Back to basics: Experts reveal which toys are best for kids

Child playing with car

Just in time for Christmas, a new study by The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) hones in on the toys that are best for children’s development … and the results are very heartening.

Spend less, play more

And while some might think that parents need to tap into spendy new technology to keep their kids on track developmentally, the experts say this is simply not the case. Yay!

Paediatrician Dr Aleeya Healey, lead author of this AAP report explained that “research tells us that the best toys need not be flashy or expensive or come with an app. Simple, in this case, really is better.”

This work reminds us that kids flourish through play when they’re connecting warmly with others and using their imaginations.

“The more we know about early brain development, the more we understand the need for play that is based on human interaction,” Dr Healey told ABC. “There is no screen, video game or app that can replace the relationships built over toys.”


  Read more about kids and play:


Facilitate don’t educate

This is brilliant news for everyone because it not only encourages parents not to worry about saving up for those constantly updating gadgets, it also puts the focus right back where it should be – on spending time together and keeping things simple.

In the wake of this new study, the AAP has some good advice for parents and caregivers about play – and it may surprise you.

“Recognize that one of the most important purposes of play with toys throughout childhood, and especially in infancy, is not educational at all but rather to facilitate warm, supportive interactions and relationships,” they say.

Other toy and play guidelines for parents included:

  • Look for toys that foster interactions between caregivers and children in supportive, unconditional play.
  • Choose toys that are safe and affordable – and that don’t overstimulate or promote stereotypes.
  • Select toys that will grow with the child, encourage exploration and problem-solving, and spark little imaginations,
  • Use children’s books to develop ideas for pretend play with toys.
  • Use toys to enhance relationships and interactions, rather than to complete direct the play.
  • Select toys that encourage kids to be active both physically and mentally.

Limit screen time 

The AAP also took the opportunity to remind parents of their guidelines around screen time for kids.

“Total screen time, including television and computer use, should be less than 1 hour per day for children two years or older and avoided in children 18 to 24 months of age. Children younger than five years should play with computer or video games only if they are developmentally appropriate, and they should be accompanied by the parent or caregiver. The use of media together with caregiver interaction is essential to minimising adverse media effects on the young mind.”

Find more toy-buying tips from the AAP here.

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