, colours are lovely, it comes in a jar (not more plastic) and is so non-toxic it’s actually edible. And, you know, toddlers feel about playdough how you feel about a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion ep, they f**king love it.
These Hey Doodle mats are great distractors for when you’re stuck in a waiting room, out for dinner or just generally trying to have an adult moment and want to avoid giving them your phone (not that there is a thing wrong with that). Kids can colour in the shapes on the mat with the markers, then wipe the mat clean and start again!
Toddlers love "helping", the only thing they love more, is "icecream". These moulds let you combine their skills in the creation of some homemade iceblocks with reusable sticks. Let their tastes and creativity guide the curation of fun and yum snacks.