By Raising Children Network
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Finding toys that your child will enjoy and learn from is about understanding which play ideas suit which age – not whether the toys are hand-made, pre-loved, ‘educational’ or expensive.

Baby looking at a book

The most important play for newborns, babies, toddlers and preschoolers is play with parents. Try and make some time for play every day. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – it can be as simple as having a tea party with your child and her favourite teddy bear. 

Here are some more ideas for choosing toys to suit your child’s different developmental stages.


You’re usually the best toy for your newborn. Your child will delight in watching your face, listening to your voice and simply being with you.

Your newborn will also enjoy looking at a brightly coloured mobile, listening to a wind-up musical toy or learning to reach for a rattle.

Toys with contrasting colours such as red, black and white are most interesting to newborns. Your baby will also enjoy toys with faces or with patterns such as curves or checks.

Babies and toddlers

Around your home
Your baby or toddler will enjoy playing with push-along toys, soft balls, cuddly teddies, board or cloth books that can’t be ripped, toy cars and trucks, blocks (building them up and knocking them down again), and a bucket and spade for the sandpit.

Surprise toys such as a jack-in-the-box and other cause-and-effect toys are fun from around 10 months on.

Simple puzzles, ride-on toys, and picture books with fun rhymes and bright illustrations will fascinate your toddler.

Let your child get crafty with crayons and butcher’s paper, spend some quiet time reading a book, or be creative with playdough, hand puppets or dress-ups.

Safe fun with water
In the bath, your child will enjoy playing with just about anything, including boats, toy fish, plastic books and coloured foam shapes. Measuring cups and empty plastic containers are fun for splashing, pouring, tipping and floating.

A paddling pool will be hugely popular in warm weather. Always stay with your child around water, no matter how shallow the water is.

Clear the sharp things out of your pots-and-pans cupboard or utensil drawer to provide a great source of entertainment for babies and toddlers. Your plastics drawer or cupboard is a fun place to explore too. 


Your preschooler is likely to enjoy anything that can be used for play-acting, such as a toy tool box, old mobile phone or dress-up clothes. Cardboard boxes can be turned into lots of things, including a toy stove, letter box, car or boat.

Try arts and crafts such as paints, crayons, pencils or cutting and pasting, or spend some quiet time reading books together or listening to stories.

Outdoor equipment – such as a bike, cubbyhouse, sandpit or swings (with an adult nearby) – will keep your preschooler busy and active. 

Simple board games and puzzles, toy animals, toy cars, dolls and construction toys such as Lego are all fun. Keep a balance between toys that require a solution, such as jigsaw puzzles, and open-ended toys that stimulate your child’s imagination. 

School age

Your school-age child will probably have a clear idea of what she wants to play with. At this age, you can often be guided by your child’s requests or a particular interest.

Even if your child’s keen on the latest techno-toy with all the electronic bells and whistles, the classic and basic toys will always be popular. These include board games, books, art supplies, construction sets, jigsaw puzzles and outdoor toys such as balls, cricket sets, bikes, skipping ropes, roller blades and so on.

Technology in the form of appropriate computer games, CDs and DVDs is also popular with this age group. But a healthy family lifestyle includes limits on daily screen time.

Your school-age child will still benefit from spending time playing with you. It can be fun to just kick a ball around together after school, or to play a card game before bathtime.
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  • Last Updated 16-03-2011
  • Last Reviewed 02-11-2009