There are many toys and appropriate play materials that are actually free, as they are typically found right in your own home. Things like cardboard boxes, plastic bowls and lids, collections of plastic bottle caps, and other “treasures” can be used in more than one way by children of different ages. In this part of my blog, and in followup posts, I have lists of some toys for children of different ages. However, keep in mind that no two children develop at the same pace. Each child develops at their own pace. Items on one list—as long as they are safe—can be good choices for children who are younger and older than the suggested age range.
I've talked about choosing safe toys, but you also need to keep in mind that good toys for young children also need to match their stages of development and their emerging abilities.
Toys for young infants—birth through 6 months
Babies like to look at people—following them with their eyes. They typically prefer faces and bright colors. Babies can reach, be fascinated with what their hands and feet can do, turn their heads toward sounds lift their heads, put things in their mouths, and much more!
Good toys for young infants:
- Things they can reach for, hold, suck-- soft dolls, textured balls, and vinyl and board books
- Things to listen to—books with nursery rhymes and poems, and recordings of lullabies and simple songs
- Things to look at—pictures of faces hung so baby can see them and unbreakable mirrors
Toys for older infants—7 to 12 months
Older babies are movers—typically they go from rolling over and sitting, to scooting, bouncing, creeping, pulling themselves up, and standing. They understand their own names and other common words, can identify body parts, find hidden objects, and put things in and out of containers.
Good toys for older infants:
- Things to play pretend with—baby dolls, puppets, wood vehicles with wheels, and water toys
- Things to drop and take out—plastic bowls, large beads, balls, and nesting toys
- Things to build with—large soft blocks and wooden cubes
- Things to use their large muscles with—large balls, push and pull toys, and low, soft things to crawl over
Toys for 1-year-olds
One-year-olds are active and on the go! By now they can typically walk steadily and even climb stairs. They will enjoy stories, start saying their first words, and can play next to other children (but not yet with!). They like to experiment—but need adults to keep them safe.
Good toys for 1-year-olds:
- Board books with simple illustrations or photographs of real objects.
- Recordings with pictures, songs, rhymes ,and simple stories.
- Things they can create with—wide non-toxic, washable markers, crayons, and large paper
- Pretend type toys—toy phones, dolls and doll beds, baby carriages and strollers, dress-up accessories (scarves, purses), puppets, stuffed toys, plastic animals, and plastic and wood “realistic” vehicles
- Things to build with—cardboard and wood blocks (can be smaller than those used by infants—2 to 4 inches)
- Things to use their large and small muscles—puzzles, large pegboards, toys with parts that do things (dials, switches, knobs, lids), and large and small balls
Next time we'll move on to the toddlers and their toys.