Sneak peek: Finding developmentally appropriate toys for kids can be a challenge at times. These guides provide parents with ideas for developmental toys based on age and area of development
After years of having “hit or miss” experiences in choosing toys for my kids, I decided to turn to the research. Yes, even when it comes to choosing developmentally appropriate toys, research can help us. One of the keys to toy-buying success is focusing on developmental toys. Considering the age of your child and the skills they are learning can be key to making good toy choices.
With that in mind, I’ve put together this list plus a series of guides that help you sort through developmental toys, as well as certain skills we might want to foster such as social-emotional skills.
Baby Development Toys
One thing is clear from research on toys for babies–simple is better. While electronic toys are flashy and attractive, babies do not really need all the bells and whistles (literally). Traditional baby toys that focus on building foundational skills are ideal.
In fact, some studies have shown that too many electronic toys for babies might actually impede their language development as they mature. When babies play with electronic toys, their caregivers are less likely to use as many words while playing with them (because the toy is doing all the “talking”). Because of this, babies absorb fewer words in these play sessions. When it comes to baby toys, simple is best.
What are the best developmental toys for babies?
Simple, open-ended toys are ideal for babies. Here are some of our favorites.
This play gym is perfect for babies because of its interesting textures and high-contrast colors. The best part–it converts to a tent for toddlers! Great for years of fun.
A classic toy that engages babies’ fine motor skills and grasping skills. My kids always loved these.
These are fun for babies to explore texture and shape. These are also soft so babies can even chew on them.
For older babies who are starting to try walking, this toy is a huge hit. It allows them to explore standing and taking a few steps while relying on the toy for balance.
If you’ve ever seen a baby pull ALL the tissues out of the box (repeatedly) then you know why this is a great toy. They can pull over and over to practice. I wish I knew about this when my kids were babies!
Developmental Toys for Toddlers
One of the best classic toddler toys. It helps kids learn about shapes and spatial reasoning.
Simple toddler puzzles are a great toddler learning toy to build great spatial skills as well as shape and color recognition.
This fun art toy is a great way to encourage fine motor skills and color learning.
Developmental Toys for Preschool-Early Elementary Age
This seems like such a simple toy, but it is perfect for preschoolers practicing counting and sorting. Plus the scoop tongs help build fine motor skills.
Around elementary age, kids are able to really expand their imaginations with toys like this. They help develop creative thinking and STEM skills.
Clixo–these flexible building toys are so cool. Kids can make so many different fun items with them.
These watches are so cool for kids learning to tell time. They clearly mark both the hours and minutes so those time-telling skills can be reinforced each time they look at the watch. For preschoolers, there are pictures of animals so you can tell kids at what time to expect routine changes. For example, you could say that when the little hand is on the cow and the big hand on the mouse, we will go to dinner. This is a great way to help preschoolers learn routines (and hopefully prevent some meltdowns). Genius!
Toys for Middle Schoolers (and up)
There is a reason these sets have been around for decades. Great learning with the fun reward of making something move or making a light turn on, etc.
As kids reach middle school age, they want to hang out with friends more and more. Walkie-talkies can be a fun (screen free!) way to keep in touch with neighborhood friends. They are also good for keeping in touch with you while at a nearby park or on a bike ride (many walkies have a mile+ radius).
Wait…there’s more! See these guides for more gift ideas
Enjoy browsing these guides and choosing toys that your kids will enjoy for years!
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