Recommendations by a Child Psychologist

21 Toys and Games to Help Your Child’s Development

By Dr. Cheryl Andaya

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21 Toys and Games that Help Child Development

developmental toys recommended by a child psychologist

Here are a few toys and games (SOME FREE) that help with child development. I have compiled a list that I’ve used with my patients, my own children or have been used by other providers working with children. Just one of these include an electric device. I’ll discuss the areas of development for your child with each game and how you could modify some games to further enhance your child’s development. Since money is an issue, I’ve also included some gifts/activities that are either free or uses things around your home.

21. Uno

Just about everyone has played Uno. For those who haven’t played it, it’s a card game where each player has 5 cards dealt to them, then takes turns matching one of their cards with the color or number card shown on the top of the deck. If there is no match, you pick up a card from the new card deck. Wild cards (if it’s in the pack) can be customized to allow inclusion of other rules and creativity. Get rid of all your cards to win.

Playing it with the regular rules provide the following:


  • Number/color recognition
  • Categorizing
  • Turn taking (great for practicing self-control and managing impulsivity)
  • Sportsmanship
  • Family bonding

Modified version: In therapy, I have used games to talk about feelings and ice-breakers. This is how you could encourage your child to discuss emotions:

Each color represents an emotion. Although there are several emotions, this is a starting point and makes it easier for younger children or those who are just learning to discuss/identify emotions. Red = Anger, Blue = Sad, Green = Lonely, Yellow = Happy, Wild = Scared.

  • Labeling emotions
  • Verbalizing feelings
  • Enhancing parent-child bond
  • Communication
  • Empathy

20. Legos

These little building blocks can be hours of fun. There are so many building directions online now so you can build the object the legos were intended for, find something online, or have your child modify buildings and objects. It’s great for creative minds and imaginative play. Here is the awesome developmental advantages of the classic legos:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Colors
  • Creative/imaginative play

19. Mega Blocks

Bigger version of Legos for little hands

  • Colors
  • Building
  • Large motor skills

18. Baby Doll

For girl or boy, a doll can teach many things. It is particularly useful when a younger sibling is joining the family. Your child could learn how to be gentle with a doll, help provide an idea of what to expect with a younger sibling and parents encourage nurturing displayed by their child. No, it will not turn you boy into a sissy, emasculate him, or turn him gay. It will provide him with an understanding of how to care for a younger, vulnerable individual and allow him to develop empathy.

  • Pretend play
  • Empathy
  • Nurturing skills

17. Edible paint

ketchup, mustard, mayo (mixed with food coloring) – younger children

Get those senses going by letting your kiddo play with these condiments on sheets of paper. They can finger paint their little hearts out while you prepare a meal.

  • Colors
  • Textures
  • Sensory development

16. Race Track

The little cars are motorized through batteries. The track is built by your child and can be arranged in creative ways and my kiddos loved experimenting by creating slopes and turns to see how it affected speed of the cars.

  • Physics
  • Imaginative play
  • Construction
  • Colors

15. Toddler activity cube

When my kiddos were little, they spent a lot of time honing those fine motor skills with this activity cube. Their curiosity and love for learning is encouraged as they play with this cube. When they tired of one side we would show them the other side and they’d discover even more fun! We loved it so much, we bought it for several friends with little ones.

  • Fine motor skills
  • Manipulating objects
  • Colors
  • Shapes

14. Magnetic Building Blocks

The fascination of magnets coupled with construction! The tiles are all magnetic and stick together to build awesome structures! Your child will build cities and structures as well as learn about the strength of magnets.

  • Colors
  • Shapes
  • Construction
  • Pretend play

13. Smart Watch

I have not used this but knew of parents who shared their sense of security knowing their child wore this device. They are able to stay connected with their child and keep tabs on their whereabouts. Younger children think it’s neat and very grown up; however, I’ve unfortunately heard of older children get teased by their older friends for wearing it.

12. Slime (sensory)

Slime seems to be the new craze right now. Here is a pack that looks at various types of slime that you and your child can make together. It provides ingredients and instructions. It’s also great for sensory seeking children.

  • Science
  • Strengthening fine motor skills through manipulation
  • Colors
  • Mixing colors and types of textures

11. Lincoln Logs

Had to add this oldie but goodie. We all remember these in school. Mixed with action figures, this could result in hours of building and pretend play.

