Our Top 10(-ish) Gifts Based on Age
As pediatric therapists part of our job is engaging kids in purposeful play, therefore use of toys is an everyday occurrence for us! We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite and most-loved toys that are both entertaining and can be used to encourage movement and gross motor development. Most of them have added benefits of aiding in development in other areas as well. You can be sure these tried-and-true favorites will be a hit for the child in your life! Just click on the picture to get yours!
During these months little ones are learning all about the world around them. They are taking everything in that they see, hear, feel, and experience. The items we have found are great for engaging the senses as well as encouraging and motivating their motor development that is the cornerstone of all later movement!
- Light Spinner – We love to use this toy to practice visual tracking in all positions and to encourage more sustained lifting of the head when in tummy time. It is also great if you have a little one that has a preference for looking to one side to motivate them to look in the other direction!
- Tummy Time Mirror – Babies love to see other baby faces including their own! Using a mirror is a great way to do this. We have found that this really helps to prolong tummy time tolerance and (bonus!), once babies get a bit older it’s also great to encourage initial reaching while on their tummies!
- Floor Time Activity Gym – Activity gyms are great for so many ages and stages. One thing we particularly love with these is encouraging lifting of the feet to interact with the hanging features – this is a great baby core workout! It can also encourage reaching on the back and during tummy time!
- Rain stick – This is one of our most popular baby toys – the calming but enticing sound is great to facilitate visual tracking while laying on back and head lifting while on tummy.
- Oball Rattle – Babies love this rattle! The holes are a perfect size to allow for early gripping and allow for prolonged holding without falling out of their hands. You can also attach it to your floor time activity gym for them to try to grasp and reach!
- Baby Einstein Music and Lights – This simple toy is a hit with almost all the babies we see! The combination of music and lights are great for visual engagement and the size is ideal for initial grasping – making it a great option for practicing early reaching.
- Sassy Wonder Wheel – We love how this toy gives a long reward with minimal input – this is a perfect distraction when trying to get in that little extra burst of tummy time or when trying to encourage transitioning between positions. It also gives a really easy cause and effect if your little one’s hand brushes on it when attempting to reach!
- Boppy – This has so many uses in the first 6 months of life! In addition to its intended use as a nursing pillow we love it for supported tummy time and sitting. Check out a recent instagram post we did on all the ways you can use one.
- Prop-a-Pillar – This pillow is great for using for tummy time, propped sitting, lying on the back, and so much more. It can be adjusted as your little one grows and develops!
- Baby Books – Its never too early to start reading to your kids, the interaction that occurs during reading is often a great distraction during tummy time, side-lying play, or supported sitting. Here are some of our favorite books for kids, and some specifically for the early days of life:
- Beads – These are always a favorite with babies (must be supervises) and are so engaging. They dangle, and are shiny. In addition they can go in stacking cups to make rattling sounds!
During this time period little ones are getting stronger and more mobile. They are trying to learn and explore the world around them. They are not only learning how to get around (we hope you have baby proofed!) but they are also developing more fine motor control and can play with toys more. Here are some of our favorites to use in this age range!
- Dimpl – This toy provides so much entertainment for little ones! We love that it also starts to work on hand strength and early finger isolation and it provides cause and effect play! (Bonus it’s also a great stress toy for adults)
- Stacking Cups – We love stacking cups! These are great for using in obstacle courses or when encouraging transitioning between areas of the environment – and of course the kids love to knock the tower down! You can also take them in the bath for water play.
- Large Piece Puzzles – Puzzles are a great way to introduce early problem solving – we also like that these ones help to provide opportunities for early language development in the form of animal sounds. Check out some of our other favorite puzzles as well!
- Standing Activity Table – Activity table are fun and versatile. You can remove the legs to lie it flat on the floor for tummy time play, put only two legs in for sitting and kneeling play, and have them all in for helping with early standing and cruising!
- Pop-up Toy – This cause and effect toy provides great entertainment while also allowing for beginning use of fine motor skills – we find it particularly useful for encouraging longer standing at support time and love how it encourages lifting one hand off the surface in order to open and close the doors.
Push Toy – Push toys are fun for early standing and walking. There are so many varieties. You can get a wagon-like/shopping care one that also encourages squatting to pick up toys and put them in, or you can get one that has lots of engaging activities on the front that will also let them sit and kneel to play with. Here are a couple of choices:
- Spin and Sing – This toy is not only engaging for little ones but it also easily gives cause and effect when they attempt to spin it. It can be used in standing, sitting, and lying down!
