Are you wondering what toy is best for a child?

Even if you’re around children a lot, choosing a gift that is both fun and educational can be difficult! Children go through different learning stages as they grow from newborns to adolescents. While these stages are occurring, changes in their brain are also happening.

Although every child develops in their own time, it is important to continuously stimulate their mind and senses in order to help them grow. Learning the different stages of development is important to help determine what an age-appropriate toy is for your child or loved one. If you are looking for the perfect gift, inform your decision by what developmental stage a child is at.

Below we highlight key points to consider when choosing a gift that will keep your child engaged. We also created a helpful visual for easy reference.

Every person’s growth, learning and development starts with their motor and sensory skills. Sensory skills involve your senses. Things are learned and memorized best by children and adults when they engage their senses.

Motor skills are used when your muscles, nervous system and brain work together to complete a task. There are two types of motor skills: fine and gross. Fine motor skills include small tasks like picking up a spoon, bending your fingers and moving your lips. Gross motor skills include bigger movements like rolling over, sitting and walking, anything that involves using your feet, legs, torso and arms is a gross motor skill.

Motor skills are measured by skills such as

  • Muscle tone
  • Strength and coordination
  • Rhythm and timing
  • Bilateral coordination
  • Primitive and postural reflexes
  • Eye-muscle balance and coordination
  • Balance and posture

Sensory skills are those that involve the senses, which include:

  • Hearing
  • Vision
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Touch
  • Vestibular (inner ear)
  • Proprioception (the ability to know where one’s body is in space)
  • Balance and spatial perception

Age-Appropriate Toys for Children

Choosing a toy will depend on what age and stage the child is in. It’s not necessary to get caught up in gender-specific toys as long as they are colorful and cheerful.  Ask yourself if the child will enjoy or if it’s a little to complicated for them to comprehend it.

Remember, gifting a toy to a child will allow them to become more social and share with other kids. Dollhouses, wooden blocks, play kitchens and dress-up items have been staple baby toys for a really long time because they allow for creative and imaginative play. Below we have highlighted what toys are best at what age and why.

Birth to 5 Month Olds

From birth to five months of age, babies start to grasp objects and show affection. They laugh at funny faces and even make funny faces themselves! The best part of all? By five months, they can typically sleep through the night with naps once or twice a day.

Milestones: In this age range, babies are starting to sit up and find ways to balance. They will need toys that are safe and easy to hold because at this age, babies put everything in their mouth (so make sure to wash your toys often)! They also react very well to objects that are moving, objects that have black and white contrast and sounds. Tummy time and peek-a-boo are excellent activities to play with your baby.

Toys For Birth to 5 Month Olds

Everything is new for a baby at this stage, so introducing them to soft toys, textures and contrasts will help to stimulate their senses. Toys that improve their hand-eye coordination are key. Exposure to shapes and sizes will help babies differentiate between round and square objects and because they are starting to grasp items, this is the perfect time to introduce them to shapes.  Some great toy options include:

  • Rattles
  • Squeeze toys
  • Large rings
  • Activity gyms
  • Plush animals
  • Interactive play mats
  • Black and white books
  • Wind chimes
  • Toys with mirrors
  • Mobiles

6 to 11 Month Olds

Watch out! Your six to eleven month old is now crawling and eating solid foods. It’s all about taste in their world right now and they are learning what they like and don’t like to eat.  Also, they are now able to recognize you as their parent! These babies have also learned to stand up on their own by holding on to sturdy furniture.

Milestones: Babies at this age are able to pick up larger items with their fingers and use both hands at the same time. They like to bang objects together and throw them. At this stage, babies need to be introduced to constructive play, which are things that feed their imagination.

Toys For 6 to 11 month old babies

As mentioned, toys that help with creativity, visual stimulation and constructive skills are best for a baby at this stage. Below are some toys that allow them to explore as well as improve their sensory and cognitive skills as well as language development.

