Becoming a new parent? Toys are essential to your baby’s development. However, there are a few safety rules to follow and you need to choose the right toys for your child’s stage of development. While a good toy should be a source of discovery and entertainment for your child, it’s not easy to find your way through the toy jungle. Here are some tips on how to choose the right toy for your child.
Games and toys
When a child plays, it’s not just a distraction. When adults play cards or tennis, they’re looking for relaxation: playing is the opposite of working. For the child, playing is to exercise his mind and his strength. Playing is their normal activity and is an essential part of their development.
By playing, the child develops his imagination, his creativity: he experiences an activity that belongs to him by expressing his reactions, his emotions. When Lisa scolds her doll for wetting her panties, she is probably imitating the severity of her parents. Axel was very afraid because a car skidded in front of theirs: for several days, he “replayed” this accident with his little cars. Sarah had a lot of fun at the school fair; with her stuffed animals, she re-enacted the activities and games that she particularly enjoyed. It is important that children have time for these free, spontaneous games; they do not need to be constantly occupied with activities that may seem more useful or with sophisticated toys.
Preferences at different ages
Depending on the age of their child, parents don’t always know what toys to offer. When they walk into a store, it is more often to ask for “a toy for a 2-year-old girl or a 3-year-old boy” than for a doll or a car. But each age has its own preferences. That’s why we hope to help you by giving you a commented list of toys that will please your child from 1 month to 4 years old. Of course, if your child doesn’t like building sets or puzzles at the age when other children are interested in them, don’t draw any conclusions about his development. He simply has other interests and you will surely find them.
1 to 4 months
He is discovering sounds and colors. This is the age of rattles: large ones with a wide handle because a baby has trouble grasping; with colored balls or bells; to chew on to soothe the gums; with a chain that can be attached to the crib or baby carriage, etc. You can also hang animals on the bed; choose them in rubber or fabric, so they are washable, because your baby will soon be putting them in his mouth. You can also hang up a mobile, as babies like things that move. You will notice that already at this age, the child can tell the difference between hard and soft, between a rag doll and a plastic rattle.
4 to 8 months
Your baby learns to use his hands in many different ways: he feels, scratches, pulls, presses, lets go. Put your baby on a playmat so he can try out the things he’s interested in doing at this age. Alternate positions on his stomach and on his back until he knows how to roll over on his own. Give him rubber animals that make noise when squeezed, and more clever rattles that will give him new satisfactions, such as a musical rattle. He likes to look at little mirrors and sometimes, without knowing it, discover his face in them. He enjoys looking at picture books. This is the age when children try to lift themselves up to sit down; a small gantry attached to their bed or playpen will amuse them greatly. At night, a music box will help them fall asleep.
8 to 12 months
You can put your child in his playpen with his toys around him. Throwing things as far and as often as possible, not to annoy you, but to see where they fall, is the most fun. So give him toys that don’t break: rubber animals, plastic blocks, cloth dolls, stuffed animals. He also likes to play with beads and spirals, moving large beads along several axes. He exercises his skill with rings to be placed on a central axis to build a pyramid. Shaking a game that makes noise (a rain stick or a “moo box”) makes him laugh a lot. He loves – and will continue to love in the next stage – boxes of all kinds: shoe boxes, plastic boxes… He’s always putting in and taking out cubes and other treasures, and he also practices closing the lids. At this age, he’s starting to crawl and enjoys small objects that he can hold in one hand while moving around. For bath time, give him floating animals: fish, ducks, frogs…
12 to 18 months
Pushing a toy that rolls in front of him, and on which he has the impression of leaning, gives confidence to the child who is taking his first steps: wooden animal, musical roller, etc. He will also like to pull toys at the end of a string. When he is sitting, with his now more skilful hands, he stacks and nests circles and cups. He also likes books that you have to press to make the sounds that correspond to the pictures (animal cries, wind, rain, musical instruments…), little plastic cars, and big Lego®. Since this is also the age when he starts to want to eat by himself, he plays and practices with a spoon and a plastic bowl. For bath time, give him containers that allow him to empty, fill and decant. This is also the age of the first sand pies. Give him molds, a bucket, a watering can, and the water or sand mill. Think about foam balls.
18 months to 2 years
He touches everything, runs around, makes noise, moves, carries. So, to satisfy these new interests, give him a horse with wheels, a wooden train that he can drag from one end of his room to the other: for him, dragging is progress, it’s more difficult than pushing. He also knows how to get on a truck and drive it; he fills his trailer with wooden bricks. He likes to knock over plastic skittles and tries to pick them up. For quiet time, give him something to practice his skills with: wooden puzzles, nesting eggs and barrels, a “shape sorter” (a box-like toy with holes in the lid of the box that have pieces of different shapes attached to them; the child has to fit each piece into the corresponding opening). At this age, he or she can also play with a mallet on a wooden workbench or a xylophone. Finally, as early as 18 months, a child likes to be told a short story.
2 to 3 years old
Until this age, we generally offer the same toys to boys and girls. But from the age of 2 to 2 1/2 years, habits and environment make that we give dolls to girls and cars to boys. But if one wants games that are generally attributed to the other sex, why refuse them? Some girls enjoy playing with toy cars, just as some boys enjoy playing with a bear or a doll. Jules’ parents noticed that when he went to his cousins’ house, he would play with their little stroller. They gave him one for his 2nd birthday and Jules is thrilled to be walking his stuffed rabbit. This is the age when children begin to imitate their parents and the adults around them: driving a car, making phone calls, going on trips, doing the housework or the market. Melodie, 2 and a half years old, can play the tea party game for a long time: feeding her dolls, the adults around her, herself, cooking. Ernest loves to participate with his parents in the preparation of the family meal.
At this age, boys and girls love the wooden village, farm animals and, for the garden, a wheelbarrow. Think about offering your children stickers, felt pens, colored pencils, modeling clay (even if you find it “dirty”!), and later on cutting with scissors (round and always in the presence of an adult). These activities are simple, inexpensive and yet many children arrive at school without ever having had these objects in their hands. For exercise, children like the tricycle, the rocking horse, and when they are tired, they enjoy looking at a picture book, or practicing their skills with nesting boxes.
This is the age of imagination. A long dress and a crown turn the little girl into a princess; with a scarf and a cape, the little boy becomes a pirate. Some children love to dress up, others hate it. Wearing a mask can impress them. Boys and girls treat their bear or doll with a doctor’s kit. They are increasingly interested in books: by looking at the pictures, they make up stories themselves. They like construction games, big puzzles, first coloring; and in the garden, the swing and the slide.