Children of all ages need toys to play with.  They learn through play and in order to foster development it is essential that appropriate toys are available for children of all ages to enjoy.

Toys are expensive and the quality of them varies greatly depending on their production and cost.  Investing in toys of quality that will bring joy and increased learning is an important consideration.

A few special toys will become lifetime treasures and invoke in families, enduring, happy memories.

Toys and activities for babies from birth to six months


  • Teething toys
  • Large balls to play with


  • Soft music, lullabies, music that the parents like and enjoy, baby will enjoy too.
  • Sharing a book which is suitable for babies (e.g. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes).
  • Peek-a-boo games

Toys and activities for babies from seven to twelve months


  • Soft foam blocks
  • Nesting cups and stacking rings
  • Cause and effect toys – jack in the box. Objects that make noise when banged, thrown or dropped.
  • A soft toy. A baby can become attached to a teddy bear, which can become a security comforter to them.
  • Unbreakable mirrors
  • Large balls
  • Push pulls toys – large motor skills


  • Introduce finger rhymes such as Incy Wincy Spider and Wheels on the Bus. Babies may not be able to repeat the words but they will imitate the actions and eventually begin vocalising.
  • Books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other board books are greatly enjoyed by babies.
  • Peek-a-boo games
  • Hide-and-seek games with objects
  • Splashing with water in the bath – suitable water toys are enjoyed.
  • Exploratory, playful behaviour increases as children near 12 months of age. Beginnings of imaginative play emerge with toy phones, dolls and figurines.

Safety Issues

  • Give your baby a safe space to lie in.
  • Avoid putting any objects or toys in the baby’s crib.
  • All objects go into baby’s mouth so all must be safe, unable to be swallowed or have small pieces that fall apart.
  • Do not leave a baby unattended on an adult’s bed; they can roll off onto the floor.
  • Never leave a child unattended in the bath or in any situation with water.
  • Never leave a baby unattended in a car, even for a few minutes.
  • Avoid restrictive pieces of equipment – baby rockers, play pens. Infants develop best by being placed in a safe area on the floor.

Toys and activities for toddlers


  • Open-ended materials that can be taken apart, put together, build upon or used in different ways are essential. Examples include blocks (wooden/plastic/interlocking), nesting cups, water and sand play.
  • Select toys that help foster creativity and problem-solving skills. Examples include puzzles, manipulative, play-dough, clay, paint, drawing tools, etc. These toys help toddlers to practise new skills as they engage with it again and again. They also help build
    • eye-hand coordination,
    • small muscle skills (fingers and hands),
    • spatial relationships and
    • logical thinking skills.
  • Toys that can be used for different developmental ages, such as people or animal figures, dolls, teddy bears, soft toys, vehicles, etc., are popular.

Children play with these toys differently at different stages of their development.

As mentioned earlier, they may become attached to certain toys (e.g. a teddy bear which stimulates the beginnings of imaginative play).

  • Physical activity is a must for toddlers.

Toddlers love to play with balls of varying sizes, tricycles, large cartons, tunnels, sand and water play tools.

They also enjoy push and pull toys that they can drag along as they move around.


  • Made-up words and vocalisations, silly songs and rhymes are a great way to connect with the toddler through humour.
  • Playing musical instruments helps children to learn about cause and effect.
  • Moving to music
    • creates awareness of their own bodies,
    • fosters creative expression, and
    • gives them the necessary physical activity.
  • Toddlers love being read to. Children can be introduced to books very early in life.  Try to read to your child every day.

Apart from developing reading and language skills, the quality time spent with parents is very important and fosters positive relationships.

  • Foster early reading and writing skills through
    • Books with large print,
    • pictures,
    • magazines,
    • drawing and writing tools, etc.
  • Older toddlers begin to engage in imaginative play by re-enacting real life events.

Toddlers are interested in figuring out how things work in the real world.

They imitate their parents and love playing with dishes, phones, dress-up clothes, brooms, mops, etc.

Safety Issues

  • Make sure that the toys and materials comply with health and safety standards and are labelled non-toxic.
  • Objects containing paint or dye that will come off should not be available to children of any age.
  • Toys should be large enough so that any pieces cannot be swallowed by the child – no detachable parts.
  • Keep sharp objects, medicines, household cleaners, household appliances, etc. out of reach.
  • Plug all electrical outlets so that children cannot poke things in them.
  • Block off stairs with a gate.
  • Do not leave your child unattended at any time.
  • Do not leave your toddler alone near water.

Toys and Activities for Preschoolers


  • Construction sets (e.g. Lego Duplo)
  • Puzzles
  • Dress-up clothes (e.g. hats, bags) and other properties
  • Forming a strong attachment to a teddy bear or a favourite doll. These become very real to the child and can form comfort for them if for any reason they are unhappy.
  • Different types of balls.
  • Toys to ride on (e.g. tricycles and scooters).


Pretend Play for Preschoolers

  • Provide a safe space and safe materials for the children to play with.
  • Suggested materials to provide for pretend play:
    • child-sized furniture (bedroom furniture, toy kitchen appliances, play food)
    • dress-up clothes and accessories
    • dolls with accessories
    • puppets
    • masks
    • tools
  • Provide materials that allow for both creativity and flexibility in play (e.g. cloth, boxes) to encourage material substitution.
  • Introduce different materials at times to allow the children to incorporate new experiences in their play.
  • Provide literacy materials to encourage the children to read (e.g. reading instructions when playing cooking) and write (e.g. writing a menu for the restaurant) during play.
  • Allow extended, uninterrupted duration of pretend play for it to develop complexity.

Concluding comments

An investment in a durable, open-ended toy with limitless learning opportunities is a far better option that a cheaper, flimsy toy that will break easily and not provide opportunities to learn.

The provision of appropriate toys will engage children’s interest for longer periods and stretch their problem solving skills.  It will also increase the child’s independence if they can play unaided with the toy.

By contrast, handing an iPhone to a child is giving them something designed for adults not children!

Copyright © Marjory Ebbeck and Wendy Toh 2017

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any forms or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the Copyright holder.