25 gifts for toddlers that will keep them entertained longer than the boxes they come in

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  • Toddlers have strong opinions, so finding gifts they'll love more than the boxes they come in can be a challenge.
  • As a mom of a 2-year-old, I've already gone through that process and have rounded up 25 toddler toys and gifts they're sure to love. 
  • You can check out all of our 2020 holiday gift guides here to shop for everyone on your list.

Toddlers can be picky little humans. You know this if you've ever seen how long they're entertained by a cardboard box or bubbles, only to leave a $50 toy sit by the wayside day after day. 

I would know — my 2-year-old has a big personality. But I've become a pro at buying gifts that she plays with longer than the packages they come in. That's why I've rounded up 24 gifts that will be a hit with any toddler. Many of the picks on this list have also been tried, tested, and well-loved by my own child.  

The top 5 gifts for toddlers:

  1. The World of Eric Carle puzzles, $12.67
  2. A Baby Yoda doll, $19.89
  3. A mini kitchen mixer, $19.99
  4. A Disney Lego Duplo set, $38.99
  5. A push car with all the bells and whistles, $79.99

This list includes a Sponsored Product that has been suggested by Crocs. It also meets our editorial criteria in terms of quality and value.

Check out 25 of the best toddler toys and gifts in 2020:

The ultimate racetrack

Go! Go! Smart Wheels Ultimate Corkscrew Tower, available at Walmart, $19.88 

This quickly became our family's favorite Go! Go! Smart Wheels track after the company sent us a review sample a few months ago. It can be configured into one tall spiral or two smaller spirals for racing. You'll get one race car, and the track includes a switch track, hazards, and a trap door. Five different locations along the track prompt the car to play various sounds, songs, and phrases. If you already have other Go! Go! Smart Wheels tracks, you can connect them to the tower.

Recommended ages: 1 to 5 years

Pixar Cars Crocs

Kids' Crocs Fun Lab Disney and Pixar Cars Clog, available at Crocs, $34.99

Kids can float like a Cadillac and sting like a Beemer in these Lighting McQueen Crocs. Thanks to Crocs' comfort and breathability, your toddler will be happy to put their shoes on and go play. We know you'll appreciate how well they stand up against wear and tear.

*Sponsored by Crocs

A customized tricycle

Radio Flyer Custom Build-A-Trike, available at Radio Flyer, from $55

There's nothing quite like a classic red tricycle under the tree on Christmas morning. Radio Flyer sent this tricycle for me to test, and I'm impressed by its quality. Depending on how you customize it, this tricycle can grow with your child from 9 months to 5 years old. Available customization options include a classic bell, a canopy, and a footrest. What I appreciate most about it is the push handle — I use it to help my daughter learn to steer and make sure she is safe while learning to ride. 

Recommended ages: 9 months to 5 years

A color-changing bath book

"Color Me: Who's in the Water?" available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, from $6.19

Toddlers will think this book is magic when it changes color in their bathwater. The illustrations are the central focus with just a few words on each page. This creates an ideal environment for reluctant readers to pick up a book. Use it for some water painting fun out of the bath, too. 

Recommended ages: 1 to 3 years

A cash register with play food and money

LeapFrog Count Along Cash Register, available at Target and Amazon, $19.99 

My daughter and I have played many hours of "grocery store" with this set. It comes with a working cash register, eight pieces of play food, 10 coins, and a credit card. Prompts encourage kids to count coins, and buttons on the display correspond with the play food.  

Recommended ages: 2 to 4 years

A dump truck made of recycled plastic

Green Toys Dump Truck, available at Amazon, $22.94

Whether you have a sandbox, a dirt pile in the backyard, or a bunch of toys that need to be moved around the house, toddlers will enjoy loading this truck and dumping things out. The brightly colored toy is made of 100% recycled plastic. An added bonus: After this truck spends a long day hauling materials for your child, you can throw it in the dishwasher. 

Recommended ages: 12 months and up

A cuddly version of everyone's favorite Star Wars character

Star Wars The Mandalorian The Child aka Baby Yoda Plush, available at Kohl's and Target, from $19.89

Toddlers can cuddle up with quite possibly the cutest Star Wars character ever. Toys based on characters like this one give kids just enough inspiration for imaginative play scenarios without doing all the work for them. Even if you haven't seen "The Mandalorian," it's hard to resist this endearing little creature.

