When I’m buying gifts for toddlers, I often want to gift something that will inspire learning even if it isn’t labeled as an educational toy.
Learning gifts for toddlers can help foster a love of learning no matter what kind of learning style the child favors, from construction toys and museum memberships to musical instruments and creative gifts. Gifts involving animals or skill development can also help teach toddlers compassion and life skills.
After all, this is the time in a kid’s development when they are a sponge for information, so parents and friends should take advantage!
The gifts we buy for toddlers don’t have to end up in a sea of useless plastic in primary colors that the kid will outgrow in a year or two – and parents will step on daily!
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Kids often enjoy learning gifts even more than they enjoy “mindless” gifts, because they LOVE learning!
We recently got to try these children’s microscopes from thestemkids.com and I couldn’t BELIEVE how much my kiddos (ages 3 + 5) loved them.
The you can purchase slides to check out (VERY cool – great quality and things kid are familiar with and interested in… like ants, butterfly wings, bumblebee parts etc).
You can also stick anything you have in the house under the scope to learn about your surroundings – watch out, they’ll pull out their own eyelashes to see what they look like – ask me how I know, haha!
Literally seeing things in a new way – discovering there is so much more to the world than meets the eye – was SO much fun for my kids!
We tried our microscopes out for the first time with friends, and my son loved his microscope so much he promptly packed it up when we were finished, to make sure it wouldn’t get left behind!
Keep reading to learn more about some learning gifts for preschoolers and the lessons they teach that toddlers can carry into early childhood with them.
Related: Cheap Toddler Stocking Stuffer Ideas
Memberships to Local Attractions Are A Good Clutter-Free Learning Gift for Toddlers
Parents are often buried in plastic toys and electronics for their toddlers that add a bunch of visual clutter to the house. There are a number of great gifts for preschoolers who have too many toys, and local attraction passes are definitely one of them.
This an exhausting situation for hassled parents, and it can also add extra stress to children.
Science has shown that visual clutter has a negative effect that amplifies anxiety and depression. (Source: The New York Times) These kinds of toys are outgrown quickly and don’t teach children much.
A membership to a local attraction can give the child access to learning experiences throughout the year, and it can also be a great way to reinforce bonding between the toddler and their parents.
These fun outings can also be a great excuse to get kids out of the house, especially on rainy days when boredom is running high.
Membership-based gifts are easy to choose based on what the toddler is already drawn to. A toddler who is into dinosaurs is likely to enjoy the reptile house at the zoo or the science museum, while a toddler who has a lot of energy will enjoy running around the putt-putt course.
Memberships to Give Toddlers as Learning Gifts
To help toddlers learn what they are interested in and potentially expose them to concepts that could inspire a future vocation, gift them memberships to attractions such as:
- Children’s museums
- History museums
- Aquariums (A HUGE hit with my children)
- Bowling alleys
- Putt-putt golf courses
Even local attractions geared toward play rather than education, such as putt-putt golf or bowling, can be great learning experiences for toddlers. These types of attractions can help teach toddlers valuable skills such as turn-taking and fine motor skills.
Exposure to new experiences is vital for toddlers since these formative experiences help to influence the development of the brain and increase a child’s confidence.
A trip to the museum or zoo could spark a toddler’s lifelong passion!
Letter + Number Toys Are Good Learning Gifts for Toddlers
Out of all the things a toddler needs to learn as they get closer to preschool age, letters and words are very important concepts for them to be introduced to.
Learning how to read isn’t a crucial part of early childhood education, but I believe the earlier they are exposed to letters and words, the better.
Spelling games and games based on letters can give toddlers a leg up in school while also keeping learning activities light-hearted and fun.
Many children have a natural love for learning, and will ask you about the letters (which one is this? What sound does it make again?).
Incorporating learning concepts into their regular daily play can help make learning for learning’s sake part of their philosophy going into childhood.
