Holiday Toy Series: Top Toys for Toddlers/Preschool (2-4 years)

Hot Holiday Pick:

LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet (Green)

The LeapPad Explorer is our top holiday pick for preschoolers age 4+. The LeapPad is a highly educational personalized learning tablet that has a library of 100+ games, apps, digital books, video and flash cards. This sturdy tablet also has a built in camera and video recorder so kids can edit and share video and animation. The great news is that the LeapPad also works with Leapster Explorer games. You can't beat this type of fun, interactive learning that reinforces skills and concepts in reading, math, science, geography, art, music, language and more.  The LeapPad Ultra eBook feature builds reading comprehension and expands vocabulary at 3 different levels. Best of all, LeapPad automatically adjusts app levels to match your child's individual pace and progress. It's a wonderful investment that promotes learning and guarantees fun! Available in green or pink.


Top Toys:

These high quality, and creative toys can be found in homes and Preschool classrooms everywhere. You just can't beat entertaining toys with this kind of educational value. Kids can play for hours upon hours with these colorful, engaging toys while supporting important first time educational skills such as eye-hand coordination, imaginative play, problem solving and much more.

Recommended Toys Categories

Games & Puzzles:  Games & puzzles are a fun and challenging way to sharpen children's problem solving and social skills. Learning how to concentrate, analyze and retain information is an important lifelong skill, and what better way to practice than through play. Early education puzzles contain a limited number of large pieces with simple picture designs. "First time" puzzle pieces usually have a small peg handle for easier manipulation.

My First Games Set (Set of 4 Classics) The ideal set of "first" games for non-readers! Set include the 4 following classics: Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, Memory Game & Hi Ho Cherry-O! Young children practice matching, colors, counting skills and more while having fun. Ages 3-7.

ThinkFun Zingo   An award winning reading game! This exciting & educational variation of Bingo features 72 picture tiles which teach simple sight vocabulary and matching skills to pre-readers & readers ages 4-7. An instant favorite! 

Cranium Hullabaloo A high energy game perfect for the preschool age group. Kids listen for commands that make them move, jump and dance on colored shapes and pads. Encourages listening skills, color & shape recognition and lots of giggles & fun! A little hard to find in stores, but well worth the hunt. They'll love it! Ages 4+.

Melissa & Doug Farm Cube Puzzle Challenging 6 puzzles in 1! 3D solid wooden blocks create 6 different farm animals. A great value for ages 3+. See more Melissa & Doug Products at…


Let's Pretend Toys: These types of toys have open-ended possibilities, and are great for group or solo play. The real appeal is that these types of toys grow along with your child's imagination. Popular choices include:

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Puppet Theater It's showtime! This quality wooden puppet theater is incredibly entertaining and boosts performer's self-esteem. Features sturdy construction, non-tip base, roomy backstage, velvet curtains, chalkboard, clock with movable hands and detailed designs. A childhood treasure for years and years of imaginative play. Ages 3+. See more Melissa & Doug Products at…

Melissa & Doug Cutting Food Box A marvelous 31 piece set of quality wooden fruits, vegetables, and bread along with a rounded edge wooden knife and cutting board. Realistic crunching sounds when food is cut. Great for developing hand/eye coordination, learning food categories and even introducing fractions (1/2, 1/4 etc.) A huge hit with children 3+. Guaranteed to be played with over and over again! See more Melissa & Doug Products at…

Melissa & Doug Pizza Party Kids will have hours of imaginative fun with this wooden pizza set! Take orders and mix & match toppings. Set includes 50 toppings, pizza server, pizza cutter and wooden storage box. Ages 3+. Also see Melissa and Doug Slice and Bake Cookie Set. More Melissa & Doug Products at…

Learning Resources Teaching Cash Register  Multiple awards winner! Toddlers LOVE to pretend shop. Talking cash register teaches basic math & money skills for ages 5-9. Includes make believe cash and coin reader. An exciting way to "play store." 

Little Tikes Shopping Cart – Yellow/RedSturdy shopping cart will provide hours of rolling fun. Features a deep basket for groceries, a folding seat for dolls or favorite toy to ride along, and storage underneath. Perfect size for little shoppers. Ages 2+.

Dalmatian Vet Cage Great for pretend play! This adorable vet set includes includes carrying cage, mini puppy, and medical tools like stethoscope, hammer, tweezers, tongs, thermometer bandages and much more! Ages 3+. Also see Learning Resources Pretend & Play® Doctor Set.


Creative Building Toys: Always a big hit with children, these toys can be played with over and over again without creating the same structure twice. Whether children are building, pretending or just experimenting, they are allowed to explore their creative potential, while practicing basic manipulative skills. The endless possibilities of these building sets make for long term play value and big time fun!