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

A doll to love and care for

Perfectly Cute My Sweet Baby Doll, available at Target, $10.99

Baby Alive Luv 'n Snuggle Baby, available at Walmart, $9.27

Baby dolls help kids develop empathy, and they foster imaginative play. I even use the Baby Alive doll to help my 2-year-old practice hygiene and daily tasks like getting dressed and going potty. These dolls are soft and huggabe.

Recommended ages: 18 months and up

A pull sled for wintertime fun

Flexible Flyer Toddler High Back Sleigh, available at BuyBuyBaby, $19.99

Another classic toy to gift this holiday season: a sled. The Flexible Flyer sleigh is simple and lightweight — just what a toddler needs. With a seatback for stability and a seatbelt, it's ideal for younger toddlers. My daughter used it when she was about 18 months old last winter, and although the sled is on the smaller side, it will still be our go-to this winter when she's 2. 

Recommended ages: 18 months to 4 years

Read my full review of the sled here. 

Toddler-size crayons and coloring books

My First Toddler Coloring Book, available at Amazon, $4.29

Crayola Jumbo Crayons, available at Walmart, $2.97

Crayola Multicultural Large Crayons, available at Office Depot, $2.89

This is a simple yet exciting gift for young toddlers who are just learning how to color and develop their fine motor skills. The large pictures, numbers, letters, and shapes have thick lines, and the pages are durable. These are all characteristics that make coloring easier for toddlers. Thicker jumbo and large crayons are designed for toddlers to have success coloring. This book was one of the first coloring books I bought my toddler over a year ago, and it's still going strong. 

Recommended ages: 1 to 3 years (coloring book); 3 years and up (crayons)

A push car with all the bells and whistles

Step2 Whisper Ride II Ride-On Push Car, available at Amazon, $79.99

My neighbors can't help but smile when they see my toddler roll by in this push car. Step2 sent a review sample that we've been testing since the beginning of the summer. It's still in great shape and handles hills and bumpy roads well. Some standout features include a storage trunk, a working horn, cup holders (for you and your toddler!), and a seat belt. 

Recommended ages: 18 months to 4 years

A doctor's play set

B. Toys Toy Doctor Kit, available at Amazon, $21.95

Doctor visits can be scary, but role-playing with a play doctor kit makes them more approachable and even fun. This 10-piece kit comes with a stethoscope, otoscope, blood pressure cuff, syringe, scissors, thermometer, mirror, a pair of tweezers, a beeper, and a carry case to keep it all organized. The pager beeps and lights up, and the stethoscope makes a heartbeat sound. 

Recommended ages: 18 months and up

An interactive thinking chair

Blues Clues and You! Play and Learn Thinking Chair, available at Walmart, $49.44

If you have a Blues Clues fan, this real-life thinking chair will be a big hit. It comes with a mailbox, letters, and an interactive handy dandy notebook. The chair can detect when kids sit down or get up, and there is even a storage space under the seat. We've been testing it for a few months, and my daughter hasn't let it leave our living room since. 

Recommended ages: 2 to 5 years

A Lego set with beloved Disney characters

Lego Duplo Disney Mickey's Vacation House, available at Kohl's and Amazon, from $39.29

Fans of "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" won't be able to get enough of Mickey's Vacation House. My daughter regularly occupies herself for extended periods of time with this set, which says a lot about this toy. It includes Mickey's vacation house, an airplane, a sled, and Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto figures.

Recommended ages: 2 years and up

Their first Play-Doh set

Play-Doh Shape and Learn Colors and Shapes, available at Walmart, $9.99

This Play-Doh set combines fun sensory play with an introduction to colors and shapes. It was the first set I bought my toddler. In this box, you'll get eight Play-Doh colors, two activity mats, eight double-sided shape cutters, and a roller. 

Recommended ages: 2 years and up

A World of Eric Carle puzzle

My First Puzzle Pairs Brown Bear, "Brown Bear What Do You See?" available at Amazon and Walmart, $12.67

Two-piece puzzles are a step up from peg puzzles, another toddler favorite. This set of 10 puzzles is inspired by the popular book "Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?" As a former English teacher, I can't resist a toy that encourages reading. Even if you don't have the book at home, these puzzles will still be engaging and challenging while simultaneously exposing toddlers to color matching.  

