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The Ultimate Guide to the Best Toys for Kids by Age Level

Array of toys for kids of all ages on the floor

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Playtime is a very important activity for children, so you should consider the best toys for kids by age or developmental level. We may think of children playing as something simple, innocent, and meaningless, but in reality, play is a sort of training your child undergoes that is preparing them for the adult world.

For most animals, all they need to play with is themselves and maybe some siblings. This is because the most complicated training a cat needs is running, climbing, hiding, and fighting. But humans are tool users. Every single day we use countless tools to make our lives easier, and we could not live without them. Imagine life without an oven, pots and pans, a computer, a home with doors that lock, shoes, clocks, chairs… We need our tools to survive and thrive. Unlike animals, we aren’t born knowing how to use these things.  

We still develop the same way animals do: moving through a series of learning steps and adapting to what is around us. But we need practice using tools as well. Some tools are complicated; others can be dangerous. We can’t just give an infant a padlock and a knife and let them learn. We need to adapt the tools to our children, make them simple for tiny hands, make them safe, and break them down into a step-by-step process which lets them learn. When they get a real tool, they will know how to use it.

This means that for different stages in a child’s development we need different toys, based on what motor skills they are developing, how their brain is evolving, and what they need to know, at that age, to be safe and happy.

 

Children racing each other towards you with text above Ultimate Guide to the Best Toys at each age level

 

 

Newborn-12 Months

 

Mom talking with baby on a Christmas morning

 

It can help to think of the stages of a child’s development in terms of video games. Therefore, you could say that 0-12 months is like the preview trailer. Your baby is using all of its senses to take everything in at this age. It is doing a lot of looking, touching, smelling, tasting, and listening. They are absorbing as much information as possible to get you ready to start the game. Therefore, to help our children develop through their preview stage, we need to give them loads of new information and expose them to as much of adult life as we can.

At age 0-3 months, your child will be largely immobile and their vision will be very limited. Right now they are limited to looking and listening. The things that are most stimulating are contrasting colors, and things held 20-30cm from their face. At this age too many toys can be overstimulating, so try and establish a daily routine of playing with one or two toys at a time.

Around the age of 3 months, your child will start using their senses and mobility to explore and accumulate information about the world around them. Make sure they get to see a variety of colors, feel a wide range of textures, and hear many sounds in their toys at this age. They will learn how movement can cause sound, how sounds and textures can be connected, and how things that are different colors or shapes may do different things. A wide range of textures also promotes the development of grip and can be very soothing for teething babies.

There is no such thing as too many toys at this age, but to avoid overstimulating their minds, use only one or two toys per play session, and keep rotating them. You will know your child is ready for toys for kids in this stage if they are trying to roll and hold themselves up, reaching for toys, and laughing and smiling at new experiences.

 

Recommended Best toys for kids newborn to 12 months

 

Baby with blue eyes chewing on block which shows you that toys for kids this age will end up in their mouth.

Activity Boards

What are they?

Activity boards are cloth, wooden or plastic toys which feature all sorts of fun attachments and details. A busy box with spinning elements, squeakers, and bright colors could do the trick, but so could a nice soft mat with a bell, crinkly bits, and patterns.

What do they do?

These toys stimulate all your child’s senses and provide a variety of exciting options for when their attention span is short.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Your child will start using activity boards and busy toys as soon as they can move. They may even enjoy looking at them until 3 months of age. They will progress onto more specialized toys by age 3-4, but until then they may still enjoy their activity board.

What features do I need to look for?

A good combination of sounds, textures, and colors, and easy, graspable parts for tiny hands.

Can I make one myself?

Yes! You can assemble a wooden activity board with hanging toys, things to pull, and bright painted patterns. But the best ones are definitely the electronic plastic ones.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Make sure your activity board is topple-proof and has no small parts, as some are not designed well for small children. If you are not sure what you’re doing, always go for the ones in your child’s recommended age range.

 

Baby Einstein Caterpillar Friends Melodies Baby Play mat perfect toys for kids that are between newborn and 12 months

Check out the above Baby Einstein Caterpillar & Friends Play Gym with Lights and Melodies, Ages Newborn and up from Amazon perfect for this developmental level!

 

Rattles

What are they?

Rattles come in all shapes, sizes, and textures. You will need to find the right one for your baby, preferably one with a sound, shape, and mix of colors they like. Most babies have more than one so when they get bored the other will be of interest.

What do they do?

Rattles encourage babies to move their own body and let them know that their movements have consequences.

When will they grow out of this toy?

By the time they’re moving around, most babies want other toys, but some will still pick up a rattle from time to time until they’re around 2.

What features do I need to look for?

For younger babies, especially under 3 months, consider sock rattles and wrist rattles. These require no grabbing at all. As your baby gets older, first go for small, light, soft rattles, so they can grip them. Also if they drop them on top of their own head it won’t hurt. Then just scale the rattles as your baby grows.

Can I make one myself?

You can make a wide range of rattling items. Consider putting beans or a bell in a small box, cutting a toy open, and sewing the box inside. Some babies aged 6 months and up love a metal “drum style” formula or coffee can full of beans, with the lid taped down.

Do I need to be cautious of anything?

Make sure the rattle is well-sealed as the contents can be a choking hazard. If it cracks, replace immediately.

 

(Check out this set of rattles from Amazon)

 

 

Stuffed Animals

What are they?

Stuffed animals are fabric replicas of animals and other things in real life. They are full of Poly Fill, down, or in some cases cotton. These animals are very light, squishy, and warm.

What do they do?

Stuffed toys are usually your baby’s favorite toy. They’re big and easy to grip, but also light and easy to lift. This encourages your baby to play with them. You will also notice that age-appropriate toys are rounded, firm, and soft, which will provide comfort for breastfed babies.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Most children will still love stuffed animals well into their childhood, and even their teens. My 21-year-old daughter still has her Build a Bears. Many babies develop a special bond with a special stuffed toy so that one will be irreplaceable. They cherish memories they have made with their stuffed animals.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for stuffed toys that are big but not too heavy, have no small parts, not even beaded eyes, and have under 6” rope-like limbs, for baby to grip. You want something baby can play with.