My kids personally love wooden puzzles pictured here-
Here are some more great letter-based toys that can make great learning gifts for toddlers:
- Little Treasures Matching Letter Game
- Sesame Street’s Elmo on the Go Letters
- Jasonwell Aqua Magic Doodle Mat
- Learning Resources Smart Snacks Alpha Pops
- The Learning Journey Letter Matching Game
- Pixel Premium ABC Magnets
- Coogam Wooden Letter Construction Puzzle
- Coogam Letter Matching Eggs
- Melissa & Doug Self-Correcting Letter Puzzles
- Alphabet Go Fish Bridge-Sized Cards
Learning how to read is one of the most important things that will dictate a child’s success in their education, so letter recognition toys are definitely a worthwhile gift investment for toddlers.
Reading TO children is also a great learning experience for your toddler – here’s my top 10 interactive books for toddlers.
Building Toys Are Good for Learning in Toddlers
While some people might not associate building blocks with learning, these construction-based toys are fantastic for creativity and motor skill development (which are the MOST important kind of learning at this age). A young kiddo is also going to learn some good social and emotional skills, since building toys often require sharing and problem-solving with other people. (At least, this is most definitely true in my house!)
HANDS ON learning is incredibly important for this age group – more so than any other kind of learning.
My kids LOVE these magnet tiles, pictured below:
Here are ten of the best construction toys that make good learning gifts for toddlers:
- Mega Bloks First Builder Big Building Bag
- Melissa & Doug 100-Piece Wood Blocks Set
- GILI Flower Garden Building Toy
- Infantino Press and Stay Sensory Blocks
- Picasso Style Building Blocks
- Mega Bloks Sesame Street Let’s Build Sesame Street
- Prextex Classic Big Building Blocks
- SainSmart Jr. Wooden ABC Blocks
- Top Bright Wooden Building Blocks
- JaxoJoy Foam Building Blocks
Construction toys are a blast for both boys and girls, and there are many different themes available to match just about any nursery or children’s bedroom.
STEM Toys and Activities
STEM toys are a SUPER awesome gift idea – who doesn’t love something based in science?! STEM toys can also help enhance their problem solving abilities, critical thinking skills, and logical reasoning.
Personally I think it is best to introduce these kind of things to our kids when they’re young. This way they can have fun with them and get excited about them loooong before they have peers complaining about “boring” science.
I really liked the products from The Stem Kids. We ended up trying this microscope, and my kiddos (both under 6) had a blast looking through it. It was also pretty affordable, which is a huge plus because many STEM kid sets are not.
Creative and Sensory Gifts Encourage Learning in Toddlers
Creative and sensory gifts encourage children to express themselves while also engaging them on a sensory level. In children as young as toddlers, play is still very much a time when children are forming their sense of creativity. Parents should foster creativity in their toddlers early-on, since most children have peaked in creativity by six years old. (Source: Scholastic)
Toddlers who are exposed to sensory stimulation and creative expression before the age of six may have a leg-up in developing their artistic expression throughout their lives.
A friend bought my kids this button art set (pictured below) and it has been a favorite of my daughters for almost a year now (she’s 2.5). She even gets it out ON HER OWN to play with it (something she doesn’t do with anything else)!
Best Creative and Sensory Gifts for Toddlers
To make sure kids have the tools to express themselves creatively, try gifting them some of the following creative and sensory gifts:
- Toyard Doodle Mat
- Vtech Write and Learn Creative Center
- Bu-buildup Flower Building Toys
- Boon Building Bath Pipes Toy
- Melissa & Doug Scissor Skills Activity Pack
- Purple Ladybug 3D Stickers for Kids & Toddlers
- Carl & Kay Supply Company Arts & Crafts Supplies for Kids and Toddlers
- JoyTrip Shockproof Soft Silicone Mini Kids Camera
- Fuyagi Moon Equilibrium Game Wooden Stacking Blocks
Many creative toys, crafts, and art supplies are natural objects for sensory stimulation, so it’s easy to integrate sensory toys into creative activities for toddlers.
Giving kids a wide variety of sensory toys and creative outlets can help their sense of creativity and self-expression blossom as they develop.
Research shows that children who are given choices end up showing more creativity than children who do not get to choose. (Source: University of Missouri)
Encourage Kinetic Learning in Toddlers with Skill Development Gifts
Along with developing their creativity and intellect, toddlers should be exposed to learning toys that help shape their sense of spatial awareness and fine motor skills.
