Toddler Gift Guide – the Best Toys for Boys and Girls that Encourage Independent Play and Creativity

Buying for toddlers is fun – they are interested in a wide variety of things at this point and are probably obsessed with toys! But I for one especially love any toys that will keep my toddler busy and entertained for more than 5 minutes! (And all the toddler mamas say amen!)

If you’re getting tired of your child picking up a toy and losing interest in it almost immediately, this list is for you! Certain types of toys can inspire their creative mind to get to work, and will help keep them entertained longer, so you can catch a break!

Without further ado, here is my list of toys that are perfect for creative and independent play in toddlers.

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Melissa & Doug has these awesome puzzle sets – each box comes with 4 puzzles, 12-pieces each! My 2-year-old loves them and has loved them for nearly a year now. He’s getting to where he can speed through putting them together, so I’m planning on getting him some 24-piece puzzles like this one soon, to challenge him!

For younger toddlers, peg puzzles like this or chunky puzzles like this one are great choices! Even my 2-year-old still loves these, although they are not challenging at all anymore. My baby is just starting to want to figure out how these work, so these are great for 1-year-olds.

Building Blocks

There are several different types of building blocks you could choose from. Mega Bloks are a fun and inexpensive choice for all ages of toddlers.

For an older toddler, Lego Duplos (shown above) are slightly more expensive, but have a lot of different fun sets to choose from. And you could add one of these HUBELINO marble run sets to your collection – they’re compatible with Duplos, and what child doesn’t love a marble run?!

These colorful wood blocks are a classic option as well!

Lincoln Logs

I’m pretty sure every child would love Lincoln logs – no matter what their age! I even like playing with Lincoln logs! They are a classic building toy and your toddler will LOVE building houses and then probably destroying them immediately. 😉 My toddler is obsessed with Lincoln Logs right now – he loves building houses and then carefully putting the roof pieces on. It’s so cute watching him.

Train Tracks

There are almost an endless number of train track options to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming. I love the look of wooden tracks like this set, and they are a classic choice that will last a lifetime.

Vtech has a lot of fun train track options as well. We have this set and my son has spent hours clicking the tracks together!


Okay, not really “toys” but books are great quiet time play items that promote independence. My son loves books and will “read” them all the time. In fact, as I’m writing this right now, he is sitting on the floor in front of me with a book! And every single morning when I open his door and let him out (we use door handle locks to trap him in at night… don’t judge) he is always sitting on his bed with a  book, reading to himself.

Taking the time to read to your kids will encourage them to discover a love for books, and they will soon love reading so much that they want to “read” books themselves.

Some of our favorite books are Usborne books, especially the touchy feely ones like this one, our Bookroo books, and any of the Karen Katz books. My toddler is also getting more into storybooks too, and loves the Toby series.

Play Kitchen & Accessories

If you’re not afraid of larger toys, a play kitchen is an excellent choice! It engages kids in creative play and helps them use their imagination. Both my kids LOVE their play kitchen.

There’s quite a range of kitchen styles out there now, like this adorable vintage-style one! But there are plenty of smaller ones to choose from as well.

The one we have is relatively small and sits in the corner (similar to this one). My kids don’t even have any play food to go with it (I decided it was too much mess! Maybe someday…). What they do have is this adorable stainless steel set of toy pots and pans with utensils, and they LOVE them. They look just like Mommy’s pots and pans, so they are far more interesting than plastic ones.

My baby girl will sit and carefully put the lid on one of the pots over and over again for like 15 minutes straight. And my toddler will bring me a pot and excitedly tell me he cooked me something. Seriously, if you have a play kitchen, invest in these!

Coloring books

If your child is old enough to no longer eat crayons (feels like it takes forever to reach that point!) then coloring is a fantastic option for independent play.

I personally love buying reusable things that will last a long time, so last year I bought my toddler these reusable coloring books that use water, and they are STILL a big hit! I plan on buying him another set for Christmas this year.

There’s also this really cool coloring mat I’m looking at… I think a floor mat will be fun for both my kids to color together. You just use water to draw whatever you want, and when it dries the color fades and they can color again! Plus, coloring with only water = PARENTING WIN!

Any sort of arts and crafts item will work for creative play, but things like painting or coloring with markers will likely require close parental supervision for a toddler-aged child. You can totally do that if you want, but I for one prefer artsy things that I don’t have to worry about scrubbing out of the carpet or furniture if I turn my back for a few minutes. 😉

Musical Instruments

Okay, if you’re looking for QUIET toys, this is probably not for you. But my kids love musical instruments. My toddler is obsessed with drumming (my knitting needles frequently become drumsticks around here) and my baby is quickly following suit. They also love pounding on the piano or shaking noisemakers like maracas.

We currently have this little play drum set, which has been great (it’s not very noisy), but we are planning on getting a drum set like this one as a big present for my toddler this year. My house may never be quiet again, but he is going to be SO excited, I’ve decided it’s worth it!

If you’re not so willing to do drums, then I’m sure a tiny little piano like this one would be a hit (isn’t it adorable?!). Or you could go with the classic set of wooden instruments, like this! I think all toddlers love maracas and xylophones.

Shape Sorters

Chances are, if you have one or more children, someone has given you a shape sorter as a baby gift at some point. Truthfully, babies don’t really get shape sorters, but toddlers love ’em! When they start understanding shapes and realize the pieces fit the holes, this becomes a very fun and interesting activity for them!

There are a variety of different shape sorters now, from the classic primary colors set, to this wooden cube, and even this fun little dump truck sorter (my personal favorite)! Any of these are sure to be very interesting and enjoyable to your toddler.

Learning Toys

Whether it be learning colors, shapes, ABCs, or how to count, toddlers love to learn! Getting toys that help them along with their learning will keep their brain active and keep them focused for a long time.

This counting puzzle set is great, and there’s an ABCs version as well! You could also get something to help them learn to write their ABCs and numbers, such as this. Or help them work on their shapes with this fun toy (and use it to teach time as they grow older too!).

We have an old Word Whammer, which is a neat toy my son loves. It’s helping him learn the sounds of the different letters. It’s also not annoying, which is a plus.

Magnetic Blocks

Magnetic building toys are lots of fun for toddlers! It doesn’t require a lot of fine motor skills, since the pieces stick together using magnets, and they can create new things endlessly. You will love seeing your toddler’s imagination blossom when they bring you their creations!

We have some Magformers and they’ve been a real success with my toddler! I definitely plan on expanding our collection this Christmas!

There you have it! My ultimate guide to toddler toys that encourage them to play independently and use their creativity! Which toy on my list was your favorite? Do you think I’m missing anything? Let me know in the comments!

Be sure to share this gift guide with your family and friends!






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