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13 best Christmas gifts and toys for two-year-olds in 2023

Rambunctious two-year-olds will learn (and have fun) with these best gifts, toys and games for Christmas or their second birthday

Sarah Young
Thursday 14 December 2023 19:30 GMT
Encourage pretend play and boost your little one’s skills with these toys and gifts
Encourage pretend play and boost your little one’s skills with these toys and gifts (The Independent)
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Two-year-olds are little sponges. Boisterous, curious and imaginative, they soak up everything they can about the world around them.

At this age, children are developing their emotional, social, problem-solving, and fine and gross motor skills at a rapid pace. They also tend to have an ever-growing level of independence and are just starting to develop their own little personality, meaning they know what they like and dislike – and, let’s face it, they aren’t shy when it comes to communicating their feelings either.

If you’re on the hunt for a tantrum-free gift for a toddler, the good news is that all this development means there’s plenty of choice out there. Children around this age love to learn and try new things, but they’re also big on fun and silly play, so a carefully chosen gift that can combine both these elements is sure to be a hit – and buy the parents at least 15 minutes’ peace.

Roleplaying toys, such as kitchens, dolls and vehicles are great for encouraging pretend play and even promoting nurturing and caring skills, while wooden blocks and puzzles will boost their ability to problem solve. It also helps to think about how a toy might spark conversation and teach the child new words or experiences.

Scroll down for the best Christmas gifts and toys for two-year-olds, with prices ranging from £5 to over £300.

How we tested

With the help of our eager two-year-old tester, we tried out each gift over the course of a month, assessing them against a series of criteria, including quality, educational benefits and how suitable the toy was for independent play. They had to be fun too, of course, so we paid special attention to how much each gift lit up our toddler’s eyes.

We included gifts at a range of price points to find the best for all budgets, as well as options to please both boys and girls. Bonus points were awarded for long-term appeal and holding our little one’s attention long enough that we could enjoy a hot drink in peace.

Our toddler tester put these gifts through their paces
Our toddler tester put these gifts through their paces (Sarah Young)

The best gifts for two-year-olds in 2023 are:

  • Best overall – Fisher-Price little people play house playset: £33.99, Very.co.uk
  • Best budget gift – Play-Doh rainbow starter 8-pack assortment: £5, Smythstoys.com
  • Best roleplay toy – Tender Leaf kitchen range: £205, Sorenshouse.co.uk
  • Best cuddly toy – Jellycat Cooper doodle dog: £28, Jellycat.com
  • Best clothing gift – Roy’s Boys Hey Duggee dressing gown: £25, Roys-boys.com

Fisher-Price little people play house playset

Fischer-Price Little People Play House.jpg
  • Best: Overall
  • Recommended age: 12 months+
  • Requirements: 3 x AA batteries (included)

Hand your toddler the keys to their very own electronic home with this interactive play house that’s sure to be loved by both boys and girls. Filled with exciting features, it comes with two figurines that are the perfect size for tiny hands to hold as they guide them through each of the four rooms of the house, as well as the outdoor patio, which comes with a swimming pool and tree swing, naturally.

We loved how many opportunities there were for storytelling, while our toddler tester couldn’t get enough of the activation points (including a light-up radio, kitchen tablet and a toilet), which play songs, sounds and phrases that help little ones learn the alphabet, counting and opposites.

You’ll be surprised just how long your toddler will play with this in one sitting, and it’s also great for collaborative play, as children can work together to make up scenarios.

  1. £33 from Very.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Play-Doh rainbow starter 8-pack

The Play-Doh Rainbow Starter 8-Pack Assortment.jpg
  • Best: Budget buy
  • Recommended age: 2+
  • Requirements: Ready for use

A real classic gift, Play-Doh is great for so many reasons. Not only is it a brilliant sensory toy that inspires your little one’s imagination, but it can also be a soothing activity that helps boost communication, independent thinking and build strength in little fingers.

