Toy Buying Guide for Ages 0 to 5

Is it toy buying time for you?

Here in the early literacy department, we put a lot of thought into the toys we buy for our play spaces and programs at Arapahoe Libraries. We want to share what we think about when we look for toys.

Our go-to toys are:

  • Construction toys such as DUPLOS, Magnatiles and our favorite: blocks
  • Play food and dishes
  • Dollhouses
  • Animal figurines
  • Vehicles
  • Dress-up clothes
  • Playdough or kinetic sand
  • Art supplies

So why these toys? Each of these toys fits into one or more of the categories below.

Open-Ended Play

According to TRUCE, opens a new window, "A quality toy does not do something for the child. Instead, the child finds pleasure and satisfaction from doing something to the toy."

Toys that can be used in different ways are more engaging and can be played with over and over. We like to say in this department, "process over product," meaning how a child interacts with an object is more important than the end result.


These toys build listening skills, confidence, self-control, self-expression and happiness.


A moving body is a learning body! Toys that require a child to use their gross (large) and/or fine (small) motor skills are incredibly important to a child's development. Even babies can get in on this. Tummy time, anyone?


These toys help develop problem solving, creativity, curiosity and language skills. One and two-year-olds are fascinated by cause and effect (think repeatedly throwing the same object off of their highchair over and over).


Scents, sights, sounds, textures and for babies, mouthfeel, get developing senses working to figure out the child's environment.

What toys have you purchased in the past that were a big hit? What was it about the toy that made it so fun to play with?