How To Find and Buy Developmental Toys for Toddlers

Parent and child playing toy cups

A toy is a toy, right? Well, not exactly. Developmental toys for toddlers are designed to aid and enhance a child's natural mental and physical growth and development. So, developmental toys are playthings, but they also have educational value. We will help you select the best options for your toddler's developmental age and skills.

  1. Finding toddler developmental toys. Years ago, developmental toys were relegated to a tiny hidden section of most toy stores. However, as parents have realized the impact good toys can have, these products have become more mainstream and easier to locate. You can find a great selection at your local Toys 'R' Us in the "Imaginarium" section. Even Target has an aisle of their toy department devoted to educational products. However, you may prefer to go to a specialty store where nearly every toy is geared toward your child's development; often these smaller retailers can answer more of your questions about their products and really help you find the perfect toy for your toddler.
  2. Locating a good toy store. When you are looking for the best store for your developmental toy acquisitions, check your local phone book for "educational toys." If you do not have good local resources, never fear. You can find anything you need online; simply search for "developmental toys" or "educational toys." The best Internet toy stores will allow you to search or browse by age as well as type or brand of toys; this can help you get ideas and discover products you didn't even know existed. One advantage of going to a local store is you can take your child. Does the toy catch his attention? Is he enthralled by its sounds or scared by it? On the other hand, if you are shopping online, user reviews can also help you decide whether your child will love this toy; they can be even more valuable than the product descriptions if there are several of them.
  3. Educational toy parties. Much like Tupperware, Discovery Toys sells their products using parties. If you do not have a local outlet for educational toys and would like to be able to see and feel your toddler toys before you buy, look for a local Discovery Toys representative and ask to attend a party.
  4. Consider your toddler's age. If you want to find appropriate developmental toys for a toddler, start with his chronological age. Although every child can have different capabilities at the same age, the age range suggestions on toy packaging can get you in the right ballpark.
  5. Look at the developmental skills the toy is designed to emphasize. Some toys are manipulative, intended to let your toddler twist, turn, poke and otherwise move parts of the toys. This would include toys with dials, gears, doors and sliders. Other toddler developmental toys are designed to emphasize the relationships between objects; for example, nesting cups let toddlers figure out why one cup fits-or doesn't fit!- inside another. The packaging of many of the best lines of developmental toys will list skills that the toy accentuates; make sure you use this resource. 
  6. Looking for some specific developmental toddler toy ideas?  For one- to two-year-olds, try stacking and building toys, containers that nest and shape sorters. Look for toys that reinforce basic concepts this age is learning, such as colors, shapes, sizes, sounds and animals.  Bead mazes are popular for this age group, too. For your two- to three-year-olds, look for lacing toys, dolls and stuffed animals that have removable clothing with large and varied closures (buttons, zippers, laces), puzzles, and building toys with more specific connections such as Legos or interactions such as gear toys. You can also start to add concepts such as numbers/counting and letter sounds to your toddler's play.


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