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10 Great Toys for Toddlers and Young Preschoolers

shopping for toddlers preschoolers gifts

I’m not great at shopping for toys — unless it’s cool, vintage toys like those in my son’s nursery. Of course, those neat antique toys are probably covered in lead paint and not really recommended for anything besides decorative purposes.

shopping for toddlers preschoolers gifts vintage toys nursery

Anyhow, Christmas and Birthday gift buying for a kid is just not my area of expertise. However, I’m fully able to observe what he already owns and actually plays with — for more than two seconds. So, even though I don’t really have a clue what to buy him next year, I can at least speak to some of the toys that he already loves.

I’m guessing there are some other moms out there who feel the same way about toy-buying — so I’m rounding up a list of 10 Great Toys for Toddlers and Young Preschoolers. My kiddo is currently 3.5, so these are the toys I’ve found that he has enjoyed most over the last year or two.

Note: I have a little boy, so you won’t see many girly gifts in this list; but many of these would be great for both boys and girls.

Full Disclosure: This post includes Amazon Affiliate Links. Unless otherwise noted, these are items that we own and that I am happy to recommend.

#1 Building Blocks

Most evenings our toddler will play with his Mega Bloks before going to bed. These are actually designed for children as young as 12 Months; but he still enjoys them. In our family room, we keep a set of Wooden Building Blocks and he loves to use the Duplo Set in the church’s nursery.


#2 Magnets

This set of train magnets hangs on the side of our refrigerator at kid-height. We even surrounded them with a gold frame to make it a special play spot. I find he most often plays with these while we are fixing dinner in the kitchen. He wants to be near us; but still be able to play.


#3 Doodle Board

We received a doodle board as a gift {the one that we own does not have a brand marked on it, so I’m sharing this similar version from Fisher Price}, and I’m so glad because I never would have guessed how much we would use it. It’s not messy like crayons or markers {woohoo!} and it travels easily, too. He loves to draw on it; but also to ask mom, dad or the babysitter to draw as well. We’ve taught him how to draw letters, shapes and numbers using this fun, inexpensive toy.


#4 Blunt Tip Scissors

This kid loves to cut up paper. Yes, it’s messy {we get little triangles all over the floor}; but he’s developing fine motor skills while chopping a piece of paper to pieces. Of course this is a supervised activity — and one he’s participated in more as an older toddler/early preschooler. A pair of safe kid-scissors would be an easy stocking stuffer.


#5 Toy Kitchen

My little boy especially likes to play with his toy kitchen while pretending with others. He’ll make us a plate of food then watch with joy as you pretend to eat it. Our toy kitchen is in our actual kitchen, so it is another toy he’ll play with while we are fixing dinner. We bought ours at IKEA; but if you don’t have an IKEA near buy, the same kitchen is available on Amazon, along with the food and the pots and pans.


#6 Small Cars

We’ve accumulated a pretty large collection of matchbox cars over the last year; but he plays with them constantly. Right now, one of his favorites is a motorcycle. A toy car is the most common thing he’ll grab if we say “you can take one toy” when going out to eat or for a long car ride. As a younger toddler he used this set from IKEA, as well as the cars that were part of his Mega Bloks set.


#7 Wooden Puzzles

We’ve purchased several types of wooden puzzles for my little boy. Currently, he’s really into the Alphabet Puzzle since he’s learning his letters. When he was just learning to play with puzzles, we liked the “Chunky” and “Knob” puzzles. Another one that he has used a lot — but is more difficult — is a set from Disney {like this one; but we own a Cars & Toy Story version which I can’t find online} with several 24-piece puzzles included in a wooden storage box.


#8 Matching Game

As a 3 year old, my son has really gotten into playing games — especially matching games. We own a Curious George version but it includes 72 tiles, or 36 matches. I’d suggest starting with a smaller game, like Classic Memory, which has only 48 tiles.


#9 Sports Balls

The first word my little boy said was “ball” and he has not stopped playing with them since. My favorites are soft, foam balls that can be used indoors.


#10 Train Sets

We actually own several train sets since we’ve received some as a gift and purchased other sets. He plays with all of them and enjoys both setting up the track and “driving” the trains around. This wooden version from IKEA is nice {it is cheaper at IKEA} and GeoTrax are a great plastic and remote controlled option.

Hopefully you are well on the way to completing your Christmas shopping list; but if not, I hope these ideas may help! Now… I need someone with a 4 or 5 year old to tell me what to buy for the next few years 🙂

Happy Shopping!!