Age-Appropriate Toys

I Want What is Best for My Baby

Parents who want to ensure their children are experiencing optimal opportunity for growth and development want to know how best to make that happen. Concern over whether they are giving the children the best toys to play with is one of the things on their minds. How do we know when to give our children more advanced toys - and what are those toys?

Designers and producers of children's toys have come a long way in terms of researching child development to discover the best kinds of toys for each developmental stage. However, when you walk into a toy store and are confronted with an endless supply of goods, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which ones are the best. Certainly, age-recommendations appear on many if not most of the toys, and they are there to alert the parent to the age-appropriateness of the toy.

The Choices Can Be Overwhelming

In most stores, including online stores, toys are distinguished by age group. Baby toys are divided into infant toys, baby toys, and toddler toys. From that point, the category changes to preschool toys and children's toys. Now the question becomes, how old is an infant, and when does a baby become a toddler? There are general guidelines, but it is important to note that children progress at different speeds. A baby made become a toddler (one who toddles around) at seven months.

In order to determine the right age-appropriate toys for your child, it's a good idea to learn about child development. You don't need to get a degree (you'll have the equivalent just raising your child), but by reading some good material on the subject you can begin to see where your child's development level is and have an idea what kinds of toys the child would enjoy playing with. Of course, at the end of the day, if your child likes the toy, he or she will play with it, if not, no matter how age-appropriate or educational it is it will sit in the toy box.

Infant Toys for Birth to 12 Months

During the first year of your baby's life, infant toys are the toys you will buy. Remember, that in the first three months, while baby is grasping by reflex, the best infant toys are human. Babies in the first stages of life need interaction from mom and dad. They thrive on hearing your voices, being held and touched, and having intimate interaction. They will hold onto a rattle, your finger, anything they can grasp. Wrist rattles, ankle rattles, and brightly colored mobiles stimulate activity. Music is important, both to stimulate and to soothe. As baby moves beyond three months, rattles and music continue to be important and teethers come on the scene. Everything goes into the mouth, which is an infant's primary discovery tool. Non-toxic, organic, chemical-free toys to chew on can be added. Between six months and a year, blocks, sorters, and other toys that build hand-eye coordination and motor skills can be added.

Toys for Ages 12 to 18 Months

Baby toys for ages 12 to 18 months are more developed. This is traditionally the beginning of the toddler stage, when your baby is off and motoring around the house - pushing toys, pulling toys, and riding toys. Your baby may still enjoy some of the toys he or she played with prior, especially the blocks and sorters, but now it's on to bigger and better things. Toddlers begin to test boundaries and start flexing their muscles at this stage of development. Climbing, running, and jumping blend beautifully with coloring and drawing (mostly scribbling) and "free-style" painting. Building things with construction toys and blocks and playing dress-up are also favorites for toddlers. Toddlers still like to put things in their mouths so it continues to be important to watch for small parts on toys. Make sure the paints and crayons are non-toxic as well.

Older Toddlers, 18 Months to 3 Years

Older toddlers, from 18 months to 3 years love songs, poems, and stories. This is where "let's pretend" gets a real workout. Motion is fun, so they combine jumping with hopping and it becomes dancing. This is the time to begin to teach rhythm and, if they have a bent toward music, encourage playing toy instruments. Many toddlers begin music lessons at age three and they are very adept. Toddlers at this stage love books and stories and will sit and listen to a book being read to them - over and over again. They memorize a lot of what they hear and will want to read the book to you after a time.

Relax and Enjoy The Time With Your Child

Age-appropriate toys are designed to stimulate and encourage growth. Knowing your child is the best way to determine which toys are best. You may find that clutching a stuffed animal while reading a book is more fun for you little one than riding a riding toy. Each child is different and grows at his or her own pace. By honoring that and encouraging development with specialty toys, you can be sure your child is getting the best you have to give.

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