- Ring Stacker – An easy early toy for little ones to have success playing with and can be played with in sitting and standing. You can also use the rings to encourage squatting to pick them up from the ground. Plus it’s fun to put the rings on their head and let them try to find them (or on your own head and have them reach for them).
- Little Balance Box – This is great for new standers. The spring-loaded legs help to provide feedback and prevent kids from leaning too much onto the surface, making them do more of the work on their own! It’s also great to push along your floors to encourage walking.
- Activity Cube – We love that this toy provides entertainment through multiple developmental stages. It’s great for helping to master sitting and encouraging the important aspect of reaching in this position. It also lets kids play in kneeling and work on pulling up into standing.
- Tunnels – This is a great way to encourage crawling. Put toys in it for encouragement, roll balls through it, you can even put it on top of cushions to give little ones more of a workout!
- Bubbles – We have yet to meet kids of any age who don’t like bubbles! It’s great for pointing, reaching, stomping, standing on one foot, and visual attention. Plus they are just fun!
12 MONTHS – 2 Years
These months little ones are becoming more and more independent. They are on the move and they are starting to talk and can understand what you tell them. They are working on higher level problem solving skills and learning things daily! Here are some of our favorite toys for this age group.
- Shape Sorter – Our favorite shape sorter went off the market a while ago so we’ve had to do some searching and here are some we came up with (there are so many to choose from and you can find more we like here). Shape sorters are great for problem solving, fine motor play, reaching, and cause and effect.
- Squigz – Although these are great for younger kids too! They stick on mirrors and tubs and windows and the Little Balance Box and high chair trays! Used on a window or refrigerator they are great for encouraging going up on tip toes or reaching to the side. In the tub they are just a fun toy to play with. Trying to pull them off the wall works on balance reactions in both sitting and standing!
- Piggy Bank – This toy is great for fine motor, cause and effect, and can be played with in standing and sitting. It’s also great for spreading the coins out and having little ones go collect them to put in the piggy bank. Hey, maybe you can even begin to talk about saving!
- Foam Climbing Sets – If you want to save your couch, or add to the climbing capabilities of your couch, these cushions are great ways to create obstacles and climbing opportunities for little ones. How creative can you get with your obstacle courses?
- Car Ramp – This toy is fantastic to encourage transitions between standing and squatting with new standers and walkers – the perfect way to build up strength and balance.
- Farmhouse – Kids love animals and it’s a great way to introduce pretend play and to work on animal sounds. Great for sitting, standing, walking, cruising, and crawling!
- Scooters – These can last little ones for a long. There are a big variety depending on your child’s skills but we recommend 3 wheel ones to start (with the two wheels being in front). It’s a great way for exercise and to work on balance.
- Ride On Toys – There is such a wide variety of these from early balance bikes to actual toys. Practicing climbing on and off as well as propelling with their feet helps kids to develop their coordination and motor planning skills.
- Balls, Balls, and More Balls – This is a great age range to begin to introduce ball skills! Bouncing, rolling, and throwing are some way in which we like to work on dynamic balance – and kids seem to love it as well. Almost any kind you want to get are great, all sizes work. Here are just a few you can check out:
- Building Toys – This could be blocks, Duplos, magnetic tiles and so many more. To start little ones just like to knock things over but it gives them the opportunity to work on building and creativity. Also works on balance, reaching, and squatting to name a few. Plus these are toys they will play with for year. Here are some more ideas for open ended play toys.
- Slide – If you have the space, this is a fun one. Not only do they get to play on a slide, but they also can work on strengthening by climbing up the slide, and motor planning by figuring out how to get from the ladder to the slide! It’s fun to bring the playground inside especially if you can add it to your obstacle course.
- Scooter Board – This is a toy that they can use for years. Get a few and have races on your belly or sitting. Good for balance and strengthening! Get a rope for them to pull themselves along with for some heavy work and arm strengthening.
- Hedgehog – Great for getting multiple repetitions of an activity as well as combining fine motor skills
- Imitation Activities – These ideas are fun ones for working on imitation skills which are growing during this time period.
Look out, these kids are on the go! They are active and their imagination is running wild! Here are some great ideas for this age group!
- Play Kitchen – Kids are fascinated by the kitchen. This encourages pretend play and is a great way for kids to imitate adults! There are ton of options out there at all price points, or you an also turn a cardboard box into a kitchen!
- Fishing – We love to incorporate this game into obstacle courses – not only does it encourage color and size recognition but is also great to build hand-eye coordination and the pieces can be easily spaced out or separated to build into an obstacle course.
- Trampoline – These are great for not only working on jumping but working on standing balance too! And, for your little ones that can jump it’s a great tool for sensory input and heavy work. (Bonus – it can help tire them out for naps!)
