The Best Music Toys for 2-Year-Olds

Of the 30 kids listening to the lady with the guitar at the local bookstore, my son was the only one really breaking it down. Right up there in front. Loving life. The other parents were giggling at him. You’re durn right it was cute.

2-year-olds like music. Some more than others – but they can all appreciate it. (They’re just like us!) If you’re looking for a music toy for a 2-year-old who loves to groove, you have plenty of options.

Toy Instruments for 2-Year-Olds

When most people think of musical gifts for toddlers, they think of instruments first. However, 2-year-olds don’t typically have the motor skills or development required to play songs or keep rhythm yet.

Especially early on in their third year, they just like the cause and effect that they can get by banging and clanging things around. For example, my 2-year-old (now almost 3) has had this xylophone since his first birthday and he has only ever hit it as hard as he could for a few minutes until the thrill of the noise wore off … and it was never more popular than hitting a bowl with a spoon.

That’s why I’d suggest sticking with very basic instruments for now and saving the keyboards and guitars for later. These are my favorite musical gift ideas for 2-year-olds:

Child's Harmonica - Musical Instruments for Toddlers
Blue Harmonica, $9

Harmonicas and Simple Wind Instruments
There have been times when the bribe of playing the harmonica was the only thing that would get my toddler to lie down for a diaper change. I had access to a “real” harmonica at the time, but he also likes the kids’ version. He especially likes to pretend to be playing along while we listen to music. Slide whistles are another simple, fun instrument for younger toddlers, and older 2-year-olds might be able to handle kazoos and even recorders.

Handheld drum for toddlers - Music Toys for 2-Year-Olds
Remo Kids Percussion Lollipop Drum, $17

Drums and Percussion
This lollipop drum has also been a big hit (see what I did there?) with my son. The handle allows 2-year-olds to hold it while they dance around, or march in circles around the house. Another popular drum for toddlers is this floor tom, which comes with two mallets and has great reviews.  Finally, you can opt for an entire set of smaller percussion instruments, such as triangles, maracas, castanets and shakers. All are easy for 2-year-olds to handle. This set from Rhythm Toys looks nice. Note to parents: There are also plenty of DIY instrument tutorials online that look pretty fun to do and might allow you to spend your money elsewhere.

Music Players and Music for 2-Year-Olds

I was inspired by this BabyCenter article about encouraging music to look into getting a music player for my almost-3-year-old’s Christmas present.

He likes listening to music, but rarely gets to control what we listen to or explore new songs independently. A music player like this loaded up with a variety of options might give him that chance. With the addition of the microphones, I hope it will will be fun toy for years.

I opted for a player that uses Bluetooth to connect to your phone or tablet, but you can find options with CD players, too.

If you don’t want a player or its not in your budget, consider an album. There are so many music options, but here are the ones I liked while I was looking and will buy eventually:

A few more resources for kids music:

Musical Books for 2-Year-Olds

Music Books for 2-Year-Olds
Baby Beluga Board Book, $7 on Amazon

Try some books that encourage kids to learn songs and sing along. If your 2-year-old is like mine, they’ll always gravitate toward the musical books (or at least the ones that feature rhythm and rhyme) over the others.

Raffi has a whole line of “books to read” that includes classics like Baby Beluga, Down by the Bay, and more. My 2-year-old year LOVED this Frosty the Snowman book for a while, and still knows all the words. For other ideas, check out these cute board books for Old McDonald had a Farm, The Wheels on the Bus and Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.

The Best Stuffed Animals and Dolls for 2-Year-Olds

As I mentioned in the post about play pretend toys, 2-year-olds really start using their imaginations throughout their second year. That means that dolls and stuffed animals are transformed from mere snuggle buddies into friends with personalities.

(How cute is it when you hear your 2-year-old in his crib making up a lively conversation between a few of his stuffed animals? It’s very cute, indeed.)

Dolls and plush toys also help toddlers “master people skills, improve their vocabulary, and more.”

So, how to pick a doll or plush toy? It’s easy to just choose on cuteness factor alone. And you generally get what you pay for; a $5 grocery store teddy won’t look good for long.

One of the best features that a plush or doll can have is the ability to be easily washed in a machine. Another feature I look for is flexible limbs so toddlers can make them wave, walk, hug, etc.


Fuddlewuddle Piglet, $22.50

The Designer Option - Jellycat


Jellycat animals are designed in London, and they're all extremely cute and high-quality. Spot clean only. Click here for a full page of results.. I particularly like this dinosaur..

