Infant & Toddler Toy Guide - Part 1

THINKAMAJIGS’ GUIDE TO CHOOSING EDUCATIONAL TOYS FROM BIRTH TO AGE 3

PART 1: SKILLS DEVELOPMENT

“What are the best educational toys for my child at different ages and stages of development?”

We hear this question a lot - it's something many new parents struggle with. There are a lot of options available, so we have developed some guidelines to help you identify the best educational toys for each step of your child’s growth and learning.

Part 1 looks at skills development, and in Part 2 we will look at age-related developmental stages.

While there are distinct stages of development during the first several years of their lives, each child learns and masters skills at their own pace. Most toy packaging indicates a recommended age range, and we’ve categorized our toys and teaching materials by those criteria. Determining the recommended age for a particular toy is generally based on two factors: safety, and developmental abilities. Safety requirements are legislated and enforced by governmental agencies, while the appropriateness for a particular developmental stage is decided by the manufacturer, based on research and focus group studies.

You should always check safety warnings on packaging to confirm any hazards to a younger child, such as strings or elastics (strangulation danger), sharp edges that could cut little hands, noisy toys that might damage hearing, or small parts that are easily swallowed. It is important to always supervise children closely while they play.

It's also important to recognize that one toy can serve different purposes beyond its immediately obvious intention. For example, our Fraction Bricks – Circles is a set of small, colourful wooden blocks that are in a whole, halves, thirds and quarters. Because the blocks are different shapes and are too big to fit into their mouth, this toy is a great way for infants to develop gross motor skills like grasping and manipulation. Those later become fine motor skills as the child learns to assemble the pieces in the base tray. Soon you’re using that same toy for language development as she learns the names of the colours, and for sorting as she figures out how to group the pieces by colour. Even though it'scalled “Fraction Bricks”, there are many learning opportunities beyond what the name suggests.

WHAT SKILLS SHOULD I BE FOCUSING ON?

On our website, we have organized our Infant & Toddler toys into 8 different categories according to the skills they help develop: cognition, motor skills, sorting, balance, counting, auditory, language, and tactile.

Cognition

This refers to a child’s general understanding of their surroundings and how the world works, and involves the development of attention, focus, planning, memory and reasoning. Teaching concepts like object permanence, gravity, cause-and-effect, action-and-reaction, etc., provides a foundation for your baby's interaction with the people and things around him.

Suggestions:

  • Building blocks and constructive games

Fraction Blocks - 18 months+

Chromatix Building Blocks - 2 years+

Geometric Stacker - 2 years+

Four By Four Building Blocks - 3 years+

  • Memory games

Clever Cat Memory Game - 1 year+

Memo Game - 3 years+

  • Object permanence toys

Object Permanence Box with Drawer - 6 months+

Object Permanence Box with Tray - 6 months+

Coin Box - 6 months+

  • Shape-matching puzzles

Shape Matching Puzzle - 6 months+

Geo Matching Blocks - 1 year+

Shape & Sort It Out - 1 year+

  • Stacking games

Baby Blocks - 18 months+

Stacking Rings - 18 months+

Stacking Tree - 2 years+

Geo Stacking Rocks - 3 years+

Motor Skills

Motor skills are divided into gross skills (sitting, crawling, walking, throwing a ball, etc.) and fine skills (grasping toys, feeding themselves, writing, drawing, etc). Infants don’t have a lot of control over their bodies at the beginning, but the right toys can help them learn to use their hands, control their movements more precisely, and improve hand-eye coordination.

Suggestions:

  • Balancing toys and games

On The Farm Stacking Cubes - 1 year+

Stacking Game - 3 years+

Rainbow River Stones Set - 2 years+

Balancing Arctic Circle - 3 years+

  • Bead mazes

Double Bubble - 6 months+

Spring-A-Ling - 6 months+

Magnetic Town Maze - 18 months+

Maze Balance Board - 3 years+

  • Building blocks

Twist & Turntables - 2 years+

Geometric Stacker - 2 years+

Curve Blocks - 2 years+

Four By Four Building Blocks - 3 years+

  • Nesting and stacking toys

Stack & Learn Blocks - 1 year+

Geo Matching Blocks - 1 year+

Stacking Rings - 18 months+

Alphabet Nesting & Stacking - 2 years+

  • Shape-matching puzzles

3 Shapes Inset Puzzle - 6 months+

Geo Matching Blocks - 1 year+

Shape & Sort It Out - 1 year+

Pre-K Extra Big Skills: Sorting & Matching - 3 years+

Sorting

This involves the ability to sort and classify objects according to various attributes, make matches, and compare similarities and differences. Even if a child hasn’t learned to say the words yet, teaching her to recognize qualities like shape, colour, and size, and then grouping things with similar qualities together lays the groundwork for the development of logical thought and problem-solving skills.

