Top 9 Tips for Toddler Toys (and Preschoolers too)

tips for toddler toys, what toys do I get for my toddler, what to look for in toddler toysWe all know how much children enjoy toys, but there certainly are a lot of them out there. How do you distinguish between something that will gather dust or something your little one will get the most out of? In this post we will list  what to look for in toddler toys, or even preschool toys for that matter. 

Throughout this post we’ll also be doing a product review of Dexter the Digger, which is one example of a series of Wow Toys. 

Here’s a video of us unboxing him:


Now let’s look at getting value out of those toys for little kids:

  1. Large size.

The smaller the kid, the bigger the toy needs to be. As their grasp is still developing, larger objects are easier to manipulate than smaller ones. A large truck will be a lot more useful to a toddler than a tiny car. 

2. Parts to manipulate.

Kids love opening and shutting things. They like joining things. Extending and moving. Watch how they are constantly moving themselves and you’ll see the need to move and change an object. 

This Dexter the Digger toy is a winner on many counts of this aspect. It has a bonnet that opens and shuts, rocks that need to be scooped (with the help of an arm that moves with a lever) as well as a little driver that can be placed in his seat or moved around. 

3. Movement of toy.

It’s really a delight when a car moves forward or something that catches their attention. The problem with many of these toys is that they require batteries. The nice thing about Wow toys is that they still move forward, but they are friction powered, so no batteries will run out.  Little kids don’t really need the fancy stuff of the lights, bells and whistles which become more entertaining than educational and promoting of play. 

Another nice thing about the Wow toys is that they have interchangeable trailers with magnetic tow bars. Have you noticed how kids love to attach different vehicles to each other? They even do this with their scooters. 

4. Sensory play

Toddlers just love messing around with all kinds of sensory stuff, since they are at the age where a lot of things go in the mouth. They have to explore with all the senses! One of the best things we bought Nicky when I was at home was a water table. Often I would wash the dishes and he would play with his water table just outside. The sandpit is also a fabulous source of fun, construction and sensory play. (I put this next to the washing line and he would play while I hung the washing). Another good idea is Play Doh.  If you’d like to take this further try shaving cream, spaghetti, flour,  slime, in fact anything that they can manipulate and isn’t too dangerous to put in the mouth.  (Check out some posts on my other blog Children’s Kickstart: Sensory Bottles and Sensory Activities). 

We took Dexter the Digger out into the dirt and, as little boys do, became suitable dirty. 


5. A toy that will grow with your child

You can see that Nicky (now 5) still enjoyed playing with Dexter the Digger.  Yes, he also likes the smaller cars but he is still a “play in the dirt” child at heart.

6. Building and problem solving.

Duplo is a great one for toddler to build with. Now that he is older, NIcky loves lego. The amount of time we have spent building and constructing various things… well I simply can’t count the hours. The lego gets deconstructed and built again.

Puzzles are excellent tools for problem solving as well because they build a picture. Super to have these around.

7. Encouraging fantasy play

All toys have this purpose, but it is a delight for me to watch Nicky construct stories around his toys and also play out emotions that he is going through. With my dad back in hospital he has been playing a lot of “doctor doctor” kind of games with the doctor set. 

See how Nicky built a boundary with cushions and took the rocks and put them on another dump truck. He also had a crane in the area.  The box also comes with a background picture. 




8. Real objects

Nicky has enjoyed baking with me in the kitchen and pouring and manipulating common objects is the basis of the Montessori “Practical Life” set of activities. So set up some beans to pour, let them peg some pegs around a bowl or tweeze pom poms with a set of tongs. I wrote a post about setting some things up around the kitchen when he was 33 months: check out some ideas here. 

9. Gross motor toys

We need balls and bikes to keep the kids active. A lovely one for a baby is a ball pit: we got this for Nicky when he turned one. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple big car: Nicky used to crawl along pushing the car in front and this was one of his favourite activities. Now he whizzes along on his balance bike (a great one to teach the art of balance).  