Can I make one myself?

Yes, if you are good at sewing you can easily make a nice, friendly stuffed toy for your baby. There are plenty of sewing patterns available online.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Never leave a baby under a year of age alone in a bed with a stuffed toy, blanket, or anything else. It should just be your baby in their clothes. Stuffed toys in the bed are both an asphyxiation risk, and a SIDS risk.


The above from Amazon is an adorable 5 Piece set of talking jungle animals that can grow with your baby.

Teething Toys

What are they?

Teething toys are designed for babies to chew on when they are teething. They come in fabric, wood, rubber, and plastic, and are often textured with bobbles and ridges for extra bite.

What do they do?

It is unclear whether chewing provides pain relief for a teething baby, or is just something they instinctively do to help ease the tooth out. Either way, teething babies have a strong urge to chew. So best case scenario your teething toys will be giving your baby some safe, healthy pain relief. Or at the very least, it will spare your furniture and hand.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Once teething is over almost all babies are done with teething rings, although some turn teething into a habit. Many babies actually chew less and less as each tooth comes out, and will stop abruptly as the last is on its way out.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for something with ridges and bumps. Make sure they don’t come off by giving them a light bite yourself of course. Seriously, it’s the best way. You may also want to look for ones that are easy for your little one to grip, and ones you can chill in the fridge for extra pain relief.

Can I make one myself?

No. Teething toys are specially designed to make them safe, so no bits fall off, and no toxic elements are present to affect your baby. If you are really stuck for teething materials and your baby is over six months, consider chilled chopped vegetables, like carrots.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Just make sure it’s BPA-free and that no bits fall off.

Check out this Nuby Soothing Teething Mitten with Hygienic Travel Bag in 3 different colors from Amazon that will actually stay with your baby instead of constantly landing in the floor. 

 

 

Touch Books

What are they?

There are two types of touch books. The first is for younger babies, aged 3-8 months, and is made of fabric. This fabric may be printed with a story, or just have scenes printed or stitched onto it. The fabric will have nice textures for baby to grab. The second is for babies ages 6 months and up and is made of cardboard with fabric and plastic elements for your baby to touch.

What do they do?

It gives your baby a chance to explore their environment by grabbing and stroking the different textures in their book. Fabric ones are also great teething aides.

When will they grow out of this toy?

By the time they are 1 they may have outgrown the fabric ones, and by 2-3 they will be starting to lose interest in the card ones. If the books are interactive they may last longer.

What features do I need to look for?

Short, simple stories, educational pictures, and a very wide range of tactile and interactive elements will all make the book a hit with your baby.

Can I make one myself?

Yes, you can sew your baby a tactile book of their own, including elements like squeakers and bells, to keep them focused on handling it.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Do not leave soft books in the bed with your baby. And don’t buy books marked 3+, even if they look innocent. Some may have small parts that are a choking hazard for babies under the age of 3.

 

Take a look at this Baby’s First Book from Rasie sold on Amazon, a fabric baby activity crinkle cloth book that is nontoxic and is recommended from newborn and up from Amazon.

 

 

 

1-2 Year Olds

 

Baby crawling on the floor with a hat on its head. He looks like he is going after some toys for kids his age.

 

In video game terms, ages 1-5 are the part where you assemble your character. You start by choosing your physical form. At age 1 most children have begun to develop mobility, and many will be starting to walk. This means that now they can start strengthening their bodies and developing hand-eye coordination. This is essential for the next stages, where we start to introduce them to tools that are gradually more and more like the things they will use as adults.

Your child at this age is learning about cause and effect, practicing the influence they have on the world, and yet still developing some basic motor skills that will let them learn even more. Think about when you start playing a sport at school: you learn a new move, practice it over and over, use it in a few situations, then learn another one.

For this reason, children at this stage will be obsessed with order and routine. They will start observing there are a right and a wrong way to do things. If there is no right or wrong, they will personally decide on a way they like and stick to it. They are not doing this to be stubborn, but because they need to practice one move before they can learn the next one! That said, they are still very open to new experiences and want a wide range of toys that do different things.

At this age, your child needs toys that do things when they interact with them, and that are predictable and easy to control. Your child wants something they can do again and again and always get the same effect, encouraging them to hone their skills. Make sure they have a range of easy-to-repeat toys and games so that they can continue developing their motor skills and understanding of the world.

You will know your child is ready for toys for kids in this stage if they are continually experimenting with things and developing new physical abilities, but also happy to play with the same toy over and over.

 

Recommended Best Toys for Kids Ages 1-2

Toddler building a tower of big square blocks about the size of the child with text overlay Toys for toddlers ages 1-2

Bath Toys

What are they?

Bath toys are exactly what they sound like: toys for your baby to play with in the bath. From waterproof plush toys and books to the traditional rubber duck, there are countless options.

What do they do?

Bath toys help to teach your growing toddler that bath is a fun time. Many toddlers are eager to leave the bath as soon as they are in. If you want them to get a good wash, the best way is to give them something to distract them.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Children enjoy bath toys usually until around the age of ten. They get in the habit of playing in the bath, and it makes for a pleasant ritual for them. There is not really any reason to take it away.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for a mix of toys. Some toys float, some semi-sink, some can be wound up to swim across the bath, others squirt water, and others are more strongly interactive.

Can I make one myself?

You can repurpose many plain plastic toys as bath toys. Little boats, cars, and plastic animals all make great bath toys. Many kids love playing with sharks and fish in their bath.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

 Never use electrical toys in the bath unless they are specially labeled as bath toys. Also, never leave a child unattended in the bath, even if they seem to be playing happily.

Check out this little set that will give your toddler many options of fun bath time fun. 12 piece INNOCHEER Bath Toys and Stacking Cups for Toddlers with Quick Dry Organizer from Amazon. 

Push And Pull Toys

What are they?

