Childhood Development: Choosing the Best Open-Ended Toys for Your Toddler

Step2 Toys for Childhood Development

Our toys are among some of the best learning toys for toddlers as they discover the world around them. As kids grow, social and emotional development, as well as cognitive and physical development skills, shine through a variety of playtime adventures. For more information on how we support childhood development, our curated Learn 2 Play, Play 2 Learn content featuring insights from our partner Dr. Keili Mistovich, MD, MPH is a great resource for the adults in every toddler’s life. And, read on for toddler toy tips to support open-ended play packed with learning opportunities as we define our top four childhood development categories.


Choosing Toys to Promote Childhood Development

Cognitive Development

Playtime is a great way to get little minds thinking big! Through play, children learn to think outside of the box. They exercise their critical-thinking skills, explore their imaginations, and begin to understand larger concepts, such as gravity, motion, and cause and effect—play is more than just having fun, it’s a great teaching tool!

Cognitive development skills flexed through play include:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Sensory Exploration
  • STEM Learning
  • Imagination & Creativity
  • Art & Visualization


Check out some of our favorite toys for toddler cognitive development:


Deluxe Art Master Desk™


STEM Discovery Ball Table™



Social and Emotional Development

Play is a great way to exercise social norms. Whether children are playing together or a child is role-playing with their toys, kids gain an awareness of their own emotions and can being to identify what other people may be feeling.

By playing side-by-side or sharing a toy, little ones begin to understand what it means to work together, how to make friends, and how to maintain relationships. They also learn how to resolve conflicts, make appropriate decisions, and instill a sense of confidence.

Through play, children gain important building blocks for social and emotional skills. There are three main areas in which children can exercise these skills:

  • Social Development
  • Role Play
  • Self-Esteem

Check out some of our favorite toys for toddler social and emotional development:

Pro Play Workshop & Utility Bench™


Stop & Go Market™


Language and Communication Development

Help expand your child’s vocabulary and express themselves verbally through play! Whether your little one is babbling away or they’re constructing full sentences, play is a great way to introduce new words and demonstrate how they’re feeling.

Little ones flex these language and communication development skills through play:

  • Language Skills
  • Self-Expression


Check out some of our favorite toys for toddler language and communication development:

Neat & Tidy Homestyle Edition™


Up & Down Roller Coaster™



Movement and Physical Development

Kids are full of energy, and one of the best ways to get that energy out is through play! Active children can develop a foundation for a fit and healthy lifestyle as well as build crucial motor skills for their overall development. Through play, they can learn to use their bodies and perfect important motions, such as grasping, running, and throwing.

Little ones flex these movement and physical development skills through play:

  • Gross Motor Skills
  • Fine Motor Skills


Check out a couple of our favorite toys for toddler movement and physical development:

Safari Truck Climber™


MAX Sports Full Court Basketball ‘N Slide Inflatable Bouncer™



The Importance of Early Childhood Development

Practicing a variety of essential childhood development skills like communication, self-esteem, and even physical skills like gross motor and fine motor help set little ones for success later in life. Caretakers can help foster, encourage, and facilitate a range of developmental benefits for their kids with a Step2 toy. Whether it be physical or emotional, there are lots of ways children can benefit from open-ended play and practice new skills.

Which developmental skills or open-ended toys do your kids like the most? Let us know!

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