Young children do not really need any fancy toys. All they really want is to learn and explore with anything they can get their hands on. My 2.5-year-old daughter loves to do whatever I am doing (sewing on the machine, using kitchen tools, sweeping, typing on the computer…). She would happily follow me around and help me all day if I let her. She does, however, have a few favorite toys that she enjoys and that keep her busy.
My daughter has a tea set with 4 place settings that we bought at a thrift shop for $3. Something similar to this. She uses this all the time! She loves to pretend to have tea, cook and serve people, and pour real water back and forth (especially when I’m not looking). Hours and hours of play for $3. Even though tea sets are typically geared towards girls, I bet little boys would also enjoy using them too.
Art Supplies (stickers/crayons/scissors)
Another “toy” that gets a lot of mileage at our house is art supplies (and anything that falls under this category). I keep a ream of 8 ½ x 11 paper where she can easily access it. Near this, she has a crayon and colored pencil set and some stickers and her toddler scissors. She can color and cut to her heart’s content. My only rule is that she has to cut in a certain spot on the wood floor so that I can easily sweep up. One day she started cutting paper on my bed so I needed to give her a gentle reminder. Art supplies are easy, simple, and great for creative play and imagination. (I found cheap art supplies at Fred Meyer about 4 weeks after school started.) She loves to draw pictures, maps, write letters. The possibilities are endless.
Her next favorite toy is a 50 piece block set. Our simple 1.5″ block set (we have this one from SmilingTreeToys on Etsy) has provided hours and hours of fun. I love that they’re made from natural wood in a simple square block design. She builds houses, towers, tunnels, homes… You can find inexpensive blocks at thrift shops and garage sales.
Dolls & Clothes
In addition to all of the above, we have a small variety of dolls (Barbies, Cabbage Patch dolls, small baby dolls) that she loves to feed, baby, dress up and roll around in her little shopping cart. In fact, I think we have too many. Boys can also play with dolls. Good practice if he will be an older sibling.
I have found that toddlers are easily entertained and often enjoy the simplest of toys. Finally, on the days when your child finds all her toys boring check out my post on simple rainy day activities to keep her engaged.