Push and pull toys are just what they sound like: toys which your child can push or pull along as they walk. For maximum enjoyment, get a popping push or pull toy. These are toys that have a spring mechanism on wheels. As your toddler pushes them along on the floor, the spring pulls back and releases. This makes a loud popping sound and fires plastic balls around in a dome, or across the room.

What do they do?

Toddlers love walking, but they love playing even more. Sometimes, if you want your toddler to get lots of practice walking you will need to give them some encouragement. A toy that they can bring with them, especially one that makes interesting sounds, can be motivational.

When will they grow out of this toy?

When walking steadily is no longer a concern for them, the need to have a push or pull toy will go away. However, it will still be fun for a few years.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for something the right height for your toddler to lean on and push along, or with the right length of rope for them to pull close without it falling over. A toy that makes sounds, or a cart to carry things in, are popular choices.

Can I make one myself?

You can make a pull toy by attaching a length of string to a toy on wheels. But do not attempt to make a push toy, as these can be unsafe if not made properly.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Make sure your push toys can handle your baby’s weight, as they will often want to lean right into it as they walk.

This adorable Walk-A-Long Puppy wooden pull toy by Hape from Amazon can sit, stand and roll and give your toddler hours of play time. They also have a caterpillar, crocodile, and turtle.

 

Stacking Toys

What are they?

Stacking toys are buckets, cubes, cups, or wooden blocks designed to be piled on top of each other. There are also doughnut-shaped toys to be placed in order on spikes. These toys for kids come in many different shapes and sizes, some are better suited for toddlers than others.

What do they do?

Stacking is the perfect test of a toddler’s hand-eye coordination, as it requires precision and balance. This should help your toddler develop patience too.

When will they grow out of this toy?

They will never truly grow out of this. Even adults enjoy stacking type games. Jenga anyone?  They will just progress through different stages of stacking with different toys.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for big, light stacking toys with bright colors and interesting pictures on them. Stacking cups are a big favorite because they can be stacked inside each other, or into a tower. You can also look out for large building toys like the Lego Duplo from Amazon below. 


Can I make one myself?

You can make fabric stacking cubes and stacking rings at home by following a simple online template if you like.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Some simple stacking blocks are not meant for children under the age of 3 as they have small parts. Always choose age-appropriate stacking toys.

 

Shape Sorting And Matching Toys

What are they?

A toy that has a number of shaped holes and a number of shaped blocks. They are often wood or plastic, though some fabric ones exist too.

What do they do?

The idea is that your toddler will push the right shaped item through the right shaped hole. This improves their hand-eye coordination, teaches them about comparing like for like, and, when they work out ways of fitting blocks through the wrong hole, it cultivates creativity too.

When will they grow out of this toy?

The very first time this game will be hilarious and the better they get, the more they will like it. However, 6 months after mastering it many kids have moved onto something new.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for shape sorting and matching toys that feature a variety of shapes, colors, and maybe even letters, numbers, or a sound when they push the right shape through. All this adds to the educational value and to the fun.

Can I make one myself?

No, you cannot usually make these yourself.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Make sure that the toy is perfectly safe and has no small parts which could get lost or swallowed. Never use an electronic one in the bath. Keep clean as they can easily gather debris.

This TOP BRIGHT Activity Cube from Amazon is a multifunctional activity cube keeping children entertained for a long time, and the child’s learning process moves forward quickly, and you can even participate.

Walkers

What are they?

Walkers are a great form of support for toddlers who are just starting out walking. It allows them to race around and confines them while providing them with a toy to play with. Some are made for a baby to sit in and others are for a baby to stand up and push as he walks.

What do they do?

Despite the name, walkers do not help your baby learn to walk naturally. They just provide them with a way of getting around until they can walk on their own.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Once a toddler can walk on their own there is no need for a walker, but they still serve as a nice play area for toddlers up to the maximum recommended weight range. Some walkers are even made to grow with a child and have other added functions like the V-Tech Sit to Stand Learning Walker from Amazon below.


What features do I need to look for?

Look for ones with lockable wheels for when you can’t pay full attention, and with plenty of toys and accessories so baby never gets bored.

Can I make one myself?

No. It is very difficult to make a safe walker and, as it completely surrounds your baby, you do not want to risk putting them in one that has not been safety tested.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

A lot of research surrounding walkers has changed the way we should use them. As babies are not meant to move at the speed they can reach in a walker, never leave your baby unsupervised in a free rolling walker, as they can injure themselves. And it has been found that spending more than an hour total a day in a walker slows down babies’ physical and cognitive development. So do not use it to teach them how to walk, just use it for fun.

 

2-3 Year olds

 

2 year old boy with no shirt, trunks, and a baseball cap is playing on the beach with toys in the sand.

 

Next, in developing your character, you need to establish some interests and basic skills. This is the age when we encourage pretend play, creating things, and mimicking adults. Our children have sort of imitated us up until now anyway, but at this age they will suddenly want to do everything we do. This means that you must not only provide them with toys based on your own interests and habits, but you need to watch what you do around your child.

If, for example, you are careless with a cooking knife, your child may use a pretend knife carelessly. But if you are very careful and make sure it is used safely and always put away, your child will very quickly start doing the same with their pretend knife. These behaviors can stick with them their whole lives. We need to seize this time to let them know about dangers and social norms, because it will be almost impossible to undo any bad habits developed at this age. You can find all kinds of toys for kids this age that will really help with this.

For this reason, you could argue that 2-3-year-old play is the most serious play your child will ever do. And they take it seriously as well! Your 1-2-year-old was starting to develop habits, predictability, and routine, but were still open to new things. Around 2-3 your child will be fixated on very specific things and may entirely reject new people, places, and even new toys. This is the age when your child will tell you there are a right and a wrong way to play certain games, and become attached to little rituals that ground them and give them comfort.

This is also the age when your child will realize whether they are a boy or a girl, and may become very attached to the parent of their same sex, and try and copy them. This won’t happen all the time, but the mimicking will be far more common than it was before, and they are more likely to mimic people of their own sex than people of the other. They will suddenly want believable toys that actually resemble adult tools and they will copy your actions more intently and purposefully. You may find their attention span suddenly improves, and they will focus on a task through to completion.

