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Advice on Choosing, Buying and Using Toys

(Adapted from Dr. Toy’s Smart Play: How to raise a Child with a High PQ.) Toys: Baby, It's for You

What makes a good toy?

  1. Good toys
    They stimulate a child’s curiosity and invite exploration.
  2. Infants
    Babies learn about the world through their senses—sight, taste, smell, touch, and hearing. A good toy for an infant will engage all baby’s senses. More about toys for infants from the Oppenheim Toy Portfoliio.
  3. Toddlers
    Toddlers need toys that help them in their exploration of the world. Toys that welcome active investigation are best! Here’s what the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio has to say about “Toys for Toddlers.”
  4. Preschoolers
    Preschoolers are interested in everything and very, very busy. They like play that is creative, active, and dramatic. Here’s more advice on toys for preschoolers.
  5. How to choose toys?
    Look for toys that are:
    • Durable and safe; they should be capable of lots of use without breaking.
    • Have no sharp edges, loose ties, or little loose pieces.
    • Painted only with nontoxic paint
    • Easy to use & versatile enough to be used in many ways. Wooden blocks are an example of a toy with many uses.
    • Age appropriate – so that the child can use the toy happily and avoid frustration.
    • Washable
    • Affordable (for you)

Tips on Toys tells you what are safe and dangerous toys for children from birth through twelve years.

What are the different types of toys?

Toys: Boy with a Dump Truck
  1. Active
    Active toys like balls, blocks, and pounding toys provide muscle development and exercise
  2. Creative
    Creative toys stimulate the child’s imagination, expand thinking and encourage self expression Examples are puppets, stuffed animals, musical instruments, and crafts
  3. Educational
    These toys, like puzzles, construction toys and books, help the child learn specific skills, challenge their thinking, and teach problem solving. Safe household objects like wooden spoons, measuring cups, and plastic bowls can provide hours of “play value.”

How to make the best use of toys

  • Allow your child to discover and explore toy; try not to interfere, just be their guide.
  • Check to make sure nothing is broken.
  • Create a space in your home for play.
  • Too many toys can be confusing; just have one or two out at once.
  • Have fun together every day; be sure to notice and appreciate your child’s creative use of toys.
  • Don’t be surprised if your child doesn’t like a toy; it will all depend on his or her temperament & interests.

Buying Toys

There are just too may toys to choose from. And nothing is worse than bringing home a new toy and finding that your child could care less. Usually a lack of interest in a new toys means that it is not “age appropriate” for your child. This generally is because the toy is meant to be used by an older age child.

This list of guidelines, “Good Toys for Young Children,” from The National Association for the Education of Young Children will help you select the right toy at the right time. You can also find evaluations of toys and other child products at the “Oppenheim Toy Portfolio”.

Buying Books and Toys: There is life beyond Toys ‘R Us and Target! These stores and companies offer books and toys that encourage imagination, creativity and thinking.

Local Suppliers

  1. Hicklebee’s Children’s Books: 1378 Lincoln Ave San Jose, CA (408) 292-8880. A child and family friendly bookstore in the heart of Willow Glen. Wonderful displays, toys, books, and events.
  2. Linden Tree Children’s Records and Books: 170 State St. Los Altos (650) 949-3390. Children’s music, books, and toys. Presents free concerts and author appearances.
  3. The Wooden Horse: 796 Blossom Hill Rd. Los Gatos, CA 95032 (888) 356-8821. Beautiful toys for all ages. Their online catalog allows you to search by age.


  • A Child’s Dream Come True: Supplies for crafts, music, and imaginative play. All well made and meant to last for years.
  • Hearthsong: Science toys, costumes, crafts, and games to order online. All designed to encourage creativity and age appropriate learning.

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