35 of the best toys for pretoddlers. Great educational and fun toys and gift ideas for your 12-18-month-old little toddler.
As a baby becomes a toddler, I think the “best” toys really vary. Your little toddler starts to get his own interests with a variety of toys to interest him.
Pretoddlers will develop milestones differently. Some will be focusing on gross motor skills while others care more about fine motor skills. You want toys that allow for growth in those areas.
Toddlers are little scientists and will enjoy toys that provide an avenue for experimentation (turning knobs or dumping things out are experimenting).
Best Toys for 12-18 Month Olds
I will stick to general categories but also list some absolute favorites of my children during this age range. This is a large age range. The best toys for 14 month old will vary from best toys for 17 month old.
This list contains the best gifts for 1-year-olds and will serve you well through the pretoddler and toddler months. You want toys that are durable and will last not only through this child, but your future toddlers as well.
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Those toys that have been favorites throughout life up to this point will still continue to be favorites during this stage.
You will see your child able to play with many of them more accurately, and he will also come up with new ways to play with the old toys.
There will be toys that used to just be fun to hold and look at (and put in the mouth) that he now is starting to play with in a more conventional way, such as the Little People play set. See Best Toys for Baby for all of my lists up to this age.
Another toy that helps build small motor skills is the puzzle. By far my favorite puzzles are the Melissa & Doug Puzzles.
One reason for this is that Melissa & Doug replace any missing or broken piece for free. It can be hard to even pay some companies for a new piece, and they do it for free. Puzzles are something that can easily come up with missing pieces, so it is an investment you can feel okay about.
They are also made very well and are quite cute, with a large variety of subjects, from pets, to vehicles, to shapes.
Some even make noises when it is all put together. Brayden had a fire truck one that made the sounds of a fire truck once the last piece is put in. Some have fuzzy animals…they are just fun.
The puzzles made specifically for 12-24 month age are very friendly to that age group, with large knobs on each piece (Melissa & Doug: 12-24 Months).
When getting a puzzle, I recommend you start simple and small. Get one or two. The reason for this is that some children are really interested in puzzles at this age, while others need to be quite a bit older before being able to play with puzzles. Find some that have a theme that interests your child.
Animals are something most kids just love, and they can be great for future children no matter the gender. The alphabet is another subject most kids love and can be a fun puzzle. You might have a child very interested in trucks, cars, etc.
Peg puzzles are great for these younger toddlers. I love the large knob puzzles Melissa and Doug have. They are easier to grip for little hands.
The Shape Sorter is another classic that helps with fine motor skills. Your toddler will be able to more purposefully manipulate these toys during this age range than in previous ones.
Anything your child can fill up or dump is still of great interest. This can range from a cup in the tub to a little tote or basket in the toy room. This again focuses on fine motor skills.
Palm Grip Crayons
These crayons from Crayola are perfect for little chunky hands. They are great for some art fun and some fine motor skills work. Pro tip–if you tape the paper down, it will be easier for your child to color. Many children start to enjoy coloring (aka scribbling) in this age range. This is great for sparking creativity. Crayons up to 24 Months
Manhattan Toy Baby Stella
The Baby Stela Doll is one of those things I want to rave about but like it so much I can’t find the words. A reader recommended this doll. I decided it was worth a shot and ordered it for McKenna’s birthday.
This doll is perfect for the little ones. There is nothing dangerous on the doll. McKenna gets to keep this with her in her bed, and I daily see her hugging, kissing, holding, and talking with this doll. She loves it. Absolutely the perfect doll for the younger crowd.
The pacifier is magnetic, so it doesn’t require fine motor control to get it in the mouth. They also make accessories for Baby Stella and make older versions of Baby Stella (a doll that looks more like a pretoddler). Baby dolls are great for kids, and this is a doll you can stick with.
Fisher-Price Musical Dino
This was a favorite with Brinley at this age. This is very similar to the Playskool Busy Ball Popper but it is easier for a younger child to use on her own. Brinley couldn’t do the popper alone, but she could do the dinosaur alone. She loved it!
Music engages all areas of the brain and helps children develop intellectually, socially, and in motor skills. There are a lot of fun musical toys for tots. A great one is the VTech Zoo Jamz Piano.
An activity playset is great for expanding imagination. It is kind of like a fun swingset or playhouse brought down to a toddler level. Check this one out from Little Tikes.
As your child gets older, you can add to the trucks and other cars as age-appropriate. Chances are this is a category he will love for years to come. Kaitlyn also loves to play with cars, so if you only have a girl, she might be interested in some cars too. These are great toys for stimulating the imagination. Trucks up to 24 Months
This has been a big favorite for Brinley at this age. We hadn’t ever owned one of these, and you readers told me she would love one and you were right! We went with a Step2 water table. This would be a top must own toy for me.
Bath toys are great. Bath time is a great activity that can keep your little one busy for quite a while if you have fun toys. Bath time does not just need to be a “task” in the day. It can be a great sensory play time. See this post for my favorite bath toys: Best Toys for Baby: Bath Toys
This isn’t a toy, but it is an activity idea. Walks are still of great interest for your little one (and will be for a long time…I haven’t yet found the age that gets uninteresting). Since my kids were in this age range during our nicer-weather months, we did a lot of walks. If you need equipment for walks, make sure you get it! A stroller (or buggy) is great. A wagon can be a great option, too
Playskool Busy Ball Popper
The Playskool Busy Ball Popper is a toy that many of you raved about in comments in previous posts. When my in-laws asked what they could get for McKenna for her birthday, I thought this would be a great option! And it was. It was a lot of fun for all of the kids. I, like many of you, would highly recommend this toy. Lots of laughs and squeals of delight have come about because of this toy.
This type of toy has become popular in recent years. Dimple Digits is a fidget toy that provides a lot of sensory play and develops fine motor skills. These toys are typically rated for around 2 and up, but I see many babies between 1-2 play with them.
Interactive books are a lot of fun for toddlers and are especially nice when you need your toddler to play alone–like independent play, table time, or in the car. There are several options out there. We really like this one from LeapFrog with 100 different words.
Books. Continue to read books to your child in this age range of course. You might find him sitting and “reading” a pile of books one day. A fun book category to introduce if your toddler can handle it is the Books with Flaps. These are peek-a-boo flaps with things hidden under the flaps. Some toddlers might bend or rip flaps, but most should be okay while reading with mom or dad.
If you need some book ideas, I have a lot of lists for all ages, including seasonal and holiday books. Here are a couple for this age group:
Fisher-Price Laugh Learn Puppy
You might already have this one, but if not, the Laugh and Learn Puppy is a great toy for teaching words and is also a fun musical toy. It is also a cute stuffed animal. This toy also teaches cause and effect as your kiddo presses a button and something happens.
This list will give you a lot of ideas for Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, or just toys to add to the collection you have already. There are so many options out there, and this list gives you the best toys for 12-18 month olds so you can focus in on great toys that stand the test of time. If you know someone with a first birthday coming up, any toy on this list will be great!
This post originally appeared on this blog February 2009