Lego train

21 Best Learning Toys For Toddlers (2020)

When trying to teach your child, does the following phrase sound familiar?

 

No, I don’t want to work on that right now, I want to play with my toys!

 

I know I get this sort of push back ALL THE TIME. 🙂

 

So instead of continuing to get frustrated, I started to look into alternative ways to teach my kids other than just using worksheets or books.

 

And it came down to answering one simple question:

 

What do kids like to do most?

 

PLAY! They want to play with their toys!

 


Quick Links: (21) Best Learning Toys For Toddlers


What if I told you there was a way to teach your kids with educational toys that they ACTUALLY want to play with?

 

That’d be fantastic, right?  The challenge is figuring out what toys will work best for you and your child.

 

To help narrow down your options, I have created a list of the 21 Best Learning Toys for Toddlers. I have created 8 different categories that focus on the best toys for each specific learning skill for toddlers. In each section, I have provided some strategies on how to use each toy to teach your child!


Category 1: Alphabet Toys

 

1. LeapFrog Smart Building Blocks

 

The LeapFrog Smart Build Blocks are one of the coolest toys that I have come across lately!

 

LeapFrog Smart Building Blocks

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Kids can build with the blocks and interact with the alphabet by placing the letters in a spot where it will tell them which one it is and a word that starts with the letter.

 

How to help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. Focus on learning about 1-2 letters per until your child starts recognizing some of the letters. Keep on repeating those letters they know, along with 1-2 new letters!

 

B. Point out the different letters to your child, and if they are old enough, ask them to find specific letters to place in the playset.

 

C. For older learners, have your child place the letters in order on the playset in a specific spot, just a few at a time because it’s not big enough to put the whole alphabet in one place.

 

Specifically, for alphabet learning, the phonics house is excellent! But, they also make different Smart Blocks, take a look here to see all their products to help with learning skills. 

 


2. Sesame Street Elmo’s On The Go Letters

 

In my experience with teaching my children, being able to touch and play with letters is the BEST way for kids to learn their ABC’s.

 

Elmo On the Go Learning Letters

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Working with this toy daily, even if it was only for two minutes, helped teach my kids the letters of the alphabet!

 

This toy doesn’t have sound, so for your child to learn from it, you will need to work with them 🙂

 

How you can help your child learn using this toy:

 

A. Focus on 1-2 letters a day.

 

B. Repeat past letters that they have learned daily-this is critical. Kids will forget at the beginning of learning the ABC’s if they don’t practice each day. 

 


3. Letter Learning Locks

 

Most children’s toys focus on upper case letters, which is excellent. However, if kids only know uppercase letters, when it comes time to pre-reading, they will be lost.

 

That’s why kids must learn both upper and lower case letters!

 

Learning locks upper and lower case alphabet

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These letter locks work on connecting which upper case and lower case letters go together by putting the correct key in the lock! The lock won’t open unless the right key is placed inside.

 

How to help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. For younger children, pick 3 letter locks and put them in a line. Ask your child to find a specific letter if they know their letters already.

 

B. Explain to them that there are upper case and lower case letters. They may see either of them when you read stories to them. Even though they may look different or smaller, they are still the same letter.

 

C. Show them the lower case letter key for whatever letter lock you are asking them to find. Talk to them about what letter it is and how they can unlock the lock with the key!

 

E. Repeat and show once more the upper and lower case letters before you move onto the next letter.

 

This toy is incredible for working on FINE MOTOR SKILLS!

 


4. Melissa and Doug Alphabet Sound Puzzle

 

Realistically, we aren’t able to sit on the floor and play with our kids 24 hrs a day. That’s why this alphabet puzzle is is an excellent addition to your toy collection.

 

MD Alphabet Sound Puzzle

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I like this toy because it tells kids what the letter is, they can work with each letter, and connect the letter to a picture to help them learn beginning sounds and memorize each letter. (confusing sentence)

 

Even though the puzzle tells children what letter it is, you can still work alongside them with it!

 

How to help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. If your child knows some of the letters of the alphabet, ask them to find individual letters that they know on the puzzle. If they are beginning to learn, talk to them about each letter, it’s always better coming from you.

 

B.  Phonics: Talk about the pictures behind the letters, tell your child what it is if they don’t know, and make the sound of the beginning letter to help them understand what sound the letter makes.

 

 


Category 2: Writing Toys

 

5. Vtech Write and Learn Creative Center

 

I am always looking for fun ways for my kids to learn! Children are more likely to engage in a learning activity for a more extended time if they are enjoying themselves.

 

When it comes to writing, it’s a little more complicated because kids need the chance to practice with worksheets. However, there are a few toys out there that are great for early writing skills!