Baby Stella Peach, $28

Best Plush Baby Doll - Baby Stella


These plush dolls get great reviews and come with a lot of cute clothes and accessories. As I mentioned in the pretend play post, baby toys and accessories are great gift idea for 2-year-olds who have little siblings on the way or in the plans. Many Amazon comments report successful machine washing in pillowcases. The dolls come in several colors and have clothes for both girls and boys.

Fennic Fox, $12

For the Little Naturalist - Wild Republic


So excited to have found this company online. They carry more than just the garden variety of bears and rabbits; try snowy owls, honey badgers
and red pandas
for a change.

Marshmallow Owl, $16

Cute and Classic - Mary Meyer


Mary Meyer toys have been in the mix since 1933, and the cleaning instructions on the site even say that new animals can be machine washed in a pillowcase. This company makes many different types of toys, but I think their stuffed animals are pret-ty cute.

Jill Doll, $35

Organic and Ethical - Under the Nile


These caught my eye because many of them are machine washable. They're all made from organic cotton, and the company practices ethical sourcing. Plus, these little dolls, cats and dogs are all pretty cute.

Flopsie Yorkie, $12

Just Cute - Aurora


I couldn't pass up adding this cute lil puppy to the list. Aurora is a big toymaker that has many lines of toys, and also has the rights to plush like Raggety Ann and My Little Pony, but their plush animals get great reviews and seem very affordable.

Allergen-Free - Kids Preferred


This company makes a "Healthy Baby" line of plush animals that are specifically designed to be frequently washed. Makes a lot of sense to me.

 

the best toy vehicles for 2-year-olds

The Best Toy Vehicles for 2-Year-Olds

We grown-ups have gotten used to seeing semis and firetrucks zoom past us on the road.

But if we were just seeing them for the first time? Heck YES we’d be impressed and excited – just like all 2-year-olds still are.

2-year-olds love toy vehicles: cars, trucks, buses, airplanes, construction vehicles, emergency vehicles – and they love trains so much that I dedicated an entire post to train tables and sets.

You’ll find hundreds of options for toy vehicles in stores and online, and frankly, my son plays with all of them no matter how crappy they look to me. (He basically turns his train table into a monster truck arena.)

Once kids get just a little bit older, you might want to invest in the higher quality, realistic-looking vehicles made with metal and with smaller moving parts. Bruderand Tonka are both great options for that. (Actually, the bulldozer shown in the top photo is the Tonka truck was my husband’s as a kid, and it’s one of our son’s favorites.)

But there are a few brands that carry full lines of vehicles that are really great for age 2 and up.

First, a few vehicle-buying guidelines:

  • expect vehicles to get dirty / carry dirt, especially construction vehicles
  • if it looks like it has moving parts, those part had better move (you’d be surprised how many cement trucks don’t spin, for example, or how many garbage trucks don’t crush imaginary garbage)

Battat


This line is sturdy, bright, fun, has moving parts, and each truck comes with a little removable driver that fits snugly in the driver seat. This brand also carries a really popular take-a-part line that lets kids "build" the vehicles. (A little too advanced for 2-year-olds, but great for next year.)

Green Toys


This line of toys is made from recycled milk cartons and comes in 100% sustainable packaging. The parts all move and the vehicles are great for both indoors and outdoors. Check out the recycling truck, $19, dump truck, $17, and tractor, $15.

Fisher Price Little People


There's something about adding tiny passengers to a toy vehicle that a new level of fun. There's a whole line of "little people" toys that include vehicles, including a school bus, $35, and a tractor, $23.
Best Building Blocks for 2-Year-Olds - Have you tried Duplos?

The Best Building Blocks for 2-Year-Olds

I don’t even need to tell you that blocks are awesome. You already know, because you played with them yourself.

Most building blocks never break, and they interest kids for years. They even have educational perks, helping 2-year-olds with spatial skills, fine motor skills, sorting and organizing, and even imagining (if my 2-year-old has even one block in his hand, it usually becomes an airplane – I don’t know).

The only downside of blocks is that they get scattered everywhere and require seemingly constant pick-up and sub-furniture-retrieval. But hey, it’s worth it if it keeps your kid entertained for a while.

So, which blocks to choose?

Interlocking Blocks

The Best Blocks for 2-Year-Olds are Duplos.
Duplo “My First Construction Site” $20

Duplos

Made by the Lego company specifically for younger kids, Duplos are very popular blocks, and not just with my son; almost all the sets I’ve seen on Amazon (including the ones listed below) have solid 5-star ratings. I can vouch personally for the construction set, too: it has been a big hit since right before my son turned 2.

This can also be a nice place to direct family for gift ideas since all Duplo toys are compatible.

