What are the best toys for kids?
Toys are important.
Play is the work of childhood and toys are the tools for play. Let that idea marinade with you for a second. Toys are more than just fun for kids. Toys are the tools used for the learning, developing, and skill building that is critical in childhood.
The right toys can make or break a child’s ability to play independently. I’m not trying to scare you or guilt you, but I do want to impress upon you what a surprisingly big deal toys are.
Let’s talk about the two categories toys fall into
I lump toys into two categories: “One and Done Toys” AND “Open-Ended Toys.” We are seeking out the latter. We are in search of toys that will be forever toys, stay with us toys, grow with them toys…
What is a “One and Done Toy”: Toys that talk to kids, ask questions, sing songs, light up and ask faux learning questions are “one and done.” They don’t (generally speaking) grow with children.
“One and Done Toys” often have batteries, do most of the work for the child, and have a singular purpose. They make the siren noise so the child doesn’t have to. They tell the child where to push or what to do. This is not what we want.
“One and Done Toys” also tend to have short life spans – the light up toy that a 15 month old plays with is not likely to be loved at age 4. It’s expensive to buy toys… so let’s buy toys with a long developmental shelf life.
We want open-ended toys to grow with kids
That’s the magic toy word: OPEN.
We want to fill our homes with open-ended toys. Toys that will grow with our children. Toys that put our children firmly into the driver’s seat of their play. Toys that allow kids to do the serious and significant play work necessary in early childhood.
Why are open-ended toys so great?
“One and Done Toys” do the playing for our kids.
They do the imagining. They do the talking. A toys that needs 57 batteries to sing the ABCs to your 1 year old is a toy you want to run away from. Because those toys are there to entertain your child – instead of your child entertaining themselves.
Open-ended toys are the tools for learning. They give our kids space to do the work.
They allow them to imagine. To create. To problem solve. To practice life skills and social skills.
Since kids learn best through play – we need them playing with the “right” equipment. BUT HEAR ME LOUD AND CLEAR: “Right” equipment and “right” toys doesn’t mean fanciest, biggest, or most expensive.
How can we expect our kids to play independently if we don’t provide them the correct tools to play with?
See what I mean? Toys are a big deal.
Our job as caregivers – as gatekeepers of the toys – is to make sure the right toys come into our homes and into our kids’ lives. Again, right doesn’t mean fanciest or biggest. We are looking for toys that our children can imagine with, make believe with, and create with.
Remember: more toys does not equal more play. Just like fancier toys doesn’t equal fancier play. Bigger toys doesn’t equal bigger play. It’s about finding the right toy for your child to do their play work.
We want open-ended toys that grow with our children.
How do you find the best toys for kids?
The brilliance of open-ended toys is that they are ageless.
The toys on my lists – from baby to big kids – are listed by AGE A CHILD MIGHT FIRST BE INTERESTED IN THIS TOY. It is not by “age they will ONLY be interested in this toy.”
FOR EXAMPLE: You’ll see wooden blocks on the toddler list . That doesn’t mean they aren’t perfect for preschoolers (and kindergartners…and first graders….). Toddler-age is simply the first-age a child might be interested in wooden blocks.
Check out ALL my lists and decide what your child needs to play well independently. Since the toys grow with kids, you can pick and choose from each list as you transform your house into a play wonderland.
One last BIG thing…toys don’t have a gender
My toy lists are GENDER NEUTRAL (as all toys are). Everything on this list is fantastic for ALL KIDS, and equally loved and used by all. And equally NEEDED by all.
Consider all the learning that a play kitchen can do for all kids, or LEGO bricks, or a doll house (which my son uses when he plays “Fire Fighter Rescue”).
All kids need an opportunity to practice engineering skills, imagination skills, creativity, empathy, care giving, to act out social scenes, to work on life skills…. when we gender toys and limit toys as a result, we send a clear message to kids on what they can or cannot do or be in life. Let’s stop doing that.
BUSY TODDLER’S ULTIMATE LISTS OF TOYS FOR KIDS
Click the image for the list you want to see!
Think thoughtfully about the toys you buy…
The best toys for kids are the ones that let the child do the playing.
They grow with the child.
They assist the child in play, rather than taking the lead.