Give toys that stimulate your child

Nothing is more fun than toys on your to-buy list for the holidays. Seeing your kids’ faces light up when they unwrap a toy is part of what makes the season magical—especially when it comes to babies and toddlers. The wonder they express is literally priceless. But you want to choose well—pick a toy that not only entertains, but also more importantly, helps them develop. Here’s a guide on how to select a great toy for a baby or toddler, along with a review of the hottest toys of the season. 

What to look for in a toy

When selecting a toy, think about one that stimulates the mind, body or five senses. Doing so helps young ones develop their motor skills—both large as in learning to walk, and small as in hand-eye coordination—along with their language skills, intelligence, school readiness and social skills. Not all toys can do all things and you might not want them to; rather, find ones that do a few.

According to the Zero to Three organization—political leaders on the development of babies and toddlers—the best toys teach, inspire and enhance skills. They advise you to choose toys that can be used in a variety of ways, will grow with your child, encourage exploration and problem solving, and spark imagination.

Ever wonder why your toddler loves your cell phone? That’s because she wants to figure out the world she lives in—how things work. The same goes for other real-life toys like toy keys, telephones, brooms and lawn mowers. She learns through mimicking you.

Consider toys that present a mental challenge, ones that stimulate your toddler’s brain to figure out how it works. Dress up clothes or toys that promote your child to play out a story—such as doll houses or toy kitchen items—are always great.

What not to look for in a toy

Avoid toys that are overly stimulating. Some toys try to do everything with a variety of lights, buttons and sounds. You don’t want a toy that overwhelms a child with too many choices. Babies learn through repetition, so a simpler toy that can be used in a variety of ways, such as wooden blocks or dump trucks that can collect different items will stimulate and last through the first years.

Consider passing on toys that do most of the work. If a toy’s focus is to entertain more than to require action from your toddler, it’s not the best choice. Also, resist toys that are slated for kids a few years older.

Current toys topping the lists

These first two toys made the top list on a few different sites, including Amazon. Others landed in the top 10 on at least one site. Most are slated somewhere between 6 months to three years.

  • VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker
    Works for crawlers and those learning to walk. Promotes creativity with large buttons, music and a sturdy handle for support. $30.
  • VTech Drop and Go Dump Truck
    This little dump truck not only carries “rocks” but also provides early numbers learning and more. $13.
  • Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes
    This was the number one best seller on Amazon for baby and toddler toys. With a caterpillar handle, this little music player offers 7 baby classics. $6.
  • Nuby Octopus Hoopla Bathtime Fun Toys
    If you are looking for splashy fun, this little octopus with rings to hang off his tentacles will be a hit—coming in second on the Amazon list. $7.
  • Fisher-Price Dance & Move BeatBowWow
    This happy dog not only dances and sings but also teaches colors, numbers and sounds. $25

That’s the short list, which will hopefully get you started. You really can’t go wrong with the classics either, including blocks, puzzles, puppets, fingerpaint and books. Now that you’ve got some ideas, get shopping! Check out your local shops. The holidays are just around the corner and likely coming faster than you expected.