Creative Play: Creative Animals, $12
My First Number Train Building Set
, $16
My First Creative Cars Building Set, $20
My First Deluxe Box of Fun (includes figures, animals and vehicles) $40


MegaBloks are a great gift option for 2-year-olds.
80-pc Mega Blok set, $15

Mega Bloks

Mega Bloks, larger and more lightweight than Duplos, are also very popular building blocks for toddlers. Many Mega Bloks sets, like the one pictured here, even come with their own storage, which parents will love.

Some other great Mega Bloks gift options if you’re looking for something more exciting for your 2-year-old than just the blocks:

Mega Bloks Caterpillar Lil’ Dump Truck $12
Mega Bloks First Builders 123 Learning Train, $20
Mega Bloks First Builders Wacky Wheels, 70 Pieces (includes a bag of blocks with parts for a firetruck, airplane and digger, all with cute lil sticker faces) $27


 

These Stackadoos Bristle Blocks are another great building toy for 2-year-olds.
68-pc Stackadoos, $26

Bristle Blocks

I don’t have any of these yet, but I’d like to.

They get great reviews, and would be fun for a 2-year-old to figure out – a little twist on the typical block.

These little B. Spinaroos ($35) also look like a great idea – they’re bristle-block-based, but with colorful faces and bodies for kids to spin and twist around.


 

 

Magnetic blocks for toddlers can be a fun, but a little more expensive, alternative to traditional blocks.
30-piece Magneatos Magnetic Blocks, $41

Magnetic Blocks

If you can spend a little more and want to give that special 2-year-old in your life even more building options, magnetic blocks are great.

The most popular brand on the market are Magna-Tiles® – they have unbelievable reviews – but the age suggestion starts at age 3.

The Magneatos pictured here are designed more for toddlers, are affordable, and also got good reviews.

 


 

Non Interlocking Blocks

Wooden Blocks for 2-Year-Olds
Hape Wooden Blocks, $18

Wooden Blocks

Wooden continue to be a classic, aesthetically pleasing toy, even though I personally hate stepping on them and how much damage they can do as projectiles.

If you’re into wooden blocks, the Land of Nod has some cool (and expensive) ones. I also like these classic alphabet blocks.

 

 

 

 

2-year-olds love big, cardboard blocks
40-piece Mondo Bloxx, $36

Cardboard Blocks

These larger, cardboard blocks are affordable and great for make-believe play if you’re cool with how much space they take up.

 

 

 

 

 

Djeco nesting blocks, $15

Nesting Blocks / Stacking Blocks

Toddlers can do it all with these toys: stack, sort, organize, count, identify colors and patterns.

The Djeco cubes shown here are fun because they show a different theme on each side.

A twist on the typical nesting blocks: this Melissa & Doug Nesting, Sorting Garages and Cars toy comes with little wooden cars to place in each block – a great idea for vehicle-lovers.

 

 

 

Other Resources for Building Toys

Top 10 Toys for Builders – Hands on as we Grow

Best Toys for Building and Construction – Modern Parents Messy Kids

Pretend toys for 2-year-olds: Tools

Pretend Toys for 2-Year-Olds (Playing House, Role Playing)

If you’re looking for a toy idea for a 2-year-old, it’s tough to go wrong with miniature versions of the stuff they see their parents using.

Pretend toys are great because toddlers love to feel like they’re helping, and these toys actually DO help parents because they encourage toddlers to join in on regular household tasks instead of begging for the parents’ attention to be elsewhere … at least for a solid 5 minutes.

Toddlers develop the ability for imaginative play throughout their second year and beyond, but age 3 is typically when their creative juices really start “firing on all cylinders,” so maybe that’s why so many of the toys in this category have manufacturer age recommendations of 3+ even though many 2-year-olds would love them.

Pro tip: The more these toys look like what they see their parents using, the better. The bright colors can be fun and don’t necessarily get ignored, but most tots prefer to play with what looks “real.”

NOTE: This article contains affiliate links to toy suggestions. If you click them and buy something as a result, I might get a small percentage of that purchase.

1. Play Kitchens, Cooking and Groceries

This is the big one: Most 2-year-olds see their parents in the kitchen all the dang time (sigh) and they want in on the action.

Toddlers will get years of use out of a little play kitchen, starting around age 2. Most of the coolest looking wooden kitchens come with “small parts” warnings and are therefore recommended for ages 3+, even though in many cases the small parts are only unattached when the kitchen is pre-assembled.

Click here for the full rundown on the small part warnings and here for the full guide to choosing a play kitchen.