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Folding Princess Castle Award winning, gorgeous solid wood Princess castle. Extra large castle folds for storage and is stunning with its pink and gold screened accents. This enchanting castle has turrets, balconies, buttress, flag and a working drawbridge. A perfect choice to delight all the princesses in your life! Quality & Exceptional Value! Ages 3-9.  See more Melissa & Doug Products at…

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Folding Medieval Castle Award winning, sturdy solid wood Medieval castle. Opens fully and folds for storage with detailed Medieval accents. This awesome castle includes 3 poseable play figures and has a working draw bridge, trap door, courtyard, turrets, dungeon, staircases and more! Fantastic toy will inspire hours of imaginative play! Ages 3-9. Also see Melissa&Doug Castle Blocks. More Melissa & Doug Products at…

.LEGO Duplo Ultimate Building Set – 71 Pieces  Colorful tub of building blocks for little fingers 18 months-5 years. Award winning toy provides hours of creative fun! LEGO also has a tremendous selection of building sets to delight children of all ages and interests. See Little Ones Special Feature: The Wonderful World of LEGOs. Also see LEGO Ultimate Building Set  for older children.

LEGO Duplo LEGOVille Feeding Zoo #5634  Extremely popular 53 piece zoo set includes, zookeeper, boy, girl, vehicle, numerous zoo animals and accessories.

LEGO Duplo Thomas Starter Set Super 82 piece Duplo set with movable parts will delight Thomas fans. Includes Thomas, Sir Topham Hat, tracks, station, water tower and more.

Guidecraft 72-pc. Magneatos Construction Set Multiple awards winner! Colorful 72 piece magnetic construction toy promotes creativity and problem solving skills. Various set sizes available. Ages 3+

Quadrilla Marble Railway, Basic Set Award winning 97 piece marble run plus 50 marbles and play tips DVD. Develops spatial relation skills and critical thinking. Endless designs and entertainment for boys and girls ages 4-10!


Electronic & Musical Toys

LP RhythMix 6-pc. Rhythm Kit  Kids love a parade! This award winning 6 piece set of great sounding rhythm instruments will get children moving and shaking! Includes a handled drum, jingle stick, triangle, tone block, two Chick-Itas, two mallets, and a small backpack for storage.

Schoenhut My First Piano II Well built, bright red or white 25-key tabletop piano is the perfect choice for a toddler's first piano. Delightful sounding notes. Great for encouraging musical creativity and hand/eye coordination.  Play-by-color teaching method, makes playing simple and fun. A removable color strip fits behind the keys to guide small fingers. Includes songbook of familiar tunes. Ages 3-6 years.

V.Reader Animated E-Book System Multiple Awards Winner! Not quite ready for an eReader? Bring reading to life with the all new V. Reader. It's a perfect choice for pre-readers and early readers ages 3 to 7 years old. Young children can practice important core reading skills while having fun with this incredible and durable touch screen learning machine. Children see the words and illustrations, hear the story recited, and interact with the story by touching the screen to learn and do more. See Little Ones V. Reader toy review.   (Also see Little Ones Review of Kindle Fire for more information about children's color ebooks for slightly older readers.)

LeapFrog Scribble and Write  Award winner! Little fingers can practice the formation of letters and shapes with this fun learning machine. The child-size stylus along with screen lights make it easy for kids to draw simple pictures, shapes and eventually upper & lower case letters. Amusing learning games reinforce letter formation. A great way to teach writing skills. Ages 3-5.

LeapFrog Text and Learn Award winner! Like a blackberry for kiddies! Practice letter names and sounds while having fun. Exchange text messages with your puppy pal Scout, play educational games, check your agenda, view the browser, dance to music and more. Features 3 learning modes, a qwerty keyboard and the ability for parents to connect online for customized learning ideas. Kids will LOVE this toy! Ages 3-5.

LeapFrog Learning Game System The original and best learning system on the market! Can't say enough about this portable gaming system that combines video games and learning! Kids will LOVE the huge library of interactive games (sold separately) which teach math, reading, phonics, spelling, critical thinking and more. Well-worth the investment. Also available: Leapster L-Max and Leapster2 which are compatible with TV or computer. Ages 4-10.


Active Play Toys:

Pacific Play Tents See Me 6' Tunnel A smash hit!!!! This indoor 6 foot tunnel is non-stop entertainment for ages 3 and up. Made of durable 70 denier nylon and spring steel construction with padding to protect little knees. Contains two mesh windows to peek through. Best of all it collapses flat for easy storage. A great toy for energetic little ones and an outstanding value. Ages 3+.

Pacific Play Tents Playchute 10' ParachuteBright, rainbow colored 10 foot diameter play parachute promotes cooperative group play. Great for parties! Durable and machine washable with separate hand handles for easy control. Comes with convenient storage bag. Loads of active fun!

Playhut Fire Engine Lightweight and portable Pop Up Fire Engine will keep kids entertained for hours. Room enough for two children with 2 sunroofs, side windows, inflatable steering wheel, roll up flap door and tunnel port. Folds flat for convenient storage. Ages 3+.


For additional ideas, we recommend:

Books for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Toys For LIttle Fingers

Electronic Learning Toys and

Children's Educational DVDs & Music CDs.


For more holiday information, please see:

The Little Ones Holiday Gift Giving Guide  and

Little Ones "Twelve Weeks Before Christmas"  Holiday Toy Series: This holiday series is designed to help parents and grandparents make smart choices by featuring outstanding/award winning "toys that teach," accompanied by reviews which highlight and explain the educational benefits and specific skills children receive from these types of toys.


Little Ones "Top 25"

Award Winning/Outstanding Toy Picks

Top 25 Award Winning/Outstanding Toy Picks


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