At the end of the day, look for value in the toys you buy, and learn about the things that bring your child joy. (Nicky loves cars) And don’t be surprised if your little one enjoys the cardboard box it came in more than the toy.  Children have that knack of humbling us in that way. 

Disclosure: SA Mom blogs was provided with Dexter the Digger from Wow Toys. You can find them at your local toy store or on Takealot.  

Wow Toys are part of the Pegasus Toys group, who also distribute Sylvanian Families. (Read about our review here)


What’s new with Prima Toys

prima toysWhat is it about toys that delights children? They are objects that spark the imagination, creativity, and a world where they can be set free to revel in the true purpose of childhood – play. 

Prima Toys had an event to celebrate their newest offerings and they also had some other speakers to give their input into parenting and the importance of play.

Warren Murray, from MamaMagic, spoke about #EqualParenting.  He is an advocate for fathers to be more involved and present in their children’s lives. Men can be a father but few can be dads. Dads are present. Warren is the kind of dad who wakes up at night to help his kids while his wife sleeps. He doesn’t mind doing all the chores that go along with parenting and he doesn’t mind buying nappies either. 

Warren has two children, a three year old boy and a baby girl. He has made it his purpose to find the happy moments. Playing around after bathtime. Joy in the swing. Giving his children his full attention.  He makes the point that giving his children attention is more important than all the chores that have to be done. 

He says he knows dads are known for being the disciplinarian and a provider, but for him success in fatherhood would be if his child would be able to come to him with a problem. 

I liked this man a lot because he showed us a picture of his son playing in a box – making the point that it’s not the stuff that came that came in the box but the time spent playing with your child, cultivating their imagination that matters. Your child wants you, not things. 

Dr Shireen Thomas-Stark is a counselling pychologist who also has a PhD in play therapy and has extensive experience working with children.

She sees toys as an investment but identifies different types. Fantasy toys (such as dressing up clothes) foster pretend play and aid in cognitive, social and emotional development. Problem solving toys, like board games, help kids with planning, organisation and predicting their next move.  There are creative toys and educational toys too – all of which are building the minds of young learners. 

The marketing director of Prima Toys, Chiquita Patrizi, shared with us their current crop of up and coming new toys.

Some of the ones that stood out for me

Shopkins Happy Places:

Nicky loves Shopkins and has fun playing with these little items. He also watches them on YouTube. Now Prima is bringing out the homes and interiors to go with these items, along with little dolls called Lil’ Shoppies. 

-Little Live Pets Surprise Chicks

This toy is unique because you can hatch your chick over and over again. It makes a little tune, busts open and then the little chick comes cheeping out. Very cute and good value. 




-LOL Suprise Tots Ball

Using a similar concept to “pass the parcel” this toy is much like an onion where a new segment is unwrapped to discover new parts to your doll (ie shoes, dress, bottle etc). The fun doesn’t end there, however, because once you assemble the doll you can also put milk in the bottle and the doll spits it out.  We had fun unwrapping this toy amongst the bloggers at our table, and it was lots of fun.

Baby Love

This locally developed version of a doll has three kinds: English, Afrikaans and Zulu/English. The doll speaks 50 phrases which makes it both educational and interactive. 

Ben Ten

There are a whole range of fantasy play outfits here but we were lucky enough to play around with the Omnitrix device which lights up all green with different kinds of aliens who have different things to say.







This is a brand that I’ve seen in the toy shops and recently acquired by Prima. They are well built vehicles. Also “Go Gears”, of which Nicky has a set he got for a Christmas present. Lots of fun to pull that car back and watch it race around. 

-Toddler Toys

Lots of brands here including Leapfrog (a pretend laptop with letters, numbers and early vocabulary) and Little Tikes (the Movin’ Lights range uses lights to help your baby crawl, move and walk). Peppa Pig is another hit with the little ones – even Nicky loves watching those videos and likes those figurines too. 


Who could forget the Rubik’s cube? Well, it is back and it comes with more than one variation. 

Also at the event were quite a few bloggers! Sorry if I could not find pics of you all!

 Also there was Matismela there giving hand massages. We were lucky enough to meet up with Christina again. It’s a lovely brand. 


