The child likes to play; it’s natural for him. He needs it to learn, explore and grow well. Although he does not always need toys to play, the child uses them very often to have fun.
Among the multitude of toys available in stores, it is not always easy to make a choice. Here are the things to consider when buying a toy.
What are the criteria to consider when buying a toy?
The pleasure that the toy will bring
Before buying a toy, it must be assessed whether it will be fun for the child according to his tastes and preferences. This criterion is very important because the pleasure is essential to the game. Indeed, if the child has no pleasure with a toy, it will simply leave it aside.
To avoid the risk of suffocation, strangulation, and injury, some toys should be avoided before the age of 3, including those with small parts or long rope. To find out more about toy safety, check out our Toys sheet: to have fun safely.
The stage of development of the child
To be interesting, the toy must represent a small challenge for the child, while remaining feasible. If the game is too easy, the toddler will find it boring. On the contrary, if the game is too complex, it can become a source of frustration, and the child may not use it, even when he has the necessary skills. An advanced toy can also harm the esteem of self. Indeed, if he never succeeds in doing well, the toddler will see over time as “not good”.
The Versatility of the Toy
The toys with which you can play in different ways often interest the child for a longer time, as they allow him or her to take an active part in the game. On the contrary, toys that offer only one activity (eg, putting a shape in a hole or pressing a button to listen to a song) generally do not entertain toddlers very long. Blocks are a good example of a versatile toy. Indeed, the toddler can, at first, take them and throw them. Afterwards, he can knock down the blocks you made and later build his own towers. Older, he can create more complex constructions with his blocks.
The simplicity of the toy
The toy must also be easy to use. Even if the child likes playing with his parents, he must be able to play with the toy without having to be helped. Otherwise, he will not have fun.
The price of the toy
Price is also a factor to consider when buying a toy. It is usually possible to find toys that fit the budget set while taking into account the criteria mentioned above. In addition, expensive toys are not always the most interesting. This is often the case with toys that feature the character of a popular film, as fashion often influences prices. Educational toys are also usually more expensive.
Are educational toys necessary?
Although they may be interesting, educational toys are not essential for the child who is developing well. Its daily activities ensure its overall development.
For example, his fine motor skills develop when he uses a spoon and puts on his stockings. In the same way, his language develops during the interactions with his parents and the people who surround him. The simple act of looking for a toy in its toy box also develops its sense of observation.
When the child can have fun as he wants with a toy, he has fun in addition to having the opportunity to learn. In this sense, all toys have educational potential.
A simple doggie can thus promote the development of the child in different ways, for example:
- Dressing up the doggie exercises fine motor skills;
- Playing to throw and catch the doggie works gross motor skills;
- Invent a doggie personality, make it talk and invent a story that involves other toys (dolls, figurines, etc.) exercise language and imagination.
Can we rely on age indications on packaging?
You can rely on age indications on packaging, but be aware that these indications are more related to safety (eg toys for children from 0 to 3 years do not have small parts). It is therefore important to respect these indications for children under 3 years old.
Often, the proposed age ranges are also very broad for marketing reasons. For example, the toy is intended for children aged 3 to 3½, but will still be labeled “3-5 years” on the package to sell more.
It is, therefore, necessary to use your judgment to choose a toy that suits your child’s abilities. You can also go to a toy and games store and discuss your toddler’s preferences and abilities with an employee, who can then advise you.
What toys for what age?
As the child grows up, the way he plays evolves. Here are some examples of toys that are more likely to interest him depending on his age.
0 to 1 year old.
The baby is interested in toys that stimulate his senses and make him move (eg, bite, catch, push, pull). He likes rattles, play mats, activity boards, balloons, doggies and music boxes, for example.
From 1 to 3 years
The child is more and more clever with both hands. He likes to classify, align, stack and he starts playing pretend. He is happy to play with blocks, musical instruments, construction and assembly games like puzzles and modeling clay. He also loves toys that can imitate “the big ones” like tableware, tools, cars, trucks, doctor’s kits.