You will know your child is ready for toys for kids at this stage if they have:
1. Mastered every type of movement.
2. Starting to reject new experiences.
3. Focusing on sticking to their daily rituals and routines as closely as possible.

 

Recommended Best Toys for Kids Ages 2-3 

Boy building blocks with text box what toys are best for 2-3 year olds?

Building Toys With Large Blocks

What are they?

There are special building block toys for older toddlers that have much larger pieces than usual building blocks. Lego are a good example, but plain or colored wooden blocks are also very popular.

What do they do?

Much like with younger toddlers, older toddlers also like stacking things, but now they may be progressing onto creating. This is why it is important to have a few that pin together, so they can build things that they can handle and move.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Kids never grow out of it, adults never grow out of it, but they will slowly progress onto smaller blocks and start showing an interest in models and Lego kits.

What features do I need to look for?

Make sure you have enough and that they are bright and bold. Many brands sell bags of 100-500 blocks, so it makes sense to just buy a bigger one and hold a few back in case any break or go missing.

Can I make one myself?

Not without a 3D printer.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Make sure you are buying the right sized blocks for their age, as smaller blocks can be a serious choking hazard for toddlers.

This Melissa & Doug Extra-Thick Cardboard Building Blocks on Amazon comes in 24 lightweight yet durable blocks in three sizes and are perfect for little builders with big plans. 

Mini Sports Playsets

What are they?

A tiny soccer goal and inflatable ball, a small foam football, a foam bat and baseball, or a mini basketball hoop with a small plastic basketball are all great options here.

What do they do?

These games help your toddler further develop hand-eye coordination and are a great starting point for teaching them sports. They will start learning how to use their hand-eye coordination beyond direct control, using it for calculated throws and kicks.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Once they’re bigger, these teeny tiny sports playsets will seem much too small for them and they will need to move on to the real deal.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for toys recommended for toddlers under the age of three, as these will be very light, fit your child’s hand, and be BPA free.

Can I make one myself?

In theory, you could, but it might be a lot of effort when you consider all the parts that are involved. It is much simpler to just get a set.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

There are some mini sports games that are designed as desk games for adults. These may have BPA, or may include small parts that are dangerous for babies to handle.

Triple the play with the Little Tikes 3-in-1 Sports Zone! Dunk, kick and score with your child’s 3 favorite sports: basketball, soccer and bowling! Basketball features an adjustable height hoop to grow with your child. The backboard lights up and features over 75 rewarding sounds and phrases that activate when shots are made! Plus, it folds up compactly for easy storage.

 

 

Musical Toys

What are they?

There are wide ranges of musical toys designed for babies and toddlers. Some of them mimic actual musical instruments, whereas others are different themed toys, such as toy phones or toy cars, that play musical melodies.

What do they do?

Babies have a natural sense of rhythm, even though you wouldn’t guess it from how clumsy they are. Cultivate this by giving them ways of expressing interest in sound and ways of enjoying music of their own choosing.

When will they grow out of this toy?

When they can handle real instruments, or find their own music, your toddler will move past these toys. But until then you will want to keep encouraging them with different musical toys.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for ones that play different notes or tunes depending on what you hit. These variations in sound from button to button will teach your child the nuances in music and at the same time satisfy their need for routine.

Can I make one myself?

Not realistically, although some of the homemade rattles above can be customized into maracas for toddlers to enjoy. You can do the coffee or formula cans into drums too.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Only give children under the age of three musical toys for their age group. Other ones may carry a high voltage, or have small parts, making them dangerous for babies to use.

 

Pretend Play

What are they?

Pretend play toys are toys for kids that imitate real adult tools. You can have a pretend play kitchen, building set, food, shopping cart, etc. Some children at this age will already want something like police cars and fire engines, but most just want toys that let them copy you.

What do they do?

As your child is beginning to mimic you, you will want to give them alternatives to your adult tools. Otherwise, they may be too eager to reach for the scissors or a hot pan.

When will they grow out of this toy?

They will progress onto different forms of pretend play, but these toys will be useful to your child until usually around the age of 7 or 8 years old when they can use the real tools.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for any toys that are based on what you do. If you cook a lot, get them a little kitchen. Are they fascinated with the laundry? Get them a play washing machine. If you do DIY, get them a plastic toolkit.

Can I make one myself?

If you do a lot of woodwork you could be able to make a toy kitchen or a toy washing machine for your toddler.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Make sure the toys are perfectly safe. Replicas are not needed and are not safe, so make sure what you are buying is a toy and not a replica.

Pretend play was always my kids favorite way to play. They loved to dress up and “play” house or act it out with a dollhouse full of family members. Here are some of my kids’ favorite toys.


Fisher-Price My First Dollhouse [an Amazon Exclusive]

 

Little Tikes Cook ‘n Learn Smart Kitchen with 40 accessories 

 


Learning Resources Fishing Set

 

Ride-On Toys

What are they?

Some examples of these types of toys for kids are a toy bike, car, horse, tractor, etc. that they sit on and that will roll around indoors or outdoors.

What do they do?

The next step up from the baby walker, ride-on toys do not improve a toddler’s walking skills. That said, they are a great way of getting out and about, especially the ones with a handle for parents to push.

When will they grow out of this toy?

When they’re too big to fit in or on it. Though some children will want an upgrade and may always enjoy toys they can ride around on, eventually progressing to bikes, go-carts and miniature cars.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for one with a handle you can push it along, that comes with safety features like a seatbelt, or an included helmet if you plan on taking them out down the street on it.

Can I make one myself?

No. Never make something at home which a child aged 3 or under will be riding on top of, as there is a risk of falling or other injuries.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Always make sure your child has developed enough motor skills to ride one of these. If a child without enough motor skills is placed on one they could fall off and suffer an injury. It is up to you to think logically and decide whether your child is ready yet.

My grandkids and nephews love Paw Patrol so I know this Power Wheels Nickelodeon PAW Patrol Lil’ Quad would be exactly what they would like to ride around on. 

