A guide to choosing the most educational (and fun) toys for kids
An age-wise breakdown so that playtime is as fun for parents as it for kids
Pots and pans shrunk to fit your three-year-old’s hands, used to turn Shyam the succulent into ‘bhaji’. Lego pieces waiting to be fashioned into castles and Transformers before they fall to the floor and become low-grade weapons. Craft sets filled with glitter that you regret buying mere seconds after your card is swiped. It’s all too easy to get carried away on a trip to buy toys for kids.
The result is your kid’s toy cabinet groaning like an overfed stomach, threatening to spew all its contents out where your unsuspecting feet will step onto the Lego blocks and your mouth will unleash a volley of words that are definitely not found in any children’s book.
Even though playtime is all about fun and letting children enjoy themselves, at developmental stages, what toys you pick can help shape their minds – “Toys are the tools of play and play is the work of childhood. So if you were working, would you not need the best tools? Toys are the gateway for language, curiosity, physical development and socio-emotional development, for all ages,” explains Dr Swati Popat Vats, president, Podar Education Network.
So, the next time you find yourself confused about what to get your little genius, use this guide to narrow down on toys for kids that will make playtime fun, and constructive.
Choosing toys for kids — as they go from infants to decisive 6-year-olds
Where to begin
Babies and infants need sensory stimulation. Attention-grabbing toys in contrasting colours work well but steer clear of toys that move too fast as they might be over-stimulating since the baby’s eyes are still learning how to focus.
Babies also begin experimenting with hand control quite early and are on their backs most of the time, and that’s why solid-coloured hanging toys that they can touch and hold are great options.
Hanging toy for baby’s cot
The figures face downwards, which easily catches the infant’s attention, and contrasting colours stimulate the baby’s eyesight. The super soft figures are made using non-toxic, environmentally friendly material. Amazon.in, ₹1,199
A detachable hanging toy to keep your little one entertained all the time
You can throw this into your bag or attach it to your little one’s pram, and ensure that they are engaged and entertained wherever they go (and you can enjoy your coffee in peace). Amazon.in, ₹595
Choose toys that encourage grasping
By four to eight months, children develop depth perception, which means that they can see things further away and track colours. They begin reaching for and grasping toys.
“They might abruptly dump objects, instead of releasing them, so don’t give them anything breakable or something that can possibly injure them,” explains Vats.
Give your little ones toys for kids that are small enough to fit their hands and easy to grasp. (They shouldn’t be too small or have loose fibres, both choking hazards).
When playing, always place toys or hold out toys in the middle and let the baby choose the hand to use, don’t force them to use one hand more.
Don’t be surprised if your baby puts everything they grasp in their mouth. “This is because the mouths of young babies have more sensory points than the hands or feet. So they feel with their mouths. Try to not stop them, instead choose toys that are safe, non-toxic for your baby,” says Vats.
Remember, the brain thrives on sensory stimulation, so it’s directly connected to brain growth.
Invest in this rattle teether that checks all the boxes
This toy doubles as a rattle, which keeps your little one’s attention from wavering. It is a teether that ensures oral stimulation, and it has handles that are easy to grasp and release. Amazon.in, ₹261
This organic rattle will encourage tummy time and encourage grasping
The soft fabric allows unsupervised play without the fear of injuries, and the rattle encased in the ball attracts your little one, making them want to reach out and move. Amazon.in, ₹720
A safe first stuffed companion for your little monkey
No loose fur means no choking hazard, and thin long limbs make it easier for your baby to pull, which makes monkeying around both safe and convenient. Indieprojectstore.com, ₹973
Get ready to be kept on your toes as your young ones begin to stand on their feet
Nine to 12 months is a good time to introduce your little one to movement-oriented toys for kids. As they start walking, they will start enjoying toys they can push and pull along.
This is also a good time to introduce toys that pop up, but not too abruptly as it might startle kids and make them fearful of the toy. Playing hide and seek and peek-a-boo will begin to interest your little one.
