What are the best toys for toddlers? Toys they can learn with. But that doesn’t mean you need to buy your child alphabet flash cards and a math tutoring computer; the most important skills your child learns he’ll learn while playing with more basic toys.
Blocks are one of the most important educational toys for tots there are. Blocks help your child learn fine motor skills, gross motor skills, balance, and spatial reasoning skills. They also develop patience and creative thinking, and can be used to teach colors and patterns.
You’ll have many choices when buying blocks for your toddler, and you may want to buy a variety of different kind of blocks. There are simple wooden blocks for stacking, some with letters on them, some in different primary colors. There are ‘architecture sets’ of wooden blocks which include such things as pillars and arches as well as the regular rectangular pieces. There are soft foam blocks which float in the bathtub.
And there are Lego-like toddler-sized Duplo blocks, or other none-name-brand equivalents, which fit together to make structures that are sturdier than buildings made out of more basic blocks.
A young toddler can enjoy playing with just a few blocks, but as your child grows you’ll want to make sure that he has enough of his favorite type of block to really let his imagination go wild and create houses, towers, and even—if you can possibly afford it—cities.
Physical activity is important for little ones, and balls offer an excuse for lots of happy jumping and leaping. They also give your toddler a chance to experiment with gravity and momentum. Every toddler should have at least one ball, and an inflated rubber ball is perfect at this age. Soft leather balls are fine too. Foam balls should be avoided because just one exploratory bite leaves your child with a mouth full of foam… and a ball with a ugly gaping hole.
Race cars, pick-up trucks, cranes and tractors—is there any toddler who doesn’t like playing with cars? Larger cars made of sturdy material such as soft plastic are especially appropriate for toddler play. If your child will be able to get a little rubber animal or other figurine inside, it’ll be all the more fun.
Role-playing is important for the development of your little one’s imagination, and dolls are a wonderful asset to role-playing. They deserve a special place on this list of toys for a preschooler. Little girls tend to gravitate more to dolls than boys do, but there is no reason your little boy should not have a little boy doll—or several—to play with if he wants them.
If your toddler loves playing with baby dolls, try to provide some ‘baby supplies’ for her to use in her play—little cloth diapers, perhaps, or a basin to use a bathtub. Toddlers love to be ‘real’ about how they play.
It is important for your toddler to have experiences feeling a wide variety of different textures and objects, and that’s why many toys for toddlers are designed to give your toddler many of those ‘sensual experiences’. This is especially important for little ones, as when your child grows he will have more exposure to different textures in a more natural setting.
Activity centers are toys that give your child practice in a wide variety of fine and gross motor skills; pushing buttons, moving levers, opening doors, and the like. These toys can keep your toddler entertained for hours.
When choosing such toys for toddlers it’s best to select toys that are mechanically rather than electronically based. Mechanically based activity center toys—the ones without batteries-- help your child learn how the world works in a fun way. You could even call it one of your child’s first physics lessons.