Encouraging imaginative play doesn’t have to be expensive. Ditch the electronics and get creative with these 10 best toddler toys under $20.
When it comes to buying toys for our toddlers- G. is almost 5 and B. just turned 3- we try to buy toys they can both enjoy. We look for options that encourage them to create and imagine. While there are plenty of expensive toys out there to invest in, we’ve found that all our favorites are each less than $20, and some can even be made at home for just a few bucks.
1. sort and snap color match
We bought this activity as a birthday gift for one of the kids a couple years ago. I don’t remember which kid because, within a month, we bought a second one for the other child. I love that this toy practices fine motor skills while encouraging creativity.
2. homemade kool-aid playdough
Speaking of encouraging creativity, I love watching G. and B. play with this homemade playdough. We talk about the scent and the color and the texture, and then I watch them make pancakes and trains and caterpillars. This recipe is easy to make and can be colored to suit any holiday or preference. (Playdough is a great way to practice shapes and letters with fun cookie cutters)
3. floor puzzles
Our kids love to do puzzles, but sometimes sitting still at the kitchen table isn’t realistic. For times like this, we love to keep them active yet engaged with floor puzzles. We especially love this fire truck and these zoo animals.
4. plastic building blocks
There’s something special about watching your children play with a toy that you enjoyed endlessly during your own childhood. I spend many hours building castles and cities, and now my kids love to do the same thing (although they’re partial to making pirate ships).
5. triangle crayons
B. loves to color way more than G. does, but they both enjoy sitting down and drawing pictures to send to Oregon relatives. They especially love drawing when they get to use their triangle crayons. They love that their crayons come in cases they picked out- B. has the princess and G. has the truck– and I love that the triangle-shape means no rolling and better grip practice.
6. pool noodle busy bag
I love toys for my kids that offer a guided activity as well as the opportunity for free play. With this homemade pool noodle busy bag, the kids usually spend a few minutes stringing the circles onto the rope, and then they spend much longer building towers and arranging patterns.
7. dress up
Years ago, I worked at the preschool on my college campus. Each week, we’d change out the armoire full of dress up clothes, switching out firefighters and football players for pilots and prairie women. Now, it warms my heart watching B. don her fairy wings and her tutu and her pink cowgirl hat.
8. tool set
G. and B. are really into toys that mimic what their parents do. Even though J. and I don’t go around wielding hammers and wrenches on a daily basis, the kids still love to play with this tool set. They make up all kinds of scenarios and repair everything from the kitchen chairs to made up spaceships. I love to watch them work together.
This activity is another throwback to my college days of teaching preschool. Actually, I remember having a Disney-themed set of these myself when I was little. In addition to honing fine motor skills, these lacing cards can keep the kids occupied all through dinner prep. Bonus: the strings make great lassos.
Okay, I know these aren’t technically toys, but if you only knew how many hours B. has spent playing with them. She found them in a cupboard when she was just starting to toddle around and get into stuff and pretty much claimed them as her own. She loves to stack them, sort them, wear them, line them up, and use them as bowls for her dolls. I never got the chance to use them as cupcake liners, but we definitely got our money’s worth.
What are your favorite children’s toys?
Interested in more favorites? A few of my best blogging friends are sharing their favorite kids’ toys as well. You’re definitely going to want to check them out:
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