Good quality toys are not only safe for kids to play with, but can actually support your child’s development and help them reach all of those important milestones.
The key is to choose age-appropriate toys that match their stage of development and age range. This is important since toys made for a specific age group have been deemed safe, appropriate and have often been made with the intention of supporting key areas of development.
So what toys are best, which toys should be avoided, and where should you begin?
Best Baby Toys
Toys for Babies 0 to 3 Months
Young infants from birth to 6 months can greatly benefit from toys that encourage them to reach out and move their arms and legs. These very basic movements can help them build and gain strength in their muscles, as well as improve grip and coordination.
Babies are naturally drawn to faces and vibrant colors, so any toy that has both of these features are bound to get your babies attention. Infants also love putting things in their mouths, so teething toys can be a great choice for little ones who are struggling.
Best toys for Babies:
Toys they can grip – Rattles, stroller toys, plastic loops, teethers, and fabric characters with textured materials are all great options for infants. They provide babies with a lot of sensory stimulation, help them to improve grip and hand-eye coordination.
Toys they can learn from – Toys that play music and songs such as lullabies and make sounds can help your baby learn and encourage them to make their very first sounds.
Toys to look at – Babies are drawn to faces, so stuffed characters, textured books and unbreakable mirrors they can look into all provide ample opportunities for your infant to explore and develop.
Toys for Babies 6 to 12 Months
By the age of 6 months, your baby will now be beginning to move more and becoming increasingly vocal. They naturally want to play and explore the world around them and the right toys can help enhance the learning and stimulation they crave.
The best toys for babies 6 months and older are the ones that help them have fun, experiment and learn as they progress. Therefore, toys that present your baby with a little more of a challenge can really help them improve key skills and abilities, such as speech, movement and simple problem-solving.
Best 6 to 12 Month Baby Toys:
Building Toys & Puzzles – Toys that involve basic problem solving such as building bricks and jigsaw puzzles can really help kids develop fine motor skills. How? They encourage them to use their hands, muscles and manipulate objects with their fingers in new ways.
Pretend Play Toys – Dolls, figures, stuffed animals and fun costumes all encourage young kids to role-play and use their imagination. These skills are important in developing communication, language, and introducing new adult concepts.
For example, the concept of potty training can very easily be introduced through pretend play, as well as many others such as bedtime, responsible eating, empathy, and caregiving.
Toys for 1-Year-Olds
At 1 year old, infants are increasingly mobile, with many now being able to crawl, lift themselves up, walk and even climb the stairs. Speaking, copying vocal sounds and words are also common.
For these reasons, kids at this age will appreciate toys that engage and help them improve and practice language, speech and allow them to explore their curiosity. Yet it’s still important to remember that infants at this age still have limited attention spans, so toys that are not too difficult or rigid in their mode of play will be best.
Best Toys for 1-Year-Olds:
Simple Games & Puzzles: Problem-solving toys and games such as board games, jigsaw puzzles, and activity centers can provide kids this age with a fun and educational experience.
Remember to keep it simple though, instructions should be easy to follow and offer flexibility.
Musical Instruments & Recordings: Simple musical instruments such as xylophones, tambourines, and drums are all great options. Books with playback recordings of stories and music are also great.
Playing a simple musical instrument is incredibly fun for small kids and can really help them improve their hand-eye coordination, spatial reasoning and strengthen their muscles. Interactive toys with sounds can also help kids improve their speech by encouraging them to copy simple sounds.
Pretend Play Toys – 1-year-olds also benefit greatly from pretend play and will likely love playing with dolls, pretend telephones, strollers, finger puppets, and other stuffed toys.
Best Toys for Toddlers
Toddlers have hit some key developmental milestones such as crawling, walking and have typically spoken their first words. At this age the development is only more intense, with speech and physical abilities rapidly improving, toys that cater to this experimental period will be incredibly useful.
Good Toys for Toddlers
Pulling & Pushing Toys – With their newfound independence toddlers often love exploring the home, so a toy that allows them to explore different roles is great. For example, a simple cart they can push and pull around introduces them to the concept of being the leader as they direct it around the home.
Problem Solving Games – Ring stackers, wooden blocks, jigsaw puzzles and other toys with some element of problem-solving and building offer toddlers the opportunity to explore, learn and develop their pattern recognition.
Music & Signing Toys – At an age when their speech is improving and their vocabulary increasingly on a daily basis, activities that encourage speech and language are ideal. That can include song and pre-recorded books, microphones, and karaoke machines.
Best Toys for Pre-Schoolers
Pre-school children have hit some major milestones, have much longer attention spans and so you can very easily introduce some more complex concepts. This includes things like basic number counting, shape and color recognition, and the alphabet.
Therefore, by choosing toys that are both fun and educational are key and can give them a jump start before they start school.
Good Toys for Pre-Schoolers
Books – This is a great age to introduce the joy of reading through picture books that allow kids to expand their vocabulary and learn how to pronounce and read words for the first time.
Arts & Crafts – Crayons, paints, colored paper, drawing, writing, chalk, chalkboards, modeling clay and other tools to make things with are a great way for kids to get creative and improve their fine motor skills.
Pretend Play – Costumes and props such as princess dresses, pirate hats, and superhero suits are all great toys that will help your pre-schooler develop confidence, communication through their imagination and the art of role-playing.
Outdoor & Indoor Activity Centers – Ball pits, climbing frames, tunnels, tricycles, scooters, and bikes all provide pre-schoolers with physical exercise, fun and help them build small and large muscle groups. They’re also a great way for young kids to build confidence with their physical ability, strength, and dexterity.
School-Age Children (5 to 9 Years Old)
School-age children greatly benefit from educational toys that support their current learning and development. This includes both toys that help them strengthen key weaknesses in their studies, as well as those that help them pursue their passions and interests.
Although toys should always be fun, at this age it’s useful to ensure they are constructive too. That means choosing toys that provide some developmental benefit as well as being a fun activity.
Best Toys for School Kids
Physical & Outdoor Toys – Sporting equipment, football, bikes, scooters and outdoor activities such as kites, boats can help school-age kids develop their physical physical endurance, coordination, and experience new things.
Educational Toys – Science kits, microscopes for kids and programming games are all useful as they provide kids with a fun experience where they will gain the knowledge they can potentially apply to their studies.
Career-Focused Toys – Toys that allow kids to begin experimenting and exploring different adult careers and jobs should be encouraged since they allow kids to begin thinking about the adult world and potential future careers.
Career based toys include construction toys, fashion kits, coding games, electronic and engineering games and art supplies.
Toys for Kids Aged 9 – 12 Years
Pre-teens are usually displaying key areas of interest and passions in the forms of hobbies and interests. Typically they enjoy arts and crafts, complex engineering and construction toys, STEM toys, painting, clay modeling, sculpting or outdoor sports and activities.
Toy Suggestions for Pre-teens:
Hobby Based Toys – Science kits, art and craft kits, tabletop sports, musical instruments, and magic sets are all great toys for kids with key hobby and interests. By playing with toys that they enjoy the most, they are more likely to excel in those subjects and potential future professions that are directly related.
Musical Instruments – Playing an instrument is fun and a great skill for kids to develop into adulthood. Not just that, but reading and playing music is often associated with a whole host of other benefits too, such as improved verbal memory and cognitive ability.
Sports Toys – Encouraging kids to develop themselves physically and pursue sports is a great way to encourage a lifelong habit of physical exercise. Not only will it enable them to develop their hand-eye coordination, spatial reasoning, and endurance, but it’s arguably more important than ever in the age of the internet.