Recently I’ve been writing a few posts on the toys I have chosen for T and the ways we play with them. I wanted to write not just a list of enjoyable toys, but toys which I feel really support early development and which are versatile enough to be played with in a variety of contexts.
Today’s post is all about toys for two year olds – toys which are age appropriate, fun, and will support learning in a playful way.
1. Shape magnets– at this age children often start to become interested in shapes that they notice around them. For my little girl, she really became interested in shapes at around two and a half. Magnets arouse children’s curiosity and they begin to recognise shapes, investigate their features at a simple level and are able to use the in imaginative, creative ways to make pictures. I love these ones from Melissa and Doug as they come with a magnetic board and pictures to slot in. My only slight frustration with them is that they don’t quite tesselate perfectly…but good enough! We spent a few days doing activities based around shape a few week ago – more here if you would like to see what we did!
2. Picture tiles. These can look uninspiring at first glance, but there are so many ways to play with them! Matching, memory games, language development, and more! I will be doing a post on these in a few days time, so keep your eyes peeled!
3. Jigsaws. For a one year old I recommended lift-out wooden puzzles and two-piece jigsaws. For older toddlers, jigsaws with 6-20 pieces are great. We love these Peppa Pig ones which T will make again and again. It develops their problem solving abilities and their reasoning. It also requires them to look carefully at the puzzle pieces to work out which join together, which develops their ability to focus on an activity as well as their understanding of shape.
4. Toy animals. I love building up the range of toy animals T has. They are great for creating small world activities, which develop their storytelling capabilities. Most children will probably have a set of farm animals, and maybe some safari animals, but I am trying to build up sets from all kinds of habitats and parts of the world. This includes woodland animals (really hard to find!), dinosaurs, fish, sea creatures, rainforest/jungle animals, African animals, and animals from the Arctic or Antarctic. A range of animals means I can create various small worlds for T, based on different habitats or her favourite stories. Check out our dinosaurs small world or the one we made based on the story of the Gingerbread Man. Animals can be quite expensive so it is worth checking out your local pound shop, or keeping an eye out during the sales. I love the Soft Touch range by Peterkin UK, which are very reasonably priced and really well made. They have several sets, including farm animals, dinosaurs and a wildlife set.
5. Toy food. Great for extending their imaginative play and allowing children an opportunity to imitate what they see adults doing. This develops their creative capabilities and is also great for language development. As they grow older, toy food can be used to help a child begin to understand about healthy eating. We have a lovely set from Melissa and Doug which has a range of foods, and also comes with little baskets which is really handy for playing shops! You can also find bits and bobs from your kitchen such as old egg boxes or milk cartons, which can really enrich play as the children enjoy using something ‘real’.
6. Construction. There are all sorts of toys out there which are great for construction. I love all the natural wood building blocks that are available now. Duplo or Sticklebricks are also great. Playing with construction toys is fantastic for developing problem solving skills, gaining an understanding of shape, and learning about balance and seeing forces in action.
7. Loose parts for creative play. For a one year old, paints, crayons and playdough are fantastic for their creative development. Once your toddler is older, and you know they are less likely to put things in their mouth, is becomes safe to begin using a wider variety of items in their creative play. So, we have stocked up with items such as: googly eyes; stamps; pipe cleaners; feathers; lolly sticks; matchsticks; buttons; and paper shapes. We’ve also collected various natural items such as sticks, acorns, pine cones and stones. These are great for a range of activities and recently I have been trying to offer more opportunities for T to use them in a more self-guided way. It is great to see what her imagination does when she is presented with a set of materials. I’ve also been trying to do some transient art with loose parts – there are some great example of this over on Stimulating Learning.
8. Puppets. Fantastic for language and communication, role play, and social development. Finger puppets can also be used in small world activities. We love these woodland finger puppets from The Puppet Company, but this set from IKEA is a lovely, more affordable, alternative.
9. Beads. Beads are great for fine motor skills as they learn to thread the beads. Chunky wooden beads also help colour recognition and can be used later on to help children create and identify patterns. Obviously always be very careful with beads and they can present a choking hazard.
10. Doctors kit. Great for role play which develops their imagination and language capabilities. Going to the doctors is reasonably familiar to most children (although hopefully they won’t spend too much time there!) so it allows them to make sense of that experience. Play with a doctors kit is also great for taking fear away from visiting the doctor – some children can find it stressful being examined by a stranger. So spending time at home listening to chests, looking in ears and mouths and taking temperatures can be very helpful! We have this set which is great, and a really good price. The only slightly disappointing thing about it is that the blood pressure monitor regular comes apart, and the cuff is very small so really needs to be used on a wrist! However I intend to make a new cuff with some felt and velcro! There are other kits out there which have fabric or wooden pieces rather than plastic but they can be quite pricey.
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