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Guidelines When Choosing Developmentally Appropriate Toys for Young Children

by Carly Seifert, studioD

Play is an essential part of your child's development -- but a stroll through the toy aisle in your department store can be overwhelming. With so many toys to choose from for your little one, it is important to select a toy that is safe, age-appropriate, promotes healthy development and encourages positive behavior.


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns on HealthyChildren.org that safety should always come first when choosing toys for your little one. Be sure to read warning labels on toy packaging and show your child how to correctly use the toy. The AAP also states that toys and their parts should be larger than your child's mouth to prevent choking. Make sure toys are labeled "nontoxic" and that electronic toys are labeled "UL Approved".


The AAP also suggests that toys appeal to your child's senses. Toys that are different textures, bright colors and make noise -- even just a soft rattling noise -- stimulate your child's sense of sight, touch and hearing. Open-ended toys -- such as building blocks -- encourage logical thinking skills. Toys that promote physical, cognitive and emotional development are also a wise pick for your growing little one.

Age Recommendations

Many toys have a suggested age range written on their packaging for the safety and developmental appropriateness for a child. These age recommendations are based on the developmental abilities of an average child and may serve as a starting point for you when selecting a toy for your little one. Early Childhood News states that toys should be challenging but not frustrating for your child. If a toy is beyond your child's abilities -- or too simplistic -- he will quickly lose interest.

Healthy Messages

According to Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment (TRUCE), many children's toys encourage violence or focus on appearance or the idea of wanting more. TRUCE states that parents and teachers should define their values when it comes to violent toys and share these values with their children. Toys that are linked to television shows and movies instill a desire in children to want more things linked to that movie, and also encourage children to imitate what they see on a screen instead of using their imagination. Toys such as action figures with weapons encourage children to imitate violent behavior. Select toys instead that promote positive messages and encourage play. Toys that provide opportunity for cooperative play -- such as board games -- encourage behaviors such as taking turns.

About the Author

Carly Seifert has been a piano instructor since 2001. She has also covered adoption and introducing children to the arts for "Montana Parent Magazine." Seifert graduated from University of California, Irvine with a Bachelor of Arts in drama.

Photo Credits

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