Last Updated: February 28, 2022
Age two is full of wonder and enthusiasm. The best open ended toys for 2 year olds will help them discover the world around them – to help, explore, and to use their creativity and imagination. We want to give them toys that help with these new stages of life, but also that they’ll still want to play with in a year or two! So here are the most popular open ended toys we loved from about 24-36 months – that we still love years later.
What are Open-Ended Toys? Open ended simply means that it has more than one use – that is open to interpretation. And while kids are great at reinventing toys and making almost anything into an open-ended toy, some toys are just more multifunctional than others. That said, “closed” ended toys are not bad! A puzzle is a good example of a “closed” ended toy. And it’s great for building spacial skills and problem solving. But you do need to get progressively more challenging new puzzles as time goes on – thus they’re not usually an example of open-ended toys that grow with your kids. But still good toys.
And as with my other toys lists – the toys listed are here are typically when they might enjoy using them most and beyond. For example, you’ll find Magna-Tiles on my three year old list. Can two year olds enjoy magnetic tiles? Of course, but we found age three to be much higher interest, while some of the items below are more exciting starting at age two.
15 Best Open Ended Toys for 2 Year Olds
What do two year olds play with? Here are some of our favorite open-ended toys that teach two year olds creativity, imagination, and independence. Toys that will grow with them over the coming years and not just be relegated to a giveaway pile in 6 months!
1. Wooden Blocks
Whether you get a basic wooden unit block set or a colorful wooden Grimms set, wooden building blocks are exciting for two year olds. As a recently turned two, our kiddo was even delighted with the wooden box that the blocks came in and would build ramps and tunnels and play “construction” within the constraints of the box – moving things in and out and around. Then as the year progressed, he moved more toward large scale building with the wooden blocks. Wooden blocks are great for open-ended play and child-led interest items (cars, animals etc) can help them be interested in the blocks.
And a note on the Grimm’s Wooden blocks, these blocks are beautiful and well made. Yes, they’re worth it if you are going to use and love them. However, if it’s not in your budget or you’re unsure if your child will use them enough, a set like the Melissa and Doug wooden unit blocks are awesome. We have and love them, and have used Grimm’s blocks at friends and preschool. I don’t regret skipping them for our home!
2. Train Set
While a one year old can enjoy a basic train set, around age two they really start to get excited about the building aspect of trains. Finally they can connect the tracks together and create a town, stations, and even stretch track through the house from one room into another room. IKEA, BRIO, and Melissa & Doug all make great train sets. The IKEA are the most affordable and have great design. You can also buy a 50 piece rail track set for $20 when they get to the phase of “I need more track!!”
Age two Duplo play progresses from the basic “number train” etc to some actual building and creative play. This is when it’s fun to get some larger sets to add to your existing basic Duplo if you already had some. Most kids will play with Duplos from 2 to 6, and even after they move on to real LEGOs, they often come back to Duplos as more of a larger building brick for a couple more years. Especially if you have more than one kid in your house.
4. Play Kitchen or a Mud Kitchen
Two is a great age to introduce a play kitchen. Don’t want to deal with mess and clutter in your house and have space outside? Check out my mud kitchen DIY. Two year olds are such enthusiastic helpers. You’ll hear a lot of “I do it myself”, so a play kitchen is a great way for them to practice independent helping, problem solving and pretend play. One of the things I love about two year olds is their free spirits. They’re not yet concerned what others think and are just unabashed enthused on life. As they start to get into pretend play, this really shines and is just the sweetest and funniest thing. Pretend food for play – like cuttable veggies or the IKEA soft fruits/veggies sets are also fun at this age, along with other play kitchen and mud kitchen accessories.
5. Dramatic Play & Costumes
The two year old year is when pretend play starts to take off. And depending on the kid, it might be sooner or later! For their simple beginnings of pretend play, they might use almost anything as their “costume” or dress up. Some crowd pleasers for most two year olds is things that they know – like professions such as fire fighter, doctor, mail carrier etc.
6. Doll House or Play Tree House
The two year old range is a great time to get kids interested in make believe pretend play. So follow your child and family interests. This could be a barn (like from my one year old open-ended play list), a doll house (IKEA has a great simple one), a treehouse (Schleich makes a really cool future-proof one), a school or classroom etc.
7. Wagon or Shopping Trolley
Around two, toddlers are still excited about taking things from place to place. And while an item like a wheelbarrow might still be a bit too advanced of skills, a wagon, shopping trolley, cart or outdoor “lawn mower” or garden cart are all things that will get a lot of use. So pick one and watch your toddler explore!
