What Makes a Toy Educational?

This article featured in the Nov/Dec issue of Your Baby:

Nicole Hilburn, paediatric physiotherapist and owner of Brightbeans Toys, has the following recommendations per age group

Which toys at what age?


A baby develops rapidly in all areas in his first year– cognitive, language, sensory, and gross and fine motor skills. From a play perspective, he won’t have great control of his hands. He’ll enjoy toys with different textures, attractive and bright colours or patterns that stimulate visual development, and interesting shapes and objects to explore. Most things go into the mouth for exploration, as the baby gets more information this way than though his hands because his fine motor function is still developing.

Birth to six months

  • A playgym with hanging toys to encourage movement, reaching and grasping, and kicking.
  • Rattles with interesting colours and textures (vivid patterns are great for younger babies), sounds, and bits to put in their mouths for exploration and teething.
  • Soft or board books.

Six to 12 months

  • Toys that allow packing and unpacking.
  • Banging toys, like a hammer or drum.
  • Toys that encourage movement, such as vehicles that can be pushed along.
  • Toys that encourage standing and walking, such as a wagon filled with blocks.
  • Simple books that have pictures and associated words.
  • Musical toys like shakers and drums.

Toddler (one to two)

Fine motor function is much more refined at this stage, so your tot can start to explore toys more easily. Expressive language is starting to emerge, as is movement in the form of walking. Due to improved postural control and fine motor function, your child is able to explore sensory activities more, especially those related to spatial and perceptual development. Play becomes more constructive – so there’s more building instead of knocking down! Mimicking also becomes a big feature of playtime. These toys ideas are perfect for this stage:

  • Simple puzzles with large knobs.
  • Shape sorters.
  • Blocks and stacking toys.
  • Musical toys.
  • Simple storybooks.
  • Pretend toys, like a mini broom or phone.
  • Construction activities such as Smartmax.

Older toddler (two to three)

Greatly increased gross and fine motor control means your child is able to manage more challenging tasks. Perceptual and spatial development continues to develop at a rapid pace. Communication and language emerge at this stage, as well as pretend play and fantasy. This means your child can move on to:

  • More complex puzzles.
  • Sorting activities such as nesting blocks.
  • Storybooks with more complex plots.
  • Dolls.
  • Arts and craft toys such as colouring, lacing and threading.
  • Construction activities.
  • Simple board games.
  • Pretend play such as doll’s houses, tea sets, cooking sets and doctor sets.

Read the full article here:  Your Baby 213 NovDec Educational Toys