Toddlers are extremely curious about their environment so they’re always exploring. At this stage, it’s important to start your child off with the right toys to help them practice and learn thinking, physical, language and social-emotional skills at their own pace. The toys your little one plays with can help shape their world in big ways.
There’s an overwhelming selection of toys on the market so we wanted to help simplify things with a breakdown of the types of toys that can enhance your toddler’s development. You don’t need to buy every toy right away. Start with some of the basics in each category and continue to add to their playroom as your child grows.
|TYPE OF DEVELOPMENTAL TOY||WHAT TO BUY|
|Toys that promote problem-solving
Toys and tools that help your child practice new skills and build logical thinking can be used in a variety of ways. By taking things apart and putting them back together, your toddler will be figuring something out on their own, which means they’ll be learning how to problem solve while they play.
|Wooden blocks, chunky plastic interlocking blocks,
nesting cups, toy gardening tools, water & sandbox toys, puzzles, shape sorters
|Encourage creativity and help them explore
Consider toys that spark the imagination and don’t require instructions or batteries. This makes it easy for your toddler to play freely and independently, allowing their imagination to guide their movements and come up with their own sounds and storylines while playing.
|Coloured blocks, art materials like clay, chalk, paint, crayons or playdough, dress-up clothes, musical instruments, puppets|
|Open-ended toys that’ll grow with your child
These toys are typically timeless, not trendy, gender neutral, and often free of commercial branding. Your child can enjoy these toys at different developmental stages and they can come up with unique ways to play with them independently. The same toy can be used in multiple ways and the way they use it will change as they grow.
|Plastic toy animals and figures, toddler-friendly dollhouses, mini vehicles, stuffed animals and dolls, building bricks (Lego), magnetic toys, paint/crayons and easels|
|Getting them ready to read through play
They may not be learning to read just yet but preparing your toddler at an early age will get them familiar with letters, what they look like and how they sound. Certain toys, games, books and tools can help them start developing reading, writing and language skills early. Even giving them real props to play with or look at like takeout menus or magazines builds their awareness of letters, text, and print.
|Books, magnetic alphabet letters, markers, crayons, letter puzzles, drawing toys (like an Etch A Sketch or Magnadoodle), activity kits, card matching games, learning tablets for toddlers (like LeapFrog), flash cards|
|Counting toys that teach early math skills
Understanding finances and how to save is still a faraway goal for your toddler, but there’s nothing wrong with setting them up for success early on. The same way you’re getting them ready to read with letters, it’s a good idea to familiarize them with numbers to help them learn basic math. Counting toys, games and books can start your child off on the right path.
|Counting cards and books, magnetic numbers, toy abacus, number-matching games, math dice, multiplication keys, counting puzzles, mathlink cubes, toy cash registers|
|Playing with real things (or things that look real)
Eager to learn by copying your behaviour, your child is likely fascinated by objects around the house and how they work (turning on and off the light with a switch, pressing buttons on your phone etc.). Giving them the “real” stuff (like maybe an old cell phone sitting in the drawer) or toys that resemble real objects are a good way to help them problem-solve, learn spatial relations and develop fine motor skills.
|Plastic dishes and food, toy keys, toy phones, doctor’s kit, child-size broom and dust pans, mini table and chairs, toddler construction tool kits, toy computers, old keyboards and laptops|
|Toys that encourage physical activity
Toddlers never seem to run out of energy! Toys that encourage mobility are pretty much essential, especially now, when you might not be able to take them outdoors in the cold, to childcare centres, or the playground. The earlier they develop physical skills, the more active they are likely to be in the future. There are plenty of toys that can get them moving.
|Different sized balls, tricycles, ride-on toys (not battery-powered), three-wheeled scooters, hop balls, plastic bowling sets, mini basketball hoops, pull-toys and push-toys, wagons, gardening tools, balance boards, toddler trampolines|
When considering what toys to buy your toddler, keep in mind that the more a toy does, the less your child has to do. If they’re watching it perform, it may be acting as more of a form of entertainment than a learning experience. The most educational toys are often the most simplistic because the more your child has to use their mind and body to problem solve and develop their own ideas, the more they’ll learn from it.