At some point, every child dreams of sitting in a cockpit and piloting a massive, powerful jet through the skies. Even as air travel has become less and less comfortable, some residual glamour still remains. There’s something intrinsically glorious, and magical, about going to sleep on one continent and waking up in another. The most concrete manifestation of that freedom is the toy airplane. A simple toy with wings and a propeller is a key part of pretend play, as children imagine themselves soaring through the clouds as the next Amelia Earhart or Wilbur Wright. And they’re also a great toy for younger kids, because moving planes on the ground and in the air helps them develop fine and gross motor skills.
Toys like planes help with visual tracking, which is “the ability to follow a person or object with our eyes as it moves across our visual field,” says Rebecca Parlakian, the senior director of programs at the child development organization Zero to Three. Plus, they help with fine motor skills, otherwise known as the ability to “use the muscles in our hands and fingers to perform a task. And it’s a sensory experience as well as an important cognitive process: Learning how the objects in their world work and predicting what they can do with a particular object.”
The Best Toy Airplanes for Toddlers and Preschoolers
A wonderfully simple baby toy, this one rolls around on the floor and soars through the skies. Best of all, the wings move up and down.
Not only is this toy plane made from recycled plastic, but it's detailed enough to keep kids engaged. It has a spinning propeller with oversize pontoons, and floats in water.
A sweet wood plane with a roof that lifts up and a pilot and three passengers, this one has propellers that spin around. It's colorful and vibrant and does double duty as a sorting toy, with kids putting the passengers and luggage where they belong.
Planes break down, and this kit lets little mechanics fix them. The set includes 21 airplane parts, a battery-powered drill, and three bits, all of which help preschoolers with their gross motor skills and problem solving, as they take the plane apart and put it together again.
Tegu's magnetic blocks are miniature works of art. And this set lets preschoolers use the magic of magnets to build their very own plane. They figure out which pieces go where to get the result they want.
Duplo bricks are chunky enough for little hands to handle. This 29-piece set is just challenging enough: Kids build an airport building with luggage slide, suitcase, boarding gate and revolving air traffic control tower.
When a mere toy just won't do, upgrade your pilot with this gorgeous yellow ride-on airplane. The propeller spins, and the rear wheel spins 360 degrees. It has a steel frame and wheels with rubber tires for a smooth, stable ride.
The Best Toy Airplanes for Kids
Not only does this phone-controlled plane look cool. But it has a 230 foot range, and a built-in computer that calibrates it for windy weather. There's even a wind stabilizer.
At 669 pieces, this set is no joke. Kids build a large plane, a truck with a car elevator, a terminal, and a car for the aforementioned elevator. There's even a luggage conveyor and a control tower. It's detailed enough to take up an entire afternoon.
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