20 Open Ended Toys and Minimalist Gifts for a Two Year old

Christmas is coming (yikes, as if 2020 wasn’t stressful enough), and if you are like me, you have a 2 year old in your life to shop for. Or maybe you have family members asking what to “get” your kiddos. Toddlers can be difficult to entertain. They have that special toddler spirit that requires a lot from us. Often we don’t know what they want. Often they don’t know what they want. We want to keep them learning, happy, busy and growing those beautiful brains without sticking them in front of the TV all day. Because that usually backfires, doesn’t it?

With 4 sons, we have seen our fair share of toys. Good ones and bad ones. Toys we couldn’t get rid of fast enough and toys that we held onto to this day to pass down to later children or grandchildren. If you are searching for just that right gift for the toddler in your life (we have a 1year old list here), we have compiled a list of our favorites, ideas to help you get just the “essentials” so to speak, with open ended play potential. We want to help you skip over the disposable and limited-interest toys this Christmas or birthday so you can get the most of your money and keep your home clutter free. All of these items are gender neutral so they can be suitable regardless of who you are shopping for. Without further ado, these are our Favorite Open Ended Toys and Minimalist Gift ideas for a Two Year Old.

Play silks – these are probably our favorite “toy” for all age groups. All of my kids play with these things. I wrap the kids Christmas gifts in them each year, they play dress-up and build forts, and do magic tricks. The options are truly endless. We have tried cheaper brands and it just wasn’t the same. I highly recommend Sarah’s for the quality and beauty of the fabric. When they get dirty I hand wash them and hang them to dry.

Sarah’s Silks – Earth Playsilks, 100% Real Silk, Eco-Friendly Dye, 35-Inch Square Silk Play Scarves Set of 4

Sarah’s Silks – Enchanted Playsilk, 100% Real Silk, Eco-Friendly Dye, 35-Inch Square Silk Play Scarf – Rainbow

Duplo – All of my litle kids (ages 2-10) love Duplo blocks. They are great for little hands and my youngest has actually been playing with since around 8 months. He love the animals and we match them up with the animals in his board books and we make animal noises together. Around 18 months was when my son started building and utilizing the blocks the most. They are open ended and while I don’t love plastic, they are easier to build with (for this age group) and less frustrating than some of the pricy wooden blocks that my kids have (like Tegu Blocks that are wonderful but not for toddlers, in my opinion). There are some super complicated and pricy Duplo sets out there, but I think the smaller simple sets are best for young toddlers. It’s less overwhelming and less cleanup. It’s easy as parents to get carried away and want to buy more and more when kids like something a lot. Refrain. It is possible to have too much of a good thing. Especially with young children. The more we have, usually the less it gets played with.

LEGO DUPLO Classic Brick First LEGO Set with Storage Box,18 Months and up

LEGO DUPLO Town Farm Animals 10870 Building Blocks (16 Pieces)

Toy cars – This is a simple wooden toy car set that can be used for so many types of play, my son really enjoys lifting the cars with a magnet.

Melissa & Doug Magnetic Car Loader

Books – any book will do, used book, new books, old books new books. Books are probably the one essential, in my opinion, on this list. Book subscription services are really popular now, so if you have a family member requesting a “Big Gift” for your kid, a year membership can be an excellent suggestion. Your child will receive a gift each month with books specific to their age. These are some of our favorite books for Two Year Olds:

A Quality baby doll – Both boys and girls can appreciate a good baby doll. This one is kind of gender neutral which I really like, plus it is washable:

Manhattan Toy Wee Baby Stella Beige Sleepy Times Scent 12″ Soft Baby Doll Set

Puzzles – Puzzles are great for 2 year olds. They are a great learning tool and can be so much fun. My suggestion is to not go to overboard, have just a few good ones, and keep in the closet. That way you can rotate them and only have one out at a time, or you will have puzzle pieces everywhere. 😛

Shopping cart or buggy – We prefer the ones made from wood but both wood and plastic can often be found at second hand shops. We have the older version of this Hape buggy and it is actually great for babies learning to walk (instead of getting one of those multi-colored plastic walkers covered with bells and whistles) . It can also be used as a stroller for baby dolls, so that really extends the life and versatility of the product.

Award Winning Hape Kid’s Wooden Shopping Cart

Trike a simple trike is a sure fire hit for a 2 year old of any gender. This one is great because they can reach the ground and the pedals wont get in the way.

Hape Scoot Around Ride On Wood Bike | Award Winning Four Wheeled Push Balance Bike for Toddlers with Rubberized Wheels

Water Table – We have had two water tables in the past ten years. The first was a pirate ship that came with so.many.pieces. It was fantastic in shape, and my son could even fit inside (he would climb in quite often and use it as a baby pool) but it was destroyed when a tree fell on our deck. For our replacement, I actually decided to get one of the most basic options, without a bunch of plastic toys accessories and we actually really enjoy it. It gets as much use as the one with all the #stuff, and it’s probably better because its less to clean up and get broken! If it is cold where you live, this might be better saved for non-Christmas gifting. But it can used out of season as a sensory bin, race track, or sand table. Lots of versatility for many years of use.

Little Tikes Frog Pond Water Table

Wobble board – We picked up one of these wobble boards a few years back when really started our less-is-more journey, and man, I would buy it all over again! It’s been a rockstar in our house for the young kids in our house, from when the youngest was around 18 months all the way up to our 10 year old. I’ve even taken it for a spin. It’s a lot of fun.

Kinderfeets Original Wooden Balance Board for Toddlers, Kids, Teens, Adults (Natural)

Pikler Triangle – This thing has maximum potential and are so great for moving and growing bodies. Most of them fold up, so if you are going to have a play gym style toy in your house – this is the one to have. A lot of them are made and shipped from the Ukraine so shop early if ordering from etsy or amazon or try to get one second hand or from a local woodworker if it is in your budget. This is one that if found that is made in the United States. They come with slides as well. If this isn’t in your budget I would suggest a cheap kid slide which are all over marketplace and kid consignment sales!

Pikler Arch Pikler Ramp and Pikler Triangle

Other ideas include:

  • Sand box – You can make one or buy one off facebook marketplace
  • Sensory balls and bouncy balls- Great for younger babies as well.
  • Art supplies – Crayons, washable paints, shower/tub crayons, play dough
  • A new “big kid” water bottle – maybe your kiddo is ready for a reusable water bottle or “big kid cup” like their older sibling. The hydroflask is our favorite for the whole family.
  • Time – Schedule some one on one time with your kid to do what they want to do. Often parents control the activity and create suggestions for play but it’s such a gift to children when we step into their world and play what and how they want to play.
  • The boxes from all your other gifts – sometimes that’s a toddlers favorite gift of all
  • A roll of masking tape.
  • Peg People
  • A Wagon

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