A pull-along caterpillar to encourage your little one to walk
The vibrant colours will make this pull-along caterpillar your child’s favourite playmate, and make walking around more fun for them. Now if only we had something like this for lazy adults who hate walking. Bloomybraintoys.com, ₹1,170
Invest in pop-up toys for kids that won’t startle your child
Toys that pop up abruptly often lead to children forming negative associations with the toy, but this is different. The pop-up is a reaction to an action the child makes — it keeps them from being startled and helps acquaint them with the concept of action and reaction. Amazon.in, ₹ 3,204
Encourage action-oriented play to stimulate your child
Between 12 to 18 months of age, children are drawn to musical toys that they can bang on (send your neighbours ‘I’m sorry!’ chocolates in advance), blocks that they can stack, and even teddy bears and dolls. Put in and take out, twist and turn, and roll over are all actions they thrive on during this period.
Introduce music into your child’s life
This xylophone might be an oldie but it’s a goldie. A classic that has stood the test of time and occupied toy cabinets for generations, this one is a must-have for your little Lata Mangeshkars and Michael Jacksons in the making. (Pro tip: Invest in noise-cancelling headphones) Amazon.in, ₹249
An educational take on building blocks
This toy allows your kid to use blocks to build three dimensional shapes, helping kids develop sorting skills by requiring them to categorise colours, and at the same time, organise them in a way that they form an actual shape. The put in and take out movement keeps them stimulated throughout. Hamleys.in, ₹1,633
Invest in this sorting toy that also schools
A lesson in colours, shapes, and numbers all rolled into one — after your child identifies what shape to put in which hole, the turtle identifies the shape and tells your child fun facts about the block’s size, shape and colour. It also recites rhymes to them. Hamleys.in, ₹2,149
Go with your child’s preferences
As they grow older they like to dress up, build with blocks, create with clay and play in sand and water.
By age two, most children have their likes and dislikes, so go along with their choices and interests. Until the age of three, most children like solitary play, so don’t be surprised if they don’t indulge in role play or share toys.
Fuel the little storyteller’s imagination
This innovative and interactive game comes with 90 story cards, which is just the beginning of all the adventures you are going to encounter with your child, sitting in the comfort of your home. Let your kids mix and match the characters while trying to answer the questions Who? What? Where?. This game, suitable for children over three years of age helps them work on their vocabulary while narrating the stories out loud. Indieprojectstore.com, ₹499
Get them little friends to fit their palms
Puppets are a great way to introduce your children to the world of make-believe. Voice modulation, conjuring up absurd stories, and finally performing them proves to help with holistic development. Thenestery.in, ₹2,299
Steer away from battery-operated toys and video games
After the age of six is when social development is the strongest and the pre-frontal cortex is active, so thinking toys, or toys that stimulate cognitively and social toys interest children.
Puzzles, jigsaws, dominos, cars, role play, dressing up, Lego, board games or outdoor activities like playing hopscotch, skipping , playing with balls, frisbees, and bats are a huge hit after the age of six and remain so until they discover video games, which even though inevitable in today’s time, should be avoided for as long as possible.
“Play needs to be constructive and healthy for children. Toys like battery-operated toys and computer games should not be categorised as toys for kids as they lead to many socio-emotional and cognitive problems,” says Vats.
Let them get acquainted with international waters
Get your kids’ brains racing with this educational jigsaw puzzle. Not only will the challenge of solving the puzzle excite your kid, but it’ll also help facilitate their first trip around the world. Hamleys.in, ₹396
Take them from travelling around the world to travelling back in time
Lagori, pitthu, sitoliya – this game played using seven stones is called various things in different regions of India, however, the sentiment it evokes is universal. Introduce your kids to this traditional form of outdoor play and give them a peephole into the childhood of generations that have gone by. Thenestery.in, ₹449