There were so much more toys, but I just mentioned a few.

Which one of these toys did you like?

{Product Review} Five reasons why the Sylvanian Families Supermarket adds value to your child’s play experience.

sylvanian families supermarketSylvanian families are a series of little woodland animals who live in the fictional town of Sylvania in a British, 1950s, middle class setting. There are many adults around the world who collect these figurines, but there is a special function here for the children to enjoy them too. We tested out the Sylvanian Families Supermarket and found some really useful aspects to this toy set. 


  1. PLAY

The first and most important aspect of any toy is the ability to be able to use your imagination and create stories as you play.

sylvanian families rabbitsThe Sylvanian families most often come in a group of Father, Mother, Sister and Brother.  It’s very useful for play therapy to use these family components to play out the dynamics in your family.  It’s also commonplace, as Nicky played with the toys, to let mom and child do the shopping (as we often do), even to the point where we load the groceries and get in the car afterwards. 

Nicky obviously chose items he liked (like ice-cream) but he was also considerate of the fact that they were bunnies so he made sure they had a carrot.




Setting up the supermarket is quite a business and many of the items needed to be folded and stuck together. This facilitates fine motor skills. 

The abilities to sort and match are also part of the process. I like that the little fruit and vegetables must be matched to their station. Nicky liked fitting them in their slots and finding the rest of their group.


All the groceries also have to be sorted into shelves and fridges. You need to decide what needs to be frozen, refrigerated or shelved, and which items will fit where.  

Admittedly in the beginning I did help Nicky (5 years) with a lot of this, but in subsequent playing with this set he has sorted it out to his own desires and insisted that I do not interfere. I think he’s taken pride in setting up his own shop. 


It appeals to me that these are collectible items and can be passed down through the generations. They are beautifully made, with incredible detail on the labels, with the cutest little outfits, and the supermarket itself has a solid structure. 


Together with the supermarket set comes a little book. The book has a story about how two characters made more money for the supermarket by adding on some extra value: deliveries and tasting cupcakes. .(Please excuse this image: we had an accident with some juice…) 

I think the supermarket is a setting for something greater than consumerism. It’s also a place to play out scenarios and stories about the shop. For my child something simple like: how will you solve the problem of the can falling down? (Find another shelf.)  But for the older child maybe there are deeper questions like: How will you make sure your customers obtain the best service? They will be open to these kinds of discussions and the toy provides a good starting place for that. 

5. ADDING THE #CheckersLittleShop ITEMS

Sylvanian families supermarket and #CheckersLittleShopMany shoppers across South Africa have been intrigued by the little brand items Checkers has been giving shoppers for every R150 spent. I admit, I’m normally a Pick n Pay shopper but for the past two weeks I’ve been suckered in so as to build a small collection for our supermarket.

Now I’m well aware that the Checkers items are slightly too big for the supermarket and don’t quite fit in the shelves. But. There are ways around this. There is space at the top of the shelves and also along the edges. A good idea if you want to go this direction is to remove the boxes and then you will have more space. I think the nice thing about using these items is that they are very South African and relatable. So buying Milo and Ouma will add further realism to your game. 


Remember when I said it was a collector’s item? There are even bloggers who devote their whole blog to Sylvanian families. South African ones too – check out this one: Lady Lolipop’s Sylvanians.  

Someone else worth investigating is speaker and author Nikki Bush who also takes videos a lot better than I do. 

You can check out Sylvanian families at your local toy shop. Here is a picture I snapped at my local Toy Kingdom. 

There are many Sylvanian family items but I do think the supermarket has a lot to offer on many levels. Introduce these little critters into your home and you will find that both boys and girls will enjoy building and shopping in them. 

Disclosure: SA Mom blogs was provided with the Sylvanian Families Supermarket to review. 


{Guest Post} Five of my baby’s favourite things

Today’s guest post is from South African mom blogger Nicola Subben who blogs at Peanut Gallery 24/7.