  • Building
  • Imaginative play

10. Stacking and Nesting Cups (toddler)

Here is another toy that gives hours of play and learning opportunities as toddlers stack it, nest it, and use it as cups. We’ve let them play with it in the bathtub as well and they can experiment pouring liquid from one cup into another.

  • Size differentiation
  • Colors
  • Balance

Visual-spatial relationship

9. Marble Run

Not for little children due to the tiny marble; however, it’s great with older children as they find ways to make the marble maneuver in their creations. Your child builds the structure and then watches the marbles go through the maze of loops. Timing the course adds another element of fun.

  • Construction
  • Physics

8. Binoculars

Teach your child to love the outdoors by introducing binoculars and showing them the world that extends beyond what they regularly see. It’s an adventure to see what they can find if they took the time to look close into nature.

  • Science
  • Nature

7. Zingo Sight Words (preschool)

We didn’t use this particular toy but we had something similar. It was a fun way for our child to learn sight words.

  • Reading
  • Word recognition

6. Cooling Bear

My children received this bear as a gift from my brother and his girlfriend (now his wife). Our children loved it and it was the perfect size for them to carry around. It was a soothing object that can be cooled and heated when your child is hurt. Our children liked to just carry it around as a lovey and took it to preschool. They still have it till this day and it continues to provide comfort when needed.

5. Snap Circuit

This is a fun toy for older children that teaches about circuitry and electricity. We discovered it when it was introduced to my children at their school. They enjoyed tinkering with it and trying to figure out different ways to make it work.

  • Science
  • Circuitry
  • Cause and effect

4. Growing Crystals

This is a great kit but you could also try growing crystals on your own by using the other link below.

  • Science
  • Patience

3. Take Apart Toys

My kiddo LOVED this and played with it for many years. He enjoyed taking it apart, using the tools and trying to figure out how to put it together. Once the toy is assembled, they can use it for imaginative play.

  • Tool manipulation
  • Construction
  • Fine and large motor skills
  • Imaginative play
  • Focus
  • Patience

2. Grow a Plant – root viewer

Okay, not really a toy, but great gift that teaches your little to appreciate nature and take care of their environment. I love that my children appreciate ways to care for nature and the time it takes to nurture a living object.

  • Empathy
  • Responsibility
  • Nurturing skills

1. Parent-Child Journal

This is something I’ve used with my patients. Some children have difficulty expressing themselves and find it easier to write or draw. I have my patients keep journals so they can write their thoughts and feelings throughout the week and then we discuss it in session. While teenagers may not want their parents reading their journals, some younger children, and some teenagers looking to find ways to connect with their parent, try the back and forth journal. It’s basically a journal where a parent and a child write to each other, passing the book back and forth. The one listed below is one that has prompts with things to write about; however, you can just get any tablet and start writing. I also started a journal even before my children were born. It was a way for me to start connecting with them.

  • Writing
  • Creativity
  • Fine motor skills
  • Reading
  • Emotional connection
  • Enhancing parent-child bond
  • Emotional awareness


Had to add this as a bonus. They had these at my child’s school and he loved it. Helps with developing the balance needed to transition into two-wheelers.

Thanks so much for reading. I know there are other awesome toys/games out there. Pleaes feel free to add it in the comments. And…as always, please free to provide feedback/comments below about future topics you would like me to address. It helps me narrow the topics I research and write about and lets me know that this information is helpful. Aloha🤙

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*Please note: This is an affiliate link, which means if you purchase through this link, I will earn a small fee without any extra cost to you. It helps to keep me writing these hopefully, helpful posts. Mahalo in advance.

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Dr. Cheryl Andaya

Clinical Psychologist

I’m a mother and a Clinical Psychologist who works with children and their families as well as individuals reaching for their goals. Born and raised in Hawaii, I embrace diversity and help individuals find their strengths.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Andrea

    What I great list. I like the way you started in bullet points who the toy will benefit the child! Very educational post!

  2. Jillian Elizabeth

    So many great ideas here! I am volunteering in Romania next year and was in need of toys to improve motor skills to bring out with me so this is just perfect!

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