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It’s playtime and toys provide more than just fun and games. They give children with an opportunity to learn and explore the world.

Open the toy box, get out the toys, it’s playtime. There’s something for everyone from high-tech toys and gadgets that teach a multitude of skills to the toys of our youth that are making a comeback.

Read our article on what’s trending for toys as gifts in 2023 and why play-based toys are recommended.

For ages 0-2

Blocks: Blocks helps young children to sharpen essential skills such as gross and fine motor skills and also introduces them to maths concepts and problem-solving. In addition, children will learn about the weight of the block, stability, balance and gravity.

Electronic talking toys: These promote language development. Interactive toys can be programmed by a parent with a tablet, smartphone or computer to make learning fun.

Books: Reading to your child is great for language development, getting them to listen to the sounds and rhythms of speech, and understand the meaning of words. Use board, vinyl or cloth books with babies. Furthermore, reading is a great opportunity for Dad to spend quality time with his child.

Non-toxic art materials: Let them get creative with washable crayons and markers, large paintbrushes and finger paint, paper for drawing and painting, toddler-friendly scissors, and chalkboards with large chalk.

Balance bikes: Great for two year olds who want to get to grips with their first bike.  It’ll teach them to balance. Children who ride balance bikes generally ride pedal bikes independently at a younger age.

Sandpit: This is a great sensory toy as children get to explore their sense of touch and discover the texture of sand. Add other toys to the mix, such as nesting toys, spades and buckets ,so they can build, sculpt and make patterns in the sand, improving fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination in the process.

Activity walkers: Offering sturdy support, walkers greatly assist children as they develop from crawling to walking. And, walkers have interesting things such as buttons that produce music, piano keys, and spinning gears.

For ages 3-6

Tablets:  There are a variety of tablets on the market for younger children, some of which come preloaded with suitable games for children. For older children, there are more advanced tablets that can download apps and educational games. Parents should monitor which apps and games children are using to ensure that they learn to play responsibly.

Music and CD players: This could include electronic musical instruments such as keyboards, drum mats or microphones, or CD players.

Remote control gadgets: Remote control cars or items like gyrocopters that you can control with a smartphone will get children excited about how robotics and programming work.

Bouncers:  Items like pogo sticks, balls that children can sit on and bounce, or tin can stilts, encourage balance, co-ordination and core development. These are handy for indoor or outdoor play and can help children burn up excess energy.

Bats and balls: Develop your child’s co-ordination and ball skills (throwing, catching, kicking, bouncing) with a variety of ball games and equipment. Try using swing balls, a cricket bat, tennis racket, soccer balls, beach balls and tennis balls.

For ages 7-9

Games for coding: Knowing how to code helps children to develop logic. Children can access puzzles, board games, apps and websites that teach the basics and more. Look out for programmable robots that can be controlled with apps that teach children logic. There is also a pocket-sized computer called Raspberry Pi, which older children can use to learn and practise coding.

Microscopes or telescopes: Let the children learn about the stars and explore the microscopic make-up of the world around them.

Inflatable toys: Blow up a sumo suit and let children wrestle each other. Set up inflatable chess, skittles or other giant garden games. Or look out for giant plastic bubbles, similar to zorb balls, which you blow up and put over your heads for games like bubble soccer. These are great games for playdates, holiday fun or even parties, and they help to develop gross motor skills.

Water toys: Once children are confident in the water and know about water safety, then it’s time to let them have fun with slip ‘n slides, pool volleyball, pool cricket or other water games.

Walkie talkies: With a set of two-way radios, children play will advanced hide and seek for ages, automatically strategising in teams.

For ages 10-13

Circuits:  Circuit kits have different parts including sensors, buzzers and lights and make learning electronics. They’ll need to follow a manual to build projects, such as FM radios, digital voice recorders, burglar alarms, doorbells, and more. Kits usually come in beginner, intermediate and advance stages.

Toy drones: This basically means an unmanned aircraft, which is piloted from a remote station (control); collectively they are referred to as drones. Some are controlled by a palm remote or go for the ornithopter – an aircraft that can flap its wings.

Droids: These are robots that can be moved with a smartphone app.

Casterboards: On on of these, children can “glide” around their neighbourhood, taking in all the sights. Casterboards are propelled by shifting weight from one foot to the other, and are similar to snowboards as they allow you to maintain momentum without ever touching the ground.

Backyard zip lines: The new breed of residential zip line systems stretch up to about 150m. The braking system slowly brings you to a stop over the last 10m.

Balance board: Using a balance board can help to develop balance, core strength and flexibility. It benefits cognitive, visual, motor skills and sporting development.

Wheeled carts:  Somewhere between a pedal car and a go-kart with elements of a normal bicycle and a scooter. You control it like a bike, while reclined, and push yourself forward.

Toys making a comeback

Board games: Playing board games is a great way for spending family together and is also rich in learning opportunities.

Hot Wheels: Great for learning teamwork, using the imagination and learning maths concepts and problem-solving.

Rubik’s Cube: The benefits are endless: tests determination, problem-solving, understanding concepts …

Trolls and Monchichis: Excellent for developing role playing and imagination.

Marbles: Great for social interaction and learning gamesmanship, and improving gross motor, mathematical and negotiation skills. (Not for toddlers or small children – choking hazard).

Meccano: Improves creativity, spatial skills, gross and fine motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination, communication. Great for teaching mathematical and science concepts.

Sylvanian Families: Hours of endless creative possibilities.

Hello Kitty games:  Safe for children and they get to learn about faraway places.

Play dough: Excellent for fine motor development, encourages free play and creative play, and  can be used in maths and literacy development. Play dough has a calming effect.

Building blocks: These develop lateral thinking, help improve motor development and creativity, fosters critical thinking and problem-solving, while following instructions aids literacy.

Child magazine