Toy Ideas by Skill

Many times we are drawn to toys that are hot or in or look fun, or that we accidentally come across while shopping for other things. However, having a background in child development, I’ve learned to analyze toys and think about them differently and strategically. When I see a toy (and this works for almost every age group), I mentally put it into one of 11 categories that you’ll see below. Once I do that, I can decide whether or not that toy would benefit a child. The rationale does not necessarily have to be that a child needs to work on a particular skill. It could simply mean that he/she is good at logic games, and would enjoy a new challenge. The idea is to be thoughtful about choosing toys and consider whether they would bring value to a child. I recommend having a few toys in each category so that children are exposed to a variety of play experiences, and have the opportunity to practice new skills. It’s important to note that one toy can and usually does work on more than one of these components, so it’s not always so black and white. There are also subcategories within these components. The ones listed are more of a general guide that I follow. Below you’ll find a list of 11 developmental skills with pictures of toys that promote them. You can click on the images to learn more about each toy.


Visual motor- hand-eye coordination

Visual Perception- recognizing and making meaning of what we see.

Fine motor skills- using small muscles in the hands to improve grasp patterns.

Strengthening- having strong muscles is vital for completing everyday tasks like sitting in a chair and writing.

Bilateral coordination-coordinating both sides of the body to work together is essential in completing everyday tasks like cutting, opening and closing buttons and containers, and typing. 

Speech Development-Children who have a higher vocabulary have an easier time expressing themselves and learning to read when they get older.

Socialization/Teamwork-learning how to take turns, share, and work together.

Logic and reasoning

Gross Motor Skills-using large muscles of the body, for example, to run, jump, catch or throw.

Sensory toys are toys or play that expose us to different sensations, for example, the sense of movement, pressure, touch, smell, taste, sight, or hearing. 

Pretend play- developing creativity and building imaginations.

helen sadovsky