These kinds of learning toys can educate toddlers while keeping the kids active.
This can help prevent children from getting a case of the wiggles in an inappropriate place, and it can also help off-set toddlers getting too attached to screen-time in front of tablets, televisions, and video games.
These fort building kits (pictured below), for example, can help kids be active AND problem solve as they learn how to put the pieces together. This is a learning toy that WILL require your involvement when it comes to toddlers, but after you’ve built it with them they will play inside for hours! (Toddlers fit better in these forts than big kids do LOL.) My kids have one of these and there are ENDLESS ways to put it together and create new fort designs.
Here are some kinetic learning toys for toddlers that are perfect for helping children participate in skill-based play while they also refine their sense of movement:
- Kinetic Sand Beach Sand Kingdom Play Set
- Sierliky Hula Hoop for Kids
- Melissa & Doug Trixie Ladybug Kickball
- RaboSky Bean Bag Toss for Toddlers
- Sunny Days Entertainment Bubble-N-Go Toy Lawn Mower
- Playskool Sit ’N Spin Classic Spinning Activity Toy
- Edx Education Step-a-Logs
- Hide N Side Kids Play Tunnels
- Little Tykes Trampoline
- iPlay iLearn Kids Bowling Toy Set
Kinetic toys can help give restless toddlers a chance to take a break from more guided educational activities and can help reinforce motor skills at a time when these skills are forming, so they’re a good choice as learning gifts. Because they often involve imaginative play, kinetic toys are also a good option for sparkling a toddler’s imagination!
Musical Instruments are Good Learning Gifts for Toddlers
Another type of learning gift that can help teach children while also getting the chance to play and express themselves are gifts that focus on music. Most children like to dance and sing, and these activities help them learn, too.
Music is a way that toddlers can express themselves before they have full articulation through either speech or writing and can help with emotional regulation.
Science has shown that music play and training improve the brain’s responses to music and speech, which means that learning toys based on music are literal brain food for growing toddlers. Listening to music even helps to expand a toddler’s attention span. (Source: Stanford University)
It’s also important for toddlers to be exposed to music in case they show a specific talent for it. Some toddlers are musically gifted, and discovering these gifts early on can allow them to be cultivated to their full potential. You never know, you might be raising the next Mozart!
My mom bought my kids this Peppa Pig guitar (pictured below) for Christmas a couple years ago, and they were constantly arguing over it, so she picked up ANOTHER ONE at a garage sale… and now I basically have an in-house band.
Great Musical Learning Gifts for Toddlers
Here are ten good musical learning gifts for your toddler:
- Obuby Kids Musical Instrum/ent Set
- Smart Wallaby Toddler Musical Instruments
- Baby Einstein Toddler Jams Musical Toy
- Toyerbee Musical Instruments Set
- Fisher-Price Classic Xylophone
- Discover and Play Piano Musical Toy
- iPlay iLearn Baby Music Activity Cube
- TECBOSS Kids Musical Mats
- Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone
- Vtech KidiBeats Drum Set
Kids may get so into these musical instruments that parents end up needing a break, so setting up pre-scheduled “music time” (and picking up musical items between jam sessions) can help parents give their ears a break from musical toddlers.
Piggy Banks / Play Money Can Help Teach Toddlers About How Money Works
While they aren’t traditional learning toys, piggy banks, and play money aren’t just great props for make-believe games; they’re also a good way to introduce the concept of money to toddlers in a way they can understand. Toddlers age two to three years old may be a little young to grasp the full value of money, but they can begin to learn the names of different coins. (Source: Parents)
It’s a good idea to teach children to save early to understand money has to be earned and isn’t a limitless resource (aka Bank of Mom). So, piggy banks and play money sets are a great way to get the idea across.
My daughter has this Learning Journey Piggy Bank (pictured below). It’s a fun toy she can use by herself. It’s a great learning toy for numbers and counting, as WELL as familiarizing with the concept of money. (And it ALSO helps teach colors). This one is a winner!