- Stomp Rocket – This is probably one of our most used toys. We use it for stomping, single leg stance, jumping, visual attention, and overall fun! Keep it on the stand or take it off and aim it at targets!
- Bilibo – Not only is this fun to play in, it also provides an excellent core workout. We love to practice catching and throwing for some added fun! And, turn it upside down to make stepping stones!
- Pizza and Birthday Cake Set – These can be bought separately if you want but let’s be real, who doesn’t love pizza and birthday cake? This is another great toy to encourage pretend play and cultivate imagination. Add in gross motor by hiding pieces around the house and the little ones have to go find all the ‘ingredients’ to make the final product!
- Tricycle – Not only are these fun but they also help kids learn how to pedal so they are ready when it comes time for a bike! Make sure you get one with a push bar for when they still need your help!
- T-ball Set – Fun way to work on early ball skills and hand eye coordination (plus it’s foam!). You can also use it as a ring toss if you get some pool diving rings.
- Spots – So many uses for these. You can make them into a path, you can use them for standing still while playing catch, or jumping on and off of. And they last for year!
- Hippity Hop – Fun way to work on jumping and balance while bouncing around! Another great toy for burning off some energy and getting in some ‘heavy work’!
- Basketball Hoop – Another great start to ball skills and with the adjustable height it’s fun for kids to try and get the ball in the hoop. It is also great as they get older too!
- Beanbags – Can be used for throwing and catching as well as balancing activities!
- Stepping Stones – You can get creative with how you set these up and use them for balance and obstacle courses. Or turn them upside down to toss rolled up socks or bean bags into
- Stepping Buckets – Another variation of above that you can play with!
Pound-A-Ball – Fun motivating activity that works on colors, object permanence, visual motor, fine motor, etc.
Kids this age are continuing to grow and develop. They have often started pre-school and are learning through play daily. It’s important to encourage their play and exploration!
- Balance Bike – These are great for helping kids develop the balance they need to be able to ride bikes. In addition because they can put their feet on the ground it’s easier on the adult if you are out and about!
- Bicycle with Training Wheels – Balance bikes are great for some kids but the bike with training wheels works best for others. Eventually kids will want one with pedals so this is a nice transition!
- Hopscotch – This is a fun way to work on sequencing, hopping, jumping, and balance. You can also switch up the pattern to keep it interesting!
- Sidewalk Chalk – The possibilities are endless with this. You can make your own hopscotch or balance beam or any game you can dream up. You can also draw pictures and stretch the imagination!
- Feed the Woozle – We use this one for so many things, in fact I’m not sure we’ve ever used it and followed the game rules! Kids love the funny food names they are feeding the Woozle and it is great for adding repetitions into other activities.
- Two Wheel Scooter – For kids who have mastered the three wheel scooter this is the next step. It’s great for promoting balance as well.
- Twister – Great for balance, body awareness, color recognition, motor planning, and fun! Plus you can get the whole family involved.
- Yoga Spinner – Follow the rules of the game or just draw cards to work on your yoga poses. This is another great game for the whole family. We use it regularly with kids of all ages.
- Connect 4 – This is a fun toy for fine motor skills and sequencing. You can also add gross motor in by having the chips spread out around the room or on the floor!
- Balance Board – This is similar to the Montessori toys you see but it can also be used by parents to get their workout in. Fun way to work on balance. Can also pretend to be surfing or snowboarding! For other balance products that are also fun check out this list in our Amazon shop.
- BOSU – This is great for working on jumping as well as sitting and standing balance. Also it’s great to add to fitness routines or obstacle courses!
5 Years and Up
Kids this age are continuing to grow and develop. They are playing more organized games and building their strength and coordination. They may also start having preferences for activities that they want. Many of the games and items listed above can also apply to this age group.
- Spot It – A great game for matching. We use it regularly as a motivator during activities or as a break activity.
- Operation – Fun game to work on fine motor skills and precision.
- Therapy Ball Activities – Could also be used with a younger age group but great for working on strength in a fun way!
- Therapy Ball – Another one that can go with all age groups but we’ll put it here since we put the therapy ball activities here!
- Balance Beams – Can also be used with some younger kids too but great for working on balance (obviously) and added to obstacle courses!
- Dyna-disc – Another balance activity to add complexity to strengthening tasks. Can also be used for younger kids to work on sitting balance.
We hope this gives you guys some great ideas for gifts for holidays and birthdays! Also our Amazon Store has so many more ideas and don’t hesitate to reach out asking for suggestions! Also bookmark this page as we will update it throughout the year!
This post contains affiliate links.