Toys from infant to 5 years
Developmental ages Birth-1
Babies spend their first year content to learn about the world through their association with their parents, siblings and themselves. Around the first birthday, a child's world begins to expand. Now children are mastering use of their hands to grasp and release objects. A perfect example of this is the child who can ceaselessly pick up and drop Cheerios from the tray of the highchair. They are also beginning to understand the people and objects in their world by grabbing, pounding, mouthing, tearing, etc. Many may be pulling themselves up to stand with support from mom, dad or furniture. At this point, store-bought toys pale by comparison with all of the other objects that are up for grabs (literally). However, some objects that are favored by children at this age include boxes with lids and chunky objects that cannot be swallowed to put in and take out of the boxes, toys that include pegs to be hammered through a hole or balls that roll down a chute. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, safe toys for babies are those 1.68 inches in diameter or larger.
Developmental ages 1-3
At around 12 to 15 months, children's ability to grasp objects and manipulate them becomes more advanced. They are making the connection between cause and effect ("If I yell really loudly, Mommy will come running!"). Here begins the fascination with making noise by banging on pots and pans and repeatedly opening and closing cabinets and drawers both to see what's inside and to hear the noise they make. A sturdy set of chunky wooden blocks that come in various shapes and sizes and toys, such as stacking rings, where one object fits in sequence after another, are also good additions to the toddler toy chest.
As they near their second birthday, many toddlers enjoy kid-sized versions of the tools that mom and dad use everyday. Toy brooms, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers and gardening tools are wonderful props for playing at being grown-up and can give children's muscles a workout too. Once toddlers hit age two, they can distinguish simple forms and shapes. Now is a perfect time for shape sorters and wooden puzzles (the type in which a shape, often with a peg attached for grasping, is fitted into one of a few spaces in a frame).
At this point most children have developed strength and control over their bodies and no longer need to use their arms for support. This frees them to explore with their hands and arms like never before Balls become favorite playthings for many children. Try large beach-type balls for rolling and catching. Large wooden or colorful plastic stringing beads are great for enhancing hand/eye coordination.
Developmental ages 3-5.
By developmental age three, most children are masters at running, climbing and jumping and are beginning to show interest in other, more structured types of play. Children at this age will begin scribbling and cutting. Paper, finger paint, chunky crayons and blunt tipped scissors are good choices for craft supplies. Many preschoolers love to don a cape or crown and pretend to be a favored superhero or a member of royalty. At this age a good set of building blocks is still a wonderful toy that can be played with in many different and imaginative ways. They are also more likely to teach math skills than expensive electronic toys that work only when you push certain buttons or when they have charged batteries in them. Dolls are also great basic toys that can be used for role playing, making up stories and other verbal exchanges and practicing emotions.
Whatever choice of toys parents make, play is the most important thing you can do with your child. It’s really how kids learn about their world and how to interact with other people.