Toys for learning and development

Happy toddlers playing with building blocks
Early years Birth to 5 years

All children love toys – they’re great fun and they can also provide lots of stimulation and learning for your little one. Here are some ideas for toys that encourage your child’s learning and development through play!

What’s an ‘educational’ toy?

‘Educational’ toys are specially designed for children to stimulate learning – they are often intended to help children develop a particular skill or teach children about a particular subject. Educational toys can be great, but you don’t need a specially designed toy to stimulate your child’s learning and development. Any toy that encourages your little one to try new things, explore the world, or stimulates their imagination is educational.

The simplest of toys can encourage your little one to develop new skills and abilities. Here are some simple ‘educational’ toy ideas that your child will love to play (and learn!) with:

  • push-along toys, balls, play tents, tunnels – encourage gross motor skills and coordination
  • puzzles, shape-sorters, blocks, stacking/nesting toys – encourage exploration, problem-solving, early maths skills, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills
  • play dough, pretend food, toy tools/trucks – encourage imagination, creativity and fine motor skills
  • dolls, soft toys, books, dress-ups – encourage imagination, social skills and language development
  • rattles/maracas, musical toys – encourage musical and sensory development
  • toys for sand or water play, squeeze toys – encourage sensory development and fine motor skills
  • magnetic/foam alphabet letters, art supplies like crayons and finger-paints – help develop early writing and reading skills

Where to get them

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on toys – little ones can get just as much joy out of crawling in and out of a cardboard box as from expensive toys. You can also add to your child’s toy collection by:

  • borrowing – from friends, family or toy libraries
  • swapping – among play groups, friends or family
  • buying secondhand – school fetes, garage sales, secondhand shops and online
  • buying new – toy shops, department stores, discount stores and online
  • using existing objects – old boxes, plastic kitchenware, old keyboards or mobile phones
  • making your own – search online for ‘make toys for child’ for lots of ideas to try

Wherever your toys come from, remember to make sure they are safe – visit the Product Safety Australia website for lots of information and guidance about choosing safe toys for your little one.

Keep toys interesting

If you find your little one gets ‘bored’ of their toys, it can help to rotate them in and out of circulation. If you put away toys that your little one is not interested in at the moment, and bring them out again in a few weeks or months, you may find that the old ‘boring’ toys may suddenly become new and exciting again. If not, it may be time to put them away for a younger sibling, or pass them on to another child.

Encourage responsibility

Remember to teach your child to take care of their toys, especially if they are borrowed. You can help your little one to develop responsibility by encouraging them to pack away their toys when they are finished playing with them. While they are little you will need to help your child with packing up, but you can encourage them to get involved by making the task fun and like a game. Try using rhymes, funny sounds, or play-acting – for example: ‘I think Teddy is tired now and wants to go home. Does Teddy live in the toy box? Can you put Teddy back in his house?

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