Picking Toys for Kids, Using Chicago Occupational Therapy’s Guide

Play is critical for children, as it is one of their most important occupations. It is through play that young children begin to discover their world around them, build language and social relationships, and develop the fine and gross motor skills that will serve them their entire lives.

Occupational Therapists are highly trained professionals who work with children to enhance their ability to participate in play, among other school- and home-based activities, in order to reach their full potential. Toys can be essential therapeutic tools that you can use at home with your child to help them increase their skills. But not all toys are created equal! Some toys may not be developmentally appropriate, and others may cost a lot of money without the benefits that some more inexpensive toys have. Read below for suggestions from the American Occupational Therapy Association on questions to ask to decide if a particular toy is a good investment for your child!

Is the toy safe and age appropriate?
Toys that are too “young” may cause boredom, and toys that are too “old” may cause frustration or even contain unsafe parts. Check the toy’s suggested age range when shopping.

Is the toy durable?
If the toy is fragile and/or cannot be washed easily, it will likely not last as long and may be more expensive in the long-run if it requires replacement.

Can the toy be played with in more than one way?
Toys that can function in more than one way can help foster your child’s creativity. For example, blocks can be lined up, stacked, and can become “houses,” “trains,” or any number of other options. Your child’s imagination is the limit!

Does the toy appeal to several senses?

Toys with multiple colors, functions, sounds, etc. are more likely to capture and keep a child’s attention for longer.

Does the toy require the use of both hands?

These toys, like crafts or models, can help improve a child’s coordination.

Does the toy encourage thinking or problem-solving?

Shape sorters, puzzles, cooking kits, and board games are all examples of activities that require children of various ages to problem-solve and follow multiple steps. They are also great for encouraging communication among multiple participants.

Does the toy promote communication or interaction?

Toys that involve dramatic play and imagination are great for building social and language skills. Dress-up, puppets, tool sets or kitchen/tea sets are examples of toys that help promote this teamwork.

Toys that have the above features are not only the best value, but will also likely help your child develop critical language and social communication skills that will help them be successful in life.