The Best Play Tents for 2-Year-Olds

The Best Play Tents for 2-Year-Olds

Last Updated on January 15, 2022 by admin

If you’ve ever had a parent-teacher conference in a preschool classroom, maybe you’ve had the strange sensation of having to sit at a table that was designed for children. I remember trying to have relatively serious conversations with teachers while simultaneously arranging my legs to not look ridiculous in the tiny chair.

But it made for a good exercise in empathy. Little kids don’t often get to spend time in spaces designed just for them. And they certainly don’t get a lot of privacy from prying adult eyes in a space that feels just a little bit secret.

Maybe that’s why play tents have been such a great toy for small children for so long.

I love the idea of the simple, classic sheet tents. In fact, these wooden clips that are commonly found in Waldorf classrooms can be entertaining in their own right in addition to being used for tent construction with linens and furniture you already have at home. But if you’re interested in newer styles of play tents for 2-year-olds, read on to learn more.

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Material (Canvas or Plastic)

If you’ve been raising a toddler in the U.S. anytime in the past five years, certainly you’ve seen the ubiquitous Teepee-style play tents in Insta-perfect playrooms. My kids were just slightly too big/old for this trend. I remember thinking how cute they were and almost certainly would have bought one if they had been a little smaller.

I still see a lot of TeePee style tents available, and they’re nice because they fold up easily. But I am also seeing more A-frame type play tents and square or dome-shaped tents. Regardless of the shape, it still stands that a play tent that’s made of cotton canvas material tends to be both more durable, breathable, and more aesthetically pleasing than the play tents that are made of thin polyester, which tend to rip and wear more easily under stress. Some canvas tents may even be machine washable. (Note: Don’t assume that a neutral-looking tent is made of canvas unless it’s described that way in the product details; some are just thicker polyester.)

This cotton play tent is for sale for about $140 on Amazon.

Special Themes and Accessories

If you don’t opt for a more minimalistic, open-ended tent, the next thing you’ll need to decide is what “theme” of tent would be the most exciting for your kid.

Here are a few of the options I’ve seen:

  • “Princess” type tents with pink gauzy material and delicate lights
  • Vehicle-shaped tents that kids can pretend to drive or even serve food out of like this food truck tent
  • Tents designed to look like houses or stores (including one that’s designed to look like a U.S. Post Office)
  • Wildlife and dinosaur-themed tents
  • Tents that embrace a more traditional “camping” theme and come with a variety of plastic camping toys and accessories.
  • Castle-themed tents that come with swords and shields to play with

The bottom line is that if the two-year-old you’re buying for is particularly excited about one of these categories or even a particular cartoon character, there’s probably a pop-up tent that will make it more exciting for them to open.

This Melissa and Doug firetruck tent has little features like a gas cap that can be flipped up and down that can make play more engaging.

Set-Up and Storage

Tents that were designed to “pop up” with the help of a bendy wire structure often fold back in on themselves and tie back up for storage. Tents that come with poles and rods and require you to drape the tent material over top (or slide the poles through slots) typically come with some sort of bag you can use to shove everything back in. The pop up tents have the obvious perk of convenience, but tents with sturdier frames and thicker material may have the advantage of longer-lasting use, especially if they’re from a reputable brand. Note that some tents that describe themselves as “pop up” in their description may still require manually threading poles, so take a closer look before you buy.

This is one of the pop-up tents I saw whose product description included a video of how easy it is to fold this tent up into a handy little flat package. It’s sized for toddlers and costs just $30.

Tunnels and Ball Pits

If you want to add an extra air of excitement to your play tent, you can choose one that comes with tunnels and or plastic balls that transform the tent into a ball pit. You can also purchase play tunnels separately. I’ve noticed that these types of toys tend to be designed for younger toddlers. They make a good first birthday present and are generally starting to feel too small once kids get out of preschool age. The larger canvas tents tend to accommodate kids for a longer period of time.

Here’s just one example of the somewhat over-the-top tent-tunnel-ball-pit combinations you can find on Amazon. This one is listed for just $65, although the balls need to be purchased separately.

A Few More Play Tent Details to Consider:

  • A Floor Pad – Some tents, usually the canvas framed ones, come with a special floor pad that can make it more comfortable to sit in the tent and may even keep it from sliding around.
  • Windows – A polyester tent without windows on each side can start to feel pretty stuffy pretty quickly.
  • Outdoor Compatibility – Some tents are marketed as being indoor-outdoor, which can make them a bit more versatible.