1 Year Olds

Congratulations! Your little baby is now a happy one-year-old. There are several milestones your bundle of joy has accomplished. They stand by themselves (and maybe even take a few steps), they may be able to eat on their own and they are taking less naps during the day.

Milestones: By this time, your baby is probably scribbling and covering/uncovering objects such as plastic lids or shoe boxes. They are at the age now where they want to investigate everything. They like to find hidden objects and imitate the sounds that you make.

Toys For 1 Year Olds

Toys with moving parts, levers, wheels and blocks are ideal. Songs also play a huge part in development because they help with memorization and repetition skills. Toys to build and put together are great for motor skills. It’s all about sensory and imagination at this age, so anything with music will stimulate their brains.

2 Year Olds

Your toddler is growing quickly. They now like to run away, play hide and seek, complete sentences and even show a little independence.

Milestones: By this time, your toddler is kicking a ball, climbing up and down the stairs and pointing at everything they see. They like to interact with other kids and are now using one hand more than the other, although it’s still not certain if they are right or left handed.

Toys For 2 Year Olds

Toys that require physical strength are best for two-year-olds as well as those that help them with their language and social skills. Because they have more control over their hands, two-year-olds can play with heavier toys that build physical strength. Playing pretend at this age also allows them to get a better sense of dressing themselves and every day activities.

3 to 6 Year Olds

Your child is walking and running more than ever and is even ready to ride a bicycle. Although their activity level is often higher, they also require a lot of good rest. They have now started school and are interacting with many kids their age.

Milestones: By this time your child has more strength. They are able to control heavier items and have much better coordination when using scissors or crayons. They are most likely brushing their own teeth and becoming more independent.

Toys For 3 to 6 Year Olds

Because they have more control over their reflexes and movements, it’s important to get toys for your child that involve brain activity and hand and muscle movements. Allowing your child to do crafts, play outside and play memory games is ideal.

7 to 8 Year Olds

By this age, your child has an understanding of cause and effect. They are able to write complete sentences and enjoy being part of a team. Because of this, though, they are easily influenced by peers. So, making sure they have the tools to be an individual is key.

Milestones: By this time, your child is learning vocabulary through reading, telling stories and has a creative imagination. They have a longer attention span and love to collect things. They are more active and can play for long hours.

Toys For 7 to 8 Year Olds

Because they are eager to learn, science toys and educational board games are perfect for this age range. Toys and activities that involve a lot of concentration, such as knitting, are also ideal.

  • Science kits
  • Puppets
  • Lego®
  • Board games
  • Chess and checkers
  • Rocks and gems
  • Knitting kits
  • Outdoor toys
  • Painting kits
  • Activity books

9 Year Olds and Older

Nine-year-olds are becoming independent and are starting middle school. They are building lasting friendships and are facing more academic challenges. By now, their attention span has increased and they are asking more questions.

Milestones: At this age, memory is developing at a rapid pace. Your child can concentrate on a single activity for prolonged periods of time. Consequences of bad behavior are now understood and they are able to express their thoughts and opinions about a variety of topics.

Toys For 9 Year Olds and Older

Reading plays a huge role in your child’s life at this age. It stimulates their imagination, communication skills and vocabulary. Problem-solving toys are ideas at this age and may keep them entertained for hours.

  • 3D puzzles
  • History board games
  • Sports equipment
  • Electronic dictionaries
  • Journals
  • Race tracks
  • Funny books
  • Mechanical toys
  • Card sets
  • Comic books

No matter what age your child or loved one is, it is always great to get them toys that will improve their motor and sensory skills. It keeps them alert and eager to learn new things. If you are looking for gift ideas or birthday present ideas, check out our gifts for kids, perfect for any occasion!

Healthy Families / Mom Junction / Child Development Info / Education Playcare / Mom Blogs Society / What To Expect / Very Well / CDC / World Of Moms / Fundamentally Children / Bausch