It’s been a while since I’ve had toddlers around my house. However, after I was done having toddlers around the house, I spent five years working as an in-home developmental therapist to children under three with developmental delays and disabilities.
That gave me a chance to try out a lot of toys and materials with a lot of different kids. One of the things that I thought was especially fun about that was being able to see trends in what the kids had sustained play with and in what they didn’t really have an interest in. I’m geeky that I can’t help but love numbers and trends from a sociological type of perspective.
Wait, hang on. I was going to talk about toys, right? Sorry about that.
I was thinking about some of those favorite toys and materials that the toddlers I saw loved the most and that often helped most with the developmental milestones that we were working on. I wanted to shared some of their favorites with you. Of course, I’m also big into the idea that you can find educational activities just about anywhere.
10 Favorite Toddler Toys During My Times as a Developmental Therapist
I know that seems cliche. But, really – they loved them. Sure, some kids didn’t really love them, but most of the kids I saw loved them. For toddlers, I preferred the classic blocks with color on some sides, as well as letters, numbers, and pictures on them. Not only are they great for building, but they offer so many opportunities to talk about the colors, numbers, letters, and pictures.
For more complex building, especially as kids get older, I would recommend blocks that come in different shapes. Molly got this set of blocks for Christmas when she was around three years old because we noticed how much she loved building intricate structures. At eight and a half years old, she still has them and uses them to build palaces and the like for Littlest Pet Shop dolls.
Okay, so I’m going to admit something here. I don’t enjoy Play-doh. It gets messy, pieces get on the carpet, it’s kind of a pain. Kids, however, love Play-doh. From a therapy stand point, I especially liked to have a set that had a lot of things like plastic knives, scissors, shape cutters, rolling pins, etc. These were great for working on fine motor skills.
As a bonus, Play-doh was perfect for working with kids with sensory sensitivities. I loved when I got one child to go from hating it to eventually requesting to play with it. Of course, I also had one child that literally climbed up his mother who was standing at the time. (Don’t feel bad – I put it away and didn’t force it.)
I know this seems like a bigger one, but the kids really loved it. Boys and girls, mind you. Here is a fun, large play kitchen. For therapy, I actually used a small one that I was able to cart around easily. While this isn’t the one that I used, this looks like a nice portable play kitchen.
Locks and Latches Box
This Locks and Latches Box was absolutely one of the favorite toys of everything I had. I brought over toys in a five week rotation, and when the kids saw that I had this one with me, they would get so excited. I think I probably had a child or two that weren’t crazy about it over the five year period of therapy that I did. But, everyone else loved it.
It probably helped that we sometimes played silly games with it. So, it wasn’t just the latches, but the silly games that I would introduce with it.
I don’t know if it’s because of safety issues or something else, but it appears that this isn’t available anymore. Really, I already knew that though, because I had some parents that would look all over for it. They often settled for the Latches Board instead, if they really wanted it. But, it wasn’t nearly as exciting as that box.
Velcro Pull Apart Food
There are many themed options as far as this goes – pizza, birthday cake, sandwiches, fruit and vegetables, and more. I used an inexpensive plastic set that I could never find again in order to replace pieces that went missing. These were loved by the toddler and their siblings.
In fact, I once caught an older sibling trying to steal some of the pieces because she loved the velcro food so much. Because the kids I saw loved them so much too, I was very aware of which pieces were missing that time, and when I asked her to help me find them, she knew she’d been caught and “found” them for me.
Classic Fisher-Price Toys
Toys used to hold up so well, didn’t they? Toys held up so well, in fact, that I actually used to take some toys to therapy sessions that my siblings and I played with when we were growing up. I’m sorry, but those current Fisher-Price Castles and Cash Registers just can’t hold a candle to the vintage ones.
Shape and Color Sorters
Another classic kid toy, the list just wouldn’t be the same without it. I had some kids that I saw that couldn’t be bothered to play with these, but others would want to play with a set like this shape and color sorter for long stretches of time. This is a good jumping off point for not only working on sorting, but also talking about different colors and shapes, as well as counting.
Baby Dolls and Doll Accessories
As a general rule, girls that I saw loved the baby dolls and accessories. A very large percentage of the boys at this age also loved the baby doll. I think one of the draws was that I always had accessories that went along with the baby doll. I never just brought along a doll, but also brought along things like bed and nighttime accessories, feeding accessories, bath items, and more. The kids loved doing some of the same things that their parents did for them or for baby siblings.
Again, with no surprise, this was a hit with both genders. I had the portable tool set that I have shown in the picture with this post. I found it second hand, and loved that it was very portable. I think the kids also thought it was a novelty to be able to open a small case and have so many activities available to them. I liked that it offered lots of vocabulary opportunities as well as fine motor skills.
Large Knob Puzzles
Puzzles can be fun for toddlers, but they’re sometimes difficult. That’s why I love the large knob puzzles. They are easier for them to manipulate. Plus, they have so many different themes, which makes for a wonderful way to work on vocabulary and concepts. For example, a farm puzzle offers the perfect opportunity to work on the names of animals and their sounds.
What are/were some of your children’s favorite toddler toys?
This post is also part of the iHomeschool Network 10 in 10.
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