Parents often go to great lengths to find perfect toys which will be engaging and educational for their children. Research shows that it is less about the specific type of toy and more about how play is achieved with the toy that is most important.
With cause-effect toys, children learn how simple/repetitive motion creates sound, movement, and sensory responses they generate through initiation (reaching, pushing, pulling, opening/closing.) Early on, cause effect toys help children understand the power they have with toys. Cause-effect toys help encourage manipulation of objects, hand-eye coordination, operational use, and play exploration as children observe how the toy works given its parts. Cause/effect toys are shown to encourage memory of play and joint attention skills as children first learn how to play with these toys given repetition and adult modeling.
With problem-solving toys (e.g shape sorters, puzzles, etc.) children learn how to become investigative in play and independent thinkers as they evaluate challenges and think critically. Problem solving toys can promote self-advocacy skills as children learn to request help, generate questions, and develop frustration tolerance given increasing demands.
With construction toys, art supplies, dolls, clothing, and household objects/sets (e.g. blocks, doctor kit, playdough, dollhouse, cookware, tea party set, action figures, cars, etc.) children can design/build and engage in imaginative play, abstract thinking, role-playing, and partner-based interaction skills that will evolve as they grow and learn.