Recommended ages: 2 years and up

A starter dollhouse

Melissa & Doug Fold and Go Wooden Dollhouse, available at Amazon, $32.79

Dollhouses can keep toddlers entertained for hours as they imagine new scenarios and practice everyday skills. This one seems plain at first glance, but after testing many dollhouses for our buying guide, it's the one my toddler played with most often. The set comes with 11 pieces of wooden furniture and two dolls, which is a big plus as many dollhouses don't come with dolls. 

Recommended ages: 3 to 6 years

Holiday and winter-themed books

"The Polar Express," available at Amazon, $7.86

"'Twas the Night Before Christmas," available at Amazon, $13.70

"The Sweet Smell of Christmas," available at Amazon, $8.89

"Chanukah Bugs," available at Barnes & Noble, $12.99

"Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story," available at Amazon, $6.99

"Diwali," available at Amazon, $7.59

There's nothing quite like cuddling up with a blanket and a good book on a cold winter day. From pop-ups to scented pages to engaging stories, these books encourage toddlers to actually sit through the whole story. Books are an excellent way to teach children about other cultures and traditions, so consider buying one about the holiday you celebrate and another about unfamiliar traditions. 

Recommended ages: varies by book 

A fire truck that blasts 'water'

Ryan's World Fire Engine, available at Kohl's and Walmart, from $5.18

This small but mighty toy includes a fire engine with a moveable ladder, a Ryan figure, and two water projectiles. The removable Ryan figure can sit in the bucket of the ladder to blast the water. With its small size, this toy would make an exciting stocking stuffer, too.

Recommended ages: 3 to 6 years

A flashlight for exploring and playing in the dark

Melissa & Doug Giddy Buggy Flashlight, available at Amazon, $11.69

Toddlers can turn this simple flashlight on and off easily, and it has a convenient handle. My daughter uses hers to make shadow puppets, read books in the dark, go on "letter hunts" through the house, and more. A flashlight is one of those toys that seem incredibly simple to adults but is novel and exciting for toddlers. 

Recommended ages: 3 to 7 years

A stylish play mixer for the budding chef

KidKraft Modern Metallics Baking Set, available at Target, $19.99

This stylish mixer can be an addition to an existing play kitchen, but it's also ideal if you have limited space. The set comes with a mixer, a bowl, eggs, flour, sugar, milk, a baking sheet, cookies, and a working rolling pin. Toddlers can't help but imitate daily life, and this set let my daughter "make" cookies without making a mess. 

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

Everything they need to complete rescue missions

PAW Patrol Dino Rescue Rev Up Vehicle with Mystery Dinosaur Figure, available at Kohl's and Amazon, from $14.97

For less than $15, this toy comes with a figurine, a vehicle, and a surprise dinosaur egg. Choose from six different Paw Patrol characters: Chase, Marshall, Rocky, Rubble, Skye, and Zuma. Each vehicle has a rev-up motor and a working tool.

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

A cleaning set so they can 'help' around the house

Melissa & Doug Let's Play House! Dust, Sweep & Mop Set, available at Kohl's and Amazon, from $21.24

My daughter loves to "help" me clean around the house and this set is the perfect size for her. It comes with a pint-sized broom, mop, duster, brush, dustpan, and even a storage rack. My toddler has consistently used it for more than a year, and it's still in excellent shape. 

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

Reusable mess-free coloring pads

Melissa & Doug Water Wow! 3-Pack, available at Amazon and Walmart, from $13.49

If you have a toddler living in your house and you haven't yet discovered the magic that is Water Wow, you're missing out. Each pad comes with four reusable boards that change color when they make contact with the water pen. They make absolutely no mess and are some of our favorite travel toys for toddlers. We keep one in the car and always bring them along to places like the doctor's office and restaurants. 

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

Their first toolbox

Little Dutch Toolbox, available at Scandiborn, $27.95

Toddlers can "help" put together all their new holiday toys with this 20-piece tool kit. The set includes a hammer, wrench, screwdriver, four bolts, four screws, two nails, two blocks with holes, two long junction strips, and two short junction strips. Each piece is made of wood and painted with water-based paint.  

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

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