A quality play kitchen can be a significant investment, so if you’re not ready to spend more than $75 – or if the 2-year-old you’re buying for already has a play kitchen – check out some of these kitchen accessories for under $25:

2. Yard Work and Gardening

Yard work and gardening pretend toys for 2-year-olds are great choices for summer birthdays
Little Tikes Gas ‘n Go Mower Toy, $23 on Amazon.com

Getting dirty in the yard with dada or mama is like a dream come true for a 2-year-old, especially when there are tools involved.

Younger 2-year-olds still haven’t lost the thrill of just pushing things around for the sake of pushing, so a lawnmower is a pretty good bet if they don’t already have one.

There are also a lot of cute gardening tool sets for kids, and this Radio Flyer wheelbarrow was described in its Amazon reviews as the perfect size for 2-year-olds.

toy shovel is also a must for 2-year-olds who want to “help” parents shovel snow in the winter, and it can also be used in the garden in warmer months. I’d also suggest a toddler-sized rake, especially for the fall. For spring and summer, give them a watering can so they don’t have to lug the adult-sized model around.

There are also a lot of cool toy power tools (leaf blowers, chainsaws, trimmers) online that I know my 2-year-old son would love, but all of them have choking hazard warnings and 3+ age recos so I feel like I can’t list them here 🙁

Sidenote in Terrible Parenting: The spade and green rake in this popular toy garden tool set have been some of my son’s favorite toys since before he was even 2. But the age suggestion is for 5 and up — these are real metal tools (I’ve even found them useful occasionally) and could do serious damage if they made impact with another child’s head or were fallen on. But the fact that they’re “real” and do a good job moving dirt and leaves is probably what makes them so fun.

3. Cleaning and Laundry

Cleaning toys for 2-year-olds
Childs Broom, $20

We make my 2-year-old use his toy broom every night after dinner to sweep up all the food that he has thrown on the floor (on accident or otherwise … he has no idea it’s an exercise in responsibility because he thinks it’s fun).

He also likes this toy vacuum sweeper that he got when he was one month shy of turning 2. He used to cry and try to unplug my real, adult sweeper whenever I turned it on. Now he just gets his own and we sweep side-by-side. It does come with a choking hazard warning in case it were to fall apart, and the little removable dirt catcher is too complicated for him, but in general, the idea of a toy vacuum sweeper is a good one.

If you’re looking for a big, exciting cleaning item, there are some pretty cool play laundry sets online that look like they would be fun to keep next to the big washer and dryer.

 

4. Tools

Tool benches are great pretend toys for 2-year-olds who like to fit pieces together.
Little Tikes Tough Workshop, $30

A toy tool bench is always big draw for kids who love fitting pieces together and using tools (hint: that includes most kids). Tool benches generally cost less than other larger role playing toys such as play kitchens, and can get a lot of use.

But if you’re looking to spend less than $40 or so, try some of these fun toy tool options for under $20:

Ertl John Deere Deluxe Talking Toolbelt Set
Fisher-Price Drillin’ Action Tool Set
Learning Resources New Sprouts Fix It! Tool Set
Green Toys Tool Set, Blue

5. Parenting

Strollers are great pretend toys for 2-year-olds with little siblings on the way.
Umbrella Toy Stroller by Castle Toys, $19 on Amazon.com

If a little sibling is on the way or already in the picture, “parenting” toys are a great idea.

A little fold up stroller like the one pictured here is fun for kids to push their stuffed animals and dolls around in.

Other, smaller options:

    • baby carriers (the big baby carrier names like Ergo and Moby have their own mini lines for kids, which is great because – again – kids want their toys to look real)
    • baby dolls (I love this line and will totally be buying my son one when/if I get pregnant again)
    • baby doll accessories like bottles, bibs and diapers

I hope this gave you some good suggestions for that special 2-year-old in your life. If I missed any great pretend toys, please leave your suggestions in the comments.

Train Tables for 2-Year-Olds

The holy grail of toddler toys?

More than a few parents would say they’ve found it, and it’s a wooden train set on a table.

These train tables are loved for years, starting around age 2: That’s usually when tots start to get into imaginative play, can figure out how tracks fit together, and have fallen deeply in love with old-timey steam engine trains.

Some new 2-year-olds will still be more interested in throwing and crashing trains than running things in a dignified manner, and most wooden train sets are suggested for ages 3 and up due to small parts. But you could consider getting a train table now; they’re also good for dollhouses, cars, and other vehicles.

Train tables take up a lot of space. They’re heavy. And there are more versatile activity tables or even floor mats available that might be a better fit for your home or your kid’s taste.