I’m Nicola Subben.  For just over ten months, I’m honoured to have the privilege to be a mum to my son, Kayden, the first and only child we plan to have.  During the day, through my full-time job, I motivate, inspire and develop individuals in the Corporate environment, where I specialise in Learning and Development.  My passion for motivating and inspiring individuals led me to create my blog, Peanut Gallery 24/7, which I have been enjoying thoroughly since its creation, early January this year.

Peanut Gallery 24/7 encapsulates my lifestyle, as I use it as a platform to share my thoughts, my views and my personal experiences.  As a new mum, I find a shift in my lifestyle and the things I blog about are therefore things that resonate with me at this beautiful stage of my life – motherhood. It is certainly something I underestimated and only since Kayden graced us with his presence, did I realise the depth of joy of being a mother.

One of the lessons I’ve learned over these past 10 months or so, is that you can’t put a price on happiness, when it comes to a child’s toys.  Of course, the child doesn’t know the value of the toy in terms of the cost, but the value it brings to your child, in the way he or she smiles, is enough to melt your heart.  I’d love for you to read my post on “My baby’s favourite things” 

My baby’s favourite things

At just over 10 months, my baby has preferences for entertainment.  It is an amazing feeling to watch him experience the joy that these things bring to him.  Each of them, has some way or the other to stimulate him.  What I have learned over the past few months as a new mum, is that it’s not necessarily the most expensive toy that creates this joy, curiosity and/or excitement.

In no order of preference, here are my baby’s favourite things:

  1. The Baby Einstein Neighbourhood Friends Activity Jumper™

We purchased this Jumper from Baby City, for more information and/or product details: click here.
Kayden has been loving his jumper since he was just over 6 months. There is so much happening around him, literally, as it has a 360-degree feature which allows him to stimulate all senses.  The various sounds and textures cause him to jump with excitement.  He is fascinated with the variation of bright colours, shapes and features of every little item on this jumper – he is in his element, in his own little bouncy world whilst on his jumper


  1. Bright Starts Hide ‘n Spin Monkey

We purchased this toy from Baby City, for more details, click here.
Kayden isn’t walking yet, he is at this stage where he wants to stand up, so this toy is great at this stage, as it encourages him to stand and throw the balls into the monkey’s hat (of course whilst supervised). If this is too much of an effort for him, he is on his knees, feeding the balls through the monkey’s tummy (cup shape). The lights and sound amuse him so much! He loves to catch the rolling balls to put them back into the Monkey.


  1. Tommy

This stuffed toy boy doll, I found at Dischem.  It was the last one there and as I almost walked pass it, it gave me that puppy dog look, saying, “buy me, buy me, please….pity please…”

So, I did and I am glad I did so. He had no name when he came home, Kayden’s grandmother helped give him a name, i.e. “Tommy”.  Tommy has become a good travel companion for Kayden. We play hide and seek, using Tommy to say “boo!” to Kayden and he loves that!

For more details on this toy, click here.

  1. Disney Winnie The Pooh Walker

“I’m young and free…watch me go…!” – that’s the feeling Kayden depicts when he is on his walker.  He loves being mobile, sometimes in reverse, sometimes running not walking, always happy-go-lucky.  There are various shapes, colours and sounds on the large play tray in front to keep him entertained. It has 3 height adjustments which is great as we have been able to adjust it as he grows taller.

We also bought this from Baby City, for more details, click here.


  1. Dave and Ava

We stumbled across these videos whilst looking for songs to make Kayden sleep one day. The graphics are eye catching! I think the developers did a fantastic job. Dave and Ava help bring alive a variety of nursery rhymes, all that we learned as kids and you will find yourself singing along to them as well.  If you don’t want to rely on internet connectivity by watching these on Wi-Fi, you can make a once-off purchase and download these songs/rhymes to your smart device which you can playback even when offline.  Kayden’s face lights up when you just mention Dave and Ava. He watches them so engrossed, with expressions on his face that are priceless. The slower songs are very soothing for bedtime. I think every child should be introduced to Dave and Ava.

If you haven’t heard of Dave and Ava yet and would like more information, click here.

What are your Childs’ favourite toys? I would love to know, so please do comment below.