This play-focused, build those super-important foundational skills idea is brought to you by Melissa & Doug, written by our Blog Ambassador Amy Mascott.
With a million, trillion toys on the market these days, how do you know which to choose for your little ones? What toys should parents be looking for in terms of quality, engagement, excitement, and learning potential?
As a parent of three and former classroom educator, I’m partial to toys that pack an extra punch–I want toys to open doors to imaginative play while at the same time help kiddos to develop all of those super-important foundational skills.
Here are my top five must-have toys for baby’s first year (okay, and a wee bit beyond!):
1. Wooden Movable Caterpillar: (6 mos) What I love about the Wooden Movable Caterpillar is that it’s the perfect size for little hands, it’s bright, and it’s completely engaging in its simplicity. As soon as babies can reach and grasp, the caterpillar is the ideal size for that initial pull, and it’s the ideal color for early focus. Tiny fingers will reach for the caterpillar’s antennae, and you will be in awe of the child’s repeated attempts to pinch the antennae between those fingers. Super-awesome fine motor skill-building!
Using the six colors of the caterpillar’s body for color identification and early counting brings in even more foundational skills for little ones.
2. Stuffed Bug Fill and Spill Set: (6 mos) Just about the time that babies are learning to sit on their own, the Stuffed Fill and Spill Set is a toy that encourages the larger muscle movements of filling and emptying a container. And because the four tiny bugs–a grasshopper, spider, ladybug, and butterfly–have unique and exciting design elements that will encourage fine motor development, this set is the perfect combination.
Not a fan of cute and sweet insects? Consider the other Fill and Spill toys (which I also adore): Fill and Spill Picnic Basket, Fishbowl Fill and Spill, Pretty Purse Fill and Spill, Toolbox Fill and Spill, or Sports Bag Fill and Spill.
3. Stuffed Rainbow Stacker: (9 mos) A classic toy with a new twist, I love that this stacker is soft, squishy, and made with durable material that is easy to grasp, squeeze, and stack. As little ones are sitting and standing, this toy continues to support the development of larger-muscle groups and gross motor skills while at the same time introducing hand-eye coordination skills needed to put each ring on the stacker.
Each ring is made of several different textures which kids will love, and each makes its own sound: jingle, rattle, squeak, and crinkle.
This toy lends itself to talking about the basics of color identification, counting, and now caregivers can introduce early math vocabulary (over, above, below, next, last, biggest, smallest, etc.) as they stack the rings.
4. Wooden Movable Fish Grasping Toy: (12 mos) I have watched numerous toddlers use this toy to twist, flip, straighten, circle, and then do it all over again. Six brightly colored, happy little fish are connected by a strong elastic cord, and when twisted into position, they can form a perfect circle.
This grasping toy is small enough to fit in a diaper bag or purse but will keep little ones engaged for quite a some time. Once children learn how to twist the six fish into position, they will be thrilled to demonstrate how they can create a circle out of their swimming, smiling fish toy.
5. High Sea Symphony Toy Instruments: (18 mos) A totally new and exciting spin on the typical music set, this sea-inspired instrument set takes ocean friends to a whole new level. A seahorse shaker, double clam clickers, an octopus tambourine, and crab clanger are the perfect size for small hands, each with their own unique sounds and shapes.
Children will experiment with sounds as they move and rattle the pieces, and conversations about colors, numbers, patterns, and rhythm can add to the playtime fun.
Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:
- Baby and Toddler Toys| Melissa & Doug
- Best Toys for 1 Year Olds | Melissa & Doug
- Best Toys for 2 Year Olds | Melissa & Doug
- foundations | teachmama
- we teach: toddlers | Shannon Tot School
Hang with Amy over at teachmama.com for more cool, super-sneaky ways to throw in some learning in the name of fun or join her at we teach–a forum for parents and teachers to connect, share ideas and grow–no matter the classroom. Or tweet with her (@teachmama), pin with her or chat with her on Facebook!
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