Fill your child’s toy box with toys that teach

Discover the building blocks and tools you need to write the toy story most developmentally valuable to your child.

Unlike adults, children seem to subscribe to the ‘bigger is better’ mantra, as well as ‘more is more’ when it comes to toys. So how do moms and dads decide on the perfect toy for their little one? Without a sound guideline and shopping list, parents will face the colourful battleground of the toyshop unarmed, at risk of a glitter assault at any moment, or complete distraction thanks to the toys that giggle and cry on demand.

To avoid any more toyshop casualties, the experts at Clamber Club have put together a list of toys that will not only keep your children entertained for hours, but teach them valuable skills in the process.

Toys that stimulate
Toys help infants and babies begin to make sense of the world around them. “Providing toys that stimulate your baby’s senses of sight and sound is a good way to help your child grow. As your child becomes able to grasp objects, providing him or her with toys that have different textures will help them learn,” says Eric Watson, Clamber Club Toy Distributor.

“It is important to create a stimulating environment for your child, and to provide opportunities for them to use their senses. Toys are an essential part of this sensory journey,” says Liz Senior, Occupational Therapist and Founder of Clamber Club.

Toys that teach
“Toys are very important in the learning process because children learn while they play,” says Michelle Mendonca, Clamber Club Franchisee for Playschool and Toddlers in Klerksdorp. For example, a teacher can discuss shapes with her class but having a shape sorter for them to experiment allows them to physically and visually process the information.

“Toys have the ability to stimulate children intellectually and physically, they promote cognitive development and depending on the toy, can encourage fine or gross motor development,” she says.

Tackling the toy shop
Understanding that learning happens during play is an important first step when toy shopping. The next is to puzzle through the thousands of toys on offer to find ones that offer educational value, without letting fancy interactive functions and TV show-inspired costumes throw you off course. “I am usually drawn to toys that are colourful and have educational value. This would include imaginary play items, creative play, construction, perceptual games etc.,” says Mendonca. She also suggests looking for toys that are well made, so that they last for a good while, and to take safety into consideration by making sure that there aren’t any small parts that can come off and be swallowed.

“There are some fantastic toys available these days and children that are exposed to them have every advantage,” she concludes.

If boredom with a toy or game should set in
Children need to repeat activities over and over again to achieve mastery. If boredom sets in, change the game, break the rules, combine different games or simply pack the toy away for a few weeks or a month before taking it out again. “Children develop at such a rate that you will be amazed at how differently they will play with a toy they have not seen for a while,” says Nikki Bush, creative parenting expert, speaker and author. “They are in a new brain-body space and so they will have quite a different interaction with the toy.”

Clamber Club’s top tips when choosing toys for your child:
• Ask yourself, “What can my child do with the toy not what the toy can do!”
• Consider your child’s developmental level and interests as a guide to your toy choices
• Look for toys that leave room for the child to use his or her imagination in how they play!
• Think if the toy encourages exploration and experimentation through play, allowing your child to be creative, to take risks, and to make new discoveries
• Consider an array of toys and activities that encourage your child to use and explore all developmental domains: Physical, cognitive, sensory, speech and language, social and emotional
• Educational is good, but is it fun too? Your child will play with their toy more if it is fun to use


Toys we recommend for your child at each developmental stage:

Birth to three months:
• Well-secured, unbreakable wall mirrors
• Simple stuffed animals without parts (e.g. eyes, hair) that can detach
• Simple hand puppets (to be used by adults) with faces
• Simple mobiles with high contrast design, well-secured and out of baby’s reach
• Soft sound makers that baby can watch and listen to. (To be presented by adults)
• Large sturdy books (e.g. cardboard) with colourful pictures
• Squeeze toys
• Simple play gyms for baby to lie under
• Balls to watch as they roll or bounce

Four to six months:
• Rattles of all shapes and sizes
• Toy keys on a secure ring
• Teethers
• Wrist and ankle bells
• Texture balls and toys
• Soft blocks
• Large pictures of faces
• Toys that make noise
• Floating water toys
• Mobiles
• Pop up toys

