skip to main content
Best Baby and Toddler Toys to Encourage Independent Play
Updated on
February 8, 2024

Best Baby and Toddler Toys to Encourage Independent Play

By Babylist Team
Babylist editors love baby gear and independently curate their favorite products to share with you. If you buy something through links on our site, Babylist may earn a commission.
Pinterest logo.
Best Baby and Toddler Toys to Encourage Independent Play.
Photo by @xicana_mama
Best Baby and Toddler Toys to Encourage Independent Play

Whether it’s to hop on a conference call or simply grab 10 minutes of peace and quiet, there are plenty of parenting situations where you’re going to need your little one to play independently.

While it’s not quite realistic to expect your baby or toddler to spend the day quietly entertaining themselves, there are certain toys that lend themselves to encouraging independent play.

Here are our favorites toys for babies and toddlers that encourage independent play.


A Jumper

A jumper guarantees two things: a bouncy, giggly baby who’s both happy and safely contained, and at least a few minutes of uninterrupted time for you to get things done. That’s a win-win in our book.

A Sensory Toy

This toy is deceptively simple—and that’s what makes it so great. Babies love to pop the five silicone “bubbles” in and out over and over (and over and over) again. Pro tip: don’t keep this toy readily accessible, so when you do take it out your little one is extra entertained.

A Stacking Toy

Older babies love to stack and build. This uniquely designed stacking toy is made from safe, recycled plastic and can be put together in any order. It’s also great for developing hand-eye coordination and color recognition.

A Book

Letting your baby explore interactive books from an early age is beneficial for literacy and so many other skills. This soft activity book is just right for younger babies to “read” on their own because it’s chew- and rip-proof. They’ll also stay occupied, lifting the fun peek-a-boo flaps to find the forest animals.

A Push Toy

Warning: this isn’t the quietest toy. But we’re willing to make the tradeoff because your little one will log so many hours of independent play exploring all of its different interactive features. The front play panel pops off for separate play, then pops back on and the whole toy can be used as a push toy for babies learning to walk.

12–24 MONTHS

A Play Table

A play table perfectly sized for them sets the stage for so much fun through the years. It can host tea parties and snack time, art projects and block building, friend or sibling gatherings and games.

An Activity Cube

This wooden activity cube has so many different features that will keep your toddler entertained and learning along the way. It’s made from solid wood and sturdily constructed to hold up to hours and hours of playtime.

A Water Table

Any type of outdoor toy is always a win for open-ended, independent play, and when it’s warm outside a water table can easily fill a few hours, giving you some time for yourself. There are plenty of interactive features on this one to keep your toddler coming back for more, and the umbrella is a nice perk for extra sunny days.

A Train Set

Wooden train sets have been around for a long time, and for good reason; there’s something magical about watching your little one build and rebuild their own pretend world. This is the perfect starter set. As your child gets older, you can also add new pieces, like additional tracks and a cool suspension bridge.

A Climbing Toy

If you’re not familiar with a Pikler triangle, it’s a simple climbing structure that’s designed to help young children learn to climb and develop their gross motor skills. While it does require some supervision, it’s one of our favorite toys to recommend to help kids learn to play and explore independently. And you’ll be surprised how quickly your little one will learn to navigate it!

A Building Toy

These oversized blocks are just right for small hands to hold. They’re a great starter set before moving on to wooden blocks or LEGO and perfect for setting out when you need your toddler to entertain themselves for a while.

A Sensory Table

A sensory table can inspire a huge range of independent play for years and years. Filled with water, sand, water beads, shaving cream, animal figurines…the possibilities are endless. This Ikea model is an all-time favorite; just be sure to also add the storage box inserts, too.

Two Years and Up

An Art Center

An easel is the perfect way to let your toddler explore art independently. Featuring a dry-erase board, a chalkboard and a paper roll, this one from favorite brand Melissa & Doug offers lots of creative possibilities for your little one’s next masterpiece.

A Play Kitchen

As your toddler grows and develops, you’ll notice lots of pretend play happening. Toddlers love to model what they see adults doing in everyday life and play kitchens are the perfect toy for that. Stock it with some pretend play food sets and let their inner chef shine.

Pretend Play

Here’s another toy for your toddler to play pretend and create their very own world, in this case a farm. They’ll enjoy opening up the barn to explore all of its part as well as identifying and feeding the animals.

A Building Set

If you’re like most families, these may be what gets played with the most in your playroom. From towers to rocketships, these 3D magnetic tiles are easy to build with and offer truly limitless possibilities for creative play. They are pricey, though, so start with a small set and build on from there.

Magic Markers

Toddlers love to draw: on paper, on themselves, on the walls—you name it. This set from Crayola lets them explore their creativity mess-free! The markers only show up on the special Color Wonder paper so you won’t have anything to clean up after they’re done.

For Open-Ended Play

Blocks are a classic open-ended toy and the possibilities are truly endless with this set. Your toddler can build towers, match colors and sort shapes. As they grow, they can eventually put their engineering skills to work and convert the storage box into a pull toy.

Modeling Clay

It may be messy, but it’s the kind of mess we don’t mind cleaning up because our kids love Play-Doh oh-so-much. This is a great starter set that includes four different colors of clay and tools in a reusable tote to keep everything together.

Buckle Up

This cute toy will keep your toddler occupied while they figure out how to latch and unlatch all of the buckles. It also gets little fingers working and promotes fine motor skills development. Toddlers also love to collect things and they can stash their faves in the little zipper pouch.

Music Makers

Get your toddler moving and grooving with this musical set. They’ll enjoy exploring and testing out the sounds of ten different instruments including a tambourine, a triangle, cymbals and more.

A Pull-Along Friend

This little ladybug is not just adorable, it’ll also encourage your toddler to practice fine motor skills and learn about shapes because it doubles as a shape sorter. The wings open to retrieve the blocks after sorting and store them for later.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.