Educational Gifts for Toddlers and 2 Year Olds

The best picks for helping little ones have fun learning

V.Reader Interactive E-Reading System
V.Reader Interactive E-Reading System. VTech/Flickr

Everything seems to be "educational" these days -- TV shows, iPhone apps, refrigerator magnets, and beyond. Here is a short list of some products for little ones that really do support learning.

1. LeapPad2 Power Learning Tablet: LeapFrog has made excellent tools with the LeapPad series of products. The draw back, however, is that the apps and game cartridges are not all created equal. I would recommend steering clear of the video clips sold as apps for the LeapPad and looking instead for titles that have interactive activities that support basic skill areas for toddlers such as colors, shapes, counting, and vocabulary building.


2. Vtech Reader: This is a fun, engaging product for pre-readers. It's not going to teach your little one how to rad, but the books and activities do support vocabulary acquisition and can teach early concepts within the context of a story or activity.

3. Chutes & Ladders: For older 2 year olds, this traditional board game is a great introduction to counting and number recognition, but even for littler tots who don't get the point of the gameplay, Chutes & Ladders is a great way to practice social skills like taking turns and playing together (versus parallel play).

4. LEGO Duplo Blocks: These traditional interlocking blocks don't set out to teach your child essential concepts -- the learning opportunity is just built right in! Practice counting the raided bumps, teach colors by sorting blocks, introduce size along with "bigger" and "smaller," and be sure to get a variety of blocks including round and triangle pieces that can teach shapes.

5. Books: Call me old fashioned, but when it comes down to it, I believe that (second to firsthand experience like touching a caterpillar or tasting a cherry) books offer the best way to teach young children language skills and facts about new things. Your child's' bookshelf doesn't have to filled with Dr. Seuss or other simple stories, either.

Pick up some old encyclopedias with bright history illustrations at a yard sale or invest in one of the science texts for elementary and middles school researchers like DK's Eyewitness Ocean (compare prices), which is filled with inspiring images.

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