It’s a delight to give children toys. For them, it’s the most exciting gift they could ever receive, as kids like having something new to play with. You can give them toys depending on their gender (like dolls for girls, cars for boys), but here’s a better idea: give them a fun and educational toy!
In this article, learn about how toys help child development and what toys can help with your child’s development at every stage.
How Toys Help Child’s Development
Children go through different developmental stages as they grow up, from newborn babies to adolescence. While these stages progress, their brains are also changing continually. Toys are an essential part of childhood and play a crucial role in their development. The right toys can help children develop their creativity, imagination, problem-solving skills, and self-esteem.
Here are the aspects of development in which toys can help:
Toys can aid in the development of children’s cognitive skills. Educational toys such as puzzles, blocks, and board games can help children improve their problem-solving and logical thinking skills. Building blocks can help children develop their spatial awareness and mathematical skills, while puzzles can help improve their memory and concentration.
Toys can help children develop their physical skills. Outdoor toys such as balls, bikes, and jump ropes can help children improve their coordination, balance, and agility. Construction toys can help children develop their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Toys can aid in the development of children’s creativity. Art supplies such as crayons, markers, and paint can help children express themselves and develop their artistic skills. Musical toys can help children develop their sense of rhythm and creativity. And even in the lack of appropriate toys, children will get creative and resourceful by substituting other toys to pretend it’s another thing, enhancing their imagination.
Toys can help children develop their emotional skills. Dolls, action figures, and puppets can help children express their emotions and develop empathy and compassion. Children can also use these toys to act out real-life situations and learn about the consequences of their actions.
Toys can aid in the development of children’s social skills. Board games and group toys such as playsets and construction toys can help children learn about teamwork, sharing, and taking turns. For instance, young children love to play with pretend doctor or chef sets and play doctor-patient or chef-customer with one another. They can also help children develop their communication skills and learn how to resolve conflicts.
Young infants (Birth to 6 months)
At first, your priority is to regulate the baby’s feeding and just keep your baby alive, as caring for newborns is a ton of work. But you will notice how they gradually become observant and social week by week. They tend to stare at the simplest things, so it’s great to give them something interesting to look at. But out of all things, young infants’ favorite thing to look at is people, and babies follow them with their eyes. They tend to smile whenever they see their parent or primary caregiver. Babies may also give you their first laugh, chuckles, and funny facial expressions at this age.
Babies start to reach for things around three months of age. As they grab, they typically put things in their mouths. They tend to be fascinated with what their hands and feet will do, and they turn their heads toward sounds. This is also the stage when babies try to lift their heads, and by six months of age, most babies already have neck control and are trying to lift their bodies up to roll and crawl.
Young infants don’t need many toys; they need the most love and care. At this age, you are their primary source of entertainment. Give them lots of tummy time and play peek-a-boo. Sing them songs and touch them a lot. You’ll never spoil a young infant by holding them a lot – it’s even better because it helps their tiny brains develop quickly.
To keep them entertained while you keep them in the crib or bassinet, give them safe, soft, and colorful toys. Stimulate their senses with toys that have textures, sounds, and contrast. They also react well to objects that are moving and creating sounds. Toys that are easy to reach for, grab, suck, shake, hold, or make noise with are perfect as well. Some options include:
- Wind chimes
- Teething toys
- Squeeze toys
- Large rings
- Plush toys
- Textured balls
- Soft books
- Interactive play mats
- Activity gyms
- Unbreakable mirrors or toys with mirrors
- Toys or books that recite poems or play nursery rhymes, lullabies, and other simple songs
Remember that babies put everything in their mouths, so always keep your toys clean.
Older infants (6-12 months)
Older babies are movers. They go from rolling over to crawling, sitting, scooting, bouncing, pulling themselves up, and standing. Around 10-11 months, babies learn to walk. It’s also the time when they try and eat solid foods. It’s an exciting first exploration stage for babies as their world becomes bigger than the crib, and their tummies are nourished with foods other than milk.
At this age, babies are starting to respond when they hear their names, understand common words, point to body parts, and stack objects. They show great interest in their surroundings and recognize their main caregivers. They react to noises and actions, so it’s a great age to talk to your baby as they will soon be picking up the sounds. Their hand-eye coordination is developing well in this stage.
Toys to build with, help them flex their muscles, and spark imagination are the best toys to give at this age, like:
- Stationary play table with buttons, music, and levers
- Stacking blocks or rings
- Shape sorters
- Board books
- Baby dolls
- Bath toys
- Push-and-pull toys
- Cause-and-effect toys
- Musical instruments
- Toys that move
- Standing push toys
When your little one reaches their first year, they can’t wait to start walking, exploring, and experimenting. Your child might already be walking at their first birthday or are trying to do so – but most babies at this age can already stand. Some can walk steadily and even climb stairs. They say their first words, enjoy stories and play next to other children. They like to experiment but need a lot of adult supervision to keep them safe.
At this age, babies need toys to build and put together to refine their motor skills. Toys that improve their sensory skills and imagination are also very stimulating and fun for them.
