Guidelines for Choosing Developmentally Appropriate Toys for Young Children

Play teaches children how to interact with others and learn about the world. The toys you select for your young child affect his development. Your child's current developmental stage plays a major role in toy selection. Observe the skills he is currently learning, such as fine motor skills, letter recognition, counting, self-care and language development, as a guide for selecting toys that enhance those skills.

Age Recommendations

Most toy and game packaging includes a recommended age range. The age range is only a suggestion based on average child development. Use the information on the box as a general guide for narrowing down toy options. Use your knowledge of your child's individual skills and development to determine if she would fall into that recommended age group. Read any printed warnings or safety precautions that are also listed on the package to determine if there is an additional risk that would make the toy inappropriate for your child.


The parts of a toy are a major factor when buying for young children. Even toddler and preschoolers still put objects in their mouths if the pieces are small enough. One simple test is to drop the small parts through a paper towel tube. If the toy fits through the tube, it is dangerous for young children. Inspect all components of the toy to determine if it contains small parts that present a choking risk. Toys often contain accessories to go along with the main item that are smaller in size. Look at the quality of the toy construction, especially if the toy has small parts attached to it. Poor construction increases the risk of a small part popping off while your child plays with the toy.

Educational Value

Toys bring children enjoyment, but they are also able to provide educational value for your young child. Choose toys that allow him to practice developmental skills he is currently working on. For example, if your 3-year-old child is learning to recognize letters, consider letter blocks or an electronic preschool toy that features letter games. For children who need practice with fine motor skills, choose toys that require small movements and control like blocks that click together or a set of stacking cups. Visualize how your child would play with the toy to determine the educational value it offers.


Many toys carry a violent theme, particularly in the form of weapons. Many action figures include attached weapons or promote fighting. Replicas of actual weapons also encourage a violent nature. These toys may encourage your child to act more aggressively when playing with them. Consider if you want your young child exposed to these aggressive toys.