While lots of Play-Doh sets are recommended for ages three and up because they come with smaller parts, starter packs like this one are ideal for two-year-olds.

With eight pots included, we loved the selection of bright colours, and our tester got stuck straight in by squishing, smashing and rolling the dough. The perfect rainy-day activity, we found exploring with Play-Doh also provided a great opportunity to encourage learning about colours and shapes, and it has quickly become a go-to for playtime in our household.

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Tonies Toniebox

Toniebox.jpg
  • Best: Screen-free fun
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Requirements: Wifi

For a gift that will be used on repeat and for many years to come, the Toniebox is a standout choice. A child-friendly audio player that helps bring music and stories to life, all you need to do is swap out the Tonie character that sits on top – of which there are more than 100 to choose from – and a different tale will be read to your two-year-old.

Each Toniebox comes with a creative-Tonie that’s preloaded with 60 minutes of songs and music, and there’s the option of recording your own content onto it, too.

Despite being recommended for ages three and up, our tester was immediately fascinated by the player and loved taking control of the action. They were able to change the characters with ease, and although they aren’t quite at the stage of sitting still long enough to listen to a whole story, we were really impressed at how long it captivated their attention for.

The player itself is soft and padded, meaning it’s durable against even the rowdiest of toddlers, and it comes in a choice of colours, including red, blue, green, pink, purple and grey.

We loved that there’s so much choice when it comes to choosing what to listen to, from lullaby and nature sounds that help little ones fall asleep to their favourite TV and literary characters, such as Paddington, Peppa Pig, Bing Bunny and The Gruffalo.

  1. £79 from Tonies.com
Prices may vary
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Orchard Toys first farm friends jigsaw puzzle

Orchard Toys first farm friends jigsaw.jpg
  • Best: Jigsaw puzzle
  • Recommended age: 2+
  • Requirements: Ready for use

Boost your toddler’s hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills with this educational puzzle. A great introduction to jigsaws, the set includes two friendly farm animals – a pig and a cow – that need piecing together. There are 12 pieces to each puzzle, all of which are chunky and large enough for small hands to easily grasp. Plus, we loved that they’re wipe-clean, so it’s not a problem if there are snacks on the go at the same time.

Our tester loved the bright and fun images of each puzzle, and we found that putting the pieces together helped them learn all about pattern recognition, colours and animals. While they struggled to complete it independently, our toddler felt a real sense of achievement once they saw the finished article.

  1. £9 from Johnlewis.com
Prices may vary
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Tender Leaf kitchen range

Tender Leaf kitchen range.jpg
  • Best: For roleplay
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Requirements: Self assembly

Cook up some fun with this adorable wooden kitchen set, which will allow your little one to whip up all sorts of imaginary treats for their family and favourite cuddly toys.

A play kitchen is a brilliant way to encourage young children to practise what they observe in everyday life. It can help improve everything from communication and storytelling to social skills and imagination – perhaps they’ll be a Michelin star chef, work in a café or host a dinner party. Whatever scenario they choose to act out, this kitchen has everything they’ll need, including an oven, a set of four cooker hobs, a microwave and a bunch of accessories, such as a sink, plates and cooking utensils. It even comes with a rack of herbs and a two-part fish dish with all the trimmings. This got top marks from our tester who got stuck into roleplay straight away, placing the fish in the tray and putting it in the oven, and we loved it just as much.

This is a stylish and colourful toy that we don’t mind being on display, and because it’s also very durable, we predict it will last many years and could be passed down to future siblings.

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Roy’s Boys Hey Duggee dressing gown

Hey Duggee dressing gown.jpg
  • Best: Clothing gift
  • Recommended age: 18 months+
  • Requirements: Ready for use

Most children around this age are fascinated by Hey Duggee, making this snuggly dressing gown a guaranteed hit, especially when it comes to getting out of the tub on a cold day. Ideal for bundling up in, the robe feels incredibly soft against the skin and we love that it comes with a hood, which helps provide maximum warmth.