But if you have the room and you like the idea of keeping more toys off the floor, read on.

How to Choose a Train Table

Three things set train tables apart from other activity tables and play tables:

  • an edge along the surface to contain tracks and parts
  • a height ideal for standing toddlers
  • a large surface area that can fit a big set of wooden tracks

When evaluating train tables for 2-year-olds (and older tots, too), here are your deciding factors:

1. Quality. A train table will stay in your home for years. Your toddler will probably climb on it, and eventually, you’ll want to re-sell it or give it to a friend, so pick a sturdy one.

2. Size. Most train tables around the same size — at least 30 by 40 inches — but they do vary. Consider where you you’ll put it. Your tot will need full access to all sides for an optimal choo-choo experience.

3. Design. Whether you choose a table that looks more like a toy or a lovely piece of furniture will probably depend on whether it’s headed for the play room or the living room. Also, the painted landscape tops can be fun, but some feel that a blank top encourages more creativity.

4. Storage. Some tables come with built-in storage, others come with optional storage, and some don’t have any included – but there’s nothing stopping you from sliding a few of your own bins underneath.

5. Brand. Most wooden train sets are compatible with most wooden tables, but maybe you’d rather choose a train set first and pick a table to match. If so, head over to this post on the Best Wooden Train Play Sets to get started. Remember: many wooden train sets have small parts that you’ll have to put aside until your 2-year-old is less likely to see how they taste.

Where to Get a Train Table

If you’re handy with woodwork or know someone who is, a train table might not be terribly difficult to make. There are plenty of DIY train table options online, especially on Pinterest (I like this one).

I also found several “activity tables” that could work as train tables but look great in your living room (they’re on the expensive side).

But if you want to buy a table that’s just for trains, I’d suggest checking Craigslist first. There were a lot of train tables listed in my area, and many of them came with full train sets. (I got a now-discontinued Learning Curve Thomas table on Craigslist for $40 from a nice man who lived nearby.)

If you don’t feel like risking weirdos and bedbugs on Craigslist, let’s check out the new models.

Train Table Suggestions

I put a long, sortable list of options in a chart at the bottom of this post, but I thought I’d give you some general guidance first. If I were buying new and had an unlimited budget, I’d probably get a Nilo table or fancy one that looks like a coffee table and buy the trains separately. But there are also plenty of great options below.

The Toddler Choice – If you’re new to the wooden train scene, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Putting faces on trains makes them irresistible to kids. Thomas the Tank Engine enjoys a godlike status among most toddlers who have seen the TV show. The Thomas brand is pricey, but once you start collecting the trains, it’s an easy place to direct family and friends for gift ideas. (That said, you can easily use Thomas trains on other tables.)

Best Train Table with Train Set Included – Buying a table and train set together can be a great value, but the higher quality sets are usually sold separately. Jessica at Play Trains recommends the Bigjigs set as the best train set-and-table combo.

 

The Eco-Friendly Choice – I love PlanToys‘ environmental and socially responsible mission, and their unfinished table looks nice. The Amazon reviews on the table were somewhat mixed.

The Heirloom – If you’re looking for a quality, American-made solid wood table, check out companies like Little Colorado, Beka, P’kolino and plenty more. Sort the list at the bottom of the post by the “made in” column.

 

The Value Buy – Both of the plastic train tables listed below got great reviews on Amazon. These tables are also lighter, smaller and less expensive than the wooden train tables.

 

The Non-Table – Remember, if you decide that a train table is too much, you can start with a Learning carpet. There’s also a full line of Thomas the Train “Take and Play” toys. This under-the-bed-trundle is another nice alternative.

Train Table Comparison Chart

A note: All of these prices came from Amazon and include any significant shipping charges. The prices listed here might change over time. Pay attention to the cost of the storage bins; some pics show the bins but the bins are sold separately. Many of these are affiliate links, which means that a small percentage of anything you buy after clicking these links will be sent back my way.

PictureBrandTableH (in)LbsL (in)W (in)StorageMade ofMade inPricenotes

Melissa and DougTrain Table with train17.75403350small drawerwood (particle board)China$260includes 130+ piece train set

TomyChuggington Wooden Railway Let's Ride the Rails Playtable with Playboard17.553.433.549.5nonewoodChina$250
Click for image Choo Choo Track and Toy CoTrain Table1833.549.5nonewood - oakUSA$249

Fischer PriceThomas Wooden Railway Play Table18.539.253.5storage rack under tablewoodChina$240

SoduraBirch Wood Modern Kids Train Table1743.83648trundle drawer $75wood- birchUSA$231

