When choosing toys for your children, you’ll want to make sure that not only are they safe, but also that they’re age appropriate. Most toys are labeled with an age range so you can be sure it’s fitting for your child. Guidelines published by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission can aid you in choosing age appropriate toys. And remember, age levels for toys aren’t determined by intelligence or maturity, they’re determined by safety — so even if your child seems advanced compared to others, they still shouldn’t play with toys meant for older kids.
In addition to safety concerns, you’ll want to ensure you’re choosing the correct toys for your child’s development stage. What is interesting and engaging to a one-year-old isn’t necessarily the same for a two-year-old. Here is a helpful guide to choosing age appropriate toys for children in every age and stage.
Appropriate Toys by Age and Stage
0–6 months (young infant)
At this age, babies love to observe. They are fascinated with movement, sounds, and visuals. They are learning what their body can do (like raising their head and wiggling their toes), working on hand-eye coordination, reaching for things, and grabbing ahold of objects. At this age, good toys include mobiles, rattles, squeeze toys, stuffed toys, and anything they can grasp. They also enjoy listening to books, nursery rhymes, and lullabies, as well as looking at things (like themselves in an unbreakable mirror!).
7–12 months (older infant)
Older infants are beginning to figure out movement: they’re rolling over, sitting up, scooting, and standing. They’re able to hold small toys and like to transfer toys from place to place. They’re into repetitive motion and are learning about cause and effect. They also are able to identify common objects at this age and know their name. Some of the same toys they were playing as a young infant with can still be used, in addition to new items like toy vehicles with wheels, water and sand toys, balls, and more. They can build with soft blocks, crawl over soft items, and play with push-and-pull toys.
1 year old (young toddler)
Babies are movin’ and groovin’ by this age. They are walking well, saying their first words, and beginning to experiment with size, shape, and space. They are setting goals and taking deliberate action to make it happen. They prefer action toys, such as push-and-pull toys, ride-on toys, puzzles, rhythmic instruments, shape sorters, puppets, and role-play items like housekeeping equipment and play telephones. They can also begin to use nontoxic art materials to create with.
2 years old (older toddler)
Toddlers are rapidly learning things and begin testing their physical abilities — that means climbing, jumping, somersaulting, and hanging from things. They are interested in physical attributes of objects and begin to solve problems in their head. This also is the age that they begin to play cooperatively with other children. Problem-solving toys like puzzles and snapping blocks are popular, as well as items for building and pretending (dress up, kitchen sets, etc.). They enjoy outdoor play equipment like slides, tunnels, climbing structures, and swings (just be sure to supervise). They also enjoy listening to music and looking at detailed picture books.
3–6 years old (preschoolers and kindergarteners)
In the preschool stage and onward, children have fully mastered their motor skills, including running, jumping, climbing, and balancing. They have longer attention spans, which means they can engage in play with one toy longer. They enjoy playing with other children at this age and are learning to share and play in a group. However, competitive play is not yet encouraged as a child this age does not like to lose. To ensure engaging play for children this age, give them larger puzzles, complex building block sets, pattern-making toys, and dolls with accessories. Play catch with them or baseball with plastic bats and balls. Creating also is encouraged through the use of finger painting, modeling clay, chalk, and more. You can start to introduce interactive computer programs at this age, but be sure to limit electronic and screen time.