8. Play Dough
While younger than twos can play with PlayDoh, two is the perfect age for many kids that play dough is super exciting and you don’t have to constantly tell them not to eat it. Around 26 months, our little one would wake up in the morning and run into the room shouting “let’s DOOOO Playdoh!” For a few months, he lived, breathed all things play dough. This is a great time to get a playdoh set like the fun factory type ones, where they have tools and things to keep occupied for a long period of time.
9. Easel & Art Supplies
The two year old age range of art is so fun. They’re finally able to start creating more and have a [slightly] longer attention span than the prior year. So an easel is a fun way to upgrade their art experience. IKEA has an affordable and sturdy easel. If you’re looking for a super sturdy one the Melissa and Doug one is great.
An easel is a wonderful open-ended toy for two year olds. They can stand, sit, use paper, paint, dry erase, use it as a fort with a blanket. While art supplies are great open ended “toys” for any age, around two they can have a lot of independence and it’s a great spot for their free spirits to create! Our favorite items for easel play: a large roll of paper, clips for holding things in place, washable paint, colored pencils and crayons.
Yes, vehicles make it on pretty much every age range of my open-ended toys by age post. But two year old play is at a bit different stage than one. Around two, they start enjoying a bit more advanced vehicle play. Which means they can start to understand playing with a Hot Wheels track builder toy like the multiloop box etc. Note: they’re still going to need help with something like this so go basic and play together.
They will also love transporting vehicles, like car carriers and ferry boats. And construction trucks are also great for open ended indoor and outdoor play at two. Take them to the beach, sand box, or use with rice, sand or other indoor sensory play.
11. Toy Car Garage
As toddlers get excited about more advanced vehicle play, a car garage type toy can be really fun for pretend play, learning, and even problem solving. There are so many options here! Two great and very different options are a simple garage like the ones offered by Melissa and Doug. It’s small and not going to take up their entire room or play space, but still offers the needed elements -ramp, garage spots, parking spaces etc. The other is a different approach of nesting stackable boxes. They can be used for stacking tall towers, many little garages, or even using the vehicles for different play.
12. Play Tools Set or Workbench
Another Melissa & Doug gem, and of course you can find these from many different brands. Our kiddo was really excited about building around 2 years old. He started hammering on things with his ball ramp hammer (this one is on our one year old open ended toys list). So we got this simple Melissa and Doug wooden tool kit. It comes with a tool box, wooden tools, “screws” and “nails” to assemble together. Great for fine motor skills of using their fingers to grasp and turn as they thread the squares on the screws too. A workbench is another great option if you have the space or have more than one child.
13. Real Tools & Helper Items
Around two most kids go through a helper phase. They want to help you with everything! And while they’re not actually that great at doing a lot of things it’s really important for them to have some autonomy, learn and feel like they’re contributing. Because around three that helper phase often goes away for a bit! The good news is when the second helper phase kicks in around late three or early four, they actually have the skills to be surprisingly useful! So at two, find ways for your little one to help in low risk ways. Things like brooms, rakes, buckets, garden tools, duster, spray bottle etc. We shortened the handle on our Bona dust mop instead of getting a kids cleaning set, and then most of the helper items we bought were for outdoors: kids rake, garden tools, watering can etc.
14. Fine Motor Skills Tool Set or Koala Crate
Two year olds get pretty excited about water play and color mixing. These fine motor tools are a great variety of options for water play, or other sensory type play. Tweezing, cutting motion of scissors, squeeze dropper, and scooping. Koala Crates also have some great open-ended play items and activities included each month. You can buy individual kits or sign up for a subscription monthly box. These are a great way to sample some activities around different themes and create with your child. Here’s my review of some of our favorite Koala Crate boxes.
15. Wooden Letter or Number Puzzles
Most toddlers don’t know all the letters in the alphabet by sight, but having a letter puzzle around is great for exposure. We got a set that included lowercase and uppercase and with all the bright colors its been used for all kinds of open-ended play – from color sorting to stacking and a little bit of letter recognition as the year goes on (starting with their own name is exciting at this age) and actual puzzle assembling. And later for sound making for letters, and more letter recognition and matching. Amazon $22
Best Open Ended Toys for 2 year olds
In summary, here are our favorite toys for the two year old toddler stage.
- Wooden blocks
- Train set
- Play kitchen or mud kitchen
- Dramatic play kits – dress up, costumes etc.
- Doll house or play tree house
- Wagon or shopping trolley
- Play dough
- Easel & art supplies
- Toy car garage
- Play tool set
- Real tools – broom, rake, bucket, garden tools, duster, spray bottles etc.
- Fine motor tools set
- Alphabet or number puzzles
Happy shopping and I hope this has given you a few new ideas for toys that will grow with your two year old for open-ended play and fun!