Whether your baby is on the way, just arrived, or already settling in as the newest member of the family, chances are your toy collection is growing. In addition to safety, it’s important to also consider the developmental appropriateness of the toys you introduce to your child. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, while each child will develop at his or her individual pace, there are general guidelines to follow when selecting age-appropriate toys for infants and toddlers. Here, we’re offering tips for choosing toys at each stage as well as highlighting some of our favorite learning toys for young babies and toddlers.
Stage 1: Young Infants (birth through 6 months)
At this age, babies are interested in looking at people—especially faces—and bright colors. They are also beginning to discover their hands and feet, lift their heads, turn their heads toward sounds, put things in their mouths (careful!), and more. With all this in mind, choose toys that encourage your baby to use his or her hands, ears, and eyes.
Our favorite learning toys for young infants:
- A rattle is a simple yet ideal toy for young infants, as it helps to develop a baby’s grasp reflex and fine motor skills.
- It’s never too early to start reading to your child, and a book of lullabies is a sweet way to establish a bedtime routine. And we promise: your baby will love your singing voice, regardless of musical ability.
- A dual-facing mirror is a must-have for car travel, as you can keep an eye on baby while he or she stays entertained.
Stage 2: Older Infants (7 to 12 months)
As babies begin to explore their surroundings, they are also building their language skills (i.e. learning to understand their own names and other common words), and can start to identify body parts, find hidden objects, and place things in and out of containers.
Our favorite learning toys for older infants:
- Stimulate your child’s imagination by playing pretend with a puppet or doll.
- An etched wooden block set that features all the letters of the alphabet, numbers, and animals is a classic toy with endless, creative possibilities.
- Develop hand-eye coordination while also encouraging tactile exploration with this rainbow sensory ball that’s made of 100% natural rubber.
Stage 3: Young Toddlers (1-year-olds)
Curiosity is the name of the game for one-year-olds, and at this stage, your child is likely always on the go. Toys that encourage movement and creativity are essential—just be sure to have the necessary safety precautions in place.
Our favorite learning toys for young toddlers:
- For new walkers, a push and pull toy helps build strength and confidence.
- Young toddlers are beginning to enjoy listening to stories and say their first words, and a board book with simple illustrations or photographs will promote the development of your baby’s vocabulary and love of reading.
- Unleash your child’s inner artist with non-toxic, washable finger paint.
Stage 4: Older Toddlers (2-year-olds)
By two, your child has likely gained good control of his or her hands and fingers and likes to play with small objects. At this age, look for toys that require problem-solving skills, allow for creative uses, and will further develop your toddler’s large and small muscle groups.
Our favorite learning toys for older toddlers:
- A wooden puzzle is an educational and fun way to learn about different shapes.
- No matter the season, a sand table is perfect for creative play, plus it can be filled with all sorts of sensory items including rice and water for even more tactile exploration.
- Children at this age love to pretend, and a play kitchen set will make your little one feel like a Master Chef.
When it comes to choosing learning toys for young babies and toddlers, simplicity is key. Toys that can be played with in a variety of ways will help to encourage your child’s imagination, and allow him or her to make discoveries and create. And by paying attention to your baby’s development process, you can rest assured that you’re introducing age-appropriate toys at every stage.
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