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The importance of age-appropriate toys

By Neil Allen

child-2916844_960_720When I was a nanny, I had a short-term position with a family in New Jersey with a darling seven month old girl. She was happy enough but she was being held back on her physical and mental development because of her mother’s fears of her getting hurt. She only had rattles and teething toys to play with. She hadn’t even been allowed to just lay on the floor so she could learn to roll over much less begin crawling.

By the end of my first week I went to Toys ‘R Us and made a list of age appropriate toys and added a few things for the next six months. There were probably 20 items on the list from small handheld toys to larger items like an Exersaucer, which allowed for freer movement for the baby and the safety the mom needed. The mom accepted that I knew what I was talking about, then went out and bought everything on the list. The baby’s life was so greatly enhanced and she started developing in leaps and bounds.

The need for age-appropriate toys is simple: to encourage development and provide your child with challenges that build on the skills they’re developing. The toys don’t have to be store bought, there are many you can make from items around the house or recyclables, and, depending on the age of the child, be made with the child. Children need as toys to help them learn to master skills they should be learning from babies to early elementary school. As kids get older, there is a lesser focus on toys and they tend to move to educational games on the computer.

Learning, however, can be done anywhere, at any time — with and without toys. Learning opportunities are everywhere. Vroom, an educational program, can help those with very young children expand the educational opportunities with just a small investment of time. Click here for more information.


  • When it comes to birthdays and holiday present giving, encourage family and friends to buy toys that are for six to nine months down the road so that when the child gets to that point they have toys with new challenges without having to spend more money.
  • Children also need variety as they grow tired of the same old toys after a few months, which can stagnate development. It is good to have some toys hidden away to swap into the mix of toys. Take three or four toys that they’re bored with and replace them with new ones that offer new development and challenges. This helps save money, too.
  • As your child starts outgrowing the toys, weed them out of the toy box. This helps eliminate clutter and encourages them to play with more age-appropriate toys.

Simple homemade educational toys

Lacing: Using thick paper, cut out a large shoe shape then punch four holes along each side to replicate the holes on a real shoe. Hand to your child with a lace so they can practice lacing. You can also cut out simple shapes like a bear or gingerbread person then punch holes around the edges for them to practice lacing. If you want them to last longer, you can laminate them.

Felt books: Cut out rectangles about 3″ x 5″ from felt then use iron-on fabric hem tape or sew on numbers, shapes or fabrics with different textures. Then use a hole punch to put a hole in the upper left corner then tie the pages together with yarn or put them on a metal ring.

Rock paths: Find a bunch of flat rocks about two inches long. Clean them then allow them to dry completely. Line them up in a unique shape and use non-toxic paint to create a path from one rock to the next and allow to dry completely. Then, mix the rocks up and have your child try to recreate the path.

Memory game: This is a great way to recycle old business cards. You can draw pictures on the blank side or use stickers. You can also use matching holiday gift tags that are blank on the backside and all the same shape. You can laminate them to make them last longer.