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Finding the right toys for your toddler

You don't have to spend a lot on toys to make a toddler's eyes light up. There are all kinds of simple toys that are fun to play with and help kids learn too.

You can't do good work without the right tools. That's true for carpenters, chefs, dentists and almost any other grown-up job.

It's also true for kids, only their work is play and their tools are toys. Doctors say playing is the way kids learn. Safe, affordable toys geared for their age are just what they need.

Choosing the right toys

A good toy should be well made. It also should be a good fit for the child's physical, mental and social development level, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Good toys for toddlers include those that help them build up motor skills. Toys that let them be creative also are great.

Here are some ideas for toys your child may like:

Physical toys. Many toddlers love ride-on toys such as trikes and bikes with training wheels. Kids may like toys that look like grown-up items too.

Balls of all sizes—except ones so small they'd fit in a child's mouth—are also ideal for toddlers.

Creative toys. About now, your child may start to show more interest in the size, shape, color and texture of things. He or she may show early creative sparks. You can help by letting your child use appropriate arts and crafts supplies, such as large crayons, markers, chalk, play dough and clay. Kids also may love to make music with bells, rattles, drums and xylophones.

Imaginative toys. At around age 2, kids start to find out about the world of make-believe and fantasy. They also start working out situations in their head. Toys that can boost imagination include dolls (especially realistic-looking ones), stuffed toys, hand puppets, and toy cars or trains that have moving parts.

Toddlers also like to pretend they are other people. That makes dress-up and role-playing fun. Simple costumes, hats, plastic helmets, old shoes and similar accessories can work.

Learning toys. Simple games, puzzles and books round out the list. Try matching games, like large dominoes. Puzzles that have just four or five pieces are perfect too.

And of course, books are great. Kids love picture books and pop-up books. Books with short, simple stories that repeat words or themes are often among a child’s favorites.

Toys to avoid

You should also think about which toys you don't want your kids to play with.

A good place to start is to rule out toys that are unsafe, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. These include toys that have sharp edges, small parts, or loose string, rope or ribbon.

Also, an AAP report suggests that toy weapons and other toys that promote violence or negative stereotypes should be discouraged.

Finally, you might want to steer your kids away from toys that could break easily or that come with easy-to-lose pieces. These toys may be more trouble than they're worth.

Keep toys in their place

Remember, you don't have to spend a lot of money on trendy toys or educational toys. In fact, there is no scientific proof that any specific toy is needed for learning, notes the AAP.

What's more, no toy will substitute for warm, loving relationships between children and their parents and others who care for them.

Reviewed 12/1/2021

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