|Choosing the Right Toy for Your Toddler
When a toddler plays it encourages the child to discover new abilities. Play is a necessary enjoyment of
childhood and is also the way children learn about themselves, their environment and the people around
them. During play toddlers learn to solve problems, get along with others and control their bodies as they
develop their creativity and build up leadership skills. Toddlers should play with a wide variety of toys; this
versatility will help them grow to their maximum potential.
The purpose of the guide is to assist in making educated decisions when selecting toys for your toddler. By
using the information in this guide, you will be able to choose the best toddler toys to meet your child’s
Learning through Play
Physical skills are developed through movement as a toddler learns to reach, grasp, crawl, run, climb and
balance. Fine motor skills (the use of hands and fingers) advance as he or she handles objects in play.
Mental skills are heightened through play that encourages problem solving and demonstrates cause and
effect. Toddlers learn about shapes, colors, sizes and other concepts through play. Language increases as a
toddler interacts with others and uses words for desired playthings and activities.
Language develops as a toddler plays and interacts with others. Beginning with cooing games with a parent
and evolving to advanced levels such as telling stories and jokes, the ability to use language improves as the
Social skills increase as the toddler plays. Learning to follow instructions, cooperate, negotiate, take turns
and play by the rules are all important skills learned in early games. It is through imaginative play that the
toddler begins to learn some of the roles and rules of society. Sharing play experiences also forms strong
bonds between parent and toddler throughout childhood. Emotional well being develops through positive play
experiences. When a toddler feels successful and capable as he or she plays, they gain important qualities for
emotional health. Play stimulates creativity and imagination, as well, and allows the toddler to expand the
possibilities of the world around them.
• Baby & Toddler Toys (6 months – 3 years)
• Games (includes board games)
• Learning Skills (includes lacing, sorting)
• Literacy (includes ABCs)
• Math (includes numbers & telling time)
• Pretend Play (includes make-believe, trucks)
• Puppets (includes dolls)
• Science & Nature (includes animals & dinosaurs)
Choose simple toddler toys
The more a toy does, the less there is for the child to do. A plain toy phone will lead to more imaginative
conversations than a phone with prerecorded messages. A wind-up car to push along gives better play value
than a battery powered car.
Choose toys that let the toddler set the plan
Unlimited play materials put the toddler in charge of the scene. A set of stacking cups can be a tower or
sailing ships in the bathtub.
Pick playthings that grow with the toddler
A wagon with a high sturdy handle supports a beginning walker, makes a cozy crib for dolls, and can serve
as a train or dump truck in the following years.
Don't let gender rule your selections
Kitchen items, dolls, peg benches and toy trucks are things that appeal to both boys and girls alike during
their early years.
Provide toddler toys that address growth in all the important areas
Large and small muscle control, pretending, thinking and problem solving, nurturing and cuddling are all
important. Simple books and some musical toys to enable toddlers to play or make music are also important.
A few well chosen essentials from these areas will assist your toddler better than a collection of
Use your imagination
Toddlers can exercise their imagination with household items. A kitchen pot and wooden spoon can be used
as drum set. Turn the pot over and it becomes a container where the toddler can place and dump blocks,
spoons, or even large curlers. Food containers with plastic lids can have the lids cut into shapes of items
you already have at home. A cardboard box can be a secret house where your toddler can play.
Read toy labels
Labels on toy packages take some of the speculation out of choosing safe, appropriate toys. Match your
toddler’s developmental level to the age on the toy’s label.
Inquire about toddler toys
Your toddler’s pediatrician or therapist can provide suggestions for appropriate toys. Some children have
special challenges that require adaptations, changes, or placement of toys. Working together, you will be
able to provide your toddler with the best environment for learning through play.
The toddler’s abilities and interests
At this stage, toddlers love testing their physical skills such as jumping, climbing, and throwing and enjoy
toys for active play. Toddlers need to practice their hand and finger coordination and enjoy putting these
skills to work with basic arts and crafts, puppets, blocks and simple puzzles. Imaginative play also begins
during this developmental level.
Toddler Toy Suggestions
• Balls (1¾ inches and larger)
• Tricycle and helmet
• Backyard gyms (swing, small slide, small climbing equipment)
• Shape sorters
• Building blocks
• Blocks with letters and numbers
• Stuffed animals
• Dolls that can be bathed, fed and diapered
• Dress-up clothes and accessories
• Play vehicles
• Hand and finger puppets
• Child sized table and chairs
Developmental Toys for Toddlers
Remember to consider your toddler's interests, abilities and limitations when making a selection. Not all
toddlers enjoy the same kind of play: one child will be interested in building with blocks or doing puzzles;
another may prefer riding bikes or playing ball; your toddler may enjoy pretending with a dollhouse or a
coloring book with crayons. Some toys are recommended for more than one developmental category,
because your toddler’s interest in a toy will often carry through more than one age group. Remember to use
your child’s developmental level, not actual age, when choosing toddler toys.