My Favorite Toys for a 2 Year Old

As I watched Eleanor play yesterday, I started thinking about all the toys that she has that have made my life better. If you are around kids then you probably know that kids' toys fall into one of two categories: they either add clutter and chaos to your life or they have the magical power to make your life (and your child's life) happier and easier.

I decided to turn my mental list of those magical toys into a real list to share, hopefully benefitting someone who is stuck thinking of what to gift their favorite toddler.  I know that it can be tough buying gifts for kids, wondering what developmental stage they are at or what kinds of toys they will actually play with.  So here are the things that Eleanor loves and that I love for her.  They are almost all under $30, with the one exception being the toy kitchen.

18 Gift Ideas for a 2 Year Old (with links below):
1. Musical Instruments: Perfect for the impromptu music making session.  Especially great when you have lots of kids over and you want to have a semi-controlled activity (insert "music time").  Try to get a music set that comes with a bag.  I love when things have their own container.

2. Backpack: Eleanor has this hedgehog backpack and asks for it all the time.  She plays "school" with it at home and uses it to bring her toys with her to church or to a friends house.  We love the SkipHop ones, so cute! Well made and just her size.

3. Matching Game: Eleanor never gets tired of a simple matching game and nothing is cuter then her saying, "Oh! A match!"  I couldn't find the set that we have online but this is a pretty cute one too.

4. Saltwater Sandals: Not a toy but seriously THE BEST thing you could buy a toddler.  They are the greatest all around sandal.  She wears them to the park and to church.  They last forever and never wear out (I've had my adult version for 8 years and they look new!).  Ford will be able to wear Eleanor's eventually which is awesome.  And now at 2 years old and 8 months old, Eleanor can buckle them on all by herself, which is the greatest thing in the world.

5. Puzzles:  We have a couple of these Melissa and Doug puzzles and love them.  Eleanor does them once a day.  Any kind of toy with "pieces" can have the tendency to get lost or scattered rendering the toy useless and annoying.  However, these puzzles are used so frequently in our house that the pieces all stay together.  It's wonderful.

6. IKEA Table and 2 Chairs: Everyone needs this!! It's a steal for $25 and the low cost means that I don't stress if Eleanor happens to write on the table.  I leave paper and crayons out on it at all times.  Several times during the day I find her at her table coloring all by herself, which is pure gold in my book.

7. Block Set: Eleanor's grandparents gave her this for her first birthday and it has been one of my favorite toys of all time.  Blocks manage to grow with children and I love to see how she is constantly figuring out new ways to build.  She is always on pursuit of "the tallest tower in the world!!" And every time we have kids over they all gravitate to the blocks.  I'm actually thinking of buying another set just so we have more to go around.

8. Tutu: Eleanor has hit the age where she loves to dress up and where she loves to dance.  The tutu marries those activities perfectly.  Plus, it's so much cuteness for such a low price.

9. Music: We listen to the Toddler Pandora station a lot and Eleanor's favorite songs always happen to be from the 52 Sing-A-Long Silly Songs CD.  It's your classic "Five Little Monkeys," "Old MacDonald," "You Are My Sunshine," "Alphabet Song," etc. Yes, they can get old and kind of annoying for the parents but I've learned to deal with it.  I love that she knows all these songs now and I constantly overhear her singing them to herself. And really any kind of music would be great, it doesn't have to be this CD.

10. Doctor Kit: Eleanor is into everything doctor related.  She loves giving shots and checking your heart.  I think this kit has actually helped her be excited to go to the doctor, which makes my life a lot easier.

11. Sticker Book: She is all about stickers these days.  This is a random sticker book of animals (you can never go wrong with animals...) but any sticker book will do.  I love it when she has to match stickers to an image in an activity book.

12. Baby Doll: Eleanor plays with her baby dolls all.day.long.  She swaddles them, puts them down for naps, sings to them and even holds them over the toilet saying, "Baby has to go potty."  She has a couple different baby dolls but the one I linked to here is my favorite.

13. Stroller: This gets pushed around the house all day long and is a favorite amongst all of Eleanor's friends.  We have the stroller I linked to here and I think the quality is good enough to last without being exorbitantly expensive.

14. Books: You can never go wrong with books.  Two year olds can handle paper books without ripping so you no longer just need board books (although she still loves all her board books).  Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes is a fun one and I've overheard Eleanor read it to herself several times now.

15. Chalkboard Easel: We use this everyday.  I love that it's basic with neutral colors so I don't mind it just hanging out in our living room.  We've used it to practice Eleanor's letters and shapes and I'll randomly find new drawings on it.  So far we have only used the chalkboard side.  I'm still a little scared to let her loose in the house with dry erase markers :)

16. Toy Kitchen: I like the look of this IKEA version but I can't vouch for it's quality because we don't have it.  Our neighbors brought over their old Sesame Street kitchen they had grown out of, which was really sweet of them.  It's a plastic monstrosity but I don't even mind because Eleanor loves it so much.  She plays "restaurant" all the time these days, making me sit down for "dinner" and everything.  I always thought that toy kitchens would be great in the beginning and then kind of neglected after that initial excitement but I was wrong.  We have had ours for 8 months now and she uses it now more than ever.  Knowing that may help justify the higher price because toy kitchens are surprisingly expensive!  I definitely don't think you need an elaborate one though.

17. Toy Food Set: You need food to go along with your kitchen.  We don't have this set but I like the look of it.  Can't go wrong with Melissa and Doug wood toys.

18. Watercolors: Eleanor loves to paint everyday so this watercolor set gets a ton of use.  She's been painting for the past year and it never gets old.  Plus, I love all the artwork she makes.  I can't recommend gifting paints enough!  Just make sure that whatever kind of paint you give is non-toxic and washable.  We have this jumbo palette set that I've linked to.  It used to be just $10 on Amazon, but now it's $45 which is insane.  Don't buy it for that much!! I'm still linking to it in hopes that the price will go back to normal.  I love the vibrant colors and think the palette look is fun (although it is huge).  Crayola watercolors are a classic too and have great Amazon reviews.

And if anyone out there has more to add to this list I am all ears!

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