age-appropriate toys

If you find yourself asking, "What toys should I get my preschool-aged child this holiday season that will foster their development and be educational for them?" Then you have come to the right place!

Many toys make annoying sounds, take up space, and worst of all, don't encourage the child to play but rather are designed to entertain them. However, the right toys can help aid a child's cognitive development in multiple ways.

Why have toys such as rattles, blocks, and dolls stood the test of time? As technology advances, you would think old toys like these would be tossed aside for shinier and brighter items. Yet, most babies today own these items. It is because these simple toys encourage problem-solving, imagination, creativity, and sensory exploration.

I am a former preschool teacher with an education in Early Childhood Development and now homeschool my preschool-aged children. Here is a list of toys I purchase for my children and for anyone in my life who has a baby or young child.

Infants to 6 months

Babies love to look at faces and put everything in their mouths. Textured balls, teethers, rattles, unbreakable mirrors, and board books are toys that will help baby explore more of their senses and learn more about their environment.

Infantino textured multi ball set

Infantino textured balls

Ideal for grabbing, rolling and even cramming into their mouths. That's what learning looks like at this age!


Doddle & Co. critter teether bundle

Doddle & Co. critter teether bundle

Not only do they help soothe teething woes, but the bubble popping design makes them a tactile delight as well.


Plan Toys wooden beads rattle

Plan Toys wooden bead rattle

The rattle is made to perfectly fit those tiny hands so your child can stimulate their sensory development as they watch, listen to and handle the rattle.


Bright Starts sit and see floor mirror

Bright Starts sit and see floor mirror

Who says peek-a-boo takes two?


Child's Play peekaboo board book set

Child's Play peekaboo board book set

Bright and colorful with lift-the-flap pages, these books are perfect for pre-readers to explore their prediction and memory skills. Not to mention they can identify a few new animal friends in the process.


7 months to 1 year

Babies at this age are moving around a ton and are learning about cause and effect. They enjoy watching things drop and taking things out. Wooden blocks and touch and feel books are excellent toys for this age. Toys that foster their gross motor skills, such as pull toys and large balls, are perfect for this age. Older babies are also learning more about their world and their bodies. Board books showcasing generic body features (eyes, hair, nose, legs) are wonderful as well.

Modern blocks set

Modern Blocks10-Block Counting, Shapes + Alphabet Set

These natural blocks encourage constructive play and fine motor skills, as well as number, letter and shape recognition. When it's time to clean up, put the blocks in the included organic, unbleached cotton drawstring bag for easy storage.


Child's Play Off to the Park tactile board book

Child's Play off to the park tactile board book

Use all your senses to read this interactive book, developed with help from children and designed with every young reader in mind. High contrast images and tactile features like a shoelace, fun textures and a scratch-and-sniff ice cream make this book a fun sensory adventure.


Plan Toys pull-along snail toy

Plan Toys pull along snail toy

This little friend helps babies and toddlers develop gross motor and coordination skills.


CaaOcho pure natural rubber sensory ball 

CaaOcho rubber sensory ball

Easy for little hands to manipulate, this colorful sensory ball encourages them to experiment with holding, squeezing, dropping, rolling and chasing—skills that help develop hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills as well as baby's sense of cause and effect and spatial awareness.


Child's Play Sign About Getting Ready board book

Child's Play sign about getting ready board book

Signing with baby is a great way of teaching early communication skills. Introduce your little one to forty signs involving a toddler's daily activities inside the home (described in text and demonstrated in pictures) including the signs for brush, pants, hearing aid, and bath with this colorful and engaging board book.


1 to 2 years

Blocks continue to be beneficial for the child at this age as they learn different ways to use and build with them. They will also begin exploring more creative outlets, such as coloring and painting. Washable, non-toxic markers and paints would make a great present. Puzzles, illustrated books, and items for pretend play, such as baby dolls, kitchen items, and stuffed animals, are great as well!

Modern Blocks numbers set

Modern Blocks numbers set

Hand-painted in San Francisco using organic paints and polished with organic jojoba oil and beeswax, these gorgeous natural blocks are made from untreated white birch and count from 1-10 with various shapes on each block corresponding with the number.


Melissa & Doug first play touch + feel puzzle

Melissa and Doug first play touch and feel puzzle

Simple and fun, this colorful puzzle is a full sensory experience. Each pet features a different soft fabric while the mirror in the middle is perfect for peek-a-boo!


Weather board book set

Weather board book

Celebrate all the sights, sounds and textures of the seasons with this delightful board book set. The rich illustrations and engaging text are perfect for developing speech and language.


2 to 3 years

Imaginative play is what it is all about at this age. Pretend food, toy cars, and other toys that mimic real-life will foster children's imagination and help them understand the world a bit better.

Janod wooden fruits + vegetables set

Janod wooden fruits and vegetables set

Your little foodie can use the set to wash, chop and create yummy fruit and vegetable dishes, then they can clean up in minutes by putting everything back in the included wooden storage crate.


Wise Elk ice cream truck

Wise Elk ice cream truck

Zoom it around, take it apart and put it back together! This sweet wooden ice cream truck is one they'll come back to again and again.


3 to 6 years

Building on the toys, they have but more advanced. Larger puzzles with more pieces, along with more extensive or intricate block sets. Action figures and dolls allow them to create different scenarios for their toys fostering imaginative play and creativity. Craft and art projects are more detailed and meaningful at this age, as well. Illustrated books with advanced illustrations along with musical instruments are very beneficial for children in this age group.

Little Likes Kids fun outside jumbo puzzle 

Little Likes kids fun outside puzzle

The extra-thick pieces are easy for little hands to hold, making this a screen-free activity the whole family can enjoy.


Wise Elk wooden construction set 

Wise Elk wooden construction set

Brightly colored and smoothly sanded wooden blocks connect with mess-free glue circles to help them hone their 3D building skills.


Meri Meri Mia rainbow doll

Meri Meri mia rainbow doll

With long arms and legs that are perfect for toting her around, this adorable fabric doll is as stylish as she is loveable.


Rainforest by Julia Groves

Rainforest by Julia Groves

Delicate, colorful and distinctive, Julia Groves' illustrations introduce little ones to the animals that live in this endangered habitat.


Janod musical instrument set

Janod musical instrument set

Get the band together with this super fun set. Including a tambourine with cymbals, guitar, harmonica, trumpet and a clapper there's plenty of toe-tapping music to be made.


When it comes to toys and children, less is more. Chances are they will have more fun playing with your car keys and trash than that fancy designer rattle.