Great Toys: Birth to 24 months
Toys are one of my most favorite things to shop for. I love looking at how toys work and thinking about how a child will explore it and learn from it. Play is one of the primary ways kids learn.
Toys: Birth – 6 months
This is the time period that I call “the basics”. You really don’t need to get fancy here. Just a few things will go a long way.
These are great on their own to hold and mouth, but also great to attach to your car seat and stroller to hold on to toys. Links are also ideal for arched play mats to give your child something to reach up towards.
Look for rattles that are easy to grasp and make nice sounds. Rattles are great at helping little ones figure out how on to hold something in their hand, see that they can cause something to happen when they shake it and they naturally work at passing it between their hands.
I often recommend O Balls as a great option for little ones needing a very light toy. They weigh just a sliver of what many rattles weigh, but make great sounds and are easy to grasp.
What baby doesn’t like to look at their own face? Mirrors are great at helping to encourage little ones to lift their head off of the floor.
It is never too early to start reading to your child. Cloth books are perfect during this age as they encourage little ones to feel the pages.
We all love to hold babies, but they need to spend a fair amount of time on the floor so that they can work at learning how their bodies move. Play mats are ideal as they often come set up to encourage exploration during both tummy time and back time.
Toys: 7-12 months
This is the time to start adding to your collection of toys. You want to think about providing different types of toys that will encourage exploration.
This is a classic. It prompts little ones to explore with their hands as well as cause and effect understanding.
I know it seems early, but it’s time to think about blocks. This set is ideal for little ones that are still mouthing as they are soft and a bit larger, but not too large. Blocks are a great way to encourage combining objects, more commonly known as banging! They are also ideal for container play – put it in and take it out.
ere are limitless varieties of ring stackers from the classic to ones with music. This toy will grow with your child. At first they will work on taking the rings off, banging them together, then as they gain greater control of using their eyes and hands together as a team, they will work at putting the rings back on the post.
This toy is great! It encourages little ones to use both hands together to press down the lever so that the balls go round and round. It combines work on hand skills as well as cognition.
is is a toy that will grow with your child. Once they are able to sit up, this is a great way to give them a vertical toy surface. The wheels typically have a locking function. Look for one that has a variety of things for your child to explore so that they use their hands in different ways. This one is great as the play center can be removed from the walker base. Once your little one is ready to start practicing walking, unlock the wheels and let the roaming begin.
Toys 13-18 months
No Spill Bubbles
This bubble set always amazes my families. It is truly spill proof and so much easier to use than bubble sets where you have to put the wand back in the opening and always have to dig around to find the wand again. Use bubbles to work on index finger isolation and putting the wand back in the hole. Bubbles are oddly enough often considered a seasonal item, so when you see these sold in the Spring and Summer stock up as they are more expensive online.
This is a major improvement to a classic toy. This animal set is full to pull apart and great at encouraging little hands to work together. As with many of the toys I recommend, these will grow with your child and can be used later in pretend play and in matching games.
Pop Up Door Toy
This toy is a classic. I recommend this version most often as they have perfected the levers. They are the just right challenge – neither too easy nor too difficult. Most kids get really excited when the figure out how to open the first door then work at opening the others. This toy is great at helping little ones learn all the different ways their hands can work.
Look for a basic shape sorter. This toy lends itself to lots of play from figuring out how to get to the shapes, banging them together, putting them back in the container and eventually learning how to put the shapes in through the holes.
Don’t be alarmed. The idea here is supervised coloring time. You’re going to be doing a fair amount of directing your child to put the crayon on the paper versus their mouth, but this is to be expected. Help them make some marks by giving hand over hand assistance. At first you can expect them to make some tapping motions with the crayon and drop the crayons off the side of the high chair, but eventually you will have a paper with scribbles on it fit for your fridge. I tend to recommend jumbo sized crayons over crayons of other shapes, but that is just my preference.
There are a wide variety of options for toys that encourage kids to work on putting objects inside of objects. The general goal is to promote hand-eye coordination. Ideally, look for toys that come with a few balls and have options to buy spares as they will roll away and get lost.
Puzzles are another toy that will grow with your child. I generally recommend a basic shape puzzle to start. The first goal is to work on removing the pieces, then putting them back on the board and then eventually in their holes. The fewer pieces the better for the first puzzle experience.
Around 1 year is a great time to start working on back and forth rolling games. I tend to recommend balls that are bumpy as they add another element that is fun to explore. As your child gains skills for rolling the ball towards you, you can add in simple bowling games using empty bottles and other objects that are fun to knock over.
Toys 19-24 months
Now is a good time to start introducing puzzle with more complex forms, but where each piece still has a set space. I tend to start with three piece puzzles and build up from there.
I often get wide-eyed expressions from parents when I suggest a piggy bank. I’m not talking about one for actual pennies! This toy is great as kids work at opening the door to access the coins, can press the nose to hear songs and other sounds and work at putting coins in the slot on the top. Most kids are pretty quick to realize that putting the coins in the slot horizontally is easier than vertically, but encourage them to try both ways.
This is usually about the time that kiddos start showing more interest in coloring. A way to have coloring be accessible throughout the day is a Magna Doodle. Watch out for ones that come with small magnets as they can be a choking hazard.
I love this toy for many reasons. The sides of the house all depict a part of a house: front door, living room, kitchen and a bathroom. Each side also has fun finger activities that encourage little ones to work at using their fingers in different ways. This one is great with and without the sound turned on.
This is a time to encourage stacking. Get creative! You can stack blocks, but canned foods, shoe boxes, puzzle pieces and many other items from around the house work great.
I often look for toys that are fun when they are turned on and when they are turned off. This one has been a hit for a long time. The gears can stack on top of one another and the large button on the bottom is perfect for little hands to work with to turn on the spinning and musical function.