 

Vtech Writing Creative Center Toy

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I asked a family member to get this interactive writing center for my son’s 2nd birthday because I know toddlers aren’t interested in using worksheets, which I get 🙂

 

The writing center has 6 activity modes to practice upper and lower case letters. It also has fun stamps and stencils so kids can practice making shapes and different objects as well.

 

How to help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. Show your child how to hold a pencil before they begin!

 

B. Have your child choose which letter they want to practice writing so they can see what it’s supposed to look like on the screen above the writing center.

 

C. If they are just beginners, have them hold the pencil along with you to get a better understanding of how the letter is made.

 

D. Have them practice writing the upper case and lower case letter on the writing center together so they can start connecting that they are the same letters even though they look different.

 

E. You can also practice writing numbers, their name, and making shapes! 

 


6. LeapFrog Scribble and Write Tablet

 

Leapfrog has so many cool learning toys. I seriously feel like I’ve never gone wrong buying a Leapfrog product.

 

Leapfrog Scribble and Write Tablet

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The Leapfrog Scribble and Write Tablet allows kids to practice their tracing skills, which is perfect for young learners.

 

Kids can choose upper case/lower case letters, shapes, or a game mode to guess what letter the tablet is making with lights.

 

Want to see this toy in action? Check out how it works here!

 

How you help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. Show them how to change the functions at the top of the tablet.

 

B. Ask them to find a specific letter that you ask them to and have them practice tracing that letter. If the are beginners, have them practice both the upper and lower case of that letter to start connecting that they are the same.

C. Have them find the letters of their name and practice them in the correct sequence, to start learning how to write their name.

 

 


Category 3: Number Toys

 

7. LEGO Duplo My First Number Train

 

This Lego train is one of my son’s favorite toys!

Lego train

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It has blocks that connect to make a train and has numbers on the blocks so toddlers can learn how to put them in order!

 

How you can help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. Tell your child what each number is on the blocks when they are playing with it.

 

B. Put a few number blocks in a line and ask them to find a specific number.

 

C. If your child is old enough and knows how to count, have them count to ten while you put the number blocks in sequential order.

 

D. If your child knows how to count and knows their numbers, have them to try put the numbers in order!

 


8. Melissa and Doug Wooden Number Puzzle

 

I can honestly say that both of my kids learned their alphabet and their numbers by using Melissa and Doug puzzles.

 

1-20 Melissa and Doug Number Learning Puzzle

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When your child feels the numbers and can put them in a specific spot, they start to memorize what that number is.

 

It’s just a matter of repeating the information over and over again, so they remember it.

 

How you can help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. When your toddler picks up each number, tell them what it is, and talk about the picture behind it.

 

B. Focus on the same 1-2 numbers each time you play with the puzzle until they start recognizing those numbers. Once they begin remembering some numbers, you can move onto 1-2 more.

 

C. Say each number to them out loud in order, so they start understanding number order.

 


9. CoolToys Monkey Balance Math Game

 

This math game is on my wish list for Christmas for my kiddos this year!

 

What I love most about this toy is that you can use it for years! You can work on number recognition, counting out items, balancing items, and you can create an addition/subtraction game using the numbers and monkeys!

 

Math Monkey Balancing Toy

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How you can help your child learn with this toy:

 

1. For young learners, focus on first learning the numbers by talking about 1-2 each time you play with the toy.

 

2. If a child knows their numbers, start adding in the monkeys by putting a number on one side of the balance and that amount of monkeys on the other side, counting the amount out loud.

 

3. Give your child a flashcard and have them find the correct number and count out the right amount of monkeys on the balance.

4. For preschool and older: Pick two numbers to add or subtract together. For example, if you pick an 8 and 2. Have them count out 8 monkeys and 2 monkeys. You can talk about adding them together or subtracting 2 to come up with the solution!

 

See this toy in action below!

 


Category 4: Phonics Toys

 

10. LeapFrog Fridge Phonics

 

Anyone else’s kids love taking magnets off the refrigerator? My husband collects magnets from every place we travel to, so we have a ton.

 

The second I saw this toy. I knew we had to get it because I knew it would be a hit.

 Fridge Phonics

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I love this toy because it practices letter recognition, tells you the sound of each letter and helps sentence building skills.

 

How you can help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. Ask them to find a specific letter and place it on the bus.

 

B. This toy is interactive, so it does say what each says, have your child repeat what the letter says after it tells them.

 

C. If you press the letter twice, it says a word with the specific letter and a sentence with that word. To expand on this, you can ask your child to come up with a sentence with that same word. If they are older, you can ask them to come up with another word for that specific letter and come up with their own sentence.

 


11. LeapFrog My Own LeapTop

 

The LeapTop is one of my favorite toys that we have. I even have two because both my son and daughter wanted their own.

