How to Choose Toys, Games and Electronic Devices for Children

Father and Son Playing Together at Home

Weather you are a parent, new or not so new OR a grandparent OR an aunt or uncle, etc, it can feel a bit daunting as you are looking at all the toys and games before you. I think there are some basics for all of us to consider when we buy gifts for children. Because it does matter what we buy children.  I spoke in my last week’s blog piece on why it matters. So before you buy, here are some things to consider . . .

  1. Does this toy or game or electronic device represent something healthy? We want to encourage healthy thinking and problem solving. Plus, healthy interactions and ways of seeing the world. So ask yourself, as you consider this toy or game or electronic device – “Is this healthy and promoting what is good and wholesome. I know, wholesome is a bit outdated, but it fits for here.
  2.  Is what you are looking at developmentally age appropriate for the child you are about to buy for? I know at times children want or ask for items that really are not suitable for their age or maybe it may be ok for some 10 year olds, but for other 10 year olds it may not be a fit due to . . .  This may be that the child is not ready for a DVD that will keep them up at night with nightmares, etc. Sometimes we may not know  what is appropriate for each age. See some of my general thoughts posted below on the different age groups.  You will also find most toys and games have general age indicators on their packaging.
  3. Is it a toy or item that can be used in multiple ways to be creative? An example that comes to mind are open-ended building materials, such as:  building blocks, legos and other put together materials in which your imagination is the limit. Or maybe you are looking at a computer game. Choosing one in which you can create is a good choice in general, unless it is creating something unhealthy. Another example might be instead of giving coloring books, consider a pad of blank paper and some higher quality markers or colored pencils in a tinned box. Or opposed to a doll that talks, walks, and . . . , consider a doll that the child provides all the actions using their imagination.
  4. Is it well made and ideally with natural materials? There is so much more information the past several years about different plastics being toxic. Information on this can be found on the internet. You will find some more high quality toys that will have labels that disclose they are not using certain kinds of materials.
  5. Does this toy, game or electronic device dovetail with the child’s interests?  We are all unique individuals with areas of specific interest. This starts early on, so consider when selecting this gift “Would this be of interest to . . . or would they enjoy this?” This does not mean we cannot expose children to new things, we can. But it does make children feel you care and that you really get them when you are attuned to their unique interests. For example: animals or space or a collection of a particular something, etc.

General Thoughts on Different Age Groups & Some of My Favorites for Children and Teens:

Infants and Toddlers:

Infants and Toddlers put everything in their mouth and are exploring with all of the senses. So I try to remember the “no objects that could get stuck in their throat” rule. Plus, they love bright colors for stimulation and muted colors for rest and relaxation. Toys that are non toxic are extremely important for this age due to everything going into the mouth. Plus toys that can handle lots of active, physical play. Looking at the specific skills that are in their range or are emerging is important to consider.  From about 18 months -3 years you will see more pretend play happening.

Look what is this

My favorites for this age group:  

Sensory Based Toys: Teethers with different textures. I really like Sophie a fun natural rubber giraffe and teether.  Blankets with different kinds of textures and sounds.

Balls of different sizes and shapes. (no extra small ones that could be swallowed)

Push / Pull Toys, Stacking Toys, Small Riding Toys

Duplo Lego for Toddlers and Twos / Threes

Simple Baby Dolls for both girls and boys

Simple Sturdy Hard Paged Books Intended for Infants and Toddlers


The age range from 3 -5 is one of lots of fantasy, pretend & highly imaginative play. More social cooperative play is part of this age. So this is something to take into consideration when buying for this age group.

My favorites for this age group:

Wooden Blocks

Pretend Domestic Play: Dolls, Sturdy Dishes, Stove/Sink Sets, Sturdy Simple Doll Houses  with People and Furniture, Cars & Trucks


Creative Art Materials

Put Together Toys: Duplo and Regular Lego, etc.



More defined interests emerge for this group. You will find some children who love active sports and games and others who may be more into arts and crafts or computer games, etc. The lower end of this group, K-3rd will still enjoy some pretend, imaginative fantasy play and items as listed in the preschool age range. All of this will depend of course on the individual child.

Electronic and computer kinds of activities are beginning to be more prevalent within this age group. If possible I think it is helpful not to let this slide down into the preschool age group, as they need to be exploring their world in a concrete way as the younger elementary set should be as well. Toys and equipment that encourage active play is so very nice as to sitting in front of some kind of screen device that has become so common.

This is the age that you see more games and competitive play come into action. My take is that including some cooperative games can be a very healthy strategy to help children learn to problem solve and learn how to interact in a socially healthy way. Competitive games are ok for this age, especially the older elementary age group. But having some cooperative games can provide a nice balance for really learning how to function for the good of the group and also be in our competitive society we live in.

boy and a girl playing video game

My favorites for this age group: 

Play Mobile

More Intricate Doll Houses

Lego that Fits Age and More Advanced Put Together Toys

Cooperative Games

Creative Art Materials

Books and Magazines of Interest  ( I love Ranger Rick)

Physical or Sports Items – Bikes, Balls for Different Sports, etc.

Items of Specific Interest for the Child that are Healthy


I feel this is a highly individualized age group as to what games and electronic they might like.

This may be sports equipment, art materials, books, games, screen devices or electronic games (that you really feel good about).

Of course, clothes of their choosing and ones you can live with are popular.

Sometimes a gift certificate to their favorite store where they can pick out what fits specifically for them can work well.

I hope this helps in your choosing of toys, games and electronic devices for all the young people in your life.  Best wishes in your endeavors to find the right fit.

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