Smart, Safe Toddler Toys

When shopping for toys for a toddler, consider stocking up on the basic staples, just as you would for your pantry. Just as it’s always good to have flour, olive oil and pasta on hand, having the following toys available to your youngsters covers the basics and makes imaginative, age-appropriate, healthful play available any day of the year.

The toys listed below provide great flexibility, in which activities are limited only by a child’s imagination (which naturally is huge!)

Basic guidelines: Purchase toys made of solid wood that are either unfinished or have a non-toxic finish; purchase toys made of organic cotton, wool or hemp. Avoid any long or loose strings, small parts and sharp edges. Remember that toddlers tend to put toys (and everything) into their mouths, so it’s especially important to make sure that you choose toys that are non-toxic. Avoiding soft plastics (which contain hormone disrupting pthalates) and following the above guideline re: wooden and soft toys will optimize the safety of your child’s toy box.

Some suggestions for non-toxic toys:
Wooden building blocks
Nesting cubes
Bean bags
Read aloud books
Unbreakable, light metal mixing bowls
Soft dolls
Fabric balls
Dress-up clothes and accessories (purses, hats, etc.–but nothing small enough to be a choking hazard.)
Kitchen sets
Miniature wagon
Wooden animals
Barn and farm set
Playing cards
Pull and push toys
Toddler safe-swing
Sandbox with clean sand
Pretend money (be aware of size.)
Stuffed animals
Unbreakable dishes (made of tin or compostable/recycled materials)
Puzzles (lift-out size)
Recycled paper
Non-toxic crayons (older toddlers)
Clean, used towels
Cardboard tubes
Finger paint
Musical instruments made of wood, metal, smooth edges (triangles, shakers, sand blocks, rhythm sticks, tambourines, drum)

By Terri Hall-Jackson, contributing writer,


Michele Wilkinson


Anthony Redgrave
Anthony Redgrave7 years ago

An interesting article! As others I´m intrigued by the idea of homemade playdough, purely as an idellectual probblen and the first thig that jumps to mind would be making a non-Newtonian fluid from water, starch and some food colorrig for aestethics.
Thanks for the article.
See here:
on how to make a no-Newtonian fluid.

Heather D.
Heather D7 years ago

I love the idea of homemade playdough. There are other playdough-like substances that you can easily make as well. I've worked in preschools/daycares quite a bit, and one thing that I've learned is that young children (toddlers, preschoolers) learn so much from using their five senses, ESPECIALLY TOUCH. They love to touch and play with playdough, slime, flubber, etc. Another fun activity is using Cool Whip (or something similar) as a means to teach writing/alphabet to preschoolers. Even if they mostly scribble in it, they are learning. (Scribbling is actually one of the earliest stages of literacy/writing.) Gather Cool Whip and wax paper (or plate). Put some Cool Whip on the wax paper or plate and place it on a table. Allow the child to play in the Cool Whip. Yes, this can get messy, but it is really fun for the child. If the child has not learned letters yet, allow him/her to draw or scribble with his/her finger in the Cool Whip. If the child knows some letters, encourage him/her to write out the letters he/she knows.

Robert O.
Robert O7 years ago


K s Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Lucasul L.
Lucasul L.7 years ago

really useful list. thanks for the article. try this also kids spelling games

gail d.
gail dair7 years ago

thanks for posting

William P.
Past Member 8 years ago

Smart, fun toys are toys that help our children learn. Smart, fun toys are toys that do not use batteries. The best learning toys are the ones that help help our kids use their imagination. Smart, fun toys are toys that help children develop crati...
ipod zubehoer

Marie V
Marie V9 years ago

Any input on enamelware? Is that safe for kids for their play kitchen? Does it depend on the manufacturer?

Loveday P.
Loveday P9 years ago

How do you make your own play dough?