We all want our kids to be creative. That’s what play is for! But toys that sing and dance and count for your child don’t encourage creativity. That’s why toddlers need battery free toys.
RELATED: Open Ended Toys that Encourage Imaginative Play
There are a million ways for kids to play that don’t involve a screen or toys that play for them at the push of the button. Not only is this more fun, but it’s better for your kids too.
Whether you’re looking for a battery free toy holiday gift guide, or the perfect no battery toys for a toddler’s birthday, these toys are all great gifts for an imaginative child.
Read on to see which battery free toys are best for your toddler to encourage open-ended, creative play.
Blocks and manipulatives
You can never go wrong with blocks! Children are learning every day how to use their little hands and work in the world they live in. Blocks are perfect for building towers for dolls and figures to live in, and they grow with your child. Read on to learn about our family’s favorite styles of blocks.
Magna-Tiles are a big hit in our home! Each block edge has little magnets (sealed away very well) that allow you to put the tiles together edge-to-edge. Younger children will enjoy stacking Magna-Tiles and experiencing how magnets work, while older toddlers can build towers with them.
(Note: You can find cheaper alternatives to Magna-Tiles at big-box stores, but they don’t work as well. The magnets aren’t as strong, so structures fall down. It’s worth the investment to just go with Magna-tiles.)
Sometimes the simplest toys are the most fun. We got a set of lacing beads like these for our oldest daughter’s second Christmas, and they have been well-used and loved. My kids would thread the animals onto the string over and over, and sometimes they would just play with the little animals.
This set comes with little animal beads, but it also includes vegetable shaped beads too. How cute is that? And if you’re into Montessori, these threading beads are perfect for teaching your child fine motor skills.
Want an option for young toddlers? Mega-bloks are a great start. They’re like really big Legos and are perfect for little hands to build with.
Your child may enjoy building towers, or she may prefer knocking a tower down after you build one. Either way, she’s sure to have fun!
If you need an “in-between” step from Mega-Bloks to Legos, try Duplos. You can make towers, trucks, houses, and more with these little building sets.
Duplos make open-ended packs of bricks, or you can get specific sets featuring popular characters. It’s probably best to have some of each: A large set of more general Duplos for open-ended fun, and maybe a set or two of character-driven Duplos for pretend play.
Wood block set
No-frills wooden blocks (or “unit blocks,” if you want to use the educational term) are also a staple in our home. Can you tell we really enjoy playing with blocks?
These Melissa & Doug blocks are a lot of fun for us. Our kids enjoy building with them and seeing how high a tower they can make with them. And unit blocks are affordable – This pack contains 100 blocks in 9 shapes and 4 colors for a good cost. The slightly rounded edges keep your kids safe during play.
Nesting rainbow stacker
If you’re looking for something more unique for your kids to play with, check out a rainbow stacker.
This beautiful set of nesting arcs can be arranged all sorts of ways to make roads for cars, homes for small stuffed animals or peg people, towers, and more.
Spoiler alert: Rainbow stackers aren’t just fun for kids. I have fun playing with this toy. Making designs with it is soothing.
I really love the Grimm’s Rainbow Stacker (it’s what we have). It is truly a piece of craftsmanship, cut from one solid piece of wood and hand-stained. The only problem? It can be pricey. Sometimes you can catch them on sale for less than $100, and if you do, you should snatch it up. Lately, I’ve seen them around $200, and I just have a hard time suggesting you pay that much for a set of blocks, no matter how lovely it is.
In case Grimm’s rainbow is not available at a good value, this nesting rainbow is also well made (although it has a glossier finish instead of a satiny matte) and a fraction of the price.
It’s good to have large stuff that your children can play and climb on. Especially when you’re stuck indoors on a rainy day, it’s a good way to let your kids burn off some energy.
This Giddy Buggy Crawl Through Tunnel is a great toy for toddlers. It can be used both indoor and outdoor, and you can press it flat for storage later.
If you have room for something with a larger footprint, this set of 4 tunnels and 4 tents can be hooked together in different layouts for even more exploration.
Older toddlers will love this hopper ball for bouncing around the room. Our kids each have a ball at my in-law’s house and they have a blast with them.
Dolls and stuffed animals
Dolls and stuffed animals are great for girls and boys. For toddlers, I love soft, cuddly dolls.
While my kids have some toys representing Disney characters (because I’m not pedantic about the whole thing), I prefer to choose more generic toys for them. That way, they’re less locked into particular roles by a toy.
Baby Stella Dolls from the Manhattan Toy Company
Oddly enough, Baby Stella seems to be a type of doll, not a specific little girl doll. There are boy and girl dolls available from the Manhattan Toy Company.
