Your child will go through various stages of development as they grow up and different abilities will emerge at different ages.
Toys are a wonderful and very important way to help your child develop intellectually, physically, socially and emotionally. But it’s important to match the toys your child is playing with to what stage they’re at. Toys that are too easy may bore your youngster and toys that are too advanced may frustrate them.
Picking toys that match your child’s developmental stage will not only ensure that they have fun, it will also help them learn, discover and build important skills. Age appropriate toys also keep your child safe, help bring out their creativity and expand their imagination.
But exactly what are age appropriate toys? How do you choose them for your child? What types of toys are appropriate for different age ranges?
What Are Age Appropriate Toys?
Age appropriate toys are toys that match the stage of development your child is at for any given age.
Experts in child development determine age appropriate toys based on the average child’s age, physical, intellectual, social and emotional development. Manufacturers consider these guidelines when designing toys and recommending what age any given toy is suitable for.
Keep in mind that all of this is based on averages. Because kids develop at different rates, the suggested age range of any toy will apply to some kids in that age range, but not all kids.
At any given age, one child may be physically more developed than another. Or one child may be more socially developed than another child of the same age. So age range recommendations are meant to be used as reasonable guidelines to help parents, grandparents aunts, uncles, etc choose toys for their kids.
Why Choose Age Appropriate Toys For Your Child?
There are a number of reasons why you as a parent or grandparent may want to choose age appropriate toys for the child or children in your life:
Age Appropriate Toys Help You Identify Toys That Are Safe
When setting age appropriate guidelines, experts try and determine whether a specific toy is likely to safe or unsafe for kids. Manufacturers take these guidelines into consideration when setting their recommended age ranges.
For example, a toy with small parts that a child could choke on is never considered age appropriate for kids who are still at an age where they’re putting things in their mouth.
But the recommended age ranges are only suggestions so it’s crucial that you take the time to ensure that the toys you pick are safe, well made and contain only non toxic material.
The manufacturer’s description can help you determine this, as can reading reviews from people who have already bought the toys you’re looking at.
Age Appropriate Toys Help Children Reach Developmental Goals
Kids go through stages of development and reach different developmental goals at different ages. By choosing age appropriate toys for your child you are choosing toys that match and help them develop their developmental goals.
For example, once a child begins pulling themselves up while holding onto furniture, toys that encourage them to strengthen their leg muscles are ideal. Toys that develop their gross motor skills help them walk independently eventually.
Toys that help children identify colors and numbers, recognize shapes and distinguish big from small are suitable to the intellectual development of most preschoolers.
Age Appropriate Toys Take Into Consideration Children’s Interests
Kids develop different interests at different times. Age appropriate toys normally tap into what the average child is interested in at any given age and stage of development.
How to Choose Age Appropriate Toys For Your Child
When choosing toys that are suitable for your child, the recommended age range should certainly be used as guideline. However, it’s not the only consideration.
As a parent, you know your child best and when choosing a toy, you need to balance the age recommendations with your own knowledge of your child.
For example, a toy that has a recommended age range of 3 – 5 years may be more appropriate for your 3 year old than for your 5 year old.
Suggested Toys By Age
For those of you who are looking for a little help in choosing appropriate toys for specific ages, we’ve put together some general guidelines. They’re designed to give you an idea of what types of toys are appropriate for the average child in different age ranges.
Because kids of different ages often like playing with the same toy in their own way and at their own level, you’ll find some types of toys in more than one age category.
Birth to 6 Months
For the first 2 months of your child’s life they really don’t have any need or use for toys of any types. Their sole interests are sleeping and getting to know their parents. Spending time holding your child, talking and reading to them will give them all the comfort and stimulation they need at this early stage of development.
But around 2 or 3 months of age, your baby will start doing things like opening and closing their hands and batting or grasping at lightweight objects. They’ll also become more alert, using their 5 senses to explore and discover the world around them.
