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Play and toys to help your child develop

Children's play changes as they grow and so too do the types of toys and games they enjoy.

From the moment they are born, your child is learning about themselves and the world around them. Everyday play helps them to explore and learn through their senses.

Give your child lots of opportunity to play. It is normal for children to prefer one type of play or certain toys. Try to create variety and make sure it is fun.

You can help your child to develop their imagination, creativity and key motor skills by choosing toys they can use in lots of different ways. For example:

  • blocks - for grasping, banging together, or building a tower when your baby gets older
  • balls - to hold, roll, throw and eventually bounce
  • cardboard boxes - to play imaginative games
  • dressing up clothes - old clothes, hats or bags
  • arts and crafts - paper, stickers, crayons and washable markers
  • household items - pots, pans, baskets, cardboard tubes, tins or lids

Choose toys and activities to suit your child's age and developmental stage.

How your child develops through play

Making the most of playtime

  • Play together with your child - you are the best thing for your child to play, learn and have fun with.
  • Have a variety of toys but only use a few at once so your child can explore each one.
  • Use household items as well as toys.
  • Try not to stick to just 'boy' or 'girl' toys.
  • Praise your child especially if trying ‘new’ toys and ‘new’ games.
  • Show your child that you are having fun playing with them.
  • Young children differ from others the same age and tend to have short attention spans. Learn the signs of when it may be time to stop or change your approach.
  • Know when to stop. Over-stimulation can lead to tiredness and sometimes your child may get upset.

Watch a video on encouraging your child’s development through play

Keeping your child safe while playing with toys

Always watch your child while they're playing.

You can also keep your child safe by making sure their toys:

  • are right for their age and development stage
  • are in good condition - broken toys can be dangerous
  • have the CE quality mark - this shows they have met the required safety standard
  • are stored out of the way when not being used so they don't cause trips or falls
  • are stored somewhere your child doesn't need to climb to reach
  • are not a strangling or choking risk - toys that fit through the centre of a toilet roll are too small
  • do not have strings as they are a strangulation risk

Find out about stages of play as your child grows

Page last reviewed: 20 April 2021
Next review due: 20 April 2024

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.