Eight Great Toys for Babies and Toddlers
Shopping for baby toys can be an exercise in dodging slick marketing campaigns — so many toys are designed to appeal to mom and dad rather than to the baby. That’s why so many little ones find the boxes and sparkly packaging more intriguing than the toy itself, much to the chagrin of parents.
But this doesn’t always have to be the case. There are many engaging and thoughtful toys designed especially for infants and toddlers that have enduring appeal. Most often, they are colourful, stimulate more than one sense, and attract attention because they help babies work on developmentally appropriate skills. Most babies will enjoy shape-sorters, stacking toys and puzzles (with big, easy-to-manipulate pieces), which promote the use of fine-motor skills. Similarly, mirrors, peek-a-boo toys and playthings with open-ended imaginary potential will keep little minds engaged. I recommend the following toys because of the clever and innovative ways they keep children stimulated.
Taggies Look At Me! Activity Mirror
Newborn to 12 months. $53. All of the Taggies products offer babies a variety of tactile experiences and the opportunity to play with the little fabric tags on these soft toys. The colourful mirror can be used flat or in the wedge shape to encourage babies to spend time on their tummies. The smiling three-dimensional soft animals on the front and back come with music, lights, clicking sounds, tactile features, rattles, squeakers, crinkles and several Taggies looped tags.
Put & Peek Birdhouse by Manhattan Toy
Newborn to 18 months. $24.99. Four colourful, differently textured little birds come with their own soft birdhouse in this classic pour-and-play baby toy, where little hands work to repeatedly fill and empty a container (in this case, a cloth birdhouse). Little ones will begin to understand cause and effect while honing fine motor skills, as they manipulate the individual pieces and push them into the holes. Both babies and toddlers will enjoy the imaginative potential of this toy, and the textured birds are safe for babies to put in their mouths and are easy to manipulate.
Triple Stacking Set by Melissa and Doug.
Ages 6 to 24 months. $19.95. This traditional stacking toy offers a clever twist on the usual pole and rings because it has a wooden base with three poles with stacking rings of various shapes and sizes. Although all the colourful pieces fit together in one correct way, the fun is in rearranging them in different ways, combining the squares, circles and triangles and seeing the results. Babies will enjoy manipulating the pieces, then putting them onto the poles. Toddlers and even preschoolers will enjoy the mix and match building.
The Lamaze Chime Garden
Newborn to 18 months. $27. Five friendly flower faces light up and smile on this engaging toy. Bright colours and fun textures entice baby to look, reach, and touch. Sweet sounds play when baby touches a flower, teaching cause and effect. Three musical modes, including chimes, and three songs will delight baby without annoying grown-ups.
My 1st Kitchen by The Little Toy Company
Ages 6 to 24 months. $39.95. This 2008 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award winner is a complete kitchen, scaled down to baby and toddler size, so they can pretend to cook alongside you. Little hands grasp and manipulate the well-designed pots, pans, utensils and food, and they will rattle when you shake them. Dials can be spun, buttons pushed, lights lit and the toast will even pop up when it’s done.
eeBoo Once Upon a Time Matching & Memory Game by eeBoo
Ages 1 to 3. $13.95. A 2008 Oppenheim Platinum Award winner, this elementary match and memory game features beautiful fairy tale characters (not licensed to any film or TV show, as a refreshing change). The cards are substantial and will stand up to wear and tear. The game can be played in several ways, with the beautiful matching tablecloth as a play station.
See Me Sensory Ball by Edushape
Ages 6 to 24 months. $12. Sometimes the simplest toys are the ones with the most enduring appeal. This 16.5 cm see-through, inflated ball has a soft, nubby texture to help small hands grasp, catch, throw and roll. The bright colours make it all the more appealing.
Together Tunes Too by Neurosmith
Newborn to 18 months. $79.95. Another Oppenheim Platinum Award winner, this cuddly cube begs to be explored, handled, tossed and flipped. Each face invites a variety of opportunities to engage; stories about the lovely designs, flaps that open, six different songs to sing (with three levels of volume control, and a print-out of the lyrics for mom and dad). The images have extra-sensitive touch activation, so even babies as young as 5 months can reach out and make something magical happen.