Most new parents suffer a low-grade level of anxiety over whether they’re providing their babies with enough stimulation. (Does she have enough toys? The right ones? Are we teaching him the right skills for his age?) So we asked our developmental experts over at Seedlings Group for some learning-through-play guidelines, along with a list of their favorite toys for every age and stage.
Go for quality over quanity. Buy a few high-quality toys rather than lots of junky plastic ones. Your baby will get more out of them and your apartment will look less cluttered. Keep it simple. If it needs batteries, it probably requires less creativity on your child’s part. Let them lead. If your child doesn’t want to engage in a game you initiate, let him lead you in the play direction he prefers. A simple game of peek-a-boo is one of the biggest brain-boosters out there. Set them up for success. Parents tend to get toys that are too advanced, which won’t make them smarter—just frustrated. Instead, offer toys that are slightly challenging but doable. When in doubt, buy blocks. Wooden unit blocks are recommended, above all other toys, for nurturing social/emotional, physical and cognitive development—beginning as early as 6 months and lasting throughout the preschool years.
THE SEEDLINGS GROUP TOY-SHOPPING GUIDE*
By 3 Months Introduce a rattle, some grasping toys, and other objects that your baby can enjoy looking at. RECOMMENDED TOYS: Haba Clutching Toy; Skwish Toy by Manhattan Toy; Tiny Love’s Gymini Total Playground; Haba Discovery Ball with Rattle
By 6 Months Introduce a ball your baby can roll, and wooden blocks (your baby won’t be stacking them for months, but will enjoy mouthing and holding them). RECOMMENDED TOYS: Edushape foam blocks; First Building Blocks by Tag Toys; Boon bath toys
By 12 Months Consider a push toy, an egg shaker, some finger puppets and a doll. RECOMMENDED TOYS: Personalized dolls from BabyBox; Maclaren doll stroller; Plan Toys Maracas; Melissa & Doug Jumbo Knob Puzzles; Kid O Sorting Colors Toy
By 18 Months You will find your 18-24 month-old beginning to engage in pretend play. Provide props that allow for imitating real life, such as kitchens, dress-up costumes, phones, and baby dolls. Puzzles, sorting boxes, and child-sized musical instruments are also developmentally appropriate for growing toddlers. RECOMMENDED TOYS: Hasbro’s Mr. Potato Head; Haba Jumbo Pegboard; Broom & Mop Stand from michaelolaf.com; Plan Toys pull toy; Stockmar beeswax crayons
By 24 Months Shapes that were introduced much earlier will come together, and block play will finally be about building and not knocking down. (Be sure to get old-fashioned blocks, rather than magnetic ones, which allow your child to figure out how to balance and build.) A 2-year-old’s fine motor skills are getting fine-tuned and are very important for later writing; beading, play-dough, lacing, and Lego’s are great for exercising those pre-writing fingers. RECOMMENDED TOYS: Schleich animal figurines; giggle’s multi-use easel; Tag Toys Magnetic Color Sorter; Haba Threading Beads; Green Toys Tea Set; Tag Toys Lock Box Memory Game; Bajo Lacing Shoe; Feeleez Empathy Game
*Seedlings Group does our best to choose safe, well-crafted toys, but cannot be held responsible for product recalls. Additionally, we encourage parents to always be mindful of choking hazards.