 

 

4-5 Year Olds

 

Three 4-5 year old kids with toys pretending to be doctor's and performing an operation. They all have on masks and gloves.

 

When you are assembling your character, you do not only focus on yourself but on the world which you are going to be playing in. This is the age where we take our physical skills and our knowledge and start combining them to create complex cultural customs which form the basis of our society.

This means that now is the time to take the toys they have been playing with and combine them. Although at ages 2-3 your child may have wanted to keep every game separate and adhere to their own set of rules, at this age they are eager to break the rules, mix and match games, and experiment. For this reason, we need toys that are similar to their last toys, but that teach them about context and variation.

At this age your child will suddenly want even more toys, and want toys that we can more obviously understand as brain puzzles. They are no longer thrilled by a new sound, shape, or color. Your child may not care so much what something looks like, but rather want to ask, and check out what they do. They want toys that include new and exciting abstract concepts, such as words, letters, numbers, etc. And as they are developing their understanding of what things are and what they do, they will also begin to understand who people are and what people do.

This results in them starting to play make-believe. They have progressed beyond imitating their parents and now want to imitate people who are radically different from their parents. This is their way of checking what jobs are available in society and seeing what options they may want to take. They will fantasize about being police officers, teachers, firemen, astronauts, etc. Do not be alarmed if they become really attached to one career idea and then change it a month later. This is perfectly normal. There are many different options in our society and your child wants to test them all.

You will know your child is ready for toys for kids at this stage if they are starting to move away from their parents with confidence and developing an interest in art, words, numbers, and fantasy worlds.

 

Recommended Best Toys for Kids Ages 4-5

 

Girl blowing bubbles outside with text overlay Best Toys for 4-5 year olds

 

 

Dolls

What are they?

Dolls are simple toys representing people. They could be cartoon characters, everyday people, babies, or animals. They are different from simple stuffed toys in that a doll’s purpose is to play the part of a real living thing.

What do they do?

A doll acts as a friend surrogate. Your child will use their doll to rehearse social situations and practice for when they are making real human friends. Your child may also use dolls as a part of their make-believe worlds, and play that the doll is the child and they are the adult.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Children will not stop playing with dolls until close to their teenage years when they shift their focus completely onto real people. This is not a sudden change, though. Doll use will decline and human interaction will increase slowly as they get better and better at socializing.

What features do I need to look for?

There is nothing, in particular, to look for. Just choose a doll that naturally appeals to your child, so they can be comfortable and happy using it for practicing being social.

Can I make one myself?

Yes, a homemade doll can easily play the part of your child’s imaginary friend, companion, or baby.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Nothing at all. Just make sure that dolls that are used often and carried places are kept clean.

Looking for a baby doll that has it all the Real As Can Be Baby Alive it what you are looking for! She has 80+ lifelike expressions, movements, and real baby sounds like giggling, babbling and friendly, chatty noises. When kids talk to their baby she babbles back! She does so much more check her out. 

Dress Up Costumes

 

What are they?

Outfits that are made to represent different people in different professions. A good dress up box will include a few professions, a few fantasy outfits, and a few of your child’s favorite cartoon characters.

What do they do?

Now that your child is learning about all the admirable professions that are available and all the amazing fantasy worlds that exist, they are bound to want to try on a variety of roles for size. This serves as an educational tool to show them who these people are and what they do. They will do this by dressing the part and acting out the role.

When will they grow out of this toy?

They will have a long phase of playing make-believe that will taper off around the age of eight to ten and be completely gone by puberty. The less they believe it, the less they play it.

What features do I need to look for?

Get outfits your child is actually interested in wearing. Whether it’s a princess costume, or a pirate outfit, a police uniform or a doctor’s scrubs, get them stuff they want to wear.

Can I make one myself?

Yes. You can sew your own outfits, or even assemble them from old clothes. Some of your own clothes is a great idea to have in their box as well. I find many “dress-up” clothes on racks at thrift stores.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Make sure the clothes fit your child well and get rid of any they outgrow. Restrictive clothes can limit your child’s growth and breathing, and cause restricted blood flow, rashes, and discomfort.

Dress up was always my kids’ favorite form of play. We had overflowing dress-up trunks with all kinds of different outfits for them to act out. Here are a few favorites I found on Amazon.


Disney Princess Dress Up Trunk (an Amazon Exclusive)

 

12-pcs Dress Up Trunk Pirate, Chef, Construction Worker, Policeman Costume

 

Another Amazon Exclusive DC Super Hero Girls 21 Piece Dress-Up Trunk  

 

Electronic Pet Toys

What are they?

Electronic pets are a step above dolls in that they need and respond to actual care. From Tamagotchis to Robo dogs, to Hatchimals, electronic pets that need caring, feeding, cleaning, and/or training have always thrilled young children.

What do they do?

These toys teach your child how to be responsible for something other than themselves. It is a great way of showing them the value of life and how to carry something through, without getting them a real pet which they are not ready for.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Your child will either completely lose interest or be ready for a real pet around the age of ten.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for something that requires plenty of care and is very interactive, so your child feels like they are doing something. But make sure that it is also something that does not die if neglected too long, as this could really upset or disappoint your child.

Can I make one myself?

Not realistically.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Make sure their first electronic pet is an age-appropriate toy and that it does not die, as this can disappoint, upset, or even scar your child.

These interactive pet babies are all the rage right now! Get your child a Hatchimal and I’m sure they will be will love to take care of these little furbabies for awhile. These come with all kinds of surprises.

 

Modeling Clay

 

What is it?

Modeling clay comes in various forms, from the traditional play dough right up to kinetic sands, that mimic beach sands without as much mess, or any water.

What does it do?

Modeling clay is the perfect opportunity for your child to develop their fine motor skills, as well as their creative instincts. Handling it and creating things can keep them busy for hours.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Some children grow out of using modeling clays by the age of six or seven, whereas others will continue to be interested in using clays and develop it into a love of art into adulthood.

What features do I need to look for?

Choose one that appeals to your child. Make sure you have a range of colors and that they have their own pots so that the different clays are not mixed accidentally.

