Last Updated 10.26.2021
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As our pediatrician told me at Pepper’s 9-month checkup:
You can buy all the toys in the world and sometimes they just want Tupperware and boxes.
Wiser words have never been said. Some of Pepper’s favorite toys have been empty Amazon bags and old egg cartons. I intentionally limited her access to Tupperware because I tried to draw a clear line between toys and tools. But in a pinch, a plastic bowl or container is just the thing — especially if your kiddo’s hanging in the kitchen with you.
All the boxes and bags aside, we’ve had some toys that have been clear winners. The following are what have been great toddler toys for us.
12 Toddler Toys We Love (for 1 Year — 18-Months & Counting)
One of the really interesting things I’ve found about toys is the age range listed on them. Sometimes it’s spot on and Pepper hasn’t really shown an interest or been able to figure it out until she was within it. Other times she’s loved the toy, but how she played with it evolved as she got older.
We inherited this toy from an amazing fellow momma. (Alora thank you, thank you!!) It’s been a hit at SO many stages. She started playing with it when she wasn’t even walking and how she plays with it has progressed over time.
I was REALLY excited about this one and bought it pretty early on when she was just 10-months-old — which turned out to be too early for Pepper. The only thing she wanted to do was chew on the cars, so I put it away until we moved into our new house when she was 15-months-old.
The difference was night and day. I definitely had to show her how it worked, but she loved watching the cars go down and as she started to put them on the ramp herself, she developed some fine motor skills.
We just got an etch a sketch and it was a hit from the moment we opened the box. Pepper’s had a blast taking out the small magnet shapes and putting them back.
She loves sliding them over the screen. She likes drawing with the pen, though she often has it turned the wrong direction. And, she thinks wiping away the designs is pretty neat.
I can’t say enough good things about the Little People sets. They offer tons of things to discover, including levers, doors, and buttons. The Little People can be put in and taken out of them, which is something toddlers love. And many of the structures make noise, offering another level of engagement.
- Noah’s Ark
- Disney Princess Castle
I also really love that you can get some diverse Little People. I’ve felt like this is a simple and natural way to introduce a wide range of ethnicities.
5. Mega Blocks
My mom found two sets of these used and they’ve been AMAZING!! They encourage so much creativity and coordination work. I love that I can throw a few in the diaper bag for an easy on-the-go toy. And, if they get dirty they’re dishwasher safe!
Pepper is OBSESSED. She’s been following me around as I vacuum for the longest time. It took about two days for her to figure out her own, but now she vacuums up a storm as I clean.
I will say, the Toddler Dyson doesn’t actually vacuum very well. It has the ability to pick things up through a very small hole, but she’s never going to really clean. Also, Pepper’s already broken off a small piece. So this one doesn’t seem like it’s built to last.
Initially, this seemed like a total dud and I was so bummed. I’d really wanted to play with her in it. And then she warmed up to it and started crawling into the pit by herself.
While I thought the balls would be the biggest hit, it was actually the castle fort. Pepper loves to hide in the fort. She’ll carry stuffed animals in and out. And she thinks it’s a hoot when you surprise her looking through the windows.
I pretty much always take a set of stacking cups when we leave the house. She likes stacking them. Putting them together. Putting things in them. Putting them in things.
They are just simple and easy. And, they’re cheap! You can find sets at the dollar store or discount shops for next to nothing.
9. Wood Puzzles
These have been really fun. (Thank you Grandma for the hookup!) Initially, she was more interested in chewing on the pieces. But now she’s started trying to put the pieces in their slots and seems to be getting the hang of it!
This thing is GOLD! (BIG props to my sister’s family!) It’s a lot like buying a mini kitchen, offering lots of opportunities for pretend play (aka make-believe). And, the pieces run the gamet. There are some that are bigger, which she can just carry around and chew on, like the cups.
Others encourage her to assemble things, like the hamburger and pizza. Some of the toys promote shape association and hand-eye coordination, like matching a star or a rectangle with its corresponding slot.
One thing I really like about it is the sturdy right-angle design — reducing the likelihood she’ll tip it over on herself. (Many of the kitchen units need to be secured to the wall.)
Friends of ours have one of these and Pepper loved it. With all the hot weather, we decided to get one too and it’s been a hit. Practically every day we’re outside and she plays independently for a good chunk of time.
One of the things I really loved about this one is all the accessories it came with. When Pepper was ‘playing’ with her friend, they had a variety of buckets and such from which to choose. (I say ‘playing’ because at this age they don’t seem to really play with one another much. Rather they play around each other.)
We have the Winnie the Pooh version, but these fun chunky puzzles come in tons of different themes like Mini the Mouse and Farm Animals. It’s been really fun to see how her eye-hand coordination, matching skills, and willingness to overcome frustration have grown.
I would HIGHLY recommend getting one of these. They also don’t have to be the Melissa and Doug brand. But I would get something that’s chunkier and not too difficult to begin with. Some of the more complicated ones we have are so difficult she can’t even begin to try and figure it out.
Additional Toddler Toys Mom’s Rave About
I’m a big believer in learning from seasoned moms. The following are a few toys I’m on the lookout for that some amazing mommas have recommended.
- Snap-Together Wood Train Sets
- Three-Wheeled Scooter
Shop Used & Get Great Deals
I’ve provided links to all of these items. And while I’d love it if you use my affiliate links, I STRONGLY encourage you to shop used. You can often find a lot of stuff for less that’s still in good condition. These are some of my favorite resources:
- Facebook Marketplace
- Offer Up
- Salvation Army
- Just Between Friends
Word to the wise though, don’t just assume that someone has priced it at a great deal for you. There have been times I’ve checked online retailers and discovered that someone is charging close to or the same price as getting the item new.
Rotate Toys to Keep Them Fun
This is easier said than done. It takes time to stash toys out of sight and bring out something new. Plus, figuring out where to put them can be difficult too. Needless to say, I’m not the best at it. But, when I’ve put in the effort, it’s been wildly effective.
Another idea I’ve had on ‘rotating’ toys is to find another mom to work with. I think it’d be really neat to once a month or once every two months to get coffee and swap a bag of goodies. It’d be a cost-effective way to mix things up and it includes some socialization time for mom — that’s a win-win in my book!
Please Share Your Favorite Toy Recommendations!!!
As I said, I’m ALWAYS up for recommendations from other moms and dads. If your kids have loved something, please let me know! Leave it in a comment. Shoot me a note. Thanks in advance!