Best Toys for Babies and Toddlers

by: Trish Kuffner, author of The Toddler's Busy Book
Here's some excellent tips for choosing and organizing a toddler's favorite toys.
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Best Toys for Babies and Toddlers

If your child is less than one year old, she probably has not yet amassed a big collection of toys. After a few birthdays and holiday celebrations, however, she will likely have more toys than you ever dreamed possible! It's a good idea to think ahead about the kinds of toys you want to invest in. There are a lot of toys out there, and more are coming out all the time. Some are worth the money they cost, while others definitely aren't.

When choosing toys for children, look for items that can be used in more than one way, that have stood the test of time, and that may be enjoyed through many years of childhood. The toys listed in this appendix meet all these criteria and are worth every penny.

For storage, try to stay away from toy boxes, which take up a lot of space and aren't particularly useful for organizing. (We have two toy boxes, lovingly handmade by Grandpa, that we use for stuffed animals and dress-up clothes.) Store items with many pieces in stackable, transparent plastic containers with lids. These fit well in closets or on shelves. Flat containers are also practical, as they slide easily under beds, utilizing otherwise wasted space. Storing toys in smaller containers instead of a toy box keeps pieces from getting mixed up (provided you don't allow your child to take out all the containers at once) and helps children develop organizational skills.

Other ideas for making the best use of toys include establishing a toy rotation or implementing a toy exchange with friends.

The book What to Expect the Toddler Years by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Markoff, and Sandee E. Hathaway includes a great list called "Toys for Tots Early in the Second Year." The list is organized according to skills the toys help develop. Most of our family favorites are included in this list, so I have organized my recommendations in somewhat the same way. Many toys help develop more than one skill, but for simplicity's sake, I have avoided duplications.

Toys that help build fine motor skills (many also encourage discovery and interest in the physical world):

beads nesting toys spools
blocks sandbox and sand toys stacking toys
boxes shape sorters water toys
containers simple wooden jigsaw puzzles  

Toys that help build gross motor skills:

balls push toys slides
pull toys riding toys swings

Toys that stimulate imagination (many also encourage learning about the grown-up world):

books fake food stuffed animals
building toys kitchen accessories tea sets
doll furniture puppets toy cars
dolls shopping carts toy telephones
dress-up clothes    

Toys that stimulate creativity (basic craft supplies):

child-safe scissors markers paper
coloring books paint playdough
crayons paintbrushes sponges

Toys that encourage musical play:

cassette tapes maracas tambourines
drums simple keyboards xylophones
sturdy cassette player    

© 1999 by Patricia Kuffner. Excerpted from The Toddler's Busy Book with permission of its publisher, Meadowbrook Press.

To order this book visit Meadowbrook Press.