 

Leapfrog Leap Computers

 

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It’s great on the go toy, which can be super helpful even on a 15 minute trip to the store if your child doesn’t enjoy car rides.

 

The LeapTop computer laptop is excellent for your child to work with individually, which is essential too because kids also need to have the chance to play without you. 

 

How you can help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. If you are working alongside your child, you can have them search for a specific letter.

 

B. There is a game mode on the computer; it will ask your child to find the beginning letter of a picture that comes across the screen. For beginners, help them figure out what the picture will be and see if they can figure out what letter it starts with.

 

C. In the message section, the computer asks questions to your child. Challenge them to answer the questions.

 


12. Vtech Alphabet Apple

 

I have talked to several parents that have this toy, and their kids love it. We don’t have it yet, but it’s on my list of toys to ask for, for Christmas this year.

 

Vtech Phonics Apple Learning Toy

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How you can help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. For beginners, start with letter recognition, asking your child to identify a letter and press that button.

 

B. This toy is interactive, so it will say what each letter says, but have your child repeat the sound, so they start memorizing what it sounds like.

 

C. For kids that know their alphabet, ask them to say it in sequential order so they can start memorizing the order of the ABC’s.

This toy also has a clock feature, so it can be used for several years to work on telling time!

 


Category 5: Color Learning Toys

 

13. Color Fun Fish Bowl

 

I don’t know about you, but I never trusted my kids when they were little to play with crayons or markers unless they were in their high chair!

 

So, I would talk about colors when we did some art projects, but that wasn’t enough for both of them to learn their colors, so I decided to try this Color Fun Fish Bowl.

 

color fun fishbowl color learning toy

 

This is an interactive color game that also has a bonus of working on fine motor skills!

 

How to help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. This is an interactive toy that will tell your child what color they placed into the slot. It also has a mode that asks them to find specific colors and put them into the slot. You can sit by them and make sure that they are choosing the right colors, so they start gaining understanding.

 

B. For beginners, work with the fish and help them learn 1-2 colors at a time. Once they master those colors, move onto another few colors.

 

C. For older toddlers, they can play on the game mode so they can find the correct fish that it’s asking for. When you are playing along with them, make sure they are choosing the right color, if they make a mistake, make sure to tell them the correct color.

 


14. Melissa and Doug Color Puzzle

 

Clearly, you can see I am a huge fan of puzzles.

 

The reason why is because they work!

 

I have had success teaching both my kids about the alphabet, numbers, shapes, and colors through these Melissa and Doug puzzles. All it takes is a little time and effort to play with these toys each day.

 

color fish puzzle learning colors toy

View Cost - Amazon

 

How to help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. Start with talking about 1-2 colors. Once your child has started learning 1 color, you can attempt to teach them another one.

 

B. Show them different objects throughout the day about the 1-2 colors you are focusing on.

C. When introducing a new color to your child, show them one color that they know and put the new color next to the one that they know to show the difference between the two. Ask them to point out the color they know. Then, introduce a new color to them.

 

 


Category 6: Shape Learning Toys

 

15. Melissa and Doug’s Shapes Chunky Puzzle

 

Yes, another puzzle 🙂 the count is up to 5.

 

Shapes are typically the first thing that parents and teachers focus on in preschool classrooms!

 

This puzzle is a perfect way for toddlers to learn their shapes. They get to feel the pieces the connect them to a specific spot.

Shape puzzle

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How to help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. I think a circle and star are the easiest shapes for children first to recognize, so that is my recommendation on what shapes to start with.

 

B. Focus on 1-2 shapes at a time then start adding others in once your kiddo can start recognizing those.

 

C. Show your child other objects around the room that are the same shapes that you are looking at with them. For example, if you are looking at a circle, find a ball or a car wheel to show them different objects of that shape.

 

D. Review at least once a day (just the ones you are focusing on or the ones that they know) to ensure they recall the information!

 


16. Matching Egg Shape

 

Anyone else’s kids love playing with plastic easter eggs? Mine are obsessed. That’s why I figured these matching shape eggs would be a hit.

 

Matching shape learning eggs

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These eggs come in a plastic carton, which makes it super easy to store!

 

How to help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. Explain what making a match means to your child if they don’t know.

 

B. Show your child 1-2 shape eggs and by breaking open the egg and explain how to match the color and shape up to close the egg back up.

 

C. For older kids, talk about how many sides each of the shapes have.

 


17. Shape Beanbags

 

I’m a physical education teacher, so I try to incorporate some movement in my learning activities with my kids.

 

Adding some movement patterns or gross motor skills into learning will keep kids interested for a more extended time, which is essential when trying to teach them!

