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Choosing toys for your child

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Parenting expert and author Nikki Bush talks about the importance of toys and games and how to select the right toys for your child.

The importance of toys and games for children

The importance of toys and games for children cannot be underestimated as play is the language of childhood. A child needs toys to entertain, to stimulate and to educate him/her. You, as parent, need toys and games to use as bridge builders to building your relationship with your child. Play is the best way to connect with your child and to teach almost anything. Play with your child and they will learn to play and amuse themselves alone. 

How to choose a toy

Milestones and your child’s age and stage of development have a huge bearing on the type of toys you should choose for your child. What is appropriate for a three year old is likely to be entirely inappropriate for a one-year old. 

By knowing where your child is at developmentally, you can select the toys that will assist you in stimulating the skills he or she is currently trying to master, e.g., rolling at six months, learning about shape at two years, and discovering the social rules of play, such as taking turns, at the age of three.

Remember that children need to repeat activities to achieve mastery. If boredom sets in, then change the game, break the rules, combine different games of simply pack the toy away for a few weeks or a month before taking it out again. 

Children will outgrow some toys in just a few months (as often happens in the baby phase), while others can last many years because they will be used differently as you child enters each new stage of his or her development.

Keep these questions in mind when choosing a toy

How old is the child?

Is it for a boy or a girl?

Am I looking for a toy the parent and child can play with together, or for one the child can play with alone?

Am I looking for a toy that can grow with the child?

Am I looking for something entertaining?

Am I looking for something the child can play with in the car/bath/sandpit/garden?

Am I looking for something that will teach the child a skill?

Am I looking for something that will stimulate the child’s imagination?

Am I looking for something that the child can build?

How much am I prepared to spend?

As a rule of thumb, all children need toys in the following categories:

Ride on



Put in/ take out


Manipulate using fingers


Matching/shape sorting/associations

Dress up


On-screen games

Dolls/soft toys

Imitation/role play

Sand and water play


Messy play

Arts and crafts

Board games

The benefits of good toys

  • Learning perceptual skills
  • Following instructions
  • Starting and finishing tasks
  • Concentration
  • Problem solving
  • Taking turns
  • Winning and losing
  • Persistence
  • Mastery

Download the Parenting Matters ebook for free. For more information on this parenting author, visit the Nikki Bush website.

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