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 especially important to children. It can be as simple as singing a favourite nursery rhyme together, sorting buttons by colour and shape, or having a tea party with your child and her favourite teddy bear. These kinds of games not only help your child learn – they also build your relationship.
In general, when you’re choosing toys and games, it’s a good idea to keep a balance between toys that need a solution, like jigsaw puzzles, and toys that allow for open-ended play. Open-ended toys provide endless play possibilities – for example, your child might use blocks to build a tower one day, and a house the next day.
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, watching their hands or learning to reach for a rattle.
Toys with contrasting colours like red, black and white are most interesting to newborns. Your baby will also enjoy toys with faces or patterns like curves or checks.
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 nursery rhymes and songs, 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 baby or toddler 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 toys like a jack-in-the-box and other cause-and-effect toys are fun from around 10 months on. The initial surprise might upset some children, so introduce these toys gently.
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 lots of fun for your baby or toddler.
Children love playing with water. In the bath, your child will enjoy playing with just about anything – 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.
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
Your preschooler is likely to enjoy 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. Unbreakable bowls turned upside down become drums when your preschooler has a wooden spoon to bang with.
Quiet play 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, or construction toys are good for these times too.
Outdoor equipment – like a tricycle, cubbyhouse, sandpit or swings (with an adult nearby) – will keep your preschooler busy and active. Balls are fun to throw, hit or kick.
Toys and games for school-age kids
Even if your school-age child is keen on the latest electronic device, classic and basic toys 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 healthy approach to screen time. This means balancing screen use with other toys and activities that are good for development, like outdoor play, pretend play, reading and social play.
Your school-age 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 interests and stage of development, as well as your family values.