 

Can I make it myself?

There are recipes for child-friendly modeling clays available online.

 

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Make sure your clay is safe for children. Despite being older and more mature, children this age may still on occasion eat clay and so will their younger siblings.

Check out this Amazon Exclusive Play-Doh Play ‘n Store Activity Table which also comes with 8 cans of playdoh and tons of accesories to keep them busy creating for hours. 

 

Toy Vehicles

What are they?

Cars, trucks, planes, trains…pretty much every vehicle you can imagine comes in toy form and most of these toys are great fun for children at this developmental stage.

What do they do?

Much like they want to dress up as police officers, nurses, etc, your children want to act out the bigger part of the scene too. They want to present something as happening on a larger scale, such as a police chase, or an ambulance rescue.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Children grow out of playing with toy cars around the age of ten, though they may still collect and display them well into adulthood.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for vehicles that have detailed features, and preferably ones that include figurines and make the right sounds at the press of a button, or when rolled along.

Can I make one myself?

Not realistically.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Some vehicles are models, not toys, and some toys are for older kids and hard to handle. Choose something specially made for your child’s age range.

Fire trucks are usually a favorite vehicle that most kids enjoy playing with, but this Paw Patrol one will also remind them of their favorite characters from the show and has an extendable 2-foot tall ladder. Check it out here: PAW Patrol – Ultimate Rescue Fire Truck

 

6-7 Year Olds

 

A group of 6-7 year olds playing soccer outside on a field.

 

From ages 6-7, you are being given the walkthrough. Here is when you are given the chance to develop socially and personally. Your child may be discovering the difference between close friends and acquaintances and will need to learn about sharing, playing together, and social morals. We can help them to develop socially by ensuring that they have toys which can be used by more than one person and using these toys to reinforce the lessons you are verbally communicating. For example, your child’s action figures may play out sharing, or you can choose to play board games that require teamwork and cooperation.

 

At this age, your child makes another huge social leap. They move from you as the center of their world, to realize there is a wide range of social positions for them to aspire to. You may have heard your child go from wanting to be a mommy or daddy, to wanting to be a police officer. And now the focus changes again to friends, teachers, and even their schoolyard rivals.

Your child may now have an extensive list of career options but are only just beginning to discover what type of a person they want to be. Fostering good habits and emotions, and allowing them to mull over both good and bad social experiences, tells them what they want to be and what they don’t want to be. Now is a time to encourage social play with toys that encourage your child to talk to you, re-enact their daily social experiences, and learn what their core values are.

 

You will know your child is ready for toys for kids at this stage if they have become suddenly self-conscious and obsessed with their belongings, habits, and lives of their friends. They may develop their first best friend around this time too.

Recommended Best Toys for Kids Ages 6-7 

One girl whispering into another girls ear with text above Best toys for 6-7 year olds.

Action Figures

What are they?

Action figures are the next step up from dolls. They are moveable, posable, and come with accessories that encourage more active, but directional, play. For these purposes, you could also consider Barbies to be action figures.

What do they do?

These toys are the next step up from playing dress up and playing with dolls. Now your child is showing more of an interest in broader society. They are more likely to enact completely imaginary scenes that they are not part of, rather than copy you or pretend to be someone else.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Like with other role playing and dress up, your children will slowly phase this out as they develop more social skills.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for action figures which pique your child’s interests. These will most likely be based on the television or films they enjoy.

Can I make one myself?

Not realistically, as these are quite a step up from dolls. You may be able to make clothing for the dolls though to change their role such as a police uniform for a Barbie doll.

Do I need to be cautious of anything?

Make sure that these are actual toys for playing with and not display models, as display models will break easily.

Action figures can cost quite a bit when you are purchasing one by one, I like to look for the sets of them so I get them down to just $5-$7 each. Here is an Avengers Titan Hero Series set of 12 from Amazon to check out.

Basic Remote Controlled Vehicles

What are they?

Remote controlled cars, trucks, trains, or any remotely controlled item, can be great fun to play with. Many children start asking for them around this age, and there are many age-appropriate ones on the market.

What do they do?

These cars will be an excellent tool for teaching your children proper driving etiquette, as well as finishing the job of honing their hand eye coordination.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Many kids will get more and more interested in remote control vehicles and machines, moving onto more and more complex ones, and then suddenly lose interest in their mid-teens to twenties. Although some enjoy these into adulthood.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for cars that are fun, with simple controls, and robust, so they will not break even if your kid drives them in a risky manner, or in strange places.

Can I make one myself?

Not realistically.

 

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Not all remote controlled cars are suitable for children at this developmental stage. Make sure you have chosen one that is so that it will not hurt anyone or break. And do not give children of this age remote control items that fly, as they are a serious hazard.

When my oldest son was young he loved monster trucks. We even took a trip to St. Louis to a Monster truck he could climb on and take pictures with. He wasn’t even as tall as the tires! Here is a remote control 4WD Monster Truck on Amazon your son may love to have.

 

 

Board And Table Top Games

What are they?

Board and table top games are exactly what they sound like: games you play at the table.

What do they do?

These games involve multiple players, sometimes even in teams. This kind of competition and cooperation play is important for developing healthy social bonds as they move onwards towards a stage in their lives where having social skills is very important.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Not really, though they may get bored of them during their teenage years and return to them again as adults. I still love playing board games myself! We have a family game night every Saturday.

What features do I need to look for?

Make sure there is a wide variety of these games, as children all have different interests. Also, something that has been exciting for a long time may get boring all of a sudden.

Can I make one myself?

Yes, there are instructions for all sorts of traditional and original board games online, and you can make them by printing them out onto card.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Make sure the game is age-appropriate. With games like Cards Against Humanity around, it can be easy to confuse an adult game for a child-friendly game. So, stick to what the labels recommend.

There are so many games you could choose to play with your kids. We actually rotate through a few every week. Here are a few really good ones for this age group.

Pie Face

 

HedBanz

 

Cranium Cadoo

 

 

Art Sets

What are they?

