Beware that a lot of toy manufacturers put 'not suitable for under 3's' because they can't be bothered to work it out properly. In my opinion .
My ds's (2 and 4) play with a lot of the same toys without any problems. Most recent problems - ds2 can't play with ds1 lego (which itself is labelled for 7 year olds I think), and also got his finger stuck in lacing bead at age 17 month (and they are labelled for 18 month plus).
Obviously, there are lots of cheap toys out there which it's a good idea not to give an 18 mth old - but most major chain store type stuff would be OK - in my opinion. (Sorry, rant over!)
I tend to agree with Jamie - my DS2 (20 months today) no longer puts things in his mouth, and having a 4 3/4yr old brother there are lots of 'big boy' toys around the house - which he's been playing with for some time now.
Even with DS1 when he was little I simply used to use my discresion. Some of them are suitable for aged 3 and over because of the 'difficulty' of the toy sometimes, not nesscarily the 'danger' factor.
Stuff you push around (shopping trolley, pram)
washed cartons and dried pumpkin seeds (3 minutes in microwave)
Lots of those plastic lids from milk bottles, a pan and a wooden spoon.
A keyboard, drum, maracas and a CD to play along with.
Puzzles (peg puzzles at 18mo then 12 piece, 15 piece 20 piece etc. jigsaws)
Doll or teddy that you dress or undress.
Keep your old packets when you finish food and make a shop.
There is a lot of choice it's just that at under 18 mo most toys are educational, and then at 3+ there are lots of "toy" toys, branded and licensed toys etc. as well as specialist educational ones like crafts etc.
At 18 m o - 3 you either have to use over 3 toys and remove any small parts or supervise, or buy specialist educational toys. it's an expensive time I am finding.
I have 3 boys age 2.5 and 4. Don't particularly get gender specific - but probably more boy biased (compared to what we see at friends houses).
We have lots of tractors and trailors, trainset, duplo, lots of books, ride on cars, jigsaws, doll, soft toys, farm animals, pop up tent. They also like playdoh and painting (if I can stand clearing up the mess !).
At friends house they love playing with a toy kitchen.
Also generally boxes of any kind - prefereably big enough to get into.
ds is 20 months. he loves tractors - his fave is a push-along tractor with traction. he loves pushing the pushchair around the garden together with dd, he also likes the multi-story car park and toy cars.
pencils and paper, cars, books, magazines, stickers, stones!!!?(she brings them in off the driveway and plays with them). A 'little people' house as its got doors and she likes opening them, driving a car through and shutting it again. Anything teletubbie or brum related - books, figures, etc
teaset, toy till and food, playdough, painting, running around and climbing madly. Dancing to music/acting out songs (children's ones),
reading endlessly (try the library)simple jigsaws,
little people, toy trains, soft ball for playing catch.
DS is 20 months and his favourite things at the moment are cars and books. Books with cars (and other transport) are very good. Wooden puzzles are another top toy at the moment.
He also likes pushing his trolley around, playing with balls, and getting plastic plates, cups etc out of "his" cupboard and carrying them around the place. Also blocks (wooden although I have got him some duplo somewhere). Must find it and try him with it.
QoQ - just saw that your DS2 must have been born on 27th November 2003 - my DS was born 5 days earlier .
I agree with the under 3 thing - there are some toys you wouldn't give to an under 3 year old, but lots of them seem to be labelled that way for no good reason.