As well as its bold and colourful design, there are plenty of practical elements to love about this dressing gown, including the belt, which is sewn in for extra protection, and the pockets, which are – let’s face it –essential for stashing toys and snacks.

Bright and fun, our toddler gives any excuse to put this on at all times of the day. So much so, that it has made several appearances at the supermarket. If Hey Duggee isn’t quite their thing, there are plenty of other characters to choose from, including Bluey, plus you can even get pyjamas that can be personalised with your child’s name.

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Minicamp fairy teepee in cognac with tulle

Minicamp fairy teepee in cognac with tulle.jpg
  • Best: Teepee tent
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Requirements: Self assembly

As it turns out, not all play teepees are made equal, and this stylish creation is one of the most luxurious we found – without completely breaking the bank. A beautiful addition for bedrooms and playrooms, it provides a special space for your child to play or enjoy some quiet time.

Whether your little one likes to hide away and get imaginative with a stash of toys, or cosy up with their parents for a book before bed, the tent makes a great little den that got the thumbs up from our tester – and there’s plenty of space for their friends to squeeze in too.

Made from high-quality cotton canvas, the tent is hand-sewn and supported by aspen wood poles that feel sturdy and durable enough to withstand daily use. We loved how the teepee fits seamlessly into our little one’s room and the decorative details that give it a luxe finish, from the fluffy pom poms to the soft, sheer tulle curtain that can be tied back easily.

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Halilit the kids band gift set

Halilit kids band.png
  • Best: Musical instrument

Aside from being lots of fun and bringing plenty of noise into your home, musical toys can help strengthen fine motor skills in little ones and develop their creativity. One of our favourite brands for instruments is Halilit and this particular gift set contains everything your tot will need to make their own music. Inside, you’ll find six instruments including rattles, shakers, jingle bells and even a baby tambourine, all of which comes in nice, bright colours that our tiny tester was instantly drawn to.

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Jellycat Cooper doodle dog

Cooper Doodle Dog.jpg
  • Best: Cuddly toy
  • Recommended age: 12 months+
  • Requirements: Ready for use

If your toddler is obsessed with doggos, it doesn’t get much better than this ruffly, fleecy pup. Measuring 23cm in height, this cute pooch is just the right size for tiny hands to hold tight and snuggle up alongside. An excellent cuddling companion, it has an incredibly soft fur coat that feels gentle against the skin, while its suede-effect paw pads and ears give it a realistic finish.

Impossible not to love, our tester got very attached to Cooper doodle dog quite quickly, wanting to take this toy everywhere they went – be it the dinner table, car or sleeping with it in bed.

  1. £28 from Jellycat.com
Prices may vary
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Munchkin bath beats musical bath toy gift set

Munchkin Bath beats musical bath toy gift set.jpg
  • Best: Bath toy
  • Recommended age: 12 months+
  • Requirements: Ready for use

Take all the stress out of bath time with this musical set that has more than enough fun factor to see you through a cleaning session. Music can have a really positive impact on a toddler’s cognitive development and we loved how this four-piece set kept our tester engaged through creative play so we could wash their hair and grubby hands with little resistance.

Our tester’s favourite toy of the four was the stingray-shaped xylophone, which they happily played solo for almost the entirety of bath time. You also get two starfish shakers and the “octodrum” – a floating octopus that doubles up as a bath drum and handheld maze.

  1. £21 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Little Tikes princess cozy coupe

Little Tikes Princess Cozy.jpg
  • Best: Ride-on toy
  • Recommended age: 18 months+
  • Requirements: Self assembly

A classic ride-on toy that many parents will recognise from their own childhoods, there’s a reason that cozy coupe cars continue to be a mainstay among toddlers 44 years since they first launched.

Well known for its durability and hard-wearing performance, the cozy coupe was an instant hit with our tester, who hopped straight in for a quick spin around the block (aka the living room). Complete with a honking horn, clicking ignition and fuel cap, there’s so much to explore, and it really helped boost our toddler’s motor skills as they found great joy in climbing in and out for the doors.