As your child grows older they may develop a deeper interest in art. A good art set, with a wide range of different materials and tones, will help them with that.

What do they do?

Children at this age have sudden spikes in interest and we need to seize them and make sure they use them so that our children can be well-rounded adults. Make sure you have coloring materials available at all times for when these moods strike.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Some children will lose interest in art over time, whereas for others it may be a lifelong passion.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for something that interests your child. All children are different. Whether yours loves anime, watercolor, or just messy crafts, get them something they will love.

Can I make one myself?

Not realistically.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Not really.

Here is a really nice art set on Amazon that also has a pretty good price tag as well: Art 101 142-Piece Wood Art Set

 

 

Walkie Talkies

What are they?

Although many kids, even at this age, have phones, a free-to-use walkie talkie is far more practical for games and play.

What do they do?

Walkie-talkies teach children the importance of good communication, and how to organize themselves using only words.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Some will grow out of it in weeks, for others it will be a lifelong passion.

What features do I need to look for?

Look for ones that are easy to use, have good range, and are robust and water-resistant. At this age, there will be many drops and accidents, so you want your walkie talkies to last a while.

Can I make one myself?

Not really.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Not really.

Walkie-talkies also come in handy when traveling or visiting amusement parks. Sometimes you don’t always have a mobile signal, but walkie talkies will work like a phone without needing a network. Here are some that come with voice activation, equipped to use earbuds, and have a flashlight. USA Toyz Walkie Talkies for Kids

 

 

 

8-13 Year Olds

 

Boy playing with legos resembling toys for kids ages 8-13

 

You could be said to be living the tutorial for adulthood between ages 8-13. You have seen the world, assembled your character, allocated yourself some personality traits and skills, and got familiar with your tools. Now is time to try them out.

Your child at this age will be doing many chores around the house, studying hard at school, and already living a lot of everyday adult situations, all with the reassurance that if they mess up you’re their safety net. For this reason, their toys may seem to regress and turn to escapism. They will start playing, as adults do, to relax after a hard day working. For this reason, we will be introducing toys that have little to do with their chores and homework.

Because they are so eager to use play to relax, you may find they are tempted by video games and the internet and may sit for hours in front of a screen if given the chance. The problem with this is that the interests and daily habits your child develops now will be with them for life.

They are also going through the start of that age where they want to be masters of their own destiny, so if you try and guide them morally or socially now, it will probably blow up in your face. Instead, your time with them needs to be dedicated to ensuring they are comfortable, happy, and safe. Right now is the prime time for a lot of emotional and physical hurt, so helping them relax and just spending quality time with them is essential.

You will know your child is ready for toys for kids at this stage if you notice a rebellious streak appearing if they are starting to act more responsibly, handle a lot of chores and tasks on their own, and if they are starting to worry about their future, and the big things in life.

Recommended Best Toys for Kids Ages 8-13 

Tween boy happily playing a video game with text over best toys for 8-13 year olds. He has one of the many toys for kids in the 6-13 age group.

Advanced Remote Controlled Vehicles

What are they?

A whole range of advanced remote control items is now available to your kid. Cars, drones, helicopters, even remote control robots are on the market right now. There are countless things which can be bought if your kid is into remote control toys.

What do they do?

All the things for children at this developmental stage are purely for fun and relaxing. However, if you want to make this into a learning experience, feel free to spend time playing with this toy alongside your kid.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Your kid will probably continue to love remote control items well into their mid to late teens. However, many still enjoy these even into adulthood.

What features do I need to look for?

Ask your kid what they want. But if buying a surprise, make sure it is something with plenty of features they can use. Many remote control items, especially helicopters and drones, come with video options included.

Can I make one myself?

Not realistically.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

If your kid has never used remote control toys before, you may not want to get them a high end or complicated one straight away. Start with a more basic one so that they can get the hang of it.

If your kids are asking for a train set, currently the number one best seller on Amazon right now is this Lionel Polar Express Ready to Play Train Set. 

 

 

Building Toys With Small Pieces

What are they?

Building toys still remain a favorite, only now we are looking at Lego kits and DIY models. There is a wide range of these available, from simple boxes of Legos to elaborate constructions that can take weeks to finish.

What do they do?

All the things for children at this developmental stage are purely for fun and relaxing. However, if you want to make this into a learning experience, feel free to spend time playing with this toy alongside your kid.

When will they grow out of this toy?

If your kid hasn’t grown out of it yet, he probably won’t. Anything you get them now will be used for many years to come.

What features do I need to look for?

Ask your kid which one they want. Look for value for money in the sense that you want something that takes a very long time to complete from start to finish. You want your kid to be able to feel accomplished after spending hours building.

Can I make one myself?

Not realistically.

Do I need to be cautious of anything?

Not really.

Unlike other building toys, K’NEX allows kids to create unique models that actually move. Kids can make interactive toys using K’NEX parts whether its wheels, rotors, wings, and tracks. Making rolling cars, working amusement park rides or a transforming animal isn’t just a dream when you have one of these Model Building Sets and you can combine sets for even more things! Check out this Amazon Exclusive K’NEX 100 Model Building Set with 863 Pieces which is an engineering educational toy as well. 

 

 

DIY Slime Kits

What are they?

Slime is, for whatever reason, a huge thing among children of all ages. But at this age, they can make their own slime. I would not recommend slime making for people below this developmental stage as the ingredients can be risky in the hands of younger children.

What do they do?

All the things for children at this developmental stage are purely for fun and relaxing. However, if you want to make this into a learning experience, feel free to spend time playing with this toy alongside your kid.

When will they grow out of this toy?

This will be a great pastime for a few months then they will likely get bored of it. They will keep the slimes to play with, but may never make another one.

What features do I need to look for?

Ask your kid what they want. Look for complete kits with glitter glues, many colors, etc.

Can I make one myself?

Yes, you can assemble a slime-making kit out of household items like glue, baking powder, contact lens solution, and food dyes. Add Styrofoam balls, glitter, fluorescent paint, etc, for an even more fun slime experience.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Make sure the mix is nontoxic, as some cheap mixes have toxic or allergenic components. If in doubt, make your own one so you don’t have

I have a DIY Intro to Slime free guide you can download today and let them make the slime with supplies you have around the house. Just click on “Get the Guide Now” below.

