Best Toys for PreToddler: 12-18 Months

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24 of the best toys for pretoddlers. Great educational and fun toys and gift ideas for your 12-18-month-old little toddler.

Pretoddler playing in the sandbox

As a baby becomes a toddler, I think the “best” toys really vary. Your little toddler starts to get his own interests with a variety of toys to interest him.

Pretoddlers will develop milestones differently. Some will be focusing on gross motor skills while others care more about fine motor skills. You want toys that allow for growth in those areas.

Toddlers are little scientists and will enjoy toys that provide an avenue for experimentation (turning knobs or dumping things out are experimenting).

Best Toys for 12-18 Month Olds

I will stick to general categories but also list some absolute favorites of my children during this age range. This is a large age range. The best toys for 14 month old will vary from best toys for 17 month old.

Old Favorites

Those toys that have been favorites throughout life up to this point will still continue to be favorites during this stage.

You will see your child able to play with many of them more accurately, and he will also come up with new ways to play with the old toys.

There will be toys that used to just be fun to hold and look at (and put in the mouth) that he now is starting to play with in a more conventional way, such as the Little People. See Best Toys for Baby for all of my lists up to this age.

Nesting and Stacking Toys

This can include old favorites like Nesting Cups and Fisher-Price Rock-A-Stack, but there are some new toys you can introduce. Alphabet Blocks are great for simple stacking.

By 14 months old, some toddlers are able to stack a couple of blocks on top of each other. Equally as fun is crashing them over. These stacking and nesting toys help develop small motor skills.

Wooden Puzzles

Another toy that helps build small motor skills is the puzzle. By far my favorite puzzles are the Melissa & Doug Puzzles.

One reason for this is that Melissa & Doug replace any missing or broken piece for free. It can be hard to even pay some companies for a new piece, and they do it for free. Puzzles are something that can easily come up with missing pieces, so it is an investment you can feel okay about.

They are also made very well and are quite cute, with a large variety of subjects, from pets, to vehicles, to shapes.

Some even make noises when it is all put together. Brayden had a fire truck one that made the sounds of a fire truck once the last piece is put in. Some have fuzzy animals…they are just fun.

The puzzles made specifically for 12-24 month age are very friendly to that age group, with large knobs on each piece (Melissa & Doug: 12-24 Months).

When getting a puzzle, I recommend you start simple and small. Get one or two. The reason for this is that some children are really interested in puzzles at this age, while others need to be quite a bit older before being able to play with puzzles. Find some that have a theme that interests your child.

Animals are something most kids just love, and they can be great for future children no matter the gender. The alphabet is another subject most kids love and can be a fun puzzle. You might have a child very interested in trucks, cars, etc.

chunky puzzle

Shape Sorters

The Shape Sorter is another classic that helps with fine motor skills. Your toddler will be able to more purposefully manipulate these toys during this age range than in previous ones.

Dumping Toys

Anything your child can fill up or dump is still of great interest. This can range from a cup in the tub to a little tote in the toy room. This again focuses on fine motor skills.

Palm Grip Crayons

These crayons from Crayola are perfect for little chunky hands. They are great for some art fun and some fine motor skills work. Pro tip–if you tape the paper down, it will be easier for your child to color. Many children start to enjoy coloring (aka scribbling) in this age range. This is great for sparking creativity. Crayons up to 24 Months

Pop-up Toys

A final toy for fine motor skills is the old favorite, the Pop Up Toy. Just like with puzzles, there are many different types to line up with your child’s interest.

Balls

Balls of all sizes are great for gross motor development. You might like these sensory balls for kids. They are textured and of different sizes.

Pull Toys

Pull Toys are another category good for gross motor development. It is also good for imaginative play.

Push Toys

Push Toys are yet another category good for gross motor development.

There are a lot of different types of push toys available. Some are toys designed specifically as a toy to push that might have something like little balls inside that bounce up and down as your toddler pushes. Others are toys to mimic, like lawn mowers, shopping carts, and doll strollers. More on mimic toys below.

Manhattan Toy Baby Stella

This is one of those things I want to rave about but like it so much I can’t find the words. A reader recommended this doll. I decided it was worth a shot and ordered it for McKenna’s birthday.

This doll is perfect for the little ones. There is nothing dangerous on the doll. McKenna gets to keep this with her in her bed, and I daily see her hugging, kissing, holding, and talking with this doll. She loves it. Absolutely the perfect doll for the younger crowd.

The pacifier is magnetic, so it doesn’t require fine motor control to get it in the mouth. They also make accessories for Baby Stella and make older versions of Baby Stella (a doll that looks more like a pretoddler). This is a doll you can stick with.

Ride-on Toys

Another category for gross motor skills, Ride-on Toys have so many varieties it is almost impossible to choose one. Thomas the Train, tractors, fire trucks, pink cars, princess cars…there is bound to be one your child will enjoy. This is a toy that we use outside and also inside in the winter.

Climbing Toys

Most children in this age range are absolutely obsessed with climbing things. A climbing toy can be a safe option to get the climbing out of the system. Most of these are meant for outdoors, but if you have the space, you can keep it indoors also. Climbing Toys are another gross motor skill category.