Little ColoradoPlay Table1936492 drawers $198. 8H x 23W x 33Dwood - Baltic birch plywoodUSA$220unfinished model is $187

ImaginariumMountain Rock Table15.755432.547.75small drawerwood?$215

TagActivity Table18302436inner cubbies: 9x4x6"woodUSA$208

BrioPlay Table183046nonewoodChina$200

KidkraftMetropolis Table26.88232.946.9drawerwood (with either honey or espresso finishes)China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand$200includes 100 piece train set, bridge, tunnel

KidkraftSuper Highway Train Set55nonewoodChina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand$186

Plan ToysToy Play Table15.852.435.448.6toy drawer 48.6 x 15.8 x 35.4 incheswood - rubberwoodThailand$180rubberwood is a sustainable by-product of the latex industry's harvesting of trees used for natural rubber production

BigjigsTrain Table (with Services or City train sets)12.63528.750.3woodSoutheast Asia$172includes 56+ piece train set

Jonti Kraft KydzACtivity Table17.5 (incl lip)3444$750 table includes 3
wooden bins
USA$166

P'kolinoLittle Modern Activity Table16282332under lidwood - solid wood poplar and plywood with basswood veneerU.S., Canada, China, Taiwan and India$166

KidkraftAirport Express15.850.232.746.5small drawerwoodChina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand$161includes 100 piece train set including tunnel

BekaTrain Table20.25393249.5trundles $98.50 ea. 18X29-1/2X9wood - hard maple with 2-piece birch topUSA$159

KidkraftWaterfall Mountain16.14234.248.83 plastic bins includedwoodChina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand$148

KidkraftRound Table (Dinosaur or City Explorers)15.2234242two plastic bins includedplasticChina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand$145includes 95 piece train set

Kidkraft2-in-1 Activity Table162.22325under tabletopwoodChina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand$140
Click for imageBekaMini Train Table20.2525.535wood - hard maple with 2-piece birch topUSA$130Shorter legs available upon request for an additional $10

KidkraftNatural17.556.53549.5trundle drawer $75woodChina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand$125

ImaginariumTrain Set with Table15.826.831.830.5nonewood?$113includes 55 piece train set

MaximWooden Activity Table with 45-piece Train Set and Storage Bin1645 (total)30.532bin includedwoodChina$112

Melissa and DougActivity Table166232.550small drawerwood (particle board)China (Wikipedia)$109

KidcraftRide Around Table16.24334.549plastic bins includedwoodChina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand$108includes 100 piece train set

Little TikesEasy Adjust Activity Table12 adjusts to 183424.5434 binsplasticUSA$100

MaximRailroad Wooden Activity Table with 50 Pc Train Set Compatible with Thomas the Train19.2520.6 (total)2432nonewoodChina$83

Step 2 (plastic)Deluxe Canyon Road Train & Track Table163023.87544.875under lidplasticUSA$80Includes small 3-piece train set

 

More Wooden Train Resources

Phew! That’s all I got on train tables for 2-year-olds, but if you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.

The Best Ride-On Toys for 2-Year-Olds

The 7 Best Ride-On Toys for 2-Year-Olds

If there’s one thing 2-year-olds have a lot of, it’s energy. Put that energy to good use with a sweet ride-on toy.

Not only will your tot be more likely to take their nap on time after tiring themselves out on one of these, they also may develop balance and coordination as a result.

If the 2-year-old you’re buying for is more cautious or on the later end of the physical development spectrum, you may want to hold off on the more demanding ride-on toys and skip on down to options 5-7.

1. Balance bikes / No-pedal bikes

Of all the ride-on toys for 2-year-olds, the best ones teach the most balance and coordination. Most 2-year-olds will become strong and coordinated enough to try a balance bike at some point during their second year, but others won’t figure it out until later. These balance bikes are real crowd-pleasers, but the best models are upwards of $100, and you’ll also need to buy a helmet. Click here for more details on balance bikes, including buying suggestions.

 

2. Scooters

Scooters also teach some balance, and some kids feel more comfortable with their feet closer to the ground as they ride. I thought this discussion on whether to buy a balance bike or a scooter was helpful. The most popular toddler scooter on Amazon (shown left) is even height adjustable so that it grows with the tot. Again, you’ll probably want to include a helmet with this gift. Might as well get them into the habit now.

 

3. “Wiggle Cars” / “Plasma Cars”

These will probably be too advanced for those who are just turning 2, but almost-3-year-olds may love them (I found plenty of comments from parents about 2-year-olds enjoying them along with their older sibs). You drive them by moving the steering wheel back and forth. A lot of parents also commented that THEY would ride these wiggle cars around with toddlers in their laps, to everyone’s delight.

