Toys: the silly four-letter word parents cringe at when they come between a clean room, a sibling argument or a holiday wish list that seems to be overflowing with all things T-O-Y. Although, as parents, we feel like toys are overtaking our living spaces at times, we do know that they play a vital role in the way our children explore the world and become familiar with key social, emotional and educational skills, even before the school years hit. Deciphering between the aisles of toys at your local big box store can feel overwhelming, especially when the next hot toy is right around the corner. We encourage you to choose toys that foster skill-building initiatives across an array of developmental necessities, from fine and gross motor skills to social, emotional and educational development benchmarks.
Here are our top picks for 2020 by age group:
The ideal teether for babies 3+ months and older, Sophie la giraffe, has become a household staple for growing families. Made of 100% natural rubber and food grade dye, this toy is very flexible and soothing for teething babies with sore gums. The contrasting spots on the giraffe provide visual stimulation for growing babies. This teether includes a squeaker for hearing stimulation. We encourage you to add this to your infant’s holiday gift list.
This interactive walker features a removable play panel and an early learning center that allows for hours of fun and learning for your little one. Ideally for babies 9 to 36 months, this toy grows with your baby into toddlerhood. This walker includes 3 different shape sorters and 3 light-up buttons to begin development on fine motor skills. With over 70 different songs, sound effects and phrases, this toy is sure to foster strong sensory development at all stages.
When it comes to toys that make an out-of-this-world difference, choose options that foster a growing imagination. The Utex space play tent is a three-piece connective tent and tunnel that is sure to lead to hours of adventures in space during playtime. The design includes space-themed images that excite a toddler’s explorative imagination. This is a great option for indoor or outdoor play and is an easy setup toy with no tools required. Bonus: you can add balls into the main tent to make it feel like an arcade style ball pit.
This STEM and fine-motor skills focused toy is all about empowering preschoolers to build something on their own. It comes with a kid-friendly working drill to use when building the rocket ship. This tool teaches your little one to design and build something with their hands, which is an invaluable lesson as they grow. In total, this comes in 6 pieces, 7 bolts and two toy figurines to launch into space after fully assembled.
This is the perfect gift for an aspiring scientist. Packed with 50 winter science experiments, this set will keep your school-aged kids entertained for hours. The coolest part? All experiments were designed by real Crayola scientists. Ideal for kids ages 7 and up, this is another STEM positive gift that teaches important skills throughout play and experimentation. All contents are safe and non-toxic and perfectly themed for the holiday season. This set also promotes independence by providing kid-friendly step-by-step guidelines for each experiment, boosting confidence and promoting individual growth.
The most fun gift for an aspiring botanist, this light-up terrarium allows your tween to grow their own mini garden, inside, from scratch. This product has been evaluated by STEM and meets the highest quality standard for a STEM educational toy. Aside from the jar, the kit includes vermiculite soil, blue sand, river rocks, wheatgrass and chia seeds, bunny and mushroom mini figures, removable stickers, a spray bottle and a wooden stick. One of the most fun features for kids is that it glows in the dark, so they can use it as a nightlight while watching their garden come to life.
With technology at an all-time high, we opted to steer clear of any mainstream favorites when it comes to gifting for teens. Instead, cue the all-too-popular monthly subscription option. The Creations Crate delivers monthly (or quarterly or annually) hands-on technology projects to your doorstep to keep your teen engaged and entertained for hours. The box comes with all of the components needed for said month’s project along with a specific online electronics course that walks you through the entire creation process. Your teen will feel confident and accomplished with this fun technology-forward option.
When it comes to gifting, especially during the holiday season, it can be hard to decipher exactly what toys, gadgets or favors to get for the children in your life, especially when the market is saturated with options. We recommend sticking to choices that aid in their development growth to ensure playtime is also a learning experience.