Age-by-Age Guide to Toys

What's the best toy for an infant? What toy should you get a toddler or school-aged child? Check out our list that matches developmental stages of play with toys that work well for each age group.

A mom and her baby play with toys.


It's no secret that kids love toys. But when you're standing in the toy aisle at the store, you'll soon learn that choosing something for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, or school-aged kids can be tricky.

Toys should be safe and fun, but also match the child's developmental stage of play. After all, toys that excite infants (like rattles or activity boards) don't have the same benefits for toddlers. And many toys for 3-year-olds, such as tricycles or fake musical instruments, simply won't work for an 8-year-old.

If you're purchasing toys for a child in your life, check out our handy age-by-age guide, which explains which toys best suit each developmental stage.

01 of 06

Toys for Babies (0- to 12-Months)

For the first three months, your baby isn't able to do much more than observe their surroundings. Because their vision is still blurry, they see bright, boldly patterned items best.

"Toys don't have to be black and white so long as the colors contrast with each other," says Nora Newcombe, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia and president of the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society.

As your baby grows, they'll enjoy toys that engage their other senses as well. Many of the toys they need now are designed to promote interaction in a variety of ways: They may squeak or make a crinkling noise, have a nubby texture, or be soft and cuddly. Infants tend to mouth toys, and textured ones can help relieve teething pain.

Top toys for babies

  • Brightly colored, multi-patterned mobiles
  • Rattles
  • Unbreakable mirrors
  • Floor gyms
  • Activity boards
  • Soft, washable, colorful stuffed animals or dolls with a smiling face
  • Small stuffed fabric balls
02 of 06

Toys for 1-Year-Olds

"Your toddler is fascinated by cause-and-effect and will enjoy any toy that responds to their actions and makes use of their newly acquired motor skills," says Robin Goodman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist based in New York City. Little ones will love toys that allow them to hit a ball with a hammer or those that cause music to play or characters to pop up.

Some high-tech toys aimed at this age will name a letter, shape, or number whenever a baby presses a button. At this age, your baby is still too young to learn their ABCs, but they'll enjoy interacting with such toys and being exposed to language.

Top toys for 1-year-olds

  • Stacking rings
  • Nesting cups or boxes
  • Push- or pull-toys that make noise or have pieces that pop up or move
  • Hammering sets that let kids pound pegs or balls through holes
  • Simple, sturdy musical instruments such as tambourines, drums, or maracas
  • Shape sorters
  • Play vehicles such as a school bus or a fire engine, and plastic people that ride in them
  • Puzzles with four or five pieces
  • Rubber ducks or toy boats
03 of 06

Toys for 2- and 3-Year-Olds

Looking for the best 2-year-old toys or the best 3-year-old toys? At this age, a child's play is more purposeful, and they have the fine motor skills needed to complete a puzzle or build with blocks by themselves. They'll start to enjoy pretend play that imitates the actions of people around them. They will also like high-tech toys that make real-life sounds, such as telephones that ring or dolls that talk.

If you avoid gender stereotypes at home, don't be concerned if your cisgender child plays in a gendered way, adds Dr. Newcombe. Babies assigned male at birth may love using dump trucks to scoop up sand, while those assigned female may pretend to feed their dolls—or the opposite may be true. No matter what gender they are, let them play with the toys they choose.

Kids remain very active at this age; most of them still enjoy push- and pull-toys. It's a great time to introduce a ride-on toy, too: Start with one that your child can propel with both feet, and move up to a tricycle or balance bike.

Top toys for 2- and 3-year-olds

  • Dolls and stuffed animals
  • Props for make-believe play, such as a toy telephone, a tea-party set, a play kitchen, or a doll stroller
  • Ride-on toys, tricycles, and balance bikes
  • Musical instruments (popular ones include toy pianos with flashing lights that show kids what keys to press)
  • Large transportation toys with buttons that make a horn honk or a siren whistle
  • Puzzles
  • Construction toys that snap together
04 of 06

Toys for 4- and 5-Year-Olds

There's a tremendous explosion in learning ability at this age, and it's a good time to introduce interactive educational toys that teach math and verbal skills, such as phonics boards or tablets with parent-approved games.

"Choose toys that say positive things like 'Good job. Let's try again' instead of ones that make negative beeping noises whenever kids get an answer wrong," suggests Marianne Szymanski, founder of Toy Tips, an independent toy testing and review service for consumers.

Kids are now able to imagine that they are someone else and may fantasize about being teachers, pilots, ballerinas, athletes, fairies, or anything they like!

Top toys for 4- and 5-year-olds

  • Art supplies, craft kits, Play-Doh
  • Blocks of different shapes
  • Computerized toys that teach phonics, reading, or math
  • Construction sets with large pieces, such as Magna-Tiles, Legos, or fort-building kits
  • Puzzles of greater complexity
  • Action figures
  • Barbies and other dolls
  • Costumes
  • Transportation toys, such as parking garages, airports, and train stations
  • Board games that don't require reading, such as Hungry Hungry Hippos, Chutes and Ladders, or Candy Land
  • Soccer balls and basketballs
  • Active games such as Jenga or The Floor Is Lava
  • Bicycles (with training wheels)
05 of 06

Toys for 6- and 7-Year-Olds

Your child is gradually developing their own interests now, but is still influenced by their teachers and peers. Some kids like doing science experiments (with help); others love painting crafts, making beaded jewelry, or playing with dolls. Friends are becoming increasingly important, and your child will start asking for a particular toy (if they haven't already) because "everyone else has it."

At this age, kids often become huge fans of computer games, but they also enjoy having friends over to play sports and board games and build things. Many of them enjoy music-related toys, but playing actual instruments can be difficult. (If your kids' toys require batteries, be sure to keep a stash of long-lasting AA and AAA in the house!)

Top toys for 6- and 7-year-olds

  • Basic science kits
  • Slime
  • Magnets, magnifying glasses, telescopes
  • Art supplies and craft kits
  • Nintendo, PlayStation, or Xbox games
  • Computer tablets
  • Legos, K'Nex, Magna-Tiles, and other building sets
  • Sports equipment
  • Remote-control cars
  • Barbies and similar dolls
  • Games that require strategies, such as chess, checkers, or Jenga
06 of 06

Toys for 8-Year-Olds and Beyond

Many 8-year-old kids enjoy outdoor sports as well as scooters, bicycles, and in-line skates. They acquire adult-like interests, abilities, and hobbies and may develop a particular passion or become a collector. Many of them enjoy creating things, and they find competitive games of all types irresistible.

"These years are all about doing things that give kids a sense of mastery and competence," says Szymanski. "With computer and video games, kids can challenge themselves to get a better score than they did the time before. They enjoy competing with their friends, and you'll hear a lot of 'I got this score—what score did you get?'" They are also increasingly able to work on longer projects, some of which might take days to complete.

Top toys for 8-year-olds and beyond

  • More elaborate science kits
  • Tablet or computer for online games
  • Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox games
  • Craft kits
  • Slime
  • Outdoor sporting equipment
  • Intricate construction sets
  • Board games such as Scrabble, Monopoly, and Trivial Pursuit Junior
  • Strategy games such as chess, checkers, or Jenga
  • Bananagrams
  • Model kits
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