There are, quite literally, millions of children's toys on the market. Figuring out which ones are safe, which are educational, which are fun and engaging, and which ones are harmful, can be a massive undertaking. We'll show you what to look out for when you are choosing what stays in your child's play area and what needs to go.

Good kids toys

There are three main factors to consider when we look at toddler toys:

Safety – first and foremost, it's important to look at the toy for dangers. Are there any sharp edges? Could anything break away? Are there small pieces that may present a choking hazard? Are they fire retardant? Are they washable? Brand new toys generally have age ranges and potential risks listed on the packaging, but it never hurts to check everything yourself.
Fun – of course we want our children's toys to be fun for them. A toy can come with every bell and whistle and still sit in the corner for months after one half-hearted play. So think about what you child responds to most. Is it lights and colours? Moving parts? Music? A certain animal that they love?
Education – if possible, it's great to have an element of learning in our kid's toys. The good news is that children are like sponges and can learn from almost everything. Even a clothes peg can teach a curious little one about shape, colour and texture recognition.

Toys by gender

Many people believe that the notion of toys for girls and toys for boys is a little outdated. Nothing is set in stone and, while boys and girls do tend to gravitate towards certain types of toys, each child is different and may not conform to gender stereotypes when it comes to playtime.

Toys for boys and girls

Superhero toys are everywhere in toy stores. Many little kids choose one or two that they particularly love, based on the colour of their outfit or their specific powers. Superhero toys depicting female heroes are a great way to show kids that women can be empowered and equal to their (more prevalent) male counterparts.
Animal toys can teach little girls and boys about appearances and behaviours in the animal kingdom. They are also cuddly and can create a sense of bonding.
Tool based toys can teach kids about real world scenarios. Little boys and girls can learn about everyday activities, like building, driving, cooking and cleaning. Toys where things are put away can include elements of puzzle solving and spatial reasoning, while toys like a play phone can prompt language skills.

Playing with toys

Interacting with toys, no matter how simple or complex, is a vital part of a child's development. Something as simple as splashing in the water with a plastic cup or playing inside a cardboard box is very valuable play time – so don t feel as though you need to always have the latest and most expensive toys.

For many kids, free play is the best play. This is time for them to explore and learn while they have fun. Joining in with them can help your child to build confidence and develop skills, while feeling happy and loved.

For more information see Physical development or Toddler Games.

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