At this stage you might want to consider the following types of toys for your little one:
- Squeak toys
- Baby gyms and Activity centers
- Soft stuffed animals and cloth dolls with embroidered features
- Cloth books with high contrast colors and patterns
- Baby safe mirrors
- Soft lightweight blocks
- Bath toys
- Any device that plays soft soothing music
6 to 12 Months
Between the ages of 6 and 8 months your infant will probably be sitting up on their own, rolling over and they’ve perfected their grasping skills. They’ve discovered what cause and effect is so they love to bang and shake anything and everything. They may also be starting to crawl (or scoot) around.
By 12 months your child may be pulling themselves up and cruising around while holding onto furniture. They may also have taken their first steps.
Types of toys suitable for this age include:
- Stacking and nesting toys
- Shape sorters
- Pull toys
- Soft cloth or plastic blocks
- Push toys
- Baby walkers (walking toys)
- Activity centers and Baby gyms
- Bath toys
- Musical toys or any toy that makes noise
- Stuffed animals
When choosing toys to encourage your child to walk, it’s always best check consumer reviews to ensure the toy you choose is stable and won’t tip easily.
1 to 3 Years
Between the ages of 1 and 3, your child will be growing and changing rapidly. Their vocabulary will have increased to the point where they are speaking in short simple sentences.
They’ll have gone from taking those first hesitant steps to running around like crazy! And they will begin actually begin using toys in a way that is easily identifiable as active and imaginative play.
Here are some types of toys that are recommended for kids in this age group:
- Board books with easy to turn pages and interesting pictures
- Music recordings of all types of music
- Stuffed toys
- Building blocks
- Simple puzzles (4 to 12 pieces)
- Paper, finger paints and crayons
- Different size balls to throw, roll and kick
- Dolls and stuffed animals
- Ride on toys
- Pounding and hammering toys
- Toys that allow children to begin recognizing colors, numbers and different sizes and shapes
- Toys cars, trucks, boats and airplanes
4 to 5 Years – Preschooler
By the time your child reaches the age of 4 or 5 they are ready to begin a little academic learning. Toys that teach them the alphabet, simple counting and basic math and exploring nature are all a great fit at this age.
But kids this age still need to have tons of playtime fun, so here are some top toy suggestions for children in this age group:
- Building sets or open ending building materials that encourage your child to use their imagination
- Toys they can sort by color, shape and number
- Dress up clothes and accessories
- Play foods and play kitchens
- Dolls with accessories
- Sand and water toys
- Puzzles (ranging between 20 and 25 pieces)
- Modeling materials such as Play Doh or clay
- Paper, glue, scissors, crayons, color markers, and water based paints
- Musical toys and simple musical instruments
- CD players
- Ride on toys
- Climbing toys
- Toy cars, trains, planes, boats
6 to 9 Years – Elementary School
By the time your child starts elementary school they are ready to begin their academic life and their interests are vastly different than when they were toddlers.
6 to 9 year olds have a growing curiosity about the world around them and like to engage in both active and quiet playtime activities.
Here are some toys that are appropriate for kids between the ages of 6 and 9:
- Science kits and small animal habitats (ants, butterflies, and others)
- Building sets
- Magic kits
- Jump ropes
- Bicycles and helmets
- Model kits
- Art and craft materials
- Sports gear
- Puzzles (100 -120 pieces)
- Musical toys and instruments
- Posable dolls with accessories
- Action figures
Many children around this age become interested in sports and this is a time when they join Pee Wee leagues for football, basketball, baseball and more. Some kids also join clubs like Brownies and Scouts.
10 to 12 Years – Tweens
By the age of 10 to 12 children are enjoying a wider range of activities than ever before. Some are engaged in music classes, art classes and sports while others still prefer less organized activities.
Great toys for kids this age include:
- Maze type puzzles
- Advanced board games
- Simple robots kits
- Science kits
- Building kits
- Telescopes and Microscopes
- Arts and crafts kits
- Kits to making accessories
- Model and building kits
- Bikes with helmets, skateboards and snowboard
- Real musical instruments
- Outdoor toys of all types
- Sports equipment
- Finger knitting and beginning knitting kits
Knowing what stage of development your child is at can make it much easier for you to choose age appropriate toys for them.
The toys we’ve suggested only scratch the surface in each age range. There are many more age appropriate toys for every age group that you can choose based on your child’s development, interests and personality.