The Best Toys for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers (from a Pediatric Physical Therapist)


The holidays are approaching, and all the “Hot Toy” lists have been released. Since I work with dozens of families with their infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, I feel like I have seen every toy ever created. While some of the most popular toys might seem impressive because they are electronic and appear to be educational, none of my favorite toys require batteries, only imagination. These toys not only promote creativity, but are sturdy and time-tested.

Best Toys for Infants

Playskool Busy Poppin Pals is great for 9 months and up. It works on fine motor skills, and I love that you can make animal sounds to go along with the animals in the toy.

Stacking toys are always a hit! They help work on hand-eye coordination, and are fun for babies 9 months and up.

Shape sorter toys are great for babies 12 months and up. I love the simpler designs with only 5 shapes. It can get too overwhelming when there are too many choices for baby to look through.

Simple wooden blocks will always make my list of favorites. I love the kinds with the pictures on the sides, as you can use them to help sort by color or type of item (animals, shapes, people, etc.) and babies as young as 6 months can enjoy banging them together, and their big siblings can enjoy creating designs.

Best Toys for Toddlers

Farm sets are always a hit for any child. I especially love this Melissa and Doug one that has a variety of animals to begin pretend play activities and parents can model animal sounds to begin teaching language. It has some latches that a child can do to work on problem solving and fine motor skills.

Crayola Color Wonder products were a game changer when I had toddlers. They are markers and paints that don’t leave any mark on anything other than the special Color Wonder paper. You can buy pre-printed coloring sheets as well as blank pages that kids can create their own masterpieces on. We did plenty of messy play activities, but when you need a fun activity that isn’t messy, this is the perfect one. My kids always marveled at the magic paper that came to life with the special markers.

Speaking of fun activities that are not messy, the Melissa and Doug Water Wow books are a great activity for the car, doctor office waiting rooms, or relaxing on the couch. The pen comes with a paintbrush tip, and when you add water to it, it uncovers the fun designs underneath. The best part is, that once it dries, you can do it all over again! Be careful that your child doesn’t scratch the book with the tip of the pen, or the coating will come off.

Since I love stacking toys, I had to include my favorite one for toddlers. I love the Melissa and Doug Geometric Stacker. This one is a combination of a puzzle and a stacking toy as you combine pieces for one of the sets prior to stacking. Your child can learn so much about colors, shapes, and problem solving with this stacker toy.

I love these matching egg toys. They are perfect for toddler sized hands to sort through and match up each side. You can facilitate language by talking about the colors and shapes that are included.


Best Toys for Preschoolers

My absolute favorite toy of all time is Magna-Tiles. These toys connect with magnets to build 3-D creations. My school aged boys still play with them and love to create new buildings, space ships, and garages for their cars. Magna-Tiles are a perfect STEM toy, and their new Qubix cubed shaped magnetic toys are a fun addition to their already impressive sets.

The BND Magnetic Tablet Drawing Board is a great way for preschoolers to practice writing their letters and draw shapes. The magnetic pen pulls the silver balls up into the formboard to create anything you can imagine. It has pictures to help inspire your child, or they can use their imagination. This is a perfect toy to throw in your bag for those moments you need to patiently wait.

The Rody Horse is a great bouncy toy for active preschoolers. It is an inflatable vinyl horse  that can help get the wiggles out! You can order a rocking base to attach to your Rody to make it a rocking horse. It is a fun activity that helps promote trunk strength.

The Sneaking, Snacky Squirrel Game was a hit at my house. My boys loved to pick up acorns with the tongs and place on their trees. It is great for color identification and fine motor skills.

My boys loved to create masterpieces with their Kwik Stix. They are tempera paint in a tube that is not messy and dries immediately. They are available locally, as well as online. 

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