 

4. Trikes

Biking advocates will tell you that it’s more important for kids to learn balance and body control than to learn how to steer and pedal during their toddler years, but tricycles are still popular options for 2-year-olds. Make sure you buy one with a handle so you don’t get stuck carrying the bike and the toddler when the the toddler gets tired of pedaling.

 

5. Bouncers and Rockers

This inflatable horse has 4.5 stars from more than 750 reviews on Amazon. It’s $43 and comes in a bunch of different colors. My own 2-year-old wasn’t super interested in the one at the toy store, but he might get into it later. If the toddler in your life has shown interest in pretending to ride rocking horses, etc., this could be a very popular gift.

 

6. Play cars – Self Powered


Although they don’t encourage the same level of exercise as the earlier toys in the list, these play cars last for years, don’t require batteries, and are great for imaginative play. The one shown here is probably the most popular model, and costs $58 on Amazon.

 

 

7. Play cars – Electric/Battery Powered

If you can spend a little more money and aren’t as worried about developing motor skills, these can be fun and they’re definitely an exciting gift. Age suggestions vary by the manufacturer, so check before you buy. (The one shown here is suggested for ages 1-3 and costs $88 on Amazon.)

 

Any more suggestions for types of ride-on toys? Please leave a comment. Thanks, and good luck tiring that toddler out.

Activity Tables for Trains, Blocks, Puzzles, Art Projects and More

My son loves his wooden train set, but he also likes staging disastrous crashes that send cars and tracks flying across the floor.

I was tired of stepping on them, and I saw how much he loved playing on train tables at the local toy stores, so I started searching for one for our home.

And I promptly got overwhelmed.

Why was I trying to buy such a large, heavy table for just one type of toy? He also loves blocks and Legos, and I saw that there were tables just for that. I had also been looking at tables for art projects.

Did I really need to buy separate tables, or was there one magical play table out there that could fit all my kid’s needs with one purchase?

After an evening of searching, I figured out that there are three main factors that influence what table you want.

  • Edge. Typically, tables made just for toy trains have an edge around the top that keeps all the train parts contained. The edge can also come in handy for containing the pieces of puzzles and games. Tables that are made for art projects and blocks don’t have that edge, though, because it can cramp your style if you’re trying to write or draw.
  • Height. Train tables are generally sized for a younger toddler to stand at comfortably and an older toddler to kneel at or sit in front of comfortably, while art tables and block tables are typically sized to fit chairs underneath so kids can sit while they play.
  • Surface. Some train tables come with decorative surfaces depicting roads, rivers, streams, etc. Lego tables’ main defining feature is having the Lego surface covering its whole table top. There are at least a few models that have a surface that flips from a Lego board to a train landscape, but typically, kids want a lot more room for their wooden train tracks than they need for Legos (see? this table just has enough room for one figure 8 track).

If you’re not concerned about space, you can buy all the tables you want: one for Legos, one for trains, and one for scribbles and projects and pretending, and replace them all as the kids get bigger.

If you’re interested in a multi-use table, I found a few with an edge around the top that’s short enough to stop trains but low enough that it’s not annoying for other activities, and that can adjust the table height over time.

These tables aren’t cheap, but the prices might be worth it if it you end up buying fewer tables overall.


Nilo play tables come in a variety of sizes, are typically height-adjustable, and come with optional Lego AND Train surfaces. They’re also American made. I thought the holes looked weird at first, but then I saw how many cool things you can  use them for and realized that the table also kind of can double as a play tool bench, which makes it even more useful. I don’t have one, but I’ve seen them at toy stores. If you have any feedback, please leave a comment because I’d like to know if these are worth it. I usually use Amazon links for images, but Nilo seems to sell their tables mostly on their own site and in toy stores right now.

This beautiful table from Pottery Barn Kids is great for playing and also looks awesome. A friend of mine actually has this one for her son’s Thomas trains and it works great, but will continue to look really nice in her living room long after he’s over trains.

Look at these tables from the Land of Nod. They’re beautiful. Some would work great for trains, too, I’d think.

The tables in this list weren’t in my budget at my kid’s 2nd birthday, so I ended up buying a used Thomas the Tank Engine train table on Craigslist for $40. It lives in the basement. I still have my eye on that Land of Nod table, though. That one will get a spot in the living room.

Balance Bikes for 2-Year-Olds

It’s not easy to find a toddler toy that has lasting value, helps them learn, wears them out, AND will be the hit of the party, but this sweet ride-on toy made for toddlers meets all those criteria.

