Each child has a unique personality and interests, but years of scientific research has also shown that kids have things in common.
As a pre-K to 12th grade teacher, I have observed children learning and playing at all the different ages and stages. Keeping in mind childhood development theories and latest research in how kids learn best, I have put together a guide to help you choose age appropriate toys for your children.
Before your read further, though, please keep in mind that the following is a guideline and not a one-size-fits-all list. Because children develop interests and abilities in individual, asynchronous ways, some might enjoy certain toys earlier or later than others. Unsure about your child’s current stage of development? – Invest in a BALL! It’s the toy that children of all ages are sure to enjoy. However, if you want to make sure that you are picking the right toys for your child right now, then look at the list below for age-appropriate recommendations.
- Appropriate Toys for 3 Year Olds
- Appropriate Toys for 4 Year Olds
- Appropriate Toys for 5 Year Olds
- Appropriate Toys for 6-8 Year Olds
- Appropriate Toys for 9-12 Year Olds
Appropriate Toys for 3 Year Olds
3 years olds learn best through play and movement. They love pretend play and toys that provide a cause and effect. Because of this, 3 year olds like dolls with realistic features (dolls that cry or ones that can be washed, for example) as well as pushing buttons to make sound or light effects. 3 Year olds also like to play with toys that have moving parts, vibrant colors or pastel colors. So toys like train cars or puzzles with knobs (up to 12 pieces) are also good at this stage.
As you might know, 3 year olds are also extremely active and this is a great time to introduce them to a tricycle or a balance bike as well as soft balls. Furthermore, to help them develop fine motor skills, 3 year olds would enjoy large-size art materials such as large brushes and crayons and musical instruments that are small enough for them to hold.
Appropriate Toys for 4 Year Olds
4 years olds continue to learn through play and enjoy pretend play. They also love questioning everything around them. This is the stage of the infamous “why?” They are also physically very active and love experiments with art materials. At this age, the toys they’d like best are more realistic dolls, more realistic colors, doll houses or play scenes, puzzles up to 18 pieces, scooters and adult-sized art materials.
Appropriate Toys for 5 Year Olds
For 5 years olds fantasy and reality are still mixed so they like to engage in more advanced pretend play to play out different roles. To encourage their dramatic development, this is a great time to introduce puppet theaters and dress-up games that they can play together with their peers. 5 year olds also like more realistic toys and can do puzzles up to 35 pieces. Since they are very active in play, toys that encourage physical outdoor activities are great at this age. You can also introduce a pedal bike as most children this age are able to balance.
Appropriate Toys for 6-8 Year Olds
6 – 8 years olds engage in more risky physical play, have grater dexterity and pay more attention to details. For these reasons, some of the toys to consider for this age group are puppets, sewing machines, jewelry making sets, collectible toys, bead-making sets, DIY kits, realistic dress-up games, DIY costumes, licensed cars, puzzles up to 100 pieces, boards games and card games, skateboards, gymnastic equipment, child-size sport balls and adult quality musical instruments.
Appropriate Toys for 9 – 12 Year Olds
9 – 12 years olds are very dexterous and engage in higher levels of thinking. They tend to prefer more challenging games and physical activities, DIY toys, pottery, woodworking, authentic looking toys, marionettes/string puppets, adult like make-up/manicure, embroidery, jewelry, puzzles up to 2000 pieces, trivia games and adult-size sports balls and sports games.
If you found this list useful, please share it with your family and friends. This way you’ll be sure that they gift your child age-age-appropriate toys.
Q: What do you call a fish with no eyes?
A: A fsh
For great toys for kids and so-so jokes, visit us at www.wickeduncle.com
— Nino is the founder of www.RainyDaySunnyPlay.com – a blog which empowers caregivers to support children’s optimal development through creative play. She is a Presidential award-winning teacher, multi-award winning photographer, and writer and her interests include glob-trotting, documentary photography and holistic education.