35 of the best toys for pretoddlers. Great educational and fun toys and gift ideas for your 12-18-month-old little toddler.
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
- Old Favorites
- Nesting and Stacking Toys
- Wooden Puzzles
- Shape Sorters
- Dumping Toys
- Palm Grip Crayons
- Pop-up Toys
- Pull Toys
- Push Toys
- Manhattan Toy Baby Stella
- Ride-on Toys
- Fisher-Price Musical Dino
- Musical Toys
- Climbing Toys
- Activity Playset
- Trucks/Toys/Tractors, etc.
- Toys to Mimic
- Sandbox Toys
- Water Table
- Bath Toys
- Bike Rides
- Infant Backpack
- Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Car
- Playskool Busy Ball Popper
- Dimple Digits
- Interactive Books
- Fisher-Price Laugh Learn Puppy
- Related Posts
- Best Toys Series
- Best Toys for Baby: Ages 0-3 Months
- Best Toys for Baby: Ages 4-6 Months
- Best Toys for Baby: Ages 7-9 Months
- Best Toys for Baby: Ages 10-12 Months
- Best Toys for Toddler: 18-24 Months
- Very Best Toys for Toddlers: 2 and Up
- Best Toys for Toddler...2.5 and Up
- Best Toys For Preschoolers age 3 and Up
- Outdoor Toys Children Will Love
- The Very Best Bath Toys for Babies and Kids
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.
This list contains the best gifts for 1-year-olds and will serve you well through the pretoddler and toddler months. You want toys that are durable and will last not only through this child, but your future toddlers as well.
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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 play set. See Best Toys for Baby for all of my lists up to this age.
Nesting and Stacking Toys
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 and develop hand-eye coordination.
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.
Peg puzzles are great for these younger toddlers. I love the large knob puzzles Melissa and Doug have. They are easier to grip for little hands.
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.
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
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.
Pull Toys are another category good for gross motor development. It is also good for imaginative play.
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. A walker is another good toy for this. Others are toys to mimic, like lawn mowers, shopping carts, and doll strollers. More on mimic toys below.
Manhattan Toy Baby Stella
The Baby Stela Doll 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). Baby dolls are great for kids, and this is a doll you can stick with.
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. Tricycles are a classic toddler toy, but most 12-18 year olds will not be able to ride these independently. Look for ride on toys that your toddler can just scoot along on.
Radio Flyer is always a brand that is durable. This ride on toy converts to a scooter, so you get more bang for your buck since it is great for one-year-olds all the way to 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds.
Fisher-Price Musical Dino
This was a favorite with Brinley at this age. This is very similar to the Playskool Busy Ball Popper but it is easier for a younger child to use on her own. Brinley couldn’t do the popper alone, but she could do the dinosaur alone. She loved it!
Music engages all areas of the brain and helps children develop intellectually, socially, and in motor skills. There are a lot of fun musical toys for tots. A great one is the VTech Zoo Jamz Piano.
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.
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.
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. Playing with toys that mimic life help develop problem-solving skills.
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.
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.
This has been a big favorite for Brinley at this age. We hadn’t ever owned one of these, and you readers told me she would love one and you were right! We went with a Step2 water table. This would be a top must own toy for me.
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. Bath time does not just need to be a “task” in the day. It can be a great sensory play time. See this post for my favorite bath toys: Best Toys for Baby: Bath Toys
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.
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. If you need equipment for walks, make sure you get it! A stroller (or buggy) is great. A wagon can be a great option, too
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. Some young toddlers might be ready for a balance bike, but most probably won’t until 12-18 months old. This 4-wheel balance bike is a good option for pretoddlers.
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 :). The Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Car 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
The Playskool Busy Ball Popper 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.
This type of toy has become popular in recent years. Dimple Digits 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 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. 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:
Fisher-Price Laugh Learn Puppy
You might already have this one, but if not, the Laugh and Learn Puppy is a great toy for teaching words and is also a fun musical toy. It is also a cute stuffed animal. This toy also teaches cause and effect as your kiddo presses a button and something happens.
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. If you know someone with a first birthday coming up, any toy on this list will be great!
- Best Toys for Baby: Ages 10-12 Months
- The Best Toys for 18 Month Olds
- Best Toys for Toddler: 18-24 Months
This post originally appeared on this blog February 2009