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Age-by-Age Toy and Play Guide

Reading the age guidelines on toy packaging is just the first step to knowing what toys are best for your child! This research-based guide will help you pick playthings that match your child’s interests, abilities and key development stages to inspire endless hours of fun.

Birth to Six Months
Abilities and Interests

Babies rely on sight, sound, touch, taste and smell to learn about their new world. To delight their senses and encourage their exploration, look for toys that make noise or feature high-contrast, black-and-white or brightly colored images. Textured toys that are safe for mouthing are great for infants who can reach for objects.

Developed Skills

At this age, infants are beginning to understand object permanence (the concept that objects continue to exist, even when they can’t be seen, heard or touched). They’re also starting to learn cause and effect and how to give and take, and are developing their fine and gross motor skills (movements that involve muscles).

Toy Suggestions

Crib gyms**
Floor gyms
Activity quilts*
Safety mirrors
Teething toys
Large, interlocking rings or keys
Cloth toys*
Soft dolls*
Stuffed animals (with short pile fabric)*
Musical and chime toys

Safety Tip: Toys never should be hung or attached to a crib, playpen, stroller, infant seat or around a child’s neck with elastic, string or ribbon.

* These items should never be left in the crib of a sleeping child.
** Remove these items when your baby is five months old or is able to push up on their hands and knees.

Six to 12 Months
Abilities and Interests

At this stage, infants begin to master motor skills that open up new and exciting ways to play. When babies can sit up, they enjoy toys they can bang, drop, stack, put in and take out, and open and shut. When they graduate to crawling, cruising or walking, they get a huge kick out of toys that can move along with them.

Developed Skills

Babies in this age range are able to manage high levels of stimulation. They’re beginning to exercise their working memory and understand how to change their behavior to fit different game rules.

Toy Suggestions

Balls (1¾ inches and larger)
Push-pull toys
Ride-on toys (feet-propelled)
Backyard gym equipment (infant swing, small slide, small climbing apparatus)
Nesting and stacking toys
Simple shape sorters
Pop-up toys
Puzzles with knobs (whole object pieces)
Sandbox/sand toys
Wading pool/water toys
Bath toys
Stuffed animals (with short pile fabric)
Play vehicles
Toy kitchen equipment and gadgets
Play household items (telephone, lawn mower, workbench, shopping cart) Playhouse
Child-sized table and chairs
Non-toxic art supplies (large crayons and coloring books,clay, finger-paints)
Musical instruments
Cardboard picture books, pop-up books

Two to Three Years
Abilities and Interests

Older toddlers love testing their physical skills, so find playthings that get them jumping, climbing and throwing. This age group also has good hand-eye coordination and enjoys putting their fine motor skills to work with basic arts & crafts, puppets, blocks and simple puzzles. Toys that encourage open-ended, imaginative play are also great for this age.

Developed Skills

Physical play will help kids this age continue to develop gross motor skills and understand spatial orientation. Arts & crafts can foster self-expression, creativity, cooperation and sharing.

Toy Suggestions

Balls (1¾ inches and larger)
Building blocks and building systems
Blocks with letters and numbers
Puzzles with knobs (whole-object pieces that fit into simple scenes)
Dolls that can be bathed, fed and diapered
Dress-up clothes and accessories
Hand/finger puppets
Play scenes (e.g., farm, airport) with figures and accessories
Sandbox/sand toys
Tricycle and helmet
Play vehicles
Shape sorters
Stuffed animals

Three to Six Years
Abilities and Interests

Children begin to actively play with each other. Preschoolers and kindergartners are masters of make-believe, so toys that inspire imaginative play are great for this age group. Arts & crafts are also popular, since kids this age enjoy hands-on exploration and creativity.

Developed Skills

Pretend play helps children develop their imagination, communication and social skills. Play also helps to reinforce collaboration and sensitivity to others’ wants and feelings.

Toy Suggestions

Tricycle/bicycle and helmet
Construction toys
Lacing and threading sets
Puzzles (10-20 pieces)
Stuffed animals
Dolls and doll clothes
Dress-up clothes 
Props for pretend play
Ride-on toys
Hand/finger puppets
Non-toxic art supplies (safety scissors, construction paper, crayons)
Simple board games; word and matching games

Six to Nine Years
Abilities and Interests

School-age children enjoy play that requires strategy and skill.  Board games, tabletop and outdoor sports, and classic toys like marbles and kites are favorites. Children this age also seek out new information and experiences through play, making arts & crafts, science and magic sets a good choice.

Developed Skills

Strategy-based games help support children’s cognitive flexibility and problem solving skills. Pretend play is also very popular during this stage. Creating and remembering details about complex imaginary worlds and characters strengthens kids’ memory and innovative thinking.

Toy Suggestions

Bicycle and helmet
Simple swimming equipment
Ice / in-line skates and protective gear
Construction toys
Pogo sticks
Jump ropes
Action figures
Paper dolls
Model kits
Craft kits
Magic sets
Science sets
Tabletop sports
Electronic games
Fashion/career doll
Doll houses and furnishings
Board games

Nine to Twelve Years
Abilities and Interests

Pre-teens begin to develop hobbies and life-long interests, and enjoy crafts, model kits, magic sets, advanced construction sets, science kits and sophisticated jigsaw puzzles.

Developed Skills

During this age, kids are continually developing their self-expression, communication, creativity and social skills. Physical play exercises kids’ minds and bodies and helps them to release any tension.

Toy Suggestions

Sports / outdoor equipment and protective gear
Bicycle and helmet
Advanced construction sets
Jigsaw / 3D puzzles
Remote-control vehicles
Model kits
Science kits
Magic sets
Arts & crafts kits
Strategy-based board games
Tabletop sports
Electronic games

Brought to you by the The Toy Association, the not-for-profit trade association representing all businesses that design, produce, license, and deliver toys and youth entertainment products for kids of all ages. The Toy Association's 950+ member companies drive the annual $26 billion U.S. domestic toy market, and our organization has a long history of propelling the health and growth of the toy industry.

Play is our business — and keeping kids safe while they play is the #1 priority for The Toy Association and its members. The Association has a long history of leadership in toy safety: it helped develop the first comprehensive toy safety standard, and continues to work with government officials, consumer groups and industry leaders on ongoing programs to ensure safe play. Families can learn more about toy safety and how to ensure fun, safe play at

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335 Market Street
815 Market Street