A Few of Our Favorite Toys!
Most of these toys can be purchased at a variety of retailers or websites. We’ve included some common websites as able. As with any toy selection, be sure to monitor and assist your child’s play to be sure they are safe and developmentally ready for the toy.
Ages 0 – 10 months or for older children with vision or head control challenges
Shawn Frewaldt, PT “As they grow and their vision develops, babies love to look at faces. A mirror can be a perfect distraction during tummy time, as your baby becomes enamored with the other little person in the mirror. When placing a mirror in your baby's play area, it's important that you choose one that's made especially for babies and that it is shatter-proof.”
Alissa Colshen, PT “My favorite toy to use with kids of all ages is a mirror! Small mirrors that can be placed on the floor are great for motivating infants during tummy time or floor play. Babies love to look at themselves and they also love to look at you peeking at them in the mirror! Larger (securely attached) wall mirrors are also great for children of all ages! Kids can work on standing balance, reaching, squatting, half kneeling, tall kneeling, etc. while placing window clings or suction cup toys (squigs) on the mirror. Mirrors can also be a great writing/ drawing surface for both younger and older children with a dry erase marker!”
Ages 6 months and Up
Pam Dahm, PT – “I LOVE nesting blocks and buckets because there are so many ways you can play with them. Little ones can easily grasp smaller buckets or cups and bang them together promoting development of hand skills, vision coordination, and bringing hands to midline. Also good for the always exciting activity of putting in and dumping out. Bigger kids enjoy stacking them to build towers and knock them over. You can burn off excess energy and work on strength and coordination by incorporating relay and scavenger hunt activities in addition standing, squatting, and stooping during play with this set of fun, useful toys! They store easily and are inexpensive. “
Jennifer Vandenberg, SLP “Bubbles are one of my favorites and love the simplicity!! Bubbles you can work on anticipatory behavior as well as joint attention by building up the excitement with “Ready, set, go.” Parents are able to get the child to imitate actions by either blowing the bubble in midair, popping the bubble with 1 finger, clapping the bubble with both hands or stomping on the bubble with their foot. Parents can bombard child with words or phrases such as “Bubble,” “Pop,” “Up high,” and “Down low.” Child can make requests by imitating or signing more, bubbles and go.”
Ages 1-10+ years
Kaylee Saltmarsh, OT – “One of my all-time favorite toys that I use a ton during my sessions are Squigz! They are so versatile with multipurpose use. Good for all ages! For little kiddos, they can use these to develop age-appropriate grasping patterns by sticking them to surfaces and strengthening when removing them and hearing them “pop”! Bigger kiddos can also enjoy these as they are good for building structures (sticking together) as well as building hand strength for handwriting and completing dressing fastener tasks! Squigz come in larger or smaller size, making it even better to adapt to any size hands and hand strength ability!”
Kristina Neumann, OT– “I also love SQUIGZ! I use them for such a wide variety of activities and skills. They are great for building fine motor strength, messy play activities, promoting creativity and building skills, and they make super fun popping noises. They are made of durable silicone, so they are safe for oral seekers and easily cleaned. I use them mostly with toddlers and elementary-aged children, but older children enjoy them as well!”
16 months and Up
Jennifer Vandenberg, SLP Musical Instruments - These are a fun toy for little ones around 16 months. Parents can have child imitate actions by tapping the drum or shaking the maracas. This is a great way to work on relational play. You can add in your child’s favorite songs along with the beat. When your child begins to talk more, parent can leave off word(s) and have them fill in. For example, parent sings, “The wheels on the…” and child says, “Bus.” You can also work on following commands such as stop, go and wait.
Ages 18 months and Up
Christina Silver, OT “I enjoy Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog because it’s a fun and sneaky way for kiddos to improve their fine motor and visual motor skills 😊 The included quills are colorful and fun, and they are small enough for little ones to grasp easily. I especially love that you can use this toy with a variety of purposes in mind. Quills can be put into and taken out of slots on Spike’s back to address visual motor skills. The quills can also be used for sorting, counting, and color recognition. Spike is relatively inexpensive, and the quills conveniently store inside the hedgehog for quick clean-up and easy storage! Spike is recommended for children 18 months and older.”
