The 20 Best Advanced Toddler Toys of 2019

Toddler-tested and parent-approved toys in reading, science, math—and fun, too

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Melissa & Doug Geometric Stacker Toddler Toy at Amazon

"A three-pronged wooden stacker that has 25 rings, octagons, and rectangles."

Best Creative: Magna-Tiles at Amazon

"Use them flat, build 3D shapes, little kids reliably play with these for hours."

Best for STEM: Lakeshore Learning Roll and Race! Activity Ramp at lakeshorelearning.com

"Great for early learning about concepts like speed, momentum, and friction."

Best for Building: Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set at Amazon

"Builds fine motor skills and allows kiddos to explore their imaginations."

Best for Reading Skills: Learning Resources ABC Dog at Amazon

"They’ll want to play with this cute alphabet doggie who adores letters."

Best for Young Toddlers: Fat Brain Toys Tobbles Neo at Amazon

"Best suited for toddlers in the one-year age range."

Best for Pretend Play: Learning Resources Garden Fresh Salad Set at Amazon

"Teach them about the joys of eating the rainbow."

Best First Puzzle: Melissa & Doug First Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle at Amazon

"Each piece is an oval, triangle, circle, rectangle, and square to encourage experimentation, perseverance, and learning."

Best Science: Lakeshore Learning Wacky Water Droppers at lakeshorelearning.com

"This set-of-four droppers lets kids suck up water into fun shapes."

Best Budget: Educational Insights Playfoam at Amazon

"Parents love how it doesn’t stick to surfaces and won’t dry out."

Our Top Picks

1

Best Overall: Melissa & Doug Geometric Stacker Toddler Toy

toy

Melissa & Doug 

Amp up the challenge of the traditional with a three-pronged wooden stacker that has 25 rings, octagons, and rectangles. They can match if they want or get abstract and mix things up. Whatever the use this will put their brain into good use.

2

Best Creative: Magna-Tiles

magnetic building tiles

Clear Colors

These magnetic tiles can be used to build whatever is in their imagination. Use them flat, build 3D shapes, little kids reliably play with these for hours. The age on the box says 3+, but these tiles are also ideal for budding toddler minds.

3

Best for STEM: Lakeshore Learning Roll and Race! Activity Ramp

Roll & Race! Activity Ramp
Lakeshore

This wooden ramp comes with a variety of different textured paths. Kids can race cars and balls down the paths and see which one wins. Great for early learning about concepts like speed, momentum, and friction.

4

Best for Building: Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set

Beautifully colored non-toxic blocks builds fine motor skills and allows kiddos to explore their imaginations. The fact that they’re magnetic is a happy bonus, boosting the possibilities of what they can create.

5

Best for Reading Skills: Learning Resources ABC Dog

They’ll want to play with this cute alphabet doggie who adores letters. Start with three rings to form three-letter words and expand to four or five for a greater challenge. Sure, they’re not quite at the spelling stage, but letter recognition is the first step.

6

Best for Young Toddlers: Fat Brain Toys Tobbles Neo

The weighted spheres look like cracked eggs. Stack them up tall or like the leaning tower, or spin and roll the shapes. The company says it’s best suited for toddlers in the one-year age range.

7

Best for Pretend Play: Learning Resources Garden Fresh Salad Set

They can serve up a variety of fruits and veggies in this 38-piece salad set with bowls and serving tongs. Along the way, you can teach them about the joys of eating the rainbow—or at least a mom can hope!

8

Best First Puzzle: Melissa & Doug First Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle

Not only do little ones start to learn about puzzles, but they can start to master their shapes. Each piece is an oval, triangle, circle, rectangle, and square to encourage experimentation, perseverance, and learning.

9

Best Science: Lakeshore Learning Wacky Water Droppers

Wacky Water Droppers

 Lakeshore Learning

This set-of-four droppers lets kids suck up water into fun shapes—and then experiment by squirting it right back out. Fill small bowls of colored water and let them go to town.

10

Best Budget: Educational Insights Playfoam

This stuff is pretty crazy—they mold and squish the foam into shapes (or just between their little fingers), and then press it back down again and start over. Parents love how it doesn’t stick to surfaces and won’t dry out.

11

Educational Insights My First Game: Bears in Paris

You’d be surprised at how good toddlers can be at memory games. This cute first game asks them to find the right animal behind the door. Off-the-charts cute, too. 

12

Fat Brain Toys pipSquigz

These three large silicone suction cups stick to surfaces—and each other. Toddlers love to hear the little pop when they pull off, and feel a sense of accomplishment when they figure out how to stick them together. They’re perfect for bringing to a restaurant (since they stick to the table) or breaking out for bath time

13

Fat Brain Toys Spin Again

Their mission: navigate a disc onto the pole using stellar hand-eye coordination; their payoff: watch it crazily spin to the bottom. The base converts from sturdy to wobbly, so they can enhance the challenge.

14

Melissa & Doug Caterpillar Gears Toddler Toy

Rainbow caterpillar gear toy

Melissa & Doug

Sometimes the simplest toys are the best. You can practically see the gears spinning in their head when they spin these and start to figure out how they work. They can also play with their creativity by mixing up the gears and making a new color pattern.

15

LeapFrog LeapBuilders Roads & Railways Vehicles

LeapBuilders Roads & Railways Vehicles

 Leap Frog

For your little one who loves things that go, this 14-piece set features trucks, trains, and more that can be played with on their own or connected for interesting creations. Comes with a Smart Star cube; when pieces are connected, it makes sounds and phrases that support learning.

16

PlayMonster Mirari Pop! Pop! Piano

What seems almost too-simple is a learning opportunity for cause-and-effect. Young toddlers 12 months and up will love making stars pop with a press of the keys. And, you can set it to silly sound mode, which they no doubt get a kick out of.

17

Educational Insights Bright Basics Peg Garden

Kids can arrange these 27 flower and insect pegs any which way they please. Lady bugs, butterflies, dragonflies and bumblebees can be arranged in patterns and matches, and allow them to hone fine motor skills.

18

Learning Resources Alphabet Alligators

First thing they love to do: pour these gators out of the bucket. Next, they can sharpen fine motor skills by fitting the pieces together; as they get older, they’ll start to match them by color and then upper- and lower-case letters.

19

LeapFrog Scrub ‘n Play Smart Sink

The soap pump counts from one to 10, the drying rack encourages matching and sorting by size, and they can pretend to wash the dishes (the faucet makes water sounds). Plus, might as well get them practicing chores at a young age, right?

20

Educational Insights Bright Basics Slide & Splash Seals

In a world filled with toys that squirt, these little seals on wheels are refreshing. The base of the slide suctions onto the tub, and your kiddo can then snap together the other pieces of the slide as they wish. Next step, sending the seals down the ramp and into the tub with a splash.

Still can't find what you're looking for? Check out our roundup of the best education toys for toddlers.

Our Process

Our writers spent 5 hours researching the best advanced toys for toddlers on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered more than 150 toys for toddlers overall, read over 200 reader reviews (both positive and negative) and used 7 of the toys for toddlers themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.

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