Here are some piggy banks and money playsets for toddlers to help teach them about the concept of money:
- Learning Resources Pretend and Play Money
- Pretend Play Smart Cash Register with Checkout Scanner
- Moonjar Classic Save Spend Share 3-Part Tin Moneybox Bank
- Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Smart Stage Piggy Bank
- Little Tikes Count ‘N Play Cash Register Playset
- FAB Starpoint Nickelodeon Paw Patrol Chase Coin Bank
- Hmil-U Cat Stealing Money Bank
- Melissa & Doug Pretend to Spend Wallet
- Joyin Toy Cash Register
- Blue Panda Pretend and Play Money
Parents teaching their children about the value of money (and the value of saving) from an early age can help encourage children to practice positive financial skills later in life. It also offers up an opportunity to talk about sharing and giving – it’s never to early to talk about helping others.
Teaching a toddler to save for a rainy day can pay off big when they can successfully save up an emergency fund or nest egg as an adult!
Instill Curiosity and Compassion in Toddlers with Animal-Based Learning Gifts
Many toddlers love animals from an early age, which is a good personality trait to foster in them as they grow older.
Children who have positive experiences with animals—from insects to large dogs—from a young age are much less likely to develop a phobia around these creatures later in life.
Many children may grow up to turn their love of animals into a hobby or career, too.
While most toddlers aren’t quite old enough to handle a pet, many can develop a love for collecting small creatures like minnows or insects. Exposing toddlers to animals from a young age is a good way to raise kids who are confident around animals and nature as adults.
A gift that teaches what sounds animals make – like the around the farm animal sounds button book (pictured below) is a great learning gift for a preschooler! (I grew up on a farm and being around animals was normal for me… I was surprised when my 1.5 year old called all animals cows. (ALL of them. Dogs, horses, deer… everything was “cow”. I didn’t realize until then that we hadn’t bothered TEACHING her about animals!)
Here are some great animal-based learning gifts for the toddler in your life:
- Bug Bungalow Insect Catching Kit
- Valefor Jungle Animals 54-Piece Set
- Boxiki Animal Learning Sound Book
- KTO Flannel Board Under the Sea Interactive Play Kit
- Boley 12-Piece Animal Bath Bucket
- Melissa & Doug Feed & Play Treats Play Set
- If Animals Kissed Goodnight Board Book
- Playmobil Aquarium Building Set
- CozyBomb Kids Fishing Bath Toys
Toddlers are endlessly curious about the world around them, and parents can take advantage of this by exposing them to creatures that they might not otherwise get to see. This can foster a sense of discovery in your kid and encourage them to seek positive experiences with animals on their own.
Why Choose Learning Gifts for Toddlers?
Learning gifts can give kids something constructive to do, but that’s not the only reason they are great. Here are just a few good reasons why learning gifts are a good choice for toddlers:
- Learning toys teach emotional and social skills, too. There is a common misconception that early childhood education focuses on teaching concrete skills only, such as putting on clothing or reciting the alphabet. Still, play is a vital aspect of teaching toddlers soft skills such as turn-taking, cooperative play, conflict resolution, and organization. (Source: National University)
- Children are still figuring out how they feel about learning under the age of five. Have you ever heard an adult say that they “didn’t like to read” or they “had no imagination”? These are often adults who were not exposed to these kinds of experiences in early childhood, and as a result, never learned to enjoy learning. This is why children need to be exposed to various positive experiences with learning from a young age.
- Learning helps toddlers with attention and emotional regulation. The same brain parts activated by learning-based play become stronger when this play is repeated, leading to less impulsive toddlers who can control their thoughts and emotions more easily.
Toddlerhood is a limited time frame in a child’s life where they can set some deeply ingrained habits for learning and creativity, so parents and friends should take advantage of this fact and offer them as many opportunities to learn while they play as possible.
Learning Gifts Are Great for Toddlers
There is such a wide variety of learning gifts available for toddlers that gift-givers should have no problem finding the perfect one, no matter what the toddler’s interests are. From dinosaurs to outer space, the sky is the limit (well, maybe your wallet, too!) when it comes to finding gifts that can stimulate a child’s mind and imagination at the same time.
Related: Clutter Free Gifts for Kids