Old McDonald had a farm…ee-aye-ee-aye-oh!
As toddlers begin to develop and work through categorical skills, one of their favorite things to recognize is animals. Any kind of animal is likely to bring a smile to their faces and cause their eyes to light up, but farm animals especially tend to hold their interest. Cats and dogs and cute little bubbly goldfish are all staples they’ve likely seen around their own houses or the homes of family members or friends. Farm animals still seem exotic to children who haven’t grown up around them, and even kids who do live right in the throes of horses, chickens, cows, goats, sheep, and pigs are wowed by the absolute enormity of most of the animals found in a barnyard. Toddlers love to grab and feel the world around them. Equip your little learner with fun, adorable little farm animal sets that they can play with. Help teach children their names, the sounds they make, and how to identify them by their pictures with these sweet figurine sets. Some of the toys below make sounds, some click in and out of place in their play sets, and some come to life as you put together a jumbo puzzle. Each and every toy below has benefits to be reaped by little ones, and hours of fun to be had by the whole family, watching their toddler learn and play.
We’ve vetted these products to make sure they’re safe for little ones. (We know toddlers have minds, hands, and mouths of their own). Each play set is made of quality materials, free from chemicals, and tested by lots of other happy users. If you can’t have the real thing (and truly, how many of us can fit a pony in the yard, no matter how much we might dream about it?), these are wonderful alternatives. Pull on those overalls and get to work! Farms won’t look after themselves.
The Best Farm Animal Toys and Sets
Criteria Used in Evaluation of the Best Farm Animal Toys & Sets for Toddlers
The developmental path of any toddler is a steep one: From the moment your child reaches the ambulatory phase, they are growing and learning so readily that your real struggle as a parent is finding enough new information to put in front of them. Names, faces, and new animals are constantly being cataloged away in the emerging structures within your toddler’s mind. We can use toys to expand the vocabulary and cognitive functions of burgeoning young brains and to introduce them to new worlds of discovery and learning. Now look to the farm, a veritable library of new information that will be invaluable in creating pathways to speech and imaginative play for your child.
When you give a toy farm animal or tractor to your toddler, it’s natural and highly instructive to start their play with imitation: helping them learn and recreate the sound of a cow mooing as they help it eat hay, or the rumble of a tractor’s engine as they push it through their sandbox. These sorts of tangible connections between the objects that they interact with at play will translate to their perception of the world around them, and help them begin to put the names to things. You can, for example, say the names of certain animals and have your toddler point to or retrieve the proper toy, a simple game that will have your child repeating and using the names themselves in no time. These sorts of open-ended questions in play also improve receptive vocabulary, fostering a deeper connection with the purpose of speech and forming a concrete bond between words and their associated meanings. Communication is the most important aspect of any relationship, and the sooner you can clearly speak to your child, the better you can care for them.
Your child’s first sensory experience came before they were even born, through touch, and the importance of hands-on learning for your toddler is still just as important. When they have a toy chicken present, they learn to identify the real chicken with much more ease, and even create new experiences for the toy chicken from behavior observed in the real chicken. This is a fundamental first step in building your child’s ability to play through imagination, which will help them communicate and relate to you and the other children around them in constructive ways. In today’s world, it isn’t uncommon for games on computers or mobile devices to quickly overtake play with tactile, physical objects. Research into the effects of overexposure to screens on children, however, would suggest that this substitute hasn’t yet produced the same sorts of benefits as tactile experience with actual objects.
As previously mentioned, farm animal toys provide a basis for forming connections between objects and the words we use to identify them. Beyond this, these analogs will help your child identify and categorize new animals and objects based on the variety of animal stereotypes provided within the farm community. For example, a goose will be immediately distinguishable from a chicken, but not so different as a goat. The goose and chicken will soon become identifiable as birds, and the goats and cows as mammals, all because of the similarities and differences observed between them.
This sort of formulation in your child’s mind is not only a great wonder to behold, but also a key to their future comprehension of new things in their world. When you play with your child, you help teach them to play with others, and when your child plays with other children, they begin building whole new realms and concepts of play that will ready them for the next steps in their growth.
The growth of a child is a miracle, and an opportunity to nurture the best aspects of ourselves while building the necessary mechanisms for resisting the worst. Toddlers display a most profound love in discovery: seeing, smelling, touching anything that crosses their paths with all the interest of a devoted scholar. It is our job as parents to facilitate a safe and optimal environment for this discovery, and to provide them with the attention that they will need for encouragement as they make their steady way to adulthood.
Toys have played an incremental part in the development of children for the entirety of recorded history, from miniature bows in ancient Mesopotamia to game apps on your cell phone. Consistently, animals and farm animals, in particular, hold an important role for small children. This connection, between children separated by millennia, can be utilized today to help start your child on the proper path to social development.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are any of these items a choking hazard?
A: No, these items are all designed for young toddlers. Most of the items are oversized and rounded in their features, making them gentle on soft hands but also impossible to swallow.
Q: Just how tough are these toys?
A: This actually varies somewhat; the plastic farm animals and toy tractors are relatively indestructible to a toddler, with the exception of the axles on rolling toys. The wheels can be made to roll unevenly or fall off through extensive use. The wood product toys should be structurally secure for some time, but there are some reports of chipping paint with these products.
Q: What age should my toddler be starting to associate animals with their sounds?
A: There’s no perfect answer to questions like this, as all toddlers will have different learning curves. If your child isn’t quite matching up with the standard timeline set, don’t panic. Do keep an eye on their development, try to work on areas that they struggle in, and consult a professional if you feel like there may be underlying issues. Typically speaking, toddlers will start to assign animals and noises between 12 and 18 months. If you want to help them with this skill set, try investing in books and toys that will allow you a visual and aural representation for children to familiarize themselves with.
Q: Batteries included?
A: For the most part, batteries aren’t even necessary for these toys. The John Deere Animal Sounds Hayride does require AAA batteries, however, which are included.
Q: Why the farm? Why not dinosaurs and spaceships?
A: Because these themes are relevant to the immediate world of a toddler. These are objects and sounds that your child can use today, helping them build the basic knowledge necessary to conceptualize larger and more foreign things. Today it’s the chicken, tomorrow it’s the T-Rex.
Q: What if my child isn’t improving with farm play?
A: Try to develop games around very basic premises, prompting your child to imitate your behavior usually is a good starting point. Say the name or make the sound of a certain animal, and prompt your child to designate that animal. If they are having trouble, point to the animal with them and provide an example for them to mimic. Even if the behavior begins as simple imitation, the underlying ideas are already forming for your child. When they begin to properly learn the names of things, begin helping them form simple thoughts into phrases like “I want chicken” or “Cows go moo.” Helping them begin to understand the references between themselves and other objects will build their receptive vocabulary.
Q: Are these toys all interactive?
A: No, not every toy has an interactive feature. While features such as lights and sounds can often hold the attention of your child longer, sometimes it’s better if play time is left up to their own imagination. Interactive toys can be fun and improve sensory skills, but imaginative play increases creativity and allows children to really think and use logic and reasoning as well. A good mix of both toys makes for some great play options.
Q: My child finds these boring. What can I do?
A: Not every child will find barns and farms fun to play with, but a good thing to try is adding other toys to the mix. Let them know that it’s okay to play with their favorite action figure inside their barn playset. You could also try encouraging this type of play in a group, since many kids just may not know how to start out with their own imaginative play. In a group, or even with siblings or cousins, they have access to more ideas and more kids to play with and overall, that will drive up their interest.