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11/1/22 blog post

How do you find developmentally appropriate toys?

Check out this toy list!

Whether it’s a birthday or Christmas present, how do you find developmentally appropriate toys? Navigating the toy aisle can be overwhelming with so many options and with online retailers like Amazon the options are almost limitless. Here are a few tips to help you out.

Let’s start with a few toys to avoid:

  1. Video or electronic games. These limit a child’s imagination.
  2. Beware of “educational” claims. Many of these claims are not supported.
  3. Avoid “close-end” toys like board games that have set rules and don’t allow for imagination.

Remember, the more a toy does (lights, music, sounds, batteries), the less your child has to do.

Tips for finding the right toy

The more children have to use their minds and bodies to make something work, the more they learn. Below is a list of tips to help you find the right toy for any child.

  • Choose toys that can be used in a variety of ways.  Toys should be “open-ended” in the sense that your child can play many different games with them (for example, wooden blocks can be used to make a castle). Open-ended toys benefit your child’s imagination and help them develop problem-solving and logical thinking skills.
    • Blocks
    • Nesting blocks
    • Toys for sand and water play
  • Find toys that will grow with your child. Look for toys that will have different uses and be fun in different ways at various developmental stages.
    • Plastic animals
    • Action figures
    • Toddler-friendly playhouse
    • Vehicles such as trains, planes, and trucks
    • Stuffed animals and dolls
  • Select toys that encourage exploration and problem-solving. Toys that give your child a chance to figure something out on his or her own build logical thinking skills and will help your child become a better problem-solver.
    • Puzzles
    • Shape-sorters
    • Art materials like clay, paint, crayons or play-dough
  • Look for toys that spark your child’s imagination. Your child’s creativity is blooming. Pretend play builds language and literacy skills, problem-solving skills and the ability to sequence (put events in a logical order).
    • Dress-up clothes
    • Toy food and plastic plates
    • Toy tools or doctor’s kit
  • Provide toys for nurturing literacy. Look for things to help your child develop early writing and reading skills.
    • Books
    • Foam bath letters
    • Art supplies like markers, crayons and finger-paints 
  • Select toys that encourage your child to be active. Look for toys that help your child practice gross motor development.
    • Balls of different shapes and sizes
    • Tricycles or age-appropriate scooters
    • Pull or push toys (toy lawn mower)
    • Wagon
    • Gardening tools to dig and rake with (in sand or dirt at the park)

Need more help? We have a list by age too!

Babies up to 12 months:

  • Soft cuddly items (stuffed animals, cloth dolls)
  • Water play toys for bath time
  • Crib gyms
  • Floor activity quilts
  • Soft mats to pat
  • Plastic-coated books
  • Rattles and sound-makers such as squeak toys

Toddlers up to one to two years:

  • Foam blocks
  • Stacking toys
  • Push-pull toys
  • Pop-up toys
  • Board books
  • Two- to four-piece puzzles

Preschoolers up to two to five years:

  • Balls
  • Wooden blocks
  • Construction toys
  • Pretend-play toys
  • Nesting table toys
  • Wheeled toys and train sets
  • Nontoxic art and clay-like modeling materials
  • Up to 16-piece puzzles
  • Activity play stations such as airport, farm or zoo

School-agers up to 6 to 10 years

  • Complex card and board games
  • Arts and crafts kits
  • Car or airplane model kits
  • Natural science collections
  • Jump rope
  • Bike or scooter
  • Chapter books and short novels
  • Sports equipment
  • Musical instruments
  • Jigsaw puzzles