As parents, we really liked the rear seat handle that makes push-along mode a breeze, as well as the removable floorboard that protects the child’s feet if they aren’t powering it themselves. It also comes in a range of colours and looks, including the classic red and yellow, princess, dinosaur, police and fairy versions.

Excellent value, our toddler has played with this almost every single day since, and we predict it will continue to be a hit for a good few years yet.

  1. £70 from Argos.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Stokke mutable play table – essential bundle

Stokke MuTable Play Table V2.jpg
  • Best: For longevity
  • Recommended age: 18 months+
  • Requirements: Self assembly

Transform your child’s play space with this multifunctional table from Scandinavian brand Stokke. An innovative and modular system, this is no ordinary table – which, granted, you’d expect for the price – as it adapts to both the physical and mental development of your child as they get older. Just like Stokke’s famous tripp trapp highchair, the table is designed to grow with your little one, as it comes with special leg extensions enabling it to work just as well from 18 months up to eight years and beyond.

Packed with endless possibilities, the mutable transforms with the help of removable activity boards that sit in the centre. In this bundle you get a wooden cover and black board, as well as a landscape board complete with a car track, and a bricks board, which can be used with most well-known toy bricks. But there are plenty more add-ons that can be bought separately too.

A great way to keep playtime contained to one area, our energetic tester gladly sat at the table for a decent chunk of time, and now uses it for the majority of their play activities.

  1. £358 from Stokke.com
Prices may vary
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LeapFrog scoop and learn ice cream cart

LeapFrog scoop and learn ice cream cart.jpg
  • Best: Memory skills
  • Recommended age: 2+
  • Requirements: 3 x AA batteries (not included)

This creative toy makes learning a real treat for little ones who will have heaps of fun pretending to run their very own ice cream cart. Complete with 20 playing pieces, the cart provides hours of open-ended play, as there are so many ways your child can interact with it – such as using the magic ice cream scoop to pick up different flavours of ice cream on the cones, which helps them learn all about colours and numbers.

There are also activity cards that can be placed into a slot where characters will tell your child their order, which they must then prepare, helping to develop counting, matching, memory and stacking skills. When the order is ready, they’ll love chiming the bell and paying at the till, which gives this set a fun roleplay element.

Plus, the cart can actually be pushed around, so kids can play and move at the same time or take it into the garden for some outdoor fun.

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Smoby garden play house

Smoby garden play house.jpg
  • Best: Splurge present
  • Recommended age: 2+
  • Requirements: Self assembly

Playing outdoors helps to engage all your child’s senses, and this colourful Wendy house is ideal for sensory play come rain or shine. Our little tester was mesmerised as soon as they laid eyes on it and, we must admit, we had lots of fun joining in too.

A great choice for budding gardeners, those who like to play pretend or make messy mud pies, the house is full of fun and exciting features that will spark your toddler’s imagination, including a real planter, a trellis with flower pots, a bird feeder and a water butt. There’s even a mobile work table and plenty of accessories, including a shovel, rake and a slate with chalk to take note of plantings.

While this is certainly an expensive present, we’re sure it will keep your child entertained for hours on end and last for many years to come, particularly as the house has been treated with anti-UV, ensuring good resistance and colour durability over time.

  1. £308 from Very.co.uk
Prices may vary
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The verdict: Gifts for two-year-olds

We believe everything in our round-up would be welcomed with wide eyes by most toddlers, but if we have to pick one ultimate gift it would be the Fisher-Price little people play house. Versatile and genderless, our tester uses it constantly, both alone and on play dates, and it’s affordable, too. If you do have the budget, though, the Toniebox is a great gift that’s not only enriching but also provides years of screen-free enjoyment. We really rate Tender Leaf’s kitchen range too, as it promotes so many skills from independence to communication and, well, it’s just generally lots of fun.

Looking for more gift inspiration? Read our round-up of the best gifts for six-year-olds that parents will love too

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