Six months to one year
This is the age when motor skills are exploding! Your child is learning to sit up and manipulate toys (banging, dropping, stacking, opening and closing). As his or her physical exploration moves from crawling to cruising (walking while holding onto a walker or furniture) and eventually walking, your child will love things that move too.
• Soft-bodied dolls with faces and without parts (e.g. eyes, hair) that can detach
• Simple stuffed animals without parts (e.g. eyes, hair) that can detach
• Play animals or objects (six to eight inches) for exploring and grasping
• Simple vehicles with large wheels for babies to sit in or ride on with supervision
• Squeaky toys
• Stacking rings or cones
• Sturdy, washable picture and rhyme books
• Push or pull toy cars or animals on wheels
• Soft building blocks
• Soft skittles
• Lightweight banging toys (e.g. drum, xylophone, pots and pans, boxes with lids)


Toddlers (between one and two)
The world is opening up for a toddler – and so comes the floodgate of emotions and behaviours. Your child will begin to express pleasure, protest and is developing his or her own personality. Your toddler is definitely an explorer, so give him or her ample opportunity and space to experiment and manipulate toys. You’ll also want to keep them active! Toys that encourage movement will be a big hit.
• Large building blocks – cloth, moulded, or wood
• Fill and dump toys
• Toy telephones
• Non-breakable dishes and other simple housekeeping and work role-playing toys
• Pails and shovels
• Simple chunky or knob puzzles
• Large, non-toxic crayons with large paper secured to surface
• Ride-on vehicles with large wheels – even better with storage bins
• Safe swings and climbing platforms
• Balls, balls, balls – different sizes, different textures

Two-year olds
Two-year-olds are full of energy and seem to learn new skills every day. You’ll notice increased language development and that your child takes more of an interest in socialising with others. Provide opportunities for your child to move and develop their gross motor skills, cognitive skills (your child can follow simple instructions now), and their social/emotional skills.
• Blocks of various sizes
• Boxes and containers of various sizes that encourage filling and emptying
• Cars, trucks, planes, trains – anything that rolls
• Climbing toys
• Craft materials like large paper, non-toxic markers, paint, and glue
• “Fix it” tools and workbench for toddlers
• Gardening tools for toddlers
• Kitchen toys and toy appliances
• Play dough or non-toxic modelling clay
• Puzzles (simple ones, ideally with knobs for manipulating the pieces)
• Shopping carts for toddlers and related “shopping” toys
• Large plastic animals

Three-year olds
When your child turns three, you’ll notice that he or she plays actively with others (be it his or her peers or you!). It is the age of imagination and role playing, so encourage make-believe by stocking toys that help with ‘let’s pretend’.
• Beanbags
• Blocks (large and small for building)
• Bubble-blowing materials
• Costume box (containing adult clothing, purses, hats, shoes, jewellery, scarves, etc.)
• Dolls and doll furniture (carriage, high chair, bed, etc.)
• Games (lotto, matching, dominoes, etc.)
• Hand puppets (all kinds)
• Housekeeping toys (dust mop, broom, mop, ironing board, iron, stove etc.)
• Jungle gym
• Musical instruments (rhythm sticks, bells, drum, castanets, rattle, triangle etc.)
• Water toys (sponges, sieves, soap, egg beaters, plastic containers, funnels, straws, measuring cups, etc.)
• Wooden or rubber vehicles (cars, trucks, boats, fire engines, etc.)


Four-year olds
When it comes to development, four-year olds are developing greater self-control and ingenuity. They also have a keen interest in trying new experiences. You’ll notice your four-year-old taking an interest in language (more complex sentences and identifying words/letters) and that they are even more curious than during their toddler phase!
• Balls
• Beads for stringing
• Brushes and paints
• Child’s tape recorder
• Climbing equipment
• Construction toys
• Doctor and nurse kit
• Dominoes
• Dress-up box
• Jump rope
• Memory games
• Sand toys
• Tricycle

Five-year olds
Have you noticed your five-year-old asking “why” more often? That’s because five-year olds are very creative problem solvers and are becoming more analytical. Support their development with games that help hone their analytical skills, toys that keep them active and creative materials that help spark imagination.
• Art materials
• Bicycle
• Blocks (all sizes)
• Books
• Card and board games (simple)
• Cash register and play money
• Magnifying glasses
• Miniature people, animals, farms, vehicles, etc.
• Plastic bat and balls
• Scooter
• Toy clock

About Clamber Club
Clamber Club is an extensive and exciting sensory and perceptual motor learning and development program that encourages the joy of movement, play and exercise in babies, toddlers and young children. To learn more about Clamber Club please visit

Further information or images: Kate Barry
Tel: 011 325 2031

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