25 Toys I Love (for kids aged 1-4)

There are countless options out there when choosing toys for our toddlers and young children and sometimes you may even feel a bit overwhelmed as to what to purchase. When I shop for toys, I usually follow a basic rule: the less noise and flashing lights, the better. I personally feel that a lot of sounds and lights are a distraction to young minds and decreases their processing speed. That’s not to say that I don’t buy any toys that have sounds or make sounds, because I do, but I’m very careful about which ones I choose. I prefer to choose toys with an educational aspect because I want my kids to learn while also having fun. The following is a list of toys that I have bought throughout the years that not only I love, but my kids love as well.

1.       Chunky puzzles and floor puzzles

I love the Melissa and Doug line of chunky and floor puzzles. Their chunky puzzles are easy to grasp in little hands and the pieces can also be stood up. Their floor puzzles are beautifully illustrated and often incorporate some extra learning via a poster or search and find. I also love Crocodile Creek’s line of floor puzzles. They are not only beautiful to look at, but when finished they are an irregular shape instead of just being the usual rectangular puzzle. Crocodile Creek also has puzzles for all ages and skill levels in many different themes. Putting together puzzles helps build your child’s fine motor skills (those that require small muscles and precision) and logic & reasoning skills (ability to form concepts and solve problems).  

2.       Melissa & Doug Lace and Trace

This toy is recommended for three and up but you can help your child understand the concept a bit earlier than that. The brightly coloured wooden pieces make learning and developing tracing and lacing skills fun. It develops your child’s precision skills and cognitive skills (skills that are critical for thinking). It takes a lot of practice though.

3.       Melissa & Doug Stamps

Stamps are a fun way to build your child’s fine motor skills. They also encourage your child to be creative. The reason I choose Melissa & Doug Stamps is because they come in themed sets and your child (depending on their age) can stamp scenes onto a piece of paper. Another reason to love them is that they are very durable.

4.       I Spy Books

The reason I included a book into a list of toys is because these books are so much fun. You can find board book versions of these popular books at local bookstores and in some Dollar stores as well. When you have toddlers, paper books don’t stay intact very long. These books are written in rhythm and rhyme and encourage your child to find objects in colourful photographs. By playing I SPY, your child will increase his or her visual vocabulary as well as increase their attention and observation skills.

5.       Imaginarium Wooden Activity Cube

This classic toy helps your child build his or her fine motor skills. These skills are essential for success in school. It includes an abacus which you can use to help your child learn to count.

6.       Megabloks Table

Blocks are basic toys that teach your child so many things while building their fine motor skills. The Megabloks Table is a good option for a child that is a year old because it is easy to build on top of. These blocks are also easy for little hands to grasp and put together. I wouldn’t recommend buying wooden blocks because it will hurt if it falls on your child’s toe and I can personally guarantee that it will hurt if you get one thrown at you in the midst of a tantrum.

7.       Melissa & Doug Tool Box

This toy comes with working bolts and nuts. You can actually turn the bolt until it securely fits in the nut, which is an excellent way to develop precision skills and well as logic and reasoning skills. This set also comes with a wooden hammer, screw driver, and wrench. I would be careful with those because if you get hit on the head with a hammer, it will hurt for days (my husband can attest to this).

8.       Melissa & Doug Pattern Boards

This toy is excellent for children 3 and up. It develops fine motor skills, attention and visual processing skills as well logic and reasoning skills. It is difficult to do, and not all children will enjoy it right away. Visual processing, logic, and reasoning skills are essential skills needed to comprehend math concepts so the more your child is exposed to toys like these, the easier it will be for them to grasp basic math concepts once they start school. 

9.       Melissa & Doug Wooden and Felt pretend food
I love the variety of pretend food carried by the Melissa and Doug line. You can find sets of all of the different food groups. Some of the plastic ones I’ve seen include pretend McDonalds and hotdogs. Another downside to most of the plastic ones are that your child will most likely use them as a chew toy. Beware because the plastic does break apart in small parts. I was excited when I saw Melissa and Doug had pretend food made out of felt. Regardless of the material, they are made to be pretty durable. Pretend food encourages your child to learn about food and healthy eating. Pretend food and a toy kitchen will provide your children with hours of imaginative play.


10.   Cabbage Patch Dolls

In speaking with other parents, I have learned that a lot of people today don’t approve of their children playing with dolls. I disagree because I feel that playing with dolls is a great way for children to learn to be kind and nurturing. Dolls are also great for imaginative play. The reason I love Cabbage Patch Dolls is because of the diversity. You can find dolls with all sorts of hair colour, hair type, skin tone, and eye colour combinations. I was even able to find a boy doll with black hair and brown eyes for my son. Yes, I do believe boys should play with dolls too.

11.   Melissa & Doug Wooden Lacing Beads

Lacing beads is a fun way to develop fine motor skills, concentration and attention skills. The Melissa and Doug line carries primary lacing beads which are large and easy to grasp for toddlers and smaller ones for children four and older.

