Toys for young infants—birth through 6 months

Babies wish to watch people—following them with their eyes. Typically, they prefer faces and bright colors. Babies can reach, be fascinated with what their hands and feet can do, lift their heads, turn their heads toward sounds, put things in their mouths, and far more!

Good toys for young infants:

• Things they can reach for, hold, suck on, shake, make noise with—rattles, large rings, squeeze toys, teething toys, 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.

Toys for older infants—7 to 12 months

Older babies are movers—typically they are going to roll over and sit, 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 and pretend with—baby dolls, puppets, plastic and 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 on the go! Typically they will walk steadily and even climb stairs. They enjoy stories, say their first words, and may play next to other children (but not yet with!). They wish to experiment—but need adults need to make sure they keep them safe.

Good toys for 1-year-olds:

• Board books with simple illustrations or photographs of real objects

• Recordings with songs, rhymes, simple stories, and pictures

• 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 muscles with—large balls, push and pull toys, and low, soft things to crawl over

Toys for 2-year-olds (toddlers)

Toddlers are rapidly learning language and have some sense of danger. Nevertheless they are doing tons of physical “testing”: jumping from heights, climbing, hanging by their arms, rolling, and rough-and-tumble play. They have good control of their hands and fingers and wish to do things with small objects.

Good toys for 2-year-olds

• Things for solving problems—wood puzzles (with 4 to 12 pieces), blocks that snap together, objects to sort (by size, shape, color, smell), and things with hooks, buttons, buckles, and snaps,

• Things to create with—large non-toxic, washable crayons and markers, large paintbrushes and fingerpaint, large paper for drawing and painting, colored construction paper, toddler-sized scissors with blunt tips, chalkboard and large chalk, and rhythm instruments

• Things for using their large and small muscles—large and small balls for kicking and throwing, ride-on equipment (but probably not tricycles until children are 3), tunnels, low climbers with soft material underneath, and pounding and hammering toys

Toys for 3- to 6-year-olds (preschoolers and kindergarteners)

Preschoolers and kindergartners have longer attention spans than toddlers. Typically they talk tons and ask tons of questions. They like to experiment with things and with their still-emerging physical skills. They like to play with friends—and don’t like to lose! They can take turns—and sharing one toy by two or more children is often possible for older preschoolers and kindergarteners.

Good toys for 3- to 6-year-olds:

• Things for solving problems—puzzles (with 12 to 20+ pieces), blocks that snap together, collections and other smaller objects to sort by length, width, height, shape, color, smell, quantity, and other features—collections of plastic bottle caps, plastic bowls and lids, keys, shells, counting bears, small colored blocks

• Things for pretending and building—many blocks for building complex structures, transportation toys, construction sets, child-sized furniture (“apartment” sets, play food), dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, puppets and simple puppet theaters, and sand and water play toys

• Things to create with—large and small crayons and markers, large and small paintbrushes and fingerpaint, large and small paper for drawing and painting.