Give a child a toy, any toy, and you have a happy child. There is no doubt that children of all ages love toys. But as a parent, you should be particular about the toys you give them. Play is an important part of a child’s social, mental, emotional, and physical development so while toys should be fun, they should also be safe, stimulating, and age appropriate.
Let’s start with toy safety. Children under 3 years tend to put everything in their mouth, so ensure there are no small parts that could become lodged in a child’s throat. Safe toys are well-made with no sharp parts, are shatter-proof and easily cleaned. Toys should be painted with nontoxic, lead-free paint so no harmful chemicals go into the child’s mouth.
Safe toys are also mostly made of natural materials, like wooden toys, and offer many benefits. To start with, they contain fewer or no toxins, last longer, and are environmentally friendly. They also may lower the risk of allergic reactions and stimulate your child’s imagination.
Now that we’ve established safe toys, children need toys that match their stages of development. Before we look at age appropriate toy suggestions, it’s important to emphasize that each child develops at an individual pace, so an item in a particular age range can be a good choice for younger or older kids than the suggested age range, as long as they are safe.
Play at 0 to 12 Months
In the first three months, babies mostly observe their surroundings. They like to look at people and follow them with their eyes. They see bright bold patterns the best due to their blurred vision, which is why contrasting colored toys are a good choice. As they grow, babies enjoy toys that engage their other senses, which is why many toys are designed to promote interaction in a variety of ways. For example, they may be soft and cuddly, make a crinkling or squeaking noise. Infants put everything in their mouth, so nubby textures are great, specially to help relieve teething pain.
Best Toys for Infants 0 to 12 Months
The best toys for infants in their first six months are things they can hold, suck on, reach for, make noise with, listen to, and look at.
- Activity boards
- Books with nursery rhymes, poems, lullabies
- Brightly colored, patterned crib mobiles
- Playmats and gyms
- Large rings and rattles
- Soft, washable, colorful dolls or stuffed toys
- Soothing toys, squeeze toys, teething toys
- Fabric or textured balls
- Unbreakable mirrors
Older infants are movers, starting with rolling over and sitting to bouncing, pulling themselves up and eventually walking. They start understanding their name and common words. The best toys for older infants include things they can pretend play with, drop and take out, hide and find and build with.
- Building toys like soft blocks, wooden cubes
- Pretend play toys like baby dolls, puppets, wooden vehicles
- Push and pull toys
- Water toys
Play at 1 to 2 Years
These babies are on the go, they can typically walk and climb stairs. They start saying their first words, like to listen to stories and can play around, not particularly with, other children. Babies at this age are fascinated by cause and effect so they will enjoy toys that respond to their actions and help them make use of newly acquired motor skills. As they enter their second year, they are learning language quickly have a sense of danger. They like to do a lot of physical testing like climbing, jumping, and rolling. They gain better hand control so like to do things with small objects.
Best Toys for 1 to 2-Year-Olds
- Arts and crafts like non-toxic washable crayons and markers, finger paint, paint brushes and paper
- Bath toys
- Board books with simple illustrations or photographs of real objects
- Building blocks, construction sets, transportation toys
- Child-sized furniture like kitchen sets and chairs
- Hammering sets that let kids hammer pegs or balls through holes
- Large play vehicles, such as a fire engine or a school bus with people that ride in them
- Pretend play toys like dolls with dress-up clothes and accessories, doll beds, baby carriages, strollers, phones, puppets, stuffed toys, wooden animals, wooden cars and play food
- Push or pull-toys that make noise or have pieces that pop up or move
- Puzzles that have 4-5 pieces for a 1 year old and up to 12 pieces for a 2-year-old
- Simple musical instruments like drums, tambourines, or maracas
- Objects to sort (size, shape, color, smell)
- Ride-on toys
- Sand and water play toys
- Stacking rings or nesting cups
- Wooden building blocks
Play at 2 to 3 Years
Children play with more of a purpose at this age and have the fine motor skills required to build blocks or complete a puzzle by themselves. They will start to enjoy pretend play and will imitate actions of people around them.
Best Toys for 2 to 3-Year-Olds
- Construction toys that snap together
- Dolls and stuffed animals
- Musical instruments
- Props for make-believe play, such as toy telephone, a tea-party set, a toy kitchen, or a doll stroller
- Ride-on toys and tricycles
- Large transportation toys with buttons to make a horn honk or a siren whistle
- Puzzles that have up to 20 pieces for a 3-year-old
Play at 4 to 5 Years
At this age, the learning ability explodes as preschoolers and kindergartners have longer attention spans than toddlers. They talk a lot and ask a ton of questions. This makes it a great time to introduce interactive educational toys like mini-computers or phonic boards that teach verbal and math skills. Children at this age like to play with their friends, experiment with things and their emerging physical skills.
Best Toys for 4 to 5-Year-Olds
- Action figures
- Art and craft kits
- Basketballs and soccer balls
- Bicycles with training wheels
- Blocks of different shapes
- Construction sets with large pieces, like Legos
- Dress-up clothes
- Puzzles that are more complex
- Simple board games
- Transportation toys like as airports, parking garages, and train stations
Play at 6 to 7 Years
By this age children develop their own interests while learning from their peers. While some children like playing with dolls and making crafts others like doing experiments. Friends start to play an increasingly important part of their lives and a child may ask you to get them a particular toy because their friends have it. At this age kids tend to become a fan of computer games while still enjoy having their friends over to play board games or sports.
Best Toys for 6 to 7-Year-Olds
- Board games that involve strategy like chess and checkers
- Computer or video games, game boys
- Construction sets like Legos
- Craft kits
- Magnets, magnifying glasses, and telescopes
- Remote-control cars
- Science kits (basic)
- Sports equipment
Play at 8+ Years
Children at this age acquire adult-like interests and hobbies. They enjoy outdoor activities like sports and riding their bicycles. While girls enjoy crafts, boys find themselves engrossed in video games. At this stage kids enjoy challenging themselves and competing with others.
Best Toys for 8+ Year-Olds
- Board games like Monopoly and Scrabble
- Computer and video games
- Construction sets (Elaborate)
- Craft kits
- Model kits
- Outdoor sporting equipment
- Science kits (Intricate)
Now that you have an age-by-age toy guide with a variety of girls toys and boys toys, we want to emphasize on the importance of open-ended toys which are toys that can be played with in many ways and over many years. There is no age limit for these toys as children keep finding new ways to play with them in each age bracket. For example, blocks are open-ended toys because there is no one way to play with them; the child can create a house, road, or a pyramid. Open-ended toys result in open-ended play which evolves over time while encouraging children to create and problem-solve as they explore. Investing in a high-quality open-ended toy may cost more initially, but it will last longer and grow with your child, making it more cost-effective in the long run. Play is constantly reinvented when children dictate it, so the fun of open-ended toys never diminishes. Our favorite open-ended toys are from the Grimm’s and Wobbel collections.
Our Play collection features toys made of natural materials for newborn babies to 8+ year children with open-ended toys having no age limit. Our aim is to provide parents a single portal for online shopping for kids with the best toys for babies and best toys for children that are both natural and inspiring.
The Crib is an online baby shop in Dubai, UAE that offers only the best baby products and best kids products that are both natural and inspiring.