From stocking fillers to sports equipment and from teddies to tea sets, toys and games are a huge part of our childhood. We all remember our favourite presents from when we were young, so it's no wonder we put so much thought into buying them for our own children.
This guide will help you pick out age-appropriate kids' and baby toys. We've highlighted kinds of games that will help young ones develop their motor, mental and social skills through play, so they can learn while they have fun.
It may seem like a newborn won't be able to distinguish between a new toy and an old sock, but in fact babies react and learn from the world around them from the moment they're born. Sound, light and touch are all important for tiny tots to experience, so provide them with objects that stimulate their senses to keep them happy and healthy.
From 2 months onwards, babies will start to smile. You can get their first grin out of them by shaking a rattle and pulling funny faces to tickle their natural curiosity. From around 3 to 6 months you'll get more noticeable reactions from your baby as they begin to appreciate music, follow moving lights and explore the feel of different objects. Encourage their fine motor skills with playthings they can hold with their hands, ensuring they're not small enough to swallow.
Here are some ideas for the newest member of your family:
Babies are now learning to sit up, roll over and explore their surroundings. They're mastering the arts of squeezing and banging things, so expect lots of that. This period is also about learning the laws of cause and effect, which means your baby will particularly love toys that spin or move when they press a button.
To get them used to the idea of walking it's time to introduce the beloved walker. Some designs have spinning beads and buttons built into them, so your little one will be totally engrossed as they learn to toddle.
Here are some wonderful gifts for 1-year olds:
- Baby walkers to get your infant up on their feet for the first time
- Interactive moving toys to teach cause and effect
- Shape sorters to develop spacial awareness
- Noise makers to get your baby giggling
- Electronic talking toys to help with early speech development.
Now that your baby's moving around independently, they'll be more aware of themselves and their surroundings. There's a range of toys to entertain and engage them as they get to grips with fun new activities like dancing and singing.
Ride-ons are wonderful for helping your child to get around with confidence. As they become bolder, stimulate your tot with a fun indoor tunnel or small trampoline. Toddlers should also be developing more delicate motor skills, so your baby might like to try out a set of building blocks.
Here are some top toys for toddlers:
- Outdoor and indoor ride-ons to help 2-year olds explore the world
- Karaoke sets to play their favourite tunes and encourage singing
- Playsets like dolls houses and racing tracks for adventures in miniature
- Simple jigsaw puzzles for early problem solving
- Exploratory equipment such as tunnels to build confidence.
Your toddler's imagination is starting to take hold and they may spend a lot of time in a fantasy world. Help them to explore different possibilities with human and animal figurines. Children will love being able to act out scenarios on their own or with you. They'll be copying behaviours from the grown-ups around them, so don't be surprised if you catch your child doing an impression of you.
These toys make excellent gifts for 3-year olds:
- Playsets with themes like fire station, pirates and farm life to allow for imaginative storytelling
- Balls, hoops and puzzles to enhance hand-eye coordination
- Ride-ons upgraded from push-power to battery for a more challenging experience
- Electronic toys with simple instructions to hone recall skills.
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At this age, your child will start to form real friendships. Sharing toys with their new pals is one of the best ways for them to learn important life lessons. Kids will be starting to understand their own feelings and those of other people.
Whether it’s a simple jigsaw or playing catch, your child's activities are also much more coordinated at this stage. Introducing them to their first tricycle or lump of modelling clay are two excellent ways to challenge them in their play.
At this age, kids will love:
- Tea sets, toy cars and similar games which mirror adult life and encourage role play
- Wendy houses and dens to provide a private getaway for visiting friends
- Crafts like painting and clay to inspire budding artists
- Push bikes, trikes and bikes with stabilisers for your little one's first cycling experience.
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Children strive for independence at this age, whether it’s tying their shoelaces or learning to tell the time. Your little one's personality will be well-developed and they'll know their own likes and dislikes. The best way to find out which toys they want is probably to ask them directly.
At this age, there's a vast array of kid-friendly science experiments, craft kits and games which will educate and amuse young ones. Getting them their own personal sports kit is a step towards teaching sportsmanship and healthy living. Lego sets are an old favourite which require patience and planning, with results your child can be proud of. It may also be time to upgrade their bike: look for a cool matching helmet to ensure they're road safe.
For older kids, why not try:
- Science kits, Lego and sports gear to develop new skills
- Bikes with stabilisers to teach kids how to ride
- Books and games which expose your child to a range of exciting topics.
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