 

Get an easy DIY slime guide an introduction to making slime download free guide today!

 

Toy Guns

What are they?

Toy guns are everywhere and kids seem to absolutely love them. From foam shooting NERF guns, to pellet shooting BB guns, to guns that shoot suckers, and paintball guns, there is a wide range of gun toys that are safe at this age range.

What do they do?

All the things for children at this developmental stage are purely for fun and relaxing. However, if you want to make this into a learning experience, feel free to spend time playing with this toy alongside your kid. You can even use this time to teach gun safety.

When will they grow out of this toy?

As they enter their teens most kids will lose some interest in toy guns, although if this is a big hobby of theirs right now, they may continue to be into it their whole lives.

What features do I need to look for?

Ask your kid. But make sure the gun is high quality and has enough ammo, otherwise, it will almost certainly not be used. And try and make sure they have a wide range of different types and styles of guns, and enough of a collection to play with friends, or with you.

Can I make one myself?

Not realistically speaking.

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Make sure the guns you choose are safe. Some BB guns fire pellets way too hard and fast, presenting a risk to eyes. Some paintball guns fire hard rounds too, resulting in bruising. Always make sure your kid wears eye protection when using a toy gun of any kind.

 

Water Pistols

What are they?

If your kid is big on backyard shootouts, but you’re not big on the potential injuries that come with toy guns that actually have ammo, then water pistols are a happy middle ground.

What do they do?

All the things for children at this developmental stage are purely for fun and relaxing. However, if you want to make this into a learning experience, feel free to spend time playing with this toy alongside your kid.

When will they grow out of this toy?

Your kid will probably never completely grow out of loving water pistols. Most adults will still play with them if given a chance! But by their teens, they will start restricting water pistols to pools and hot Summer days out in the yard or park.

What features do I need to look for?

Again, make sure your child has a wide range of water pistols and a large enough selection that they can play with their friends and family. Also make sure they can hold enough water because otherwise they won’t be played with.

Can I make one myself?

Not realistically.

 

Do I need to be cautious about anything?

Water pistols can often grow mold inside them and this presents a health risk. Make sure they are always emptied and left to dry and do not let your child keep water pistols in their room, in case of mold spores.

 

Something to think about…

 

Please bear in mind that although all children go through all stages, no age range has a prescription for play. Your three-year-old may be developing fast and already need more complex make-believe, and adjustments to show them about meaning and social roles.

Or your six-year-old may not yet be ready for engaging with actual tools and practicing adult tasks quite yet. Every child develops at a different pace and not all toys for kids at one stage is off limits just because they are older or younger than that typical stage. One child could always be ahead, another could always be behind, and many are ahead in some ways and behind in others.

These developmental stages, at that age, have little to no bearing on what sort of an adult they will be. Very smart children are perfectly capable of having delays. Being ahead or behind at one age does not mean they will stay ahead or behind. For this reason, you must always adapt your child’s toys to their stage of development, not necessarily their age. It can be useful to keep 2-3 year toys ready, but don’t force them on a child who is not ready for them yet.

 Also bear in mind that children’s interest varies from kid to kid, week to week, and even day to day. Something your child adored last week may no longer be very interesting this week. Or something which is considered a more childish game may still appeal to them well into their teens, or adulthood.

These toys for kids age guidelines are just that. Guidelines are just going to tell you what your child may be physically and mentally prepared for. Many of the best toys you can buy will have a lifespan of three to five years, as your child will grow and continue using them, only differently. Conversely, your child may no longer play with these toys at all but may develop an attachment to a select few. This is a healthy part of growing up and becoming independent and should be allowed so long as it doesn’t interfere with their social and emotional growth.

What have I left out? After having 8 kids to purchase toys for I’m bound to forget something that should have made this list. What toys for kids (at any age level) were yours or your child’s favorite? Share in the comments below.

 

Child holding teddy bear by the arm with text Free Guide Best Toys for Kids for Each Age Level

 

Three children sitting on a carpet in a playroom while one holds a toy and the others are watching with text WHAT ARE THE BEST TOYS FOR KIDS AT EACH AGE? Get the free guide.

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13 Responses to The Ultimate Guide to the Best Toys for Kids by Age Level

  1. Dan says:

    This is a brilliantly detailed article – really useful when it comes to buying for our niece and godchild. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Tiffany says:

    Wow! You did a ton of work pulling this list together. Great job. I love the DIY? section. Sometimes you can make stuff. And it’s great to slow down and think about that.

  3. Rachel says:

    Dress up dolls and Legos are our best toys! Awesome list.

  4. What a great comprehensive list!
    Thank you for sharing!

  5. Julia Markle says:

    excellent article, especially Toy Guns and water pistol part. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Diana says:

    This is a great list, love that it is sorted by age! Our daughter has a lot of the toys mentioned in the baby and toddler range. She had a 3 in 1 walker, but we NEVER used it as a walker as we heard enough horror stories. It had a table stage which she used when she was sitting and the standing stage (wheels lock so it could not move) we used when she started standing.

  7. Holly says:

    This is a great list. There are so many amazing toys to choose from!

  8. Sonja says:

    As I am finalizing my Christmas gifts for my two little ones, this list helped me figure out what I should add to my list. Thanks for putting together this comprehensive guide!

  9. Alyona says:

    Great and very informative article! Thank you so much very helpful!

  10. izzi says:

    Very good info. Lucky me I discovered your site by accident (stumbleupon). I have saved it for later!

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      Thank you, Izzi! Let me know if I can help with anything!

  11. CostumeLooks says:

    At What Moms Love, our job is to make your busy life easier, so we do the research and leg work for you. This involves year?round testing of toys with kids of all ages and stages, buddying up with local toy shops to get their real?time feedback and recommendations for the “hot” new toys, and bugging every parent we know about their kids’ favorite toys.

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      Interesting hope this guide helped!