Although the first months of our babies’ lives are marked mostly by sleepless nights, overcoming difficulties and a lot of adjustments, they remain precious to us. As they grow, take their first steps and learn about the world, we learn and grow with them. Trying to provide for them the best we can, we sift through toys, looking for the ones that will stimulate their imagination.
This isn’t always an easy decision to make, so here’s a short guide to the best toys for each stage of a child’s development.
Safety always comes first, so make sure the toys you pick are well-made, without small pieces that can be swallowed by accident, with no sharp edges or splinters, painted with lead-free, non-toxic paint and can be easily cleaned. For electric toys, check the label as it’s important they are UL Approved.
Toys for the first six months
For the first couple for months, the baby can’t really do much besides observe its surroundings, particularly movements and sounds. Very soon they’ll start reaching for things that will most likely end in up in their mouth! What attracts their attention is anything that has contrasting colours and makes noises, so the best toys for this age are colourful crib mobiles, rattles, teething toys, floor gyms and soft, washable stuffed balls or animals.
Toys for infants from 7 to 12 months
At this stage, babies become much more physical and they start pulling themselves up, sitting, crawling and standing. They will know their names, understand some common words, look for hidden things and pull and push things, so for this developmental phase, your best choice for toys are puppets, baby dolls, toy vehicles, large, soft building blocks, balls and toys they can push and pull.
Toys for toddlers
At this age, babies’ motor skills are developing quickly and they are fascinated by cause and effect so they will enjoy immensely in anything that will respond to their actions. Recommended toys here are play tools such as hammers, music toys with buttons, toys that move, make sounds and have characters that pop out, puzzles with 4 to 12 pieces, building blocks that snap together and all kinds of props for make-believe games, such as a tea party set, hand puppets, dolls and strollers and dress-up costumes.
The latter is very popular with toddlers in the US and Europe, since at this age, many of them already have their favourite Disney cartoon characters and love to dress-up and act out the roles they had seen on the big screen.
Toys for kindergarteners and pre-schoolers
This age is characterized by a developmental boom and an increase in children’s attention span. They ask a lot of question, experiment and get very creative. This is a great time to introduce educational toys that teach maths and verbal skills, such as phonic boards and mini computers. They are able to do more complex construction and build with smaller blocks, do arts and crafts and more complex puzzles.
Now, they are even more able to imagine and fantasize, so besides pretending to be pilots, doctors or superheroes, they also enjoy recreating real-life situations or their favourite cartoons and movies using their dolls or action figures. A great example are pop vinyl figures from Australia that allow kids to act out scenes from their favourite Disney cartoon, Marvel movie or even music bands.
You don’t need to break the bank buying toys for your children. The best approach is to get informed, make a careful pick and watch and see how the toys sit with your child. Keep it a safe and diversified choice and let your child discover creative ways to use them, learn and have fun.