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Toddlers are little explorers who learn by doing. Play gives your child a great opportunity to develop and practice new skills at her own pace by following her unique interests. The toys and playthings your child has available to her can shape her development in important ways.

While it may seem like choosing toys for toddlers should be easy, as you walk into a toy store today, the only thing that’s easy is feeling overwhelmed. There is a huge array of toys that have been developed for the toddler market. How do you choose which are right for your child? How can you tell which are high quality and which will last? Which will engage your child’s interest for more than a few days or weeks? Below are some ideas for choosing toys that will grow with your child, challenge her, and nurture her overall development (her thinking, physical, language and social-emotional skills).

Guidelines for Choosing Toys for Toddlers

Choose toys that can be used in a variety of ways.

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Toddlers love to take apart, put back together, pull out, put in, add on, and build up. Choose toys that are “open-ended” in the sense that your child can play many different games with them. For example, wooden blocks or chunky plastic interlocking blocks can be used to make a road wooden doll house shop
, a zoo, a bridge, or a spaceship. Toys like this spark your child’s imagination and help him develop problem-solving and logical thinking skills .

  • Examples: Blocks, interlocking blocks, nesting blocks or cups, and toys for sand and water play

Look for toys that will grow with your child.

We all have had the experience of buying a toy that our child plays with for two days and never touches again. You can guard against that by looking for toys that can be fun at different developmental stages. For example, small plastic animals are fun for a young toddler who may make a shoebox house for them, while an older toddler can use them to act out a story she makes up.

  • Examples: Plastic toy animals and action figures, toddler-friendly dollhouses, trains and dump trucks (and other vehicles), stuffed animals and dolls

Select toys that encourage exploration and problem-solving.

Play gives children the chance to practice new skills over and over again. Toys that give kids a chance to figure something out on their own—or with a little coaching—build their logical thinking skills and help them become persistent problem-solvers. They also help children develop spatial relations skills (understanding how things fit together), hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills (using the small muscles in the hands and fingers).