When it comes to play time for your toddler, you want fun, safe, and most importantly, educational activities. Below you'll see our picks for the very best products for your young toddler, with an emphasis on creativity and interactivity. Note that while there are countless electronic toys marketed towards kids this age, some of which we've tested, we're not recommending them in this guide. We feel more traditional toys encourage toddlers to be a bit more thoughtful in their play.

    Instrument: Hohner Maracitos

    There's nothing more universal than music, and for young toddlers, the gift of a maraca (or two!) will be well used. We really like this rattles because they are easy to hold and make plenty of noise, without grating on parents' ears!

    The Guru's Tip:

    In an age when just about every kid's toy is made in China, it may amaze you to learn that these little rattles are made in Israel!

    Toy Truck: Green Toys Fire Truck

    We just love this little red truck, and so will your toddler! It's big, nearly unbreakable, and made of recycled plastics, which is what makes it green! With rolling wheels, an adjustable top ladder and removable side ladders, it gives kids plenty to play with. They can even sit on it without causing damage!

    The Guru's Tip:

    In an age when just about every kid's toy is made in China, it may amaze you to learn that these little rattles are made right here in the USA!

    Stacking Toy: Melissa & Doug Geometric Stacker

    To develop children's ability to manipulate objects and recognize shapes, there's nothing better than stacking blocks. Melissa & Doug score a big win here with their multi-dimensional toy, which provides exposure to various colors, shapes, and activities, as it can be used on or off the stacking poles. Note that it's rated for children 2 and up, but we feel it's safe enough for toddlers due to having big parts.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that while Melissa & Doug is based in Connecticut, today most of its products are manufactured in China.

    Sled: Paricon Toddler Boggan Sled

    This is just about the best $20 you can spend, providing hours of outdoor play for young ones when other outdoor activities just aren't practical.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Want to use this all year long? Pull your toddler around on carpet and they'll have nearly as much fun as they would in the snow!

    Stuffed Animal: Yoda Pillowtime Pal

    What kid doesn't need a Jedi Master to carry around? This big doll does double duty as a stuffed animal and a play pal, and will introduce young Jedis to the power of The Force!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Yoda is of course also a great bedtime pal, although we found his Jedi robe just a little rough!

    Instrument: Skip Hop Safari Xylophone Pull Toy

    There can never be too much music in the world, and while there are plenty of electronic instruments you can buy to keep toddlers occupied, we really like this actual instrument, made of actual wood and metal and tuned well enough to play real songs on!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This toy actually has two play "modes" - it's an instrument and a pull toy, and the mouth will open and shut as your little one pulls it around!

    Play Yard: Summer Infant Pop N' Play Portable Playard

    Before your toddler really starts running around, you'll still be able to take advantage of a portable playard like this one, which is perfect for both indoor and outdoor use. This wonderful 48"-wide playard gives toddlers plenty of space to walk around, without letting them get too far. It's particularly good for a great deck or lawn play space, due to its nylon bottom, which will resist water and stains.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Once kids get really mobile, they're unlikely to enjoy this playard as much, and while we'd love to say you can just keep them in it anyway, you should probably let them run free (with supervision, of course!).

    Play Mat: Baby Care Pingko & Friends

    If your toddler will often be playing in a room with hard floors, this mat is an absolute must-have item. It will go a long way to protecting wood floors from impacts when toys go flying! This mat also has educational value, with the many animal illustrations and names to keep your little one entertained for hours.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Because this mat is so well cushioned, your little one may even be able to comfortably nap from time to time in between play sessions!