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)


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