Consider age when choosing toys
Children's World Learning Centers has suggestions to help shoppers choose the right toys for children:
Infants (birth to 12 months): Select toys which cannot be easily swallowed. Stuffed toys provide a sense of security and help develop the ability to grasp and hold objects. Rattles stimulate an infant's oral, auditory, and cognitive development. Mobiles, which hang over the infant, help stimulate their interest in visual images and movement, and develop tracking skills.
Toddlers (12-36 months): Dolls provide both boys and girls with the opportunity to express their emotional needs. Blocks build a toddler's motor skills while exercising the imagination. Push and pull toys exercise a toddler's large motor development and coordination skills. Avoid small pieces, as toddlers are still learning through tasting and could easily swallow or choke on something small. Large, light balls help to develop children's motor skills.
Preschool Children (3-5 years old): This is a child's time for enjoying "make believe," fantasy games and favorite stories. Toys should have a general function (a playhouse, a stove, a truck), but not a specific, detailed function (an ice cream truck). Toys that allow children to express creativity include hand puppets, art supplies, from finger paints and modeling clay to crayons and felt pens. Construction toys teach children spatial relationships, eye-hand coordination skills, and thinking skills.
School Age Children (6- to 12-year-olds): Bicycles are excellent for improving motor skills and coordination and developing balance. Remember to purchase a safety helmet. Board games combine fun learning to play games with rules. Musical instruments enhance the important concepts of rhythm, sequence, repetition, and love of music. Scientific and mechanical toys encourage natural interests in the real world and in figuring out how things work. Balls, including basketballs, tennis, soccer, rubber balls, and baseballs, help to develop hand-eye coordination, social skills, and muscle development.