Top Gift Picks for Toddlers
Active Learners
Tags: toddlers, active play, making things happen, wheeled toys
Posted: 2011-10-04 12:10:45 By: by Joanne Oppenheim

 

If you want your gift to appeal, look for toys that are not too noisy, but reward kids with a clear sense of cause and effect. Such toys give children a sense of empowerment. They allow kids to actively play rather than simply watch. Don't worry about repetition. Toddlers learn to know what they can expect when they repeat the same action. In a world where so much is new, they like predictable toys and books, too, that they can enjoy again and again.

 

 


2011 Award
Step 2 Push Around Taxi
(Step 2 $49.99 Score: )

Our tester took this to a NYC park for a spin...and it was a huge hit with everyone on the playground. The Taxi is the latest in Step 2's Push Along line that allows your child to enjoy a ride (while their feet are off the ground). Our latest toddler tester loves her drink holder. Our parent testers appreciate the seat belt for younger toddlers and the sturdiness of the design. A great way to get your toddler from point A to point B before they're ready to cycle themselves there.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 
2011 Awards
Guidecraft Shape and Color Sorter
(Guidecraft $25 Score: )

Nine chunky wooden shaped fit into the wood frame that is finished in a natural wood finish. Made of eco-friendly rubberwood the pieces are stained with safer aniline dyes. These simple basic shapes are good for knowing and naming and for developing the eye hand and fine motor dexterity for putting them back into the matching spaces on the board. Since the pieces are raised they are easier to lift up and place back into the puzzle board. This comes with a small activity booklet with good ideas for introducing the colors and concepts.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Educo Butterfly Garden Push Toy
(HaPe $24 Score: )

Scaled just right for beginning walkers, this jolly push toy has a big multi-colored flower that turns and three butterflies that twirl above as it is pushed forward. The flower sits on bright green wheels and has a green handle. Holding something in their hand as they walk seems to help some beginning walkers with their balance. It's a way of holding on while letting go. This is not a weighted toy to hold them up. They need to be able to walk without it, but it is a fun toy to match their new-found walking abilities. 


The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Kidoozie Little Roadster Steering Wheel
(International Playthings $28 Score: )

We had a toddler visitor who would not let go of this interactive steering wheel. He went all the way home to France with it and his mom reports it is still his favorite! We know steering wheel toys have always been a hit with toddlers. But this one is going to get more mileage than most. It's a big blue wheel with a broad green base that keeps it stabile on the table or floor. But that is just the practical part. This electronic steering wheel has icons on the buttons that kids may begin to "read" when they want to toot the horn, call for and emergency truck, or "listen" to the radio. As they steer side to side the blinker arrows light up.

It has a shift button; shift into Drive to activate the screen as they steer. Put it in Reverse and hear the back up signal sound. There is a turn on button that starts the engine and brake sounds when the car is put in Neutral. All those special effects are sure to be used hit and miss at first, but more purposefully as they get to find their way around on imaginary trips. Marked 12 months and up. We think slightly older kids will find many ways to use this for their pretend play.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Eric Carle The Very Hungry Caterpillar Rocker
(Kids Preferred $125 Score: )

What toddler wouldn't love to have this great big beautiful 25-inch fabric Very Hungry Caterpillar rocker of his or her very own? Straight out of the picture book by the same name, this wonderful ride-on has fabric segments that are softly padded for comfortable sitting and each segment is covered with fabric that is designed to look just like Eric Carle's artwork. The face with it's big eyes, and feelers make it look like the caterpillar stepped out of the pages that have pleased toddlers for several generations. Be sure to bring home the book if you do not have it already. It is a classic! This is low to the ground and designed for toddlers and small preschoolers from 2 & up.  The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 
2011 Awards
CitiBlocs Little Builders Rattle Blocks
(Citiblocs $35 Score: )

22 wooden blocks with rattle sounds inside, colorful rooftops, and staircases are designed for beginning builders. These are chunkier than the classic Citiblocs. These smoothly finished blocks play to sensory feedback for little hands and ears. Stack them up high or line them up sideways. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy these. After they have played with the blocks for awhile, kids may like using the colored graphics to match up buildings of one color or set them up in patterns. Younger toddlers will like building them up and knocking them down with a big kaboom! 2 and up. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

SNAP Activities: These blocks are chunkier and somewhat easier to grasp. They are also a bit more literal with premade roof tops and colored strips. They should be enjoyed independently, but you can aslo use them to reinfoce color words and sorting skills. Build an all red striped building or talk about the colors of the roof tops. Help build two buildings that are the same height. Talk about building by adding one more and one less. These concepts are basic to math, but they are best learned in concrete ways that build understanding.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 
2011 Awards
LeapFrog Peek-A-Shoe Talking Octopus
(LeapFrog $30 Score: )

Ever thought of playing three card Monty with your baby? Well, that's sort of what the Peek-a-Shoe Talking Octopus does. It comes with four balls that slide down one of two chutes and asks baby to find where the ball has landed. Is it behind the red shoe, the blue shoe, or the green, orange, or yellow shoe? Baby lifts a shoe and the octopus reinforces the color name of the shoe lifted. There is also a  number mode and the shoes are marked with the numerals from 1-5. This is more of a toodler toy in the concept department, however, for kids young enough for this peek-a-boo toy, we'd say the cause and effect action will be rewarding.  Number recognition and color words are not top priority for the sitting-up baby who will chiefly like the repetition and peek-a-boo fun. With time, the simple color and counting concepts will interest toddlers as they grow into the next level. 9-36 months.

SNAP: A useful toy for reinforcing color names and numerals. There is no real counting involved here, but you can do that with this little game: Tell your child no peeking. Now, put a treat such as a cracker or small pretzel under the shoe with a three on it. Say to the child: Listen. I will clap to tell you where the treat is. Now you clap three times. Does the child lift shoe 3? Make a fuss if the child opens the 3 shoe and gets the treat. If need be, repeat the clapping and have the child count out loud as you do so.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2010 Award
Step 2 Little Helper's Shopping Cart
(Step 2 $29.99 Score: )

A gender free red, white, and blue shopping cart. Scaled perfectly for toddlers and preschoolers. This is a favorite piece of equipment for pretend play. It can hold a doll, bear or other soft toy in the usual up front place. It has an open basket that is easy to load as well as a lower shelf for big items. The top basket has no openings for small items to fall through. This will be used for deliveries, shopping, and hauling treasures. It's low enough for toddlers to use and rolls smoothly. However it is not weighted, so this is for kids who are steady on their feet. It's not intended as a prop for wobbly beginning walkers. The company also makes this in green and blue, if you do not want the flag colors, though either are gender neutral. Best of all it comes out of the box completely ready to roll! 2 & up.

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The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 


 

 


2010 Award
Radio Flyer Bumper Car
(Radio Flyer $49.99 Score: )

Low to the ground, this is a perfect little first ride-on for kids who are steady on their feet. It's shiny red and looks like a classic red vehicle. There are no pedals to complicate the action. It's foot to the floor fun with a steering wheel loaded with a horn that is sure to please. The bumpers make this furniture-safe. However, the front bumper is loaded with 7 funny sounds that just might startle your toddler. You can turn them off with a switch at the bottom. But let them know about the sounds so that they are not surprised while they are scooting around. They say 1-3. We say, not many 1-year olds are steady enough on their feet. The wheels on this are small castors that turn pretty easily.  We think this is a much better choice for 18-20 months. A great choice for two's.
The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 
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