About toys and games for children
Toys and games can be an important part of children’s play, and play is central to children’s learning and development.
Play that involves toys, games and you is important to children, especially young children. It can be as simple as singing a favourite nursery rhyme together, sorting household objects by colour and shape, or having a tea party with your child and their favourite teddy bear. These kinds of games not only help your child learn – they also build your relationship.
It’s also good to offer your child different sorts of toys and games. For example:
- Toys that need a solution can encourage experimentation, discovery and problem-solving. Examples include jigsaw puzzles, cause-and-effect toys and construction.
- Toys that allow for open-ended play can encourage creativity and provide endless play possibilities. Examples include blocks or cardboard boxes.
And it’s always good to let your child take the lead with toys, games and play, because children learn best when they’re interested in a play activity or a toy.
Toys and games for newborns
To learn and develop, your newborn needs warm interactions with you, more than toys. For example, newborns love watching your face, listening to your voice and just being with you.
If you’re choosing toys for newborns, it’s good to keep it simple. Newborns will enjoy looking at a brightly coloured mobile or learning to reach for a rattle.
Toys with contrasting colours like red, black and white are most interesting to newborns. Your baby will enjoy toys with faces or patterns like curves or checks. And they might also like touching toys or objects with furry, silky or soft textures like teddy bears, scarves and cloth books.
Keep in mind that newborns can’t focus on objects more than about 30 cm from their faces, so things might need to be quite close for your baby to see them clearly.
Newborns also enjoy listening to soft music or animal sounds. This means your baby might enjoy games that involve gentle holding and dancing to a beat. And your baby might like nursery rhymes too, especially ones with actions – for example, ‘Round and round the garden’ or ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’.
If your baby looks tired or overwhelmed when you’re playing together, it’s time to take a break. It’s only play if your baby is enjoying it.
Toys and games for babies and toddlers
Your child will probably enjoy playing with push-along toys, soft balls, cuddly teddies, board or cloth books that can’t be ripped, toy cars, simple puzzles and ride-on toys. Blocks are also likely to be a favourite – especially building them up and knocking them down again!
Surprise or cause-and-effect toys are great because they teach children that their actions have effects, and they give children a sense of control in their play. For example, your child might like a jack-in-the-box or a toy that lets them press a button to play music. The initial surprise might upset some children, so it’s best to introduce these toys gently and from around 10 months on.
Your pots-and-pans or plastics cupboard can be a great source of entertainment for your young child, as can many other ordinary things around your home. Remember to check for sharp edges, choking risks and other hazards before you give your child household bits and pieces to play with.
Outdoor play – for example, in the sandpit with a bucket and spade, or in the park rolling and kicking a ball – will also be a lot of fun for your baby or toddler.
Children love playing with water. You could try a paddling pool in warm weather or bath time play with boats, toy fish or coloured foam shapes. Your child might also find it fun to use measuring cups and empty plastic containers for splashing, pouring, tipping and floating. Just make sure to use toys that don’t trap water and can be easily washed.
No matter how shallow the bath or pool, safe play around water depends on 100% supervision. This means constant visual contact and keeping your child within arm’s reach at all times.
Toys and games for preschoolers
At this age, children often play with toys and games that involve building, pulling apart or knocking down, and rebuilding. They often like Lego, Duplo or blocks.
Your child might also enjoy toys or games that encourage experimentation, creativity and problem-solving. For example, your child might want to create a ramp for rolling objects, or they might like piling sticks and rocks to block a stream of water.
Your child will probably like anything that they can use for play-acting, like a toy tool box, old mobile phone or dress-up clothes. Your child’s imagination can turn cardboard boxes into many things, including a toy stove, letter box, car or boat.
You can make musical instruments with household objects. For example, plastic jars filled with rice or pasta can be used as shakers. Or unbreakable bowls turned upside down become drums if your child has a wooden spoon to bang with.
Quiet games and activities are good for when your child needs some downtime. Use paints, crayons and pencils for drawing and scribbling, or try paper and glue for collage. Books and stories, simple board games and puzzles are good for these times too.
Outdoor equipment – like a tricycle, cubbyhouse, sandpit or swings (with an adult nearby) – will keep your child busy and active. Balls are fun to throw, hit or kick.
Toys and games for school-age children
Even if your child is keen on the latest electronic device, classic toys and hands-on activities will always be popular. These include board games, books, art supplies, construction sets, jigsaw puzzles and outdoor toys like balls, cricket sets, bikes, skipping ropes and so on.
Computer games and apps are also popular with this age group. That’s fine – it’s all about helping your child achieve a balanced approach to screen time and digital technology use. This means balancing digital technology use with other toys and activities that are good for development, like outdoor play, pretend play, reading and social play.
Your child still benefits from spending time playing with you too. It can be fun to just kick a ball around together after school, or to play a card game before bath time.
When choosing the right toys for your family, it helps to consider your child’s age and interests and your family values.