Kids, whether they’re at the baby, toddler, big kid or teenager stage, can have so much energy that sometimes it feels like they’ll bring the house down if you can’t think of something for them to do. It’s the age-old problem for parents with children of any age: how can I keep them entertained for hours on end when they’re stuck indoors?
We have one magical word for you: toys!
Not only is playing with toys a great way for your kid to have fun, burn off some energy and practice new skills. Maybe, just maybe, the right toys will give you a few minutes to take a deep breath and do… nothing.
Buying age-appropriate toys for your kids
Giving your child the right kinds of toys, at the right time, helps shape their development and emerging abilities in important ways.
A train set, wooden puzzle, building blocks or a musical toy can be an invaluable learning tool for your children, teaching them essential skills like hand-eye coordination, gross and fine motor skills, memory, recognition and much more, all at their own pace. Kids also love to use their imaginations at pretty much all ages, so toys that encourage their creativity make for perfect playthings.
How to choose the right toys for different ages
While it feels like choosing toys for kids should be easy (just filter by age and price range, add to cart and you’re done, right?) the sheer volume of toys on the market for different development stages these days is, quite frankly, mind boggling!
It’s also daunting to figure out which toys are best as your child moves to a different age bracket and their preferences shift. Which toys will stand the test of time and which ones will your child play with for a day or two and never touch again?
Here are some tips to help you choose toys for your children that are safe and educational:
1. Always look at the product description for appropriate age / level.
First thing’s first – it’s important to choose toys that fit your child’s particular development stage. After all, they’ll only get enjoyment out of the toy if they can actually use it properly. It’s a bit of a delicate balancing act to find toys that will challenge your five year old, for example, without making them feel frustrated.
Toys are specifically labelled as appropriate for specific age groups based on many factors, including the child’s physical and cognitive capabilities, interests and (most importantly) safety. For example, you need to be cautious when purchasing toys for children aged three and under, as small parts might pose a choking hazard. And be especially careful of inheriting second-hand toys that aren’t up to today’s rigorous safety standards.
Recommended reading: The Emotional And Intellectual Benefits Of Playing With Educational Toys
2. Opt for toys that encourage your child to use their mind and body.
As a general rule, the more the toy does (i.e. moving, singing, dancing and talking), the less your child is going to do. If they can sit and watch the toy do its thing, then it’s not educating them – it’s mere entertainment. The more kids use their minds and bodies to make something work, the more they learn.
3. Keep your child’s unique developmental level in mind.
One other thing: as you read our list of suggested toys for children of different ages, it’s worth bearing in mind that each child is different and will hit key milestones at their own pace. So long as they’re safe to use, some of the toys listed below can work just as well for children who are younger or older than the guideline age range on the packaging. And by the same token, although a toy might have a recommended age, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s suitable for every child that falls into that age group.
With these considerations out of the way, below, we’ve broken down the best toys for kids of every age:
0 – 6 months
Babies under 6 months are just beginning to discover the world around them. They’re also just starting to figure out how to use their hands, feet, eyes and most of their senses. The best toys for younger infants at this age are ones that stimulate them through sound, touch and taste. They’re also easily entertained by simple toys – essentially, anything that makes a noise when prodded or pushed.
Playmats are best for developing your baby’s hand-eye coordination. They usually come with several different toys attached to keep babies entertained and appeal to their sense of fun and exploration. Mobiles and light projectors are also great for stimulating baby’s vision and auditory development in the early months (just be sure they’re out of baby’s reach at all times).
Soft books are ideal for tummy time at this early stage – you can put baby on their stomach and easily prop the books up in front of them. Teething rings, rattles and attachable cot and car seat toys are also great for helping your little one practice fine-motor skills, like grasping and clutching.
Suggested toys for babies under 6 months:
- Baby rattles
- Cloth toys
- Soft books/board books with fabric spots (in black and white if possible, because babies under six months don’t see a full range of colour)
- Playmats/activity gyms
- Musical mobiles
- Light projectors
- Attachable car seat or cot toys
6 – 12 months
In the second half of their first year of life, your baby is much more alert and curious. They love nothing more than interacting with the world and objects around them – it’s how they learn, reach milestones and continue to develop their senses. That’s why so many toys for babies making the transition from newborn to older babies are designed to promote interaction in a variety of ways. Whether it’s toys that make a squeaking or crackly noise, have a bumpy texture, or are soft and cuddly – anything multi-sensory works!