Activity Playset

An activity playset is great for expanding imagination. It is kind of like a fun swingset or playhouse brought down to a toddler level. Check this one out from Little Tikes.

Trucks/Toys/Tractors, etc.

As your child gets older, you can add to the trucks and other cars as age-appropriate. Chances are this is a category he will love for years to come. Kaitlyn also loves to play with cars, so if you only have a girl, she might be interested in some cars too. These are great toys for stimulating the imagination. Trucks up to 24 Months

Toys to Mimic

Your child will continue to show interest in toys to mimic. These toys stimulate the imagination as well as help your child learn about the grown-up world.

Along with toys listed in the 10-12 month post (Best Toys for Baby: Ages 10-12 Months), the toy kitchen became a favorite for my children in this age range. They loved it for many years.

There are so many different Kitchens out there. I remember spending a lot of time looking through them when picking one when Brayden was about 18 months old. We settled on the Little Tikes Cookin Fun Interactive Kitchen.

While deciding, look through and decide what interests you. Then read reviews about it online to see what others think of it who have bought it. Consider pricing and space available to you. It doesn’t need to be expensive. My children enjoyed playing with every toy kitchen they every came across.

Kitchen Accessories seem to contribute to the fun of the kitchen more so than the actual kitchen.

Sandbox Toys

Dump trucks, sand wheels, buckets, shovels, Sandbox Toys are another category that is going to be interesting now and for years to come.

We have always had a sandbox, so we have tried many different brands of toys. The cheap ones have their place, but if you want nice quality that will last, you will love Melissa & Doug sandbox toys. We own almost every one they make and have never had one break.

Bath Toys

Bath toys are great. Bath time is a great activity that can keep your little one busy for quite a while if you have fun toys. See this post for my favorite bath toys: Best Toys for Baby: Bath Toys

Jack-in-the-Box

The Jack in the Box was an absolute favorite for Kaitlyn in this age range. We got many laughs out of her. Brayden also enjoyed it, though the peak of his enjoyment was at an older age range.

Walks

This isn’t a toy, but it is an activity idea. Walks are still of great interest for your little one (and will be for a long time…I haven’t yet found the age that gets uninteresting). Since my kids were in this age range during our nicer-weather months, we did a lot of walks.

Bike Rides

You can get a bike trailer or bike seat to put on your bike and take your little one for rides with you. This is something Brayden still enjoyed last summer. Bike Trailers and Infant Bike Seats

You can take a slower pace approach and also let your little one try a ride on toy. You can go for short walks or play in the driveway.

Infant Backpack

Your toddler is very curious. We enjoyed hiking and things like that as a family. We found the Infant Backpack very convenient, especially having more than one child to keep track of. We used it at places like the zoo, too, because it is easier to move through crowds when you aren’t pushing a stroller.

So this is more of a “toy” for you than your little one, but it enables your little one to have a lot of fun outdoor adventures.

Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Car

This is one of those toys I always wished I had when I was a kid but never got. By my third child, my wish came true :). This coupe was McKenna’s gift from my parents for her birthday.

The great thing about this coupe is that there is a floor you can put in so a younger pretoddler can have her feet up. Then she can be pushed around (best done by siblings if she has them 🙂 ) and not get feet hurt. For the bigger kids, the floor is easily removed and they can drive around all by themselves. This is a classic and fun toy.

Playskool Busy Ball Popper

This is a toy that many of you raved about in comments in previous posts. When my in-laws asked what they could get for McKenna for her birthday, I thought this would be a great option! And it was. It was a lot of fun for all of the kids. I, like many of you, would highly recommend this toy. Lots of laughs and squeals of delight have come about because of this toy.

Dimple Digits

This type of toy has become popular in recent years. It is a fidget toy that provides a lot of sensory play and develops fine motor skills. These toys are typically rated for around 2 and up, but I see many babies between 1-2 play with them.

Interactive Books

Interactive books are a lot of fun for toddlers and are especially nice when you need your toddler to play alone–like independent play, table time, or in the car. There are several options out there. We really like this one from LeapFrog with 100 different words.

Books

Last but not least, books. Continue to read books to your child in this age range of course. You might find him sitting and “reading” a pile of books one day. A fun book category to introduce if your toddler can handle it is the Books with Flaps. These are peek-a-boo flaps with things hidden under the flaps. Some toddlers might bend or rip flaps, but most should be okay while reading with mom or dad.

If you need some book ideas, I have a lot of lists for all ages, including seasonal and holiday books. Here are a couple for this age group:

Best Toys Series

Find the best toys for your child's age or for a specific occasion or location.

Conclusion

This list will give you a lot of ideas for Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, or just toys to add to the collection you have already. There are so many options out there, and this list gives you the best toys for 12-18 month olds so you can focus in on great toys that stand the test of time.

Related Posts

Best toys for 12-18 month olds

This post originally appeared on this blog February 2009

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5 thoughts on “Best Toys for PreToddler: 12-18 Months”

  1. Thanks so much for this post! My son will be turning a year old soon and I’ve been trying to decide what to get him. There are a lot of great ideas here!

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