Ages 18 months to 3-4 years old (or until they are ready to transition to a standard bike). Strider makes training bikes for older children as well.
Shawn Frewaldt, PT “One of my favorite toys is the Strider bike (or any similar balance bike). This is the easiest way to teach kids how to ride a bike and skip using training wheels. The bike is very well made, but very light weight, allowing even small children to handle and maneuver it. The seat height is low to the ground to allow even toddlers to sit on the seat and learn to balance, then to sit and walk, then to sit and run! This bike can also be enjoyed for a long period of time – from 18 months to 3-4 years old (or until they are ready to transition to a standard bike)!”
Ages 2 years and Up
Kayla Beacom, PT “Bean bags are one of my favorite toys. You can use them for so many things… throwing, catching, place them on your head and practice standing on 1 foot, or place them on top of your feet and walk on your heels without letting them fall off, so many possibilities. Plus, this set has numbers, so that is an extra bonus!”
Nicole Koskovich, PT “I love bean bag toss games! They’re a great way to work on throwing skills, including throwing underhand, overhand, or throwing at a target. Kids can work on tossing the bean bag over something placed on the floor, into a bucket or bin, or try to land the bean bag on a target. Bean bags can also be incorporated into a variety of other gross motor, balance, and coordination activities. Kids can try to balance on one foot while throwing a bean bag or take the bean bag through an obstacle course and toss the bean bag at the end of the obstacle course. I love these particular turtle bean bags!”
Ages 3 and Up
Jennifer Vandenberg, SLP Baby Doll and Accessory Sets. “With a baby doll set including a bottle, diaper, bed the child is able to learn early pretend play skills such as feeding a baby because it is hungry, giving a baby a bottle because it is thirsty or putting a baby to sleep because it is tired. Parents can model taking care of the baby and when the baby cries give child directions such as “Baby’s cold and needs her blanket” or “Oh! Baby needs a diaper change.” Parent is also able to bombard child with functional phrases, “Night-night, baby tired, feed baby,” etc.”
Jennifer Vandenberg, SLP Shopping Cart and Pretend Food “Parent and child are able to engage in pretend play; e.g., setting up your house to be a grocery store and one person being the shopper and the other the worker. Depending on the age, parent can work on category skills with various foods. Parent can model placing certain food groups together with fruits in one area, vegetables in another area, etc. Parent can work on what does not belong by placing bananas, grapes, apples and bread together and model to child, “Bread does not belong because it’s not a fruit” or divergent naming skills; e.g., “I am wanting to buy some vegetables…can you tell me what vegetables you have?” Parents are able to work on following single or multiple step directions as well as quantitative concepts (“Give me one banana” or “Give me all the crackers and put it in my cart please.”)”
Susan Deutsch, PT OgoDisk and OgoDisk Mini This toy is so fun and versatile! It can be used similar to a racket to bounce a ball up and down, back and forth with a partner, or over a net. But it can also be used as a freebee or disk. The sides are extra soft which makes it safe for younger kids and it has a large target for easy bouncing for smaller hands. This toy is great for working on hands-eye coordination, reciprocal play, midline play and improving overall ball skills. I love that kids of all ages can enjoy this toy! But the best part about this toy is how is spurs your imagination to figure out how to use it next!
Ages 4 and Up
Jennifer Vandenberg, SLP - Learning Resourses-Coding Criters Toy - There are four different scenes including a tree, seesaw, slide and house. Parents are able to work on following directions, temporal concepts, opposites (up-down, high-low, big-little) as well as following along with the book. The book is interactive by having the child feed the puppy, play with the puppy or take for a walk. The parents can take turns with the child reading or telling the story. Parents can also place the book aside and simply pretend play with the dogs.
Robin Mills, OT “ I love working with the Snap Circuit toys for the following reasons: toy can be quickly modified for any child age 4 and up, some of the designs are quick others complex, this toy works on constructional praxis while being fun, works on dexterity skills including snapping, the pieces can be used while sitting at a table or I can use them while the child is on a swing adding complexity to the task (eye hand coordination, vestibular, calming, alerting), and… it does something cool when done such as play music with flashing lights or send a glow in the dark saucer into the air once the activity is accomplished. “