They’re likely to be teething at this point. Because everything they pick up is bound to end up in their mouths sooner or later, toys that are meant specifically for chewing are a great option. At around six months, babies also start to figure out cause and effect – this is why they suddenly start getting a serious kick out of dropping their teething ring and watching you pick it up! Toys with levers, buttons and knobs that make something pop are great for developing their sense of cause and effect.
Suggested toys for babies aged 6 – 12 months:
- Activity centres
- Picture books
- Teething rings
- Stacking toys
- Musical toys
- Soft toys
- Textured toys
- Pop-up toys
- Squeaky toys
- Baby-safe mirror
- Bath toys
Ages 1 – 3 years
Toddlers love nothing more than playing with a wide range of toys – pretty much anything, from puzzles to toy kitchens, will be a surefire hit with this particular age group. As much as possible, opt for toys that are open-ended (i.e. they can be used in many different ways). For example, something as simple as a set of building blocks can be used to build a house, boat or even a maze.
Imaginary play is a critical part of your child’s social development at this age, too. Playtime with toys like dolls, animals and action figures, where your child can act out stories, helps them foster their language and sequencing skills. Toddlers also love playing with “real-life stuff” – toy versions of common household items will make for hours of entertainment at this age. Perennial favourites, like stacking cups and pull-along toys, will also continue to aid your toddler in developing their spatial, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Suggested toys for toddlers:
- Building blocks
- Nesting cups
- Pull-along toys
- Plastic animals
- Action figures
- Vehicles (like cars, trains and planes)
- Stuffed animals
- Wooden puzzles (up to 12 pieces)
- Child-sized versions of real-life objects (toy kitchens, toy appliances, toy phones, toy tools, toy musical instruments, toy art easels, child-sized basketball hoop, etc.)
Ages 4 – 6
At this age, dress-up play with costumes and props allows children to run wild with their imagination and start thinking from new perspectives. They’re also starting to become more social and accustomed to group play activities, so things like board games are great to get kids working on their counting, matching and memory capabilities, as well as social skills like active listening and self-control.
More strategic puzzles are also good to introduce at this stage as their cognitive skills continue to mature. Kids of this age also love to get messy – luckily, art projects and craft kits are a great way to keep developing those fine motor skills and creativity!
Suggested toys for 4 – 6 year olds:
- Board games
- Brain teaser books
- Arts and crafts materials, like crayons, markers and playdough
- Dress-up clothes
- Ride-on toys, like tricycles, scooters and bikes with training wheels
- Outdoor play equipment, such as swing sets, slides, trampolines and paddling pools
Ages 7 – 9
This is the age where your child’s individual interests and hobbies will start affecting the types of toys you’ll buy. As kids become more adept readers, they’re likely ready for more advanced chapter-by-chapter books and graphic novels. Other crowd pleasers for older kids include:
- Craft kits
- Science kits
- Modelling kits
- More advanced board games, like Scrabble and Monopoly
- Construction sets
- Sports and gymnastics equipment
- Musical instruments
- Skipping ropes
Ages 10 – 12
Older kids can be hard to shop for – the tween years are typically when kids start moving away from toys, with their own unique tastes in social pastimes, movies and music. However, here are some gift ideas that tend to be tween approved:
- Robots and robotic pets
- Karaoke machines
- Remote control vehicles
- Game consoles, video games and gaming headsets
- Film camera
- Card games
- Games tables
Don’t let Christmas toy shopping for little ones and bigger kids overwhelm you this year. With a Littlewoods Ireland Flexible Account, you can spread the cost of Christmas and save yourself the hassle of last-minute panic gift-buying!
From baby toys to toddler toys, little kid activities to big kid games, Littlewoods Ireland’s selection of toys promote crucial developmental skills, benefit educational growth, inspire playful activity and spark creativity in kids of all ages. Why not get a headstart on your Christmas shopping list with free shipping and returns on all toy purchases today?