Top 10 toddler toys

Coming up to Christmas parents often ask what are good toys to buy as gifts for toddlers. Toys can vary enormously in price and quality. Sometimes complex and expensive toys have limited uses and children quickly tire of them while simple toys can be used in may ways and grow with your child.

When choosing toys make sure they are:

Safe. Toys come with a recommended age and are safety tested for that age group, so don't be tempted to buy a toy designed for an older child as it may not be safe for a toddler who may bang it around, drop it or put it in their mouth.

Sturdy and strong. Toddlers can be rough so choose sturdy toys that will last.

Age appropriate. Toys designed for older children will be frustrating to younger ones with shorter attention spans, smaller hands and less fine motor control.

Flexible. Choose toys that can be used in a variety of ways and allow children to use their imagination and experiment.

Here are some top toys for toddlers:

Books. Okay books are not really toys but you can never go past a book as a great gift for a child. Toddlers love bright, sturdy books with familiar themes, rhyme and repetition. Flap books are always a favourite for discovering surprises. A good book should always come with a special adult to help read it. Books are great for developing language skills and early experience with books is great way to set kids up to do well at school.

Puzzles. Puzzles for toddlers can include simple inset jigsaws as well as things like posting boxes and stacking toys. Puzzles can be a good toy for playing alone, learning problem solving, concentration and fine motor skills. If an adult joins in sometimes too puzzles are a great chance to talk about colours, shapes, sizes and concepts like in and out.

Mr Potato Head is a classic toy that has become totally cool again since he featured in the Toy Story movies. He is great for little ones to learn body parts and fine motor skills, and as they get older they can use him for all kinds of pretend play.

Vehicles. Vehicles come in all kinds, shapes and sizes from toy cars and train sets through to ride on ones. Toddlers love the larger push along vehicles with people that go in and out, to develop fine motor, concepts and and simple pretend play skills. As they get older they can develop more complex pretending. Ride on toys are also great for developing gross motor skills. Just make sure kids are carefully supervised.

Sand and water toys. These kinds of toys are very cheap to buy and you can even use things from around the house. You can add bubbles or colouring in the water for extra fun. Sand and water play is very calming and kids can learn all kinds of maths and science concepts as well as develop eye hand skills and problem solving skills.

Balls Balls are a cheap and easy way for kids to be more active and develop both gross and fine motor skills. Playing together with a ball can help develop social skills like turn-taking and sharing too.

Animals. Toy animals can be lots of fun. Stuffed animals make a patient friend for a small child that can be comforting when they are tired or upset. These toys can help kids develop pretend play skills as they feed their furry friend, talk to him and put him to bed. Smaller plastic animals are also great for developing pretend play skills and work well when mixed with other toys such as sand and water, vehicles or even play dough.

Dolls. Dolls, like soft toys can be a great companion for a small child to help develop pretend play and social play. They work well with other pretend play toys such as tea sets and kitchen sets and can get involved with daily activities around the house too. Small dolls with dolls houses, or other types of play sets such as fire stations also work well and smaller dolls can be combined with vehicles, farm or train sets for more different ways to play.

Blocks are great for younger toddlers to develop fine motor skills as they stack and knock them down. As kids get older blocks can develop motor planing and problem solving as they build more complex structures. Blocks are great for learning maths concepts of colour, size, shape and number. Mix them with some toy cars to make roads or with animals to make a farm and you have some great opportunities for pretend play.

Play dough is great to develop strength and control in young fingers. Do watch your child does not eat it though. Younger children are happy to squeeze, roll, pat and stretch which is very calming. Older kids can include kitchen sets or tea sets to develop pretending. Play dough is great for developing all kinds of describing words such as sizes, shapes, colours and textures as well as action words.

If you are creative here are some great ways to make your own gift for a special toddler.

Talking Matters provides speech pathology and occupational therapy for children of all ages. If you would like to work with our great team in our bright, child-friendly, therapy space at Elizabeth Downs find out more about Talking Matters and by checking our website or calling our office on (08) 8255 7137. There are also lots of great activity ideas on the Talking Matters Pinterest page.

If you are concerned about your child's development including play skills, motor or sensory skills, communication skills, social skills or learning check our website to see how Talking Matters may be able to help.

Jo Brenecki

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