Toys Buying Guide
Shopping for toys can be tough. Even with age-range guidelines, it’s not always clear who a toy is best suited for—after all, though a toy may be recommended for ages 3 and up, a toy designed for a 3-year-old may not be quite as engaging to a 6-year-old—or even a 4-year-old.
Groupon’s guide is here to make it simple to shop for kids’ toys by age range. We’ll break toy shopping down into three categories: what milestones you might expect from kids at different ages; the type of toys to look for; and recommendations designed to make shopping easier.
What to expect: At one month, newborns can only see 8”–10” away and are unable to make out the full color spectrum. As they reach the second month, little ones will start to turn toward sounds and learn that one event follows another. By the time they’re three months old, they may be able to recognize their parents, grasp and swipe at objects, and support themselves on their elbows while lying on their tummies.
- Recommended toys: mobiles; soothers; play gyms; soft stuffed animals and books; unbreakable mirrors; toys with contrasting colors or black-and-white patterns
- Why we like them: Toys that babies can look at or touch aid in sensory development, and simple colors are best for their limited visual range. Mirrors appeal to their newfound interest in faces.
What to expect: Babies will start to reach for things with help, grasp the things they can reach, and may also begin to recognize familiar faces. They’ll also start to laugh, squirm, and squeal in happiness.
- Recommended toys: mobiles; soothers; play gyms; rattles and teethers
- Why we like them: Activity toys help to develop coordination skills and encourage the connection between cause and effect.
What to expect: Infants can roll from their bellies to their backs and grasp and mouth objects. They also begin to develop the ability to do multiple things at once, and may even smile at other babies and their own reflections.
- Recommended toys: unbreakable mirrors; soft books and stuffed animals; play gyms; musical-instrument toys
- Why we like them: Toys with mirrors, sounds, lights, and different textures and sizes help develop a sense of self, improve fine motor skills, and help with sensory development.
What to expect: Little ones are starting to understand cause and effect and may enjoy games like pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo and toys that return a fun surprise when manipulated. They can sit up with little or no support and participate in activities that center around them.
- Recommended toys: blocks and stacking toys; toys that move across the floor and roll; stuffed animals that talk, sing, or light up; career- or household-themed toys
- Why we like them: Toys that encourage crawling will help develop gross motor skills, while colorful stacking toys are designed to introduce simple words, descriptions, and concepts. Early role-play and pretend-play toys help develop a range of strengths, including social, language, and memory skills.
What to expect: Developing interaction skills is key at seven months. Babies may begin to coo and babble, as well as respond to and recognize their name, different voices, and individual tunes. Little ones also start to rock on their hands and knees and creep on their tummies during this time.
- Recommended toys: balls; shape sorters; toys that roll and move across the floor; stuffed animals and toys that talk, sing, or light up when you push a button or perform a similar action
- Why we like them: Interactive toys help set the foundation for early language skills, and toys that move encourage crawling and physical development.
What to expect: Eight-month-olds are starting to connect two behaviors together and remember recent events. They may also start associating words with objects, articulating sounds, and crawling in both directions.
- Recommended toys: musical-instrument toys and toys that sing, play music, or light up; toys that roll or move across the floor; activity panels and table toys that encourage standing; blocks and shape sorters; toys with buttons, dials, and levers
- Why we like them: Toys with things to press and move help to encourage a sense of cause and effect, and toys that encourage physical movement get infants further along the road to crawling, standing, and eventually walking.
What to expect: At this age, babies’ hands are more dexterous, with the ability to pass objects between them or even catch a ball rolled in their direction. Many babies are also able to recognize familiar faces and indicate with gestures.
- Recommended toys: blocks and stacking toys; activity panels and table toys that encourage standing; toys with dials and buttons; toys and stuffed animals that sing, play music, or talk
- Why we like them: Toys that roll or stack may help to develop fine motor skills, and standing and cruising toys encourage little ones to be on their feet more. Learning toys that talk and sing help develop basic language skills.
What to expect: Infants may respond to simple instructions, anticipate words and actions, and remember simple sounds. Ten-month-olds may also walk around if they’re holding onto a hand.
- Recommended toys: activity panels and table toys that encourage standing; toys with dials and buttons; toys and stuffed animals that sing, play music, or talk; career- or household-themed toys
- Why we like them: Pretend-play toys can help develop social skills, while standing and cruising toys spur physical action. Toys that encourage early learning will help with language development and teach little ones basic educational building blocks.
What to expect: Babies may be standing unassisted and cruising along furniture, and their babbling is starting to sound like an actual language.
- Recommended toys: blocks, puzzles, and sequence toys; play phones; foot-to-floor ride-on toys; toys with wheels that can be pushed; musical-instrument and musical activity toys
- Why we like them: Play phones encourage language skills, and blocks and puzzles help develop hand-eye coordination. Ride-on toys and toys that encourage walking aid babies in physical development.