 

Shape active beanbags for learning shapes

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How you can help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. Scatter the bean bags around a room and ask your child to find specific shapes. You can make this a little more active by asking them to skip, gallop, side slide, run, walk, hop, or leap from bag to bag.

 

B. Create a starting line and place all the bean bags at the line. Set up three bins (laundry bins or storage bins). Write a 2,4, and 6 on a piece of a paper and tape it to each storage bin. Have your child use an underhand or overhand throwing strategy to try to make a bean bag into one of the containers. Before deciding to throw the bag, ask them what shape it is. This can be a great math activity for older kids to add up the points that they earned at the end!

 

C. Place all the bean bags at the end of one hallway in your house. Have your child start at the opposite side and have them run to get a specific bag that you tell them to.

I honestly have so many ideas for this toy, if you need more, comment on this post and I have plenty of fun ways to incorporate physical activity in teaching your kids!

 

 


Category 7: Fine Motor Learning Toys

 

18. Water Beads with Fine Motor Tools

 

I mean, who doesn’t love water marbles? Playing with these marbles works on sensory and fine motor skills.

water beads sensory and fine motor activity - best learning toys for kids

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How to help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. TIP: Make sure to put water in them a few hours before telling your kids that they are going to play with them. I realized that it took a little bit for them to get big, so to avoid meltdowns, get them all ready before you tell your kids!

 

B. Show and explain each fine motor toy in the set (tweezers, scoop scissors, scoop, and tongs). Then let them try to use them after your demonstration.

 

C. Add in some extra toys! We have little Hatchimal toys, mini dinosaurs, and animals that we have put in ours, and it made it even more fun!

 


19. Learning Basic Life Skills Set

 

My daughter goes to a school that focuses on real-life lessons, and these dressing boards are something they use.

 

life skills set for fine motor skills - toys for teaching kids

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Learning how to use the fine motor skills to be able to zip a zipper, button their clothes and tie shoes can be difficult and take some time, so this is why these boards are good to practice from time to time to help them learn!

 

How to help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. Focus on one board each time you play with this toy unless your child is picking things up quickly; then, you can introduce more.

 

B. Start with easier skills, like snapping or buckling, before moving onto zipping and tieing.

C. For the lacing and tieing boards, try using a poem like, “Over, under, pull it tight, make a bow, pull it through to do it right.”

 


Category 8: Active Learning Toys

 

20. Learning Resources Crocodile Hop Floor Game

 

In my opinion, making learning fun and active will make it more memorable for kids!

gross motor floor activity learning game - learning toys for toddlers

 

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My son is one of those kids who loves to move around constantly. Trying to get him to sit in one spot for 5 minutes barely happens, so this toy is perfect for him.

 

How you can help your child learn with this toy:

 

*This may be a toy that is an excellent addition to other learning toys. I believe it would work best after using a manipulative toy like a puzzle first, then using this to check for understanding.

 

A. You can work on color, shape, and number recognition with this toy! There is a set of dice that your child will roll to know where they should go on the learning pad.

 

B. Demonstrate how to do different motor movements if your child doesn’t know. They can hop, leap, spin, jump, slide, gallop, skip, or walk to different shapes, colors, or numbers.

 


21. Fisher-Price Smart Cycle

 

If my kids saw this toy at Target, I know they’d be on it in one second. It looks awesome!

active learning fisher price cycle - best learning toys

 

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*You can download the app to play the game on a tablet or your TV. Please note this toy doesn’t come with a tablet*

 

Your child will play along with the game by pedaling and steering the bike. What I like about this toy, too, is that it’s an excellent first step in learning how to ride a tricycle. Since it’s stationary, it’s safe, but kids get the idea of how to move the pedals, so when they are introduced to the tricycle, it will be easier for them!

 

How you can help your child learn with this toy:

 

A. Watch them while they are on the bike to make sure they are safe!

 

B. There are a few different games on the app that the kids can play.  There are different levels that kids can choose to play that focus on letters, phonics, spelling, vocabulary, reading, and writing. Sit alongside your child while they are playing to be a part of the learning process because they made need help identifying the answer.

 


Final Thoughts and Conclusion

 

Kids learn best through play and repetition.

 

There are tons of toys out there, trying to pick the right toy can be challenging because you want your child to like the toy and be able to use it for years to come.

 

By reading my 21 Best Learning Toys for toddlers, you will have no questions about what learning toys will work best for your kids.

 

When using these toys, it’s essential to start slow and play with these toys daily, even if it’s for a few minutes.

 

I would love to hear about any learning toy that has worked for you and your family! Every child learns differently so that certain toys may work for some children and not others.

 

If you need more ideas on how you can help teach your children with these toys, please comment below! Happy shopping!

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