I love this little fellow from the Manhattan Toy Company. In our home, his name is simply “Baby,” and my oldest son got him for his first birthday.
And of course, there are several adorable little girl dolls if that’s what you are looking for. Really, the only hard part about these dolls is how to pick from this super-cute collection.
Just sayin’, if you have a baby doll, your child will love having a stroller to roll it around in.
It is surprisingly difficult to find a doll stroller that is not super pink (not that there’s anything wrong with pink, but if you want a color other than pink, it may be hard to find. However, this little denim doll stroller fits the bill nicely. It’s well made to withstand wear and tear, and it even comes with a little buckle so kids can strap their “babies” in their seat.
Wild Republic stuffed animals
Wild Republic stuffed animals are my favorite brand. They’re well made, cuddly, and super cute. Plus, they include a bunch of different animals from around the world.
Whether you want a honey badger (yes, really), a giant squid, or a ” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener nofollow”>baby penguin, Wild Republic has you covered.
Plus, there are dinosaurs (our stegosaurus and T. rex are named Spike and Bite, respectively), extinct animals, and more imaginatively colored stuffed animals if you prefer. Your toddler can create a whole zoo from these stuffed animals.
Beginner board games
Older toddlers who recognize colors will enjoy these board games. Sure, you might not play by the rules yet, but as long as you’re having fun together, that’s what matters. You can introduce rules to games as your little one gets older.
Zimbbos is a whimsical, fun game that teaches counting and fine motor skills. Basically, you roll a die to see how many elephants you stack. The person who finishes the elephant pyramid without it falling over wins.
These funny little animals are super enjoyable to play with. My kids often play Zimbbos without bothering with the rules (we’re rebels like that). There’s nothing quite like making towers of elephants, polar bears, and clowns!
Sneaky Snacky Squirrel
The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game is a big favorite around here. There’s no reading necessary, just counting up to two and color recognition.
There’s a little strategy involved with Sneaky Snacky Squirrel: You can sometimes steal another player’s acorn, so you have to think about which one you should choose. But if your little one would rather just use the squirrel tweezers to pick up acorns, that’s okay too.
A list of board games for young children wouldn’t be complete without Candy Land! This game is a classic for a reason – with easy, no reading required rules and fun game play, your kids will enjoy playing with you.
We love Dinosaur Escape in our home. First of all, there’s dinosaurs (always a win), but secondly, it’s cool because it’s a cooperative game. In this matching game, everyone works together to survive, or else the volcano takes out your dinosaurs. No reading required.
Toy cars for toddlers
My 3 year old boy loves toy cars and trucks (and his sisters did too when they were toddlers). We have a list of several great options that have been a hit in our home.
Oball Go-Gripper Cars
For very young toddlers, the Oball car is a perfect first car. It doubles as a rattle and is easy for little hands to grip. And this pack of 3 has a cute racing theme.
If you want cars that come with a track, the Lewo Toddler Wooden Ramp Racer set is great for toddlers from 1-3. Your little one will love rolling the cars down the ramp!
And of course, a road playmat is a fun place for driving little cars around. I like this one from KC Cubs because the backing doesn’t allow the mat to slide around on hard floors, and also because dinosaurs.
And if you want little dinosaurs to roll around your dinosaur play rug, these are perfect. We have them at our house and our son loves to play with them.
Your little one is growing and wants to be like you! Give him some toys and tools that are just his size.
Child’s cleaning set
Whether you’re looking for pretend play, or you’re doing Montessori and need brooms and mops for little hands, this cleaning set fits the bill. Either way, your little one will be delighted to help mommy.
Toddler kitchen playset
A kitchen playset like this one from B Toys is a great choice from 2 and up. My kids all enjoy making “cakes” and “soup” for me to try.
Play food for toddlers
If you have a pretend kitchen, you probably need pretend food to go with it. There are a million different pretend food sets, but many of them aren’t very nice looking. For that reason, I narrowed it down to just a few that I like.
These wooden fruits and veggies are really cool because each half has Velcro. Your child can use the pretend knife to “cut” the produce in half (also a very Montessori-type toy).
These little Ikea fruit and vegetable baskets are adorable, and they’re stitched from felt (instead of molded plastic). I love them!
And finally, I love how kids can make their own sandwiches from this felt food sandwich kit from Melissa & Doug. So cute.
Conclusions on my battery free toy gift guide for toddlers
I hope these no-battery toys are perfect for your toddler this holiday season. Obviously, your child doesn’t need everything on this list (that would be overwhelming), but even just a few choices would be great.
Make sure you grab my printable battery-free toy gift guide to make it easy to give suggestions to friends and family. Let me know what other toys you wish were on this list!