Choosing The Right Toys For Your Toddler

The Right Toy for The Right Child

Not all children are the same, and not all children develop at the same rate. The best way to make sure your toddler grows up well is to ensure he has the right toys and the right kind of play activities. In these early developmental stages, your child won’t be learning in the same way as older children learn things in school – virtually everything will be learnt from playing. Toys and games will not only help with physical development and motor control, but also with mental, cognitive, emotional, and social development.

Another thing to consider is the size and age of your child. It’s no good, for example, buying an adult pushbike for a two-year-old! Acknowledging the capability of your child will help you to choose the right toys for your toddler.

The Developmental Stages of Your Toddler

Being a toddler isn’t necessarily about being a particular age. It is generally assumed that toddlers are between 12 months and 3 years old, but as already noted, children develop at different rates. The term “to toddle” indicates being able to walk, but not very well. Therefore, a toddler by definition has to be able to stand and move around.

There are many factors that may delay this ability, so it is important to be aware of how your child is developing and purchase appropriate toys to further their development.

Milestones to look for:

Physical Milestones

Standing and moving around in an upright position quickly advances to running in short bursts, jumping, squatting to pick things off the ground, kicking and throwing balls, climbing over furniture and stairs, and so on. As your child grows stronger, they will learn to control their body better, and gain hand-eye coordination.

Pre-Reading Skills

Your toddler will enjoy stories, no matter what they are doing. The sound of a parental voice is always welcome, and children enjoy looking at pictures in storybooks. They quickly understand that stories have a beginning and an end, and may call you out on it if you miss parts out! Storytelling helps to expand a child’s vocabulary, as well as language and communication skills.

Gain Independence

Your toddler is an adult trapped in a tiny body that they find hard to control. They want to be able to do everything you can do, and they don’t want help in doing it. While they are still small, they are fully dependent on you, but will constantly strive to get better. Every time they mimic someone and try and do something on their own, they are gaining independence.

Talking in Simple Sentences

As their vocabulary expands, toddlers will try and communicate what they are thinking with you. This may manifest in phrases such as “Me dinner!” when hungry, but the problems arise when more complex explanation is necessary. Because the child won’t know the words needed, they can easily become frustrated. This is when they start to throw temper tantrums, which are common during the “terrible twos” – when toddlers are around two years of age, they can become very frustrated by their lack of ability when they are fully aware of what everyone around them can do.

Feelings & Emotions

Even though there may be a lack of words to describe what your toddler is feeling, they are quite capable of feeling anger, possessiveness, excitement, guilt, and of course, frustration. It is important that they learn to understand these feelings happen in other people, too.

Different Type of Play

Not all play is the same! There are several different ways in which toddlers (and older children) can play.

Solitary Play – The toddler will play on their own and show no interest in what other children are doing.

Parallel Play – Essentially, solitary play in groups. The group of children will play in the same way, doing exactly the same thing, but not interacting with the other children. They may be setting up their own toy car park, or making something from building blocks, or any of a number of other things.

Onlooker Play – The toddler watches other children playing. They may talk and interact with the other child, but they are not actually playing with anything themselves.

Imitative Play – Similar to parallel play, but with more awareness of other children. Your toddler will copy how other children are playing.

Associative Play – Your child will interact with other children more and more, possibly even without toys. They will find it to be more fun to play with others than alone.

Cooperative Play – Your child will play with other children and work towards a common goal. For example, they will find it quicker and easier to build a tower of building blocks in a group than individually.

Seeing how your child plays will inform your decision on what type of toys to buy for your toddler.

How to Choose the Right Toy for Your Toddler

Hopefully, you will now have an idea of the right toys for your toddler, but here is a little more guidance if you need it.

Consider Safety – Safe toys are an absolute priority. Make sure there are no sharp edges, no small detachable parts that can be put in the mouth, and ensure that the toys are non-toxic as children love to chew on things even if they won’t fit fully in their mouths.

Choose toys that have many uses – Children will find different ways of playing with even the most mundane toys, but if you choose a toy with options to begin with, you might help fire their imagination. Toys like building blocks, nesting cups, or even sand, are ideal.

Choose toys that will last – Again, you want something that sparks imagination. If a child finds a toy boring, they may not go back to it. Dolls and action figures are ideal as the child can imagine them into almost any situation. Make-believe play helps to build language skills, literacy skills, sequential-ordering skills, and problem-solving skills. Even dress-up clothing will set off a story in their heads!

Engage the brain – Puzzle and problem-solving toys and games are fantastic for developing little minds. Toddlers love the satisfaction of solving things on their own, so toys like shape-sorters, art materials, and puzzles are perfect.

Find toys that mimic real things – Kids just want to do everything that you do, so finding toys that mimic real things will encourage them greatly. Kitchen equipment, vehicles, tools, everything!

Get toys to help with reading – Not only normal story and picture books, but electronic books too. Some have light and sound feedback, some help learning the alphabet, and some will even read the whole story out loud.

Find toys that encourage physical activity – Moving around is vital to the physical development of your child, so toys like balls, tricycles, scooters, playsets and tunnels are ideal to get him moving!

Get toys that the whole family can get involved with – Encourage social development by finding toys and games that everyone can join in with. Board games and card games are great for this, encouraging the development of memory, listening, matching and counting skills.

These tips coupled with your understanding of how toddlers develop and play will now allow you to make an informed decision when choosing the toys for your toddler.


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Kristin Scott

Founder, lead writer, and chief product tester at My Kids Need This.