Choosing the right gift for kids can be as hard as it is daunting. We’ve all experienced the short life span of a toy that either gets tossed aside and forgotten or literally destroyed. Fret not, we’re here to help you discover age-appropriate toys that’ll have both you and the recipient of the gift delighted. Whether you’re a Grandparent, Aunt, or Uncle buying for a relative; a new mum who wants to get their child something they’ll actually play with, or someone who seems to get invited to a lot of birthdays.
At SensoBaby, we make a lot of our resources and most of our classes centre around Sensory Play. Sensory play’s fun and essential for development but can be messy and overwhelming to devise by ourselves at home. Parents often ask our advice on the best toys to get to support their child’s development and since SensoBaby specialises in Developmental Play, we thought we’d do a round-up of the best toys to buy for your little ones and why they’re in our top 5!
5 Best Toys For Play And Development For Babies
Babies are pre-programmed to be attracted to faces and people. It’s how they learn about the world they’re in. Time with your baby is the best thing for their development. There are gifts you can buy to support quality time such as Baby Massage Classes, Baby Sign Classes, and Sensory Development Classes. Books are another way of sharing time, supporting communication and bonding, so if in doubt, buy a book! (Top Tip: This works for any age!)
A basic toy but one which is versatile. You can hide objects under the cups and play peekaboo games or let your baby explore how to stack and sort them. Posting items into the cups supports their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Babies don’t recognise their own faces until around 18 months of age! This means seeing their reflection in the mirror sparks curiosity and promotes visual focus. Mirrors are bright and shiny, reflecting light in interesting ways. Picking a toy that includes a mirror is usually a win.
Once babies begin to discover their own bodies and what they can do, playmats are a great way to find their independence, learn how to roll, push up and spend time on their tummy strengthening those muscles they’ll need for sitting and crawling.
Shakers and Instruments
Instruments are a great way to learn about cause and effect. Baby shakes the rattle and is rewarded with a sound. Instruments are always fun and can be a lovely way to introduce rhythm as you sing along to the music. Rhythm is one of the building blocks for speech development.
5 Best Toys for 1 Year Olds
A play tunnel is ideal for your little ones to practice crawling. The tunnel challenges their proprioception or body awareness and supports the development of gross motor skills. You can also fold half of it to make a peekaboo puppet theatre!
- Shape Sorters
Perfect for spatial awareness, cognitive reasoning, and fine motor skill development, shape sorters are ideal to support your child’s development.
- Wooden Blocks
Stacking, building, and knocking down again, the basic building block is the king of open-ended toys for play and discovery.
- Water Toys
Scooping, pouring, stirring, and splashing. Water play is a great sensory experience and doesn’t just have to wait until bathtime! Always supervise your child near any water.
- Push Toys
Great for getting steady on their feet and finding their independence. Ditch the baby walkers where they’re seated and try standing walkers, toy pushchairs or carts that’ll support your child to find their balance as they play.
5 Best Toys for 2 Year Olds
- Connecting Blocks
Toys such as Duplo are great at this age. Duplo bricks are twice the length, height, and width of traditional Lego bricks, making them easier to handle and less likely to be swallowed by younger children. These are great for connection and building support for fine motor development, spatial awareness, and creativity.
Anything that moves and can support your little one’s desires for speed and freedom!
- Pretend Play
Play kitchens and dress-up items are always popular at this age. Anything that encourages imaginative play is likely to be used and played with often. Pretend play items don’t have to be realistic to be fun. Sometimes something versatile like a cloak or hat is better than a specific costume because it can have many different uses.
Great for fine motor development and cognitive skills, puzzles of all shapes and sizes will stimulate your child and keep them engaged.
- Art Supplies
Unleash creativity through age-appropriate art supplies. Crayons, paper rolls, chalks, paints, and stamps will allow your child to express themselves and explore colour.
We all want our little ones to be safe. When it comes to toys. I always advise buying something that’s of good quality. Rather a small gift from a reputable manufacturer than something large and fancy that may not meet basic safety requirements.
Choking is the number one hazard for toddlers at playtime. Read and follow the age guides. Also, avoid giving toys with small parts to children under the age of 3 as they’re likely to go in their mouth.
Avoid toys with button batteries as these can be fatal if ingested. Although they look secured onto the toy, toddlers have an amazing way of getting to the parts they shouldn’t!
Never keep toys and stuffed animals in the cot or sleeping area with your baby as they can easily become a suffocation hazard.
You can find more about toy safety at this website: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/How-to-Buy-Safe-Toys.aspx
Play Beyond Toys
Children are built to explore the world around them and they do this through play. The reality is they don’t need lots of toys or expensive playrooms to keep them entertained. We all know when faced with a toy or our car keys, a baby usually prefers the keys! They’re naturally drawn to real objects because they want to copy what we do and what they see around them each day.
It’s fine to let your child play with pots and pans from the kitchen, peg the washing out with you or stir the bubbles in the bath. There is always an opportunity to play and your child is the expert at finding it!