12.   Melissa & Doug Sort and Snap Colour Matching Board

This toy teaches sorting while developing fine motor skills, logic and reasoning skills. Logic and reasoning skills is important


13.   Little Tikes Xylophone

Here is a toy that makes noise in a way that I like! This toy introduces your child to music and it is a fun way for babies and toddlers to learn cause-and-effect. The reason I love this toy is because you can get years of use out of this toy. I bought this when my daughter was 6months old and she and her younger brother still play with it creating their own musical masterpieces. 

14.   Fisher-Price Shape Sorting Blocks

Your child will learn cause-and-effect and develop fine motor skills and logic and reasoning skills, playing with this toy. This toy includes multiple pieces of each shape which means you can teach your child to sort by shape or even colour as he or she grows.

      15.   Melissa & Doug Stacking Vehicles


Stacking toys help your child develop fine motor skills as well as logic and reasoning skills. Your child can even mix and match the pieces if he or she chooses for more creative play.


16.   Melissa & Doug Cube Puzzle

This puzzle is really six puzzles in one. It is a bit challenging than the average 2D puzzle because your child has to turn the pieces to see which one matches the puzzle that he or she is doing. You can either choose a set with 9 pieces or 16 pieces, depending on the age of your child and skill level.


17.   Playgo My First Stacking Cups

These cups not only stack but they also nest as well. They also have Play-doh moulds at the bottom of each cup. The best part is that it is a very affordable.


18.   Fisher-Price Little People Zoo Talkers Playset

I must admit that I have had a bit of an obsession with the Little People line. I bought all the sets and all the separately sold figures. It gets expensive and chances are that your child will not play with all of it. My favourite, and most importantly my children’s favourite is the Little People Zoo Playset. The playset is divided into four habitats. When you place the animal on top of the hut, you will hear the animal name and the sound it makes. Four animals are included and the rest is sold separately.


19.   Play-doh

Playing with Play-doh is an excellent way to develop fine motor skills, encourage creativity and imagination. It is also a great sensory activity (an activity that stimulates the senses – in this case the sense of touch).  Although Playdoh is not toxic it does have an unpleasant smell. You may prefer to make your own. I have tried this and the texture is not the same and you can’t keep it for too long either.


20.   Imaginarium role play costumes
Putting on and taking off costumes help develop fine motor skills. Role playing encourages imaginative play. Imaginarium has countless option for you to choose from, however if you prefer to save your money, you can use old clothes, snowpants and jackets,  and Halloween costumes to achieve the same type of play experience. 


21.   Fisher-Price Little People Wheelies Mat

This is a fun toy that encourages imaginative play, while building fine motor skills while children roll cars around the tracks.


22.   LeapFrog Letter Factory

This toy teaches the upper case letters of the English alphabet and each letter sound through a fun song. This will develop your child’s auditory processing skills, (the ability for your child to analyze and blend sounds) which is the number one skill needed to learn to read and spell successfully.

23.   Baby Einstein Baby Neptune Orchestra

The reason I love this toy is because it introduces your child to classical music through melodies taken from classical masterpieces by composers such as Beethoven, Vivaldi, and Mozart. This toy also introduces your child to the sounds of five different instruments (drum, cello, harp, xylophone, and piano) and includes two modes of play (one for babies and one for toddlers).

24.   Melissa & Doug Easel

The design of this easel is very simple but the easel itself is very durable. I put this on the list because drawing, painting, and scribbling with chalk is a fun and easy way a child of any age can develop fine motor skills and creativity. It is also a good way for a child to express him or herself. Your child can get all these benefits without the easel, so it’s not necessary.

From my list, you can tell that I absolutely love Melissa and Doug products. They are simplistic, educational, and durable and are the types of toys I would probably keep for my future grandchildren. Visit www.melissaanddoug.com to see all the wonderful products they offer. You can find toys by Melissa and Doug at Toys R Us, Chapters or Indigo Bookstores, Mastermind Toys, and Winners.

To learn more about puzzles and other products by Crocodile Creek, visit www.crocodilecreek.com. They carry an incredible collection of things, a lot of which you can find at Indigo Bookstores.

Comment below and let me know what some of your favourite toddler toys are.









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  1. Those cabbage patch dolls seem very nice. Where can I buy them in Canada ?

    1. You can find them at Toys R Us or Walmart. Variety may vary from store to store though.

  2. Hi ModernDayBrownMom,
    I am absolutely loving your blog! I especially like this particular article as I am always on the hunt for educational toys. I was wondering if perhaps, in a future blog post, you could write about how you incorporate all these toys and books into your children’s playrooms/classrooms. Any help would be much appreciated. Keep up the awesome work! Your kids are very lucky to have a mom like you!

    1. Hi Arichana,

      Thank you for the positive feedback!

      Most of the toys I have listed, such as the puzzles, lace and trace, stacking toys, beads, pattern boards, Play-Doh, Tool box, snap colour matching board, I keep in a separate cabinet. The reason is so that the pieces don’t get lost and also because I prefer to observe my children while they do these activities so that I can help them. If they try it on their own and get frustrated, it will discourage them from trying the activity again. I also try to emphasize that these activities are special because we do them together and I think that helps my kids look forward to playing with those toys. It’s an amazing way to bond with your children too.

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