Here are some toys that help develop your one-year-old:
- Walking toys and aids, or toys that can be pushed or pulled while standing
- Ride-on toys
- Wood blocks
- Stacking toys with different shapes, sizes, and colors
- Sensory ball sets
- Push toys
- Shape sorters
- Board books with photos and illustrations
- Large, non-toxic crayons and markers
- Puppets and stuffed toys
- Busy boards
- Large and small balls
- Sound-making toys that play songs, simple stories, or rhymes
- Toys that light up
- Pretend play toys
- Toys with parts that do things (knobs, buttons that light up or play music, switches, lids, knobs, and more)
- Child-size household items (food, plates, kitchen utensils) to promote engagement with feeding
- Large puzzles
- Musical instruments
Your toddler is growing quickly at two years old. Now that they have mastered walking, they like running away, playing hide and seek, talking more, and even showing little independence. They love to climb, roll, tumble, point, carry things, and use their hands and fingers to do stuff. They have this craving for adventure, and you may find yourself running after them a lot. You may also find them trying to imitate your facial expressions, gestures, words, and anything you do at home. Another exciting milestone for parents of two-year-olds is that they start to follow simple instructions.
Since they already have more control over their hands, two-year-olds can play with heavier toys to build physical strength. As they like doing things with their small hands and fingers, they may prefer manipulating small objects, so be careful of any tiny parts they may want to put in their mouths. At this age, they also like to play pretend, which gives them a better sense of day-to-day activities.
These are toys that are age-appropriate for them:
- Puzzles with a few pieces
- Blocks that snap together
- Sorting toys
- Busy boards
- Things with buttons, hooks, snaps, and buckles
- Pretend play sets (play foods, doctor set, kitchen set, construction set, accessories set, etc.)
- Dress-up clothes and accessories
- Child-sized furniture
- Large, non-toxic crayons and markers
- Large paintbrushes and finger paints
- Chalkboard and chalk
- Rhythm instruments
- Play scooters and cars
- Plush toys
Preschoolers and Kindergartners (3-6-year-olds)
Preschoolers and kindergartners have longer attention spans than toddlers, and this is the age when they tend to learn a lot of stuff. They talk a lot and ask a lot of questions. They are able to doodle, draw, and write the alphabet, numbers, their names, and a few words. They run and jump a lot and are ready to ride their first bicycle. They also have more strength and can control heavier items with better coordination.
Allowing your child to experiment, test their physical skills, play outside, do crafts, and play memory games is ideal for their development. Kids at this age are also ready for more toys and activities that promote coordination, movement, sharing, and social interaction. Here are the toys 3 to 6-year-olds will enjoy:
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Toy cars and trucks
- Connecting blocks
- Counting objects
- Construction sets, workbench with tools
- More advanced musical instruments
- Sidewalk chalk
- Spelling toys
- Plastic bats and balls
- Plastic bowling sets
- Scaled-down sports equipment
- Coloring books
- Activity books with mazes and connect the dots
- Art supplies (modeling clay, markers, finger paints, preschooler-sized scissors, chalkboards, drawing easels, etc.)
- Beginner board games
- Memory card games
- Pretend play sets
- Story books and rhyming books
- Sand and water play toys
- Bicycles and tricycles
- Hula hoop
Elementary School Children (7-8 year-olds)
Kids at this age are very eager to learn and as an understanding of cause and effect and right and wrong. They can now write complete sentences and enjoy being part of a team. By this time, they learn most of their vocabulary by reading and watching. They are able to tell stories and have a creative imagination. Now, they have a longer attention span, love collecting things, and can play for hours.
Toys and activities that involve concentration and education are perfect for this age range, such as:
- Science kits
- Board games
- Chess and checkers
- Rocks and gems
- Painting kits
- Knitting kits
- Beads and jewelry-making kits
- Outdoor toys (bicycle, scooter, etc.)
- Activity books (coloring books, word search, simple crosswords, etc.)
- Things they can collect (small toy cars, dolls, scented erasers, stationery, stamps, Happy Meal toys, etc.)
Late Elementary School Children (9-10 year-olds)
Kids of this age are becoming more independent and are about to start middle school. This may be the last years of their playtime era, and they would later lose interest in children’s toys. They are facing more academic challenges at school and are building lasting friendships.
By now, they have an increased attention span and vigor for things they are interested in and are asking more difficult questions. Their memories are developing rapidly, and they can concentrate on a single activity for long periods. They also already understand the consequences of bad behavior and are now able to express their thoughts, feelings, and opinions about a variety of topics.
At this age, reading plays a crucial role in developing a child’s lifelong thirst for learning. It builds their vocabularies, stimulates their imagination, and improves their communication skills. Problem-solving toys are also ideal for keeping them entertained for hours at this age. Here are toys that are perfect for their age:
- Funny books
- Kids’ graphic novels
- Comic books
- Sketch pads
- 3D puzzles
- Board games
- Sports equipment
- Race tracks
- Mechanical toys
- Card sets
No matter what age your child or any child you love is, it’s always great to get them toys that can aid in their development. It keeps them alert and eager to learn new things and create fun childhood memories that will last for a lifetime.