6 Classic Toys that Develop Babies’ Minds

Classic toys have been losing market share to video games, electronic toys, and tablets throughout the 21st century. There are plenty of reasons for this, but it’s not a good thing. Classic toys provide learning opportunities. Without them, kids miss out.

Here are half a dozen of the classic toys and their importance in child development.


The oldest known toy is a 4,500 year old doll found at an archaeological site in Siberia. Dolls and stuffed animals are often the first toys babies play with, first just as a soft thing to hug or a “lovie,” but then as a way of practicing nurturing behavior.

Later, kids use dolls and action figures to practice adult behavior and to learn about emotions.

Finally, dolls and action figures become essential characters in imaginative play.

The more autonomous dolls and action figures become — talking dolls, dolls with elaborate TV show backstories, etc. — the less good they are for development.


  • Babies learn to push balls, to crawl over to them, and push them again. Then they learn to push them to other people and get excited when their playmates push them back.

That back and forth pattern is the first lesson in how to share and cooperate, and it develops into more elaborate games that teach hand-eye coordination and team spirit. Many people continue to play games with balls into adulthood.


Babies’ favorite game with blocks is for a big person to stack them up so the baby can push or kick them down.

Later, blocks become the first building toys, allowing toddlers to practice physical skills and dexterity. Math concepts and basic physics come into block play, too, even though little children don’t usually recognize the principles they’re learning.

Sorting toys

Babies start by putting things into a bucket and taking them out. This type of play evolves into games of sorting. Putting things into the right place based on shape, size, color, or pattern helps kids develop important mental and physical skills.

Building toys

Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Meccano, Legos, and dozens of other favorite construction toys let kids improve their manual dexterity and creativity.

Riding toys

Before they’re old enough for a bike, kids still like to ride. Learning to move in the ways that make ride-on toys go is great for muscle development and coordination.


Start with classic toys and move on to electronic amusements when your baby is bigger.

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