The Best Toys for Kids of All Ages
Are you a parent of more than one child? There are plenty of houses out there just like yours, with children running around cheerfully with their many playthings. TOO MANY playthings, it seems. In order to reduce the number of toys and create some organization in your home it makes sense to have toys for kids that can span multiple ages.
Children need toys for growth and development. Plus, toys KEEP THEM BUSY – which is no small thing! But enough is enough, right? You have MORE THAN ENOUGH toys!
Reducing the number of toys is not only possible, but can result in just as many happy, contented children actively engaged in productive play.
The key to getting the right result is choosing a multi-age toy that meets the needs of more than one child.
The Right Multi-Age Toy for Many Developmental Stages
Children progress through many developmental stages as they mature. The important takeaway is that while children develop skills and abilities in roughly the same order, the timeframes are not exact. These are the commonly held developmental stages:
- Baby: Birth to twelve months
- Toddler: One year to three years
- Preschooler: Three to five years
- Grade schooler: five to twelve years
- Teen: Twelve to eighteen years
Thinking about age spans versus baby, toddler, etc., will help you see toys from different perspectives. For example, toddlers and preschoolers are different ages. But if you consider that a thirty-month-old toddler is on his way to becoming a preschooler, it can change your perspective about toys that might work for both a toddler and a preschooler. Multi-age toys are the way to go!
A Note About Infants
Infants do not need toys, and are unable to grasp until about two months. Save your money and purchase toys sparingly for your newborn. He or she will learn from listening to voices and looking at things (but can’t focus until around eight weeks of age).
Beyond two months, babies do well with rattles, black and white pictures (high contrast), and things to drop and take out (bowl or bucket with balls).
Your Kids Should Have This Multi-Age Toy!
The ultimate multi-age toy, blocks make almost every child happy. These open-ended toys are versatile, durable and satisfy the developmental needs of a variety of ages. Additionally, blocks come in a variety of forms: wood, plastic, magnetic, foam, bristle, and more. Blocks can vary in size from quite small, like traditional LEGO or to enormous like one of our must haves, the Nugget Play Couch.
See our list of must haves here.
What do children learn by playing with blocks? Blocks help develop visual and spatial awareness, fine motor skills, and imagination. Your toddler may bang two wooden blocks together, while your preschooler and school age child will stack and build to their heart’s content. There’s no ‘wrong’ way to use a block (unless you’re hitting someone).
Vehicles are a big hit with children of all developmental stages and a great example of a multi-age toy! Cars and trucks are obvious choices, but remember to include buses, trains, boats, and more.
Pretend play begins around eighteen months, and vehicles are a perfect prop for this stage! Little ones will make lots of sounds as they push and pull their boats or cars around. Fine and gross motor play? You bet!
Besides pretending, though, vehicles are great toys for exploring mathematical and science concepts. Got a wooden block handy? Make ramps! Children can see how quickly and how far a car might travel when it goes down a short ramp versus a long one.
Is there value in a train set? Absolutely! Putting the track together provides a puzzle aspect to play. If the train is magnetic – wow – what fun is that! Children will learn that these two ends attract while those two ends repel!
This category of toys includes everything from dress up items to dollhouses. Don’t project your notion of what toys are appropriate for a particular gender. If your child gravitates to a particular toy, chances are he’ll find some value there.
Which toys will last with your kids? Dress up items are a popular multi-age choice. Versatile items of clothing, like aprons and capes, will stay on during active play and can work for a variety of roles (cape: think superhero and princess).
A dollhouse can be a magical place for a child to make sense of his or her world. Get ready to hear your own language parroted as your child acts like ‘mommy’ or ‘daddy’.
This colorful, chunky chalk fits perfectly in the hands of toddlers, though their work or art may not be all that impressive. Still, what POWER they feel when allowed to draw on the driveway and actually leave a mark!
Older children will enjoy creating art, writing letters and doing math on the sidewalk with chalk. The fact that it disappears with the first rainstorm is a win for moms and dads – and kids can create a whole new masterpiece.
When considering a multi-age toy, games can be endless family fun. You needn’t wait until everyone is able to read, do math, etc. There are many games that children of any age can enjoy. Hint: getting hung up on the ‘rules’ may not be in your best interest!
Connect Four is a classic game of making for in a row. Toddlers will enjoy stacking the pieces or putting them in and out of containers. Though toddlers might be able to put the pieces into the rack, preschoolers definitely have the fine motor skills for this task. Another great thing about Connect Four is that if you lose a few pieces, you can still have a successful game.
Does your family like to play cards? Although younger children may not have the patience for Rummy, there are other card games that are perfect for them. Blink is a card game in which players match numbers, colors, or shapes. It can go very slow for beginners, and lightning quick for adults.
Why wait? Get started today. Take a critical look around your home and find those toys that only work for one child. Quietly put them on a shelf somewhere and put one or two of these toys in their place. Then sit back and watch the quality of your kids’ play transform, while your house stays just a little bit neater.
Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?
Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood
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