From the hot toy of the year to the expert-recommended toys, it can be overwhelming to know what to get – for your child or someone else’s.
When other people tell me they are stressed out picking out toys for their kids, their stated stress can stress me out.
Age guidelines can be helpful when selecting toys, but they don’t always mean a lot. My daughter loved playing with Perler beads when she was 3 years old, although it’s a toy recommended for kids several years older. And she’s still fascinated with toys geared for babies and toddlers. As she’s gotten older, she plays differently with toys based on her age. But if it’s a toy she really likes, she finds a fun, new way to interact with it.
This seems to be holding true with my youngest too, Henry. Although it’s harder to tell since he seems to be fixated on his big sister. Whatever she’s playing with, he wants.
But when it comes to thinking more generally about toys and gifting, I think that some age guidelines and milestone goals can be helpful.
That’s why this holiday toy list is built around age categories. It’s simple (less is more). And this toy list highlights top toy choices by development experts and some of this season’s It-toys for kids.
Toys for babies under the age of 1 are designed to include a lot of sensory activities which encourage learning through exploration, curiosity, problem-solving, and creativity. It also helps build nerve connections in the brain and promotes the development of language and motor skills.
Kids this age are very tactile-driven in how they explore the world, a big reason why they love putting things in their mouths. They dig your keys and phones and grubby toys. They get a lot of sensory information (taste, texture, smell) by shoving it in. “Chew toys” in different scents, can be irresistible.
- Activity Mat
- Oball (Yes, it’s chewable)
- Ring Stacker
- Activity Table
- Swing / Bouncer
- Chew Toys (Safe materials, BPA-free, and scented)
- SweetTooth Teether (pictured)
For this age, the experts say to look for toys that support their fine and gross motor skills. For us, this has meant toys you can stack, push, or mount.
- Stacking Blocks
- Push Toys
- Miniature Balance Bike
- Ride-On Toys
- Toy Kitchen
- Very Hungry Caterpillar Wooden Train Set (pictured)
Age 2 & 3
The age of two to three is my favorite. They are changing from a baby to a toddler right before your eyes. At 2, some children may still be interested in playing with baby toys, and at 3, some may be entering a pre-k program. With such a wide age range, you can follow your child’s interests and abilities.
- Cooperative Board Game
- Count Your Chickens (pictured)
- Sensory Dough (Play-Doh, Kinetic Sand, etc.)
- Balance Bike
- Beads on a String (Supports developmental milestones and fine motor skills)
Age 4 & 5
More than likely, your child is more particular about what they like, which makes things easier, but also harder at the same time (if you know, you know). Pre-K kiddos usually benefit from items they can build, play collaboratively with friends and family, and open-ended toys to promote pretend play.
- MagnaTiles (my daughter has loved these for years)
- Arts & Crafts
- Super Smalls (Jewelry making kits for littles)
- Perler Beads (You can get biggie boards and biggie beads for kids 4+)
- Melissa & Doug Pretend Play Sets (Vet Set or Doctor)
- Dress-Up Clothing
- PLAYMOBIL Pony Farm (pictured)
Age 6 & 7
The school-aged years can be magical when gift-giving for your children. They are able to engage in independent play much more and can do some builder or craft projects independently (or with an adult nearby).
- Sketch Book
- Experiments (volcano eruption, making slime, e.tc)
- Perler Beads
- Board Games
- Glow in the Dark Crazy Fort
Age 8 & 9
Your child will likely have firm opinions on what they are interested in and want to play with during these years. Even if they indulge, in private, in cuddling with their favorite blankies and stuffies, they do not want to be perceived as “being a baby”.
- Art Set
- Tie-Dye Kits
- Outdoor Sports Equipment (Basketball Hoop, Bikes, Trampoline)
- Experiment Kits
- Jewelry Making Kit
- Code Master (A fun board game that teaches programming skills)
- Light-Up Wire Art Kit (Learn about LED circuits and create art)
Age 10 & Up
When your kids aren’t into baby and kid toys anymore but still like to play, what do you get them? The pre-teenager can be hard to shop for (they may be toy-recipient since that’s “kids’ stuff”) but there are some great ideas for tweens on the market.
- Coding Kits
- Microscope & Science Supplies
- Bluetooth Speaker
- Room or Locker Decorations
- Constellation Glow in the Dark Stickers for the Ceiling
- DIY Kits: Make Your Own Perfume, Bath Bomb, Candle, etc.
- Craft Kits: Polar Fleece Blankets, Hooked Rugs
- Sewing Machine
- LEGO Kits (A kid who’s into them will know specifically which sets they want to build, so ask!)
- Record Player
- Gaming Console
- Fujifilm Instax Mini (Pictured)
What is the hot toy this year?
Walmart has recently released its 2022 Trendy Christmas Toy list. Your child’s age may determine the “hot toy” to get. The top items on the list include a little bit for almost every age range:
- Hot Wheels
- LOL Surprise
- LeapFrog My Pal Scout
- Nerf Blast Scooter (Pictured Below)
- Jetson Bolt
- Nintendo Switch
- Sony PlayStation
- Barbie Dream Camper (Pictured above)
Personally, I’m mostly gravitating towards toys that don’t have little pieces that can get lost. Or flushed down the toilet. Although I might get some Super Smalls jewelry and another Perler bead set.
Yes, there is a danger of choking on Perler beads and other small parts. But at ages 4 and 2, my kids are supervised no matter what they play with. Perler beads were really my judgment call that my child could play with that toy appropriately, in its intended fashion, without eating the beads.
Age guidelines are directional and adult supervision is crucial. Almost as crucial as your child’s seal of approval.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links wherein I may earn a commission from any purchase made.
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