Hello, balance bike. Let’s find out more about you.

Note: This site contains affiliate links, which means if you buy something as a result of seeing it on this site, I might get a small commission.

What’s a Balance Bike?

Balance bikes have two wheels, no pedals and no chain. They’re also called “pedal-free bikes” and “push bikes” because kids ride them by pushing off the ground with their feet. Unlike the stable, three-wheeled tricycles we had as toddlers, balance bikes help kids learn the balance and body control they’ll need to ride a “real” bike.

The best balance bikes cost more than $100, and there are dozens of brands to choose from. That’s OK, though, because this isn’t an impulse purchase (after all, your kid will be whizzing across concrete on it).

Let’s do some research.

Is Your 2-Year-Old Ready for a Balance Bike?

Most online balance bike stores claim that any confident walker can use a balance bike. Maybe so, but that seems pretty optimistic (and very convenient for business).

After poring over a ton of online comments and reviews, I got the impression that the most athletic toddlers out there can handle balance bikes even before age 2 (as early as 16-18 months), but that most children aren’t coordinated enough to really get any use out of one until sometime between 2 and 3.

In fact, most balance bikes on the market are sized for kids aged 2-4, because 2 is the typical age for starting to be able to balance, and by 4 the most athletic kids will be riding pedal bikes (the average age for starting to ride a pedal bike is age 5).

Being realistic about when your child will actually use a balance bike can help you make a better purchase, because the biggest limiting factors in your bike search will be your child’s height and weight, which can change a lot over 6 months.

I’d suggest holding off on buying a balance bike until your kid is confidently zooming around on other, less advanced ride-on toys, such as a Scuttlebug (that’s the one my kid had just figured out by his second birthday).

Some parents have also reported that their kids who didn’t love their balance bikes felt more comfortable with scooters, so you could try a scooter instead of a balance bike, since they also help develop balance (unlike tricycles).

Sold on the balance bike? Here’s how to pick one.

Seat Height and Bike Weight

The first step is to measure the rider’s inseam — that’s the length from the highest point in the crotch all the way down to the floor, and note that the shoes she’s wearing might affect the measurement. Subtract one inch from that inseam length; that will be your child’s ideal bike seat height right now.

Armed with this number, you can eliminate any bike from your search whose seat doesn’t go low enough for your child to ride comfortably. And since your tot is 2 or just turning 2, the seat height can be a significant limiting factor; a lot of these bike seats start at 12 inches.

Next, note your child’s weight, and calculate 30% of that total. According to this detailed balance bike site, the bike shouldn’t weigh more than that. The lighter the bike, the easier and more fun it will be for your child.

Recommendations

 

Strider Balance Bike with 12-inch tires, $120

If your child is on the more athletic side, you can buy a smaller, lighter balance bike that they can use from age 2 through 4 or so, when they’ll probably switch to a pedal bike. This balance bike from Strider is the lightest one I found at just 6.4 pounds, and the seat goes down to 11 inches. Strider bikes use foam tires, which are very light and remove any worries about flats — but don’t provide as much grip or cushion as air-filled tires (which is why you might choose a different model if you think your child will be riding a balance bike instead of a pedal bike past age 4 or so). This bike seems to be one of the most popular balance bikes on Amazon.com (check out the reviews). It comes in red, blue, green, orange and yellow, and costs $109, which is on the more affordable end of the top rated balance bikes. This is the bike I’d get my 2-year-old if I thought he’d pick it up and ride it right now.

If your child is more on the cautious side and you don’t expect them to pick up on the pedal bike in the early range, wait to get them a bigger balance bike with air tires when they’re 3 or closer to 3. (I’m going to wait until the spring to measure my lil guy and then reassess the bikes with air tires using this list. I’ll post again when I make my final pick.)

Safety

If your kid going to ride a balance bike, your kid needs a helmet. Might as well start the helmet habit early.

One more thing: During my balance bike research, I came across several suggestions to skip the balance bike and just lower the seat and remove the pedals on a “regular” kid’s bike. But unless you can also lower the handlebars enough for your child to be able to lean forward comfortably as they ride, they won’t have as much control as they would on a bike that’s sized for toddlers. Riding position affects center of gravity big time.

Also, I’m not sure how complicated it is to remove the pedals on a bike, but before you go at a bike with your screwdriver, remember that the chances of this bike falling on top of your kid are pretty high, so you have to make sure that there are no parts sticking out that could do damage. That’s why I think it’s worth it to pay for a higher quality balance bike and then upgrade to a pedal bike later.

Other Resources

Did you buy a balance bike for your 2-year-old? Which one did you pick?