From 3 to 5 years
The child makes a lot of use of his imagination in his games. He invents stories and likes role-playing. He particularly enjoys construction games, figurines, disguises, puppets, dolls, fantasy games (eg house, farm, grocery, garage) and DIY accessories. Around 5 years old, he can have fun with toys that require more attention and that include rules, such as board games.
Is it important to vary the types of toys?
The child does not necessarily need any particular toys, but he needs to play. What is most educational for the toddler is to vary his or her play activities (eg playing in the house, playing outside, playing with other children, doing crafts, listening to music, dancing, read a story).
More than the toy itself, it is the context of play that allows your child to learn.
You can still make sure your toddler has a variety of toys. Before you buy a toy, you may wonder what stimulates the toy and what it brings back to your child, for example:
- Does it allow him to practice his dexterity?
- Does he stimulate his imagination?
- Does it bring new knowledge (eg about animals, countries or trucks)?
- Does he exercise his memory and sense of observation?
Your answers to these questions will allow you to choose the toy that will be the most stimulating and fun for your toddler based on the toys he already has. Note that one must also consider his preferences and abilities.
The rotation of toys
As the novelty is more interesting than the quantity for your child, rotate his toys regularly. For example, every week you can replace toys in your chest with four or five other toys that you have stored out of sight. This naturally leads the child to vary his playing situations.
Examples of different types of toys
- Fantasy games: garage, farm, store, puppets, disguises, and accessories, etc.
- Imitation games: dinnerware, toolbox, small cars, dolls, etc.
- Logic games: block game, building games, etc.
- Motor skills (fine and global): built-in cups, ride-on toys, large balls to put on a cord, ball, ball, bowling, tricycle or bicycle with small wheels, games with small parts to handle (for the most 3 years), etc.
- Games of observation: game of lotto, game of search and finds, puzzles, memory game, etc.
- DIY games: wax crayons, felt pens, finger paint, modeling clay, round-tip scissors, DIY materials (eg cardboard, glue, wadding, straw), etc.
- Music and reading games: musical instruments, picture books, game books, etc.
How to find toys without spending too much?
It is possible to offer a wide variety of toys to your child without breaking the bank. Here are some suggestions:
Ask people around you (eg family, friends, neighbors) if they have toys to sell or donate;
Swap toys with friends or neighbors, for example for a week or a month;
Borrow toys from a toy store near you. Some libraries also lend;
Take a tour of garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores and second-hand stores (ex: Village des Valeurs, Renaissance Wreck-Prix and Salvation Army);
Check out classifieds on the Internet (eg, Kijiji) or on Facebook bazaar pages;
Buy big toys with a neighbor (eg, cook, workbench) and share them;
Enjoy sales (eg after Christmas) to buy toys, even if you will only give them later.
Precautions with used toys
Before letting your child play with a used toy, make sure that the toy is not broken, that it is working, that it has all its parts and that it is securely attached to the toy.
Wash the toy with warm water and soap before giving it to your child. When possible, wash the toy in the dishwasher or in the washer (for fabrics). To learn more, check out our Clean the Toys.
How to play with everyday objects?
Many objects in the house can also be used as a toy. Do not hesitate to share it with your child. For example, he will like playing in the plastic container cabinet. He can have fun stacking the containers, putting them into each other and finding the right lids. If you give him wooden or plastic utensils, he can pretend to cook and have fun to make music.
Cardboard boxes also offer several possibilities. They can be transformed into a boat, a car, a doll’s house, a garage or a cradle for doggies. A dishcloth or a simple piece of cloth can be used as a superhero cape, blanket or tablecloth to deposit plastic dishes. Old clothes can also be used as disguises.
For more ideas, check out Playing Cards with a Cardboard Box and Recycle and Recover for Fun.
- The more versatile a toy is and the greater the player’s participation, the longer the child will be able to use it for a long time, as it can play in a variety of ways.
- Educational toys can be interesting but are not essential for development. In fact, any toy can become educational according to using that the child plays with it.
- Consider the child’s preferences, abilities and types of toys that he already has to buy a toy that will be fun and challenging for him.