What to expect: One-year-olds are constantly moving. They may mimic and anticipate actions, as well as show affection with hugs and kisses. They’re also at a point where they understand most of what’s being said to them, and only make sounds that resemble the language they’re raised with.
- Recommended toys: foot-to-floor ride-on toys; toys with wheels that can be pushed; musical-instrument and musical activity toys; animal-themed play sets
- Why we like them: Toys that encourage coordination and walking further develop gross-motor skills. Themed play sets help little ones learn basic words and ideas.
What to expect: Toddlers around this age are walking and vocalizing. It’s a good time to start introducing concepts such as letters, numbers, and household routines.
- Recommended toys: toys with wheels that can be pushed; battery powered ride-on toys; play tables and panels; toys that help teach letters, colors, and numbers; themed play sets
- Why we like them: Walking and ride-on toys help to develop coordination, while play sets with themes, such as the farm, the zoo, or princesses, help to teach basic sounds, ideas, and words.
What to expect: At this age, kids will have a vocabulary of about 50–200 words, and can follow basic directions, walk and run, and express a range of moods. It’s important at this age to foster the imagination.
- Recommended toys: cars, trucks, trains, and other vehicles; stacking toys and blocks; ride-on toys for toddlers; simple puzzles and shape sorters; educational books and activity toys that talk and teach
- Why we like them: Vehicle toys spur imaginative play. Educational toys for toddlers, especially those designed for language development, will help to improve the vocabulary and encourage connections between objects and words.
2–2 1/2 Years
What to expect: Most toddlers of this age thrive on independence and exploration. They’ve developed pretty strong hand-eye coordination and a whole host of other skills, and can’t get enough chances to use them.
- Recommended toys: battery-powered ride-on toys; dollhouses and doll accessories; themed play sets; cars, vehicles, and RC toys; educational books and activity toys that talk and teach
- Why we like them: Themed toys teach basic concepts, words, and sounds, and ride-on toys help them explore their independence.
2 1/2–3 Years
What to expect: Toddlers are speaking simple sentences and developing a sense of control around this time. They’re also hopping, jumping, and climbing stairs one step at a time and recalling simple instructions.
- Recommended toys: roller skates; cars, vehicles, and RC toys; themed play sets; battery-operated ride-ons; art supplies, household items; backyard gym equipment
- Why we like them: Ride-ons and play sets spark the imagination and allow toddlers to make choices, as well as help to teach basic skills and boundaries.
What to expect: Not only are three-year-olds constantly on the move, but imaginations are running rampant. In addition to encouraging learning by exposing kids to a wide range of topics, it’s also important to help them develop fine motor skills and improve balance and coordination.
- Recommended toys: battery powered ride-ons; play sets and action figures, cars, vehicles, and RC toys; art supplies; play household items; backyard gym equipment; dress-up clothes; toys and books that talk and teach
- Why we like them: Dress-up clothes and action figures inspire pretend play while art supplies and play sets encourage creativity and self-expression. Ride-ons and RC toys work on both gross and fine motor skills.
What to expect: Many four-year-olds love playing make-believe, and may also develop friendships and begin to understand that people have different experiences and feelings. With improved coordination and a longer attention span, it’s an ideal time to introduce this age to basic sports and new activities designed to keep them engaged.
- Recommended toys: dollhouses and doll accessories; cars, vehicles, and RC toys; battery powered ride-on toys; dragons and dinosaurs; dress-up clothes; art supplies; backyard gym equipment; simple board games
- Why we like them: Character toys inspire pretend play and creativity, and sports and board games take full advantage of broadening attention spans while also helping kids problem solve.
What to expect: At five, many kids can solve problems, write their names, and finish activities without waiting for directions. Five-year-olds also benefit from more developed physical coordination.
- Recommended toys: play sets and action figures; cars, vehicles, and RC toys; battery powered ride-ons; dollhouses and accessories; arts and crafts/learning kits; fashion dolls; tabletop sports; video and board games
- Why we like them: Books that read with kids teach basic educational concepts, while puzzles and board games encourage problem-solving skills. Five-year-olds’ physical coordination level pairs well with sports and other games.
What to expect: School-age children may be more interested in toys that require strategy and skill. They may also have the physical strength and coordination to begin partaking in more advanced sports.
- Recommended toys: sports equipment; arts and crafts/learning kits; fashion dolls and accessories; tabletop sports; video and board games
- Why we like them: The small, varied pieces of art kits and fashion-doll sets encourage creativity while building up fine motor skills. Video games and board games help kids think strategically, while sports equipment encourages physical coordination.
What to expect: Kids at this age are beginning to develop lifelong interests and hobbies, and may also be more involved in active play and team sports.
- Recommended toys: sports equipment; arts and crafts, magic, and science kits; remote-controlled cars and electronic toys; tabletop sports games; video, board, and card games
- Why we like them: More advanced art, construction, and science toys challenge kids and pique their interests, while sports equipment, tabletop games, and electronic toys are great for interacting with friends.