Picking Toys

Pick the Best Toys for Your Child’s Age and Interests

Toys are everywhere you look this month, and chances are that your child wants everything he sees! With so much to choose from, how do you choose the right one? A good rule of thumb is to select a toy that is age appropriate, safe, interactive and fun.
Do a little research on your own before you go shopping and don’t believe the hype. All children reach developmental milestones at different times and what they are interested in varies. So, what may be the “hot toy” for children your child’s age may be completely wrong for your child. Remember that buying the latest and greatest toys isn’t always necessary. Some of the best play items, such as cardboard boxes, ribbons and yarn, and plastic bowls, can often be found at home.

  • Fabric toys should be labeled flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Stuffed toys should be washable.
  • Painted toys should be lead-free.
  • Art materials should be labeled as non-toxic.
  • Batteries in toys should be secured and not easily removable.
  • Discard broken, ripped or cracked toy parts.
  • Crayons and paints should say ASTM D-4236 on the package, which means that they’ve been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
  • Consider the suggested age level for the toy before you purchase as these ages are based on a child’s age, skill level, and size.


  • Babies put everything in their mouth. Stay away from small toys that can fit inside their mouth or items with a cord.
  • Hold a rattle or teddy bear over your baby while they are lying down. Give them a chance to reach and grab it.
  • Peek –a-boo is lots of fun at this age! Hide your face with a small blanket or use your hands.
  • How do you know if a toy is more entertaining than educational? If a child sits and watches the toy “perform,” then it is not very educational.
  • Every baby needs a shape sorter and nesting cups. These items help build fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

AGE 1 TO 2

  • Support your child’s natural curiosity. Provide him with open ended toys, like wooden blocks, that can grow with him.
  • Toddlers are little explorers and learn by doing. They will love toys, such as puzzles and art materials, that let them figure out things on their own.
  • Children want to be like their mommy and daddy, and you will see your child begin imitating you more. Items like toy cell phones, remote controls and car keys are good choices.
  • Don’t get rid of your mismatched socks! Make hand puppets instead. Turn a large cardboard box into your puppet theatre, and prepare for hours of fun.
  • Toddlers are fascinated by transportation and building. Invest in some construction sets, blocks, transportation toys and see how it all comes together.

AGE 2 TO 3

  • Your toddler is probably running and jumping all over the house. Climber and ride-on toys are perfect for this age.
  • This age loves pretend play: recycle some of your old clothes for her to wear during dress-up play.
  • Seek toys that keep your child active. Balls, jump ropes, scooters and bikes are great for fun and support a healthy child.
  • Look for toys that can be fun at different developmental stages: plastic toy animals, action figures, stuffed animals and dolls.
  • Take-apart toys and ones with movement like, pop-up toys gratify toddlers’ curiosity about how things work. These toys also reinforce their eye-hand coordination and cause and effect.

AGE 3 TO 4

  • Three year olds are dreamers and thinkers! Puzzles help them with problem solving.
  • Provide a variety of rubber stamps, paper and small boxes. Encourage your child to stamp the paper and boxes independently. Take it to the next level by creating a story using stamps.
  • Create an obstacle course using items around the house: hula-hoops, cones, balls, and rope.
  • Kids love music. Share and support that love by giving them access to drums, keyboards, ukuleles, bells and more.
  • This age can spend hours and hours playing with a sand box or a water table. Be sure to provide cups, bowls, spoons and shovels to help facilitate play.

AGE 4 TO 5

  • Preschoolers can better follow directions now. Try playing board games for fun.
  • Keep a well stocked art box: crayons, markers, papers of different colors, clay and more. Your child will have hours of creative time.
  • Does your little one like to help you with yardwork or in the garden? Buy him child-sized lawn and gardening rakes, shovels and etc.
  • Help develop your child’s coordination by introducing her to sports like soccer, basketball and t-ball.
  • Get a magnifying glass and discover. Encourage them to take a look at fingerprints, leaves, and other objects.

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