Suggestions:

  • Building blocks

Ordering Blocks - 18 months+

Ordering Cubes - 18 months+

Chromatix Building Blocks - 2 years+

Four By Four Building Blocks - 3 years+

  • Multi-piece sets with a variety of shapes/colours/sizes

Creative Peg Puzzle - 18 months+

Colour Pie - 2 years+

  • Smelling and tasting activities

Tasting Bottles - 2 years+

  • Sorting and matching activities

Geo Matching Blocks - 1 year+

Fit & Play - 1 year+

Beehives - 3 years+

Flags of Canada 3-Part Cards - 3 years+ (other sets available)

  • Tactile or textural materials

Jungle Activity Playmat - 0 months+

Farm Activity Playmat - 0 months+

Sensory Tumbling Toys - 6 months+

Touch Sensory Tray - 1 year+

Balance

Related to motor skills, balance is the ability to coordinate, control and move the body. Even before a child has the strength and control to stand up, he can begin to understand the concept of balance by using his hands to work with toys and observing what happens when things get off-kilter.

Suggestions:

  • Active play toys like balance boards and walking paths

Rainbow River Stones Set - 2 years+

Tactile Wavy Path - 2 years+

Rocking See Saw - 3 years+

Maze Balance Board - 3 years+

  • Building blocks

On The Farm Stacking Cubes - 1 year+

Chromatix Building Blocks - 2 years+

Four By Four Building Blocks - 3 years+

Geo Stacking Rocks - 3 years+

  • Multi-piece sets with a variety of shapes/colours/sizes

Geometric Stacker - 2 years+

Chromatix Building Blocks - 2 years+

Creative Stones - 2 years+

  • Nesting and stacking toys

Stack & Learn Blocks - 1 year+

Alphabet Nesting & Stacking - 2 years+

Stacking Game - 3 years+

Geo Matching Blocks - 1 year+

Stacking Rings - 18 months+

  • Roly-poly toys

Sensory Tumbling Toy - 6 months+

Peek-A-Boo Roller - 6 months+

Counting

It's never too early to start counting because, at the beginning of a baby's life, she is absorbing the sounds of language all the time. Even at four months, hearing numbers repeatedly can put her well on her way to understanding the basic idea of quantity. Soon she’ll learn to recognize numbers and gain a basic understanding of addition and subtraction.

Suggestions

  • Fraction toys

Fraction Bricks: 5 Shapes - 6 months+

Fraction Bricks: Circles - 6 months+

Colour Pie - 2 years+

Fraction Cubes - 3 years+

  • Math and counting books and games

Preschool Math Practice Pad - 3 years+

Write & Wipe Counting - 3 years+

Numbers & You Magnetic Game Box - 3 years+

  • Multi-piece sets with a variety of shapes/colours/sizes

3 Shapes Inset Puzzle - 6 months+

Creative Peg Puzzle - 18 months+

Counting & Sorting - 2 years+

Counting Shape Stacker - 2 years+

  • Number cards/counters/spindles

Number Cards & Counters - 3 years+

Numbered Spindle Box With Spindles - 4 years+

Cut-Out Numerals & Counters - 4 years+

  • Sorting and matching activities

Shape & Sort It Out - 1 year+

Ring Counter - 2 years+

Geometric Sorting Board - 2 years+

Auditory

Sounds can be just as soothing and stimulating to a baby as touch and sight, and you’ll notice your baby reacting to sounds early on. Soon, he’ll start to focus on where the sound is coming from and responding to it. Toys and activities that introduce new sounds and help him to associate those sounds with people, things, and events help to promote awareness and socialization.

Suggestions:

  • Multi-sound toys

Geometric Rattles - 0 months+

Sound Discovery Blocks - 1 year+

Audio Sensory Tray - 1 year+

Animal Shaker Set - 1 year+

  • Rattles and rollers

Bell Rattle - 4 months+

Key Rattle - 4 months+

Beads Rattle - 4 months+

Roller Rattle - 6 months+

  • Simple musical instruments

Train Whistle - 2 years+

Small Maracas - 2 years+

Kids Make Music Set - 2 years+

Learn To Play Ukelele - 3 years+

  • Sound matching activities

Sound Boxes - 3 years+

  • Squeezy/shaky/rolly toys

Happy Quartet Soft Blocks - 6 months+

Shakin’ Eggs - 2 years+

Egg Shaker - 3 years+

Language

This is one of the most important and difficult skills for a child to develop. A child begins the process by learning to vocalize and to understand the meanings of words she hears. Toys that describe things like shapes and colours and that introduce the vocabulary of concepts like size (small, medium, large) and comparison (light, heavier, heaviest) will help to boost the development of language skills.

Suggestions:

  • First words books

First 101 Words - 6 months+

First Words: Baby Signing - 6 months+

Premiers Signes Avec Bébé - 6 months+

Touch & Feel: ABC - 6 months+

  • Flashcards

50 French-English First Words Flashcards - 0 months+

  • Memory games

Clever Cat Memory Game - 1 year+

Memo Game - 3 years+

  • Sandpaper letters and cut-out letters

Sandpaper Letters Lower Case, Print - 3 years+

Sandpaper Letters Lower Case, Cursive - 3 years+

Sandpaper Letters Capital, Print - 4 years+

Sandpaper Letters Capital, Cursive - 4 years+

  • Shape and colour matching puzzles

Shape Matching Puzzle - 6 months+

Fit & Play - 1 year+

Sorting Cube - 2 years+

Beehives - 3 years+

Tactile

Our sense of touch helps connect us to the people and things around us and informs us about our surroundings by revealing things like temperature, texture and even danger. As a child grows, he becomes more aware of his environment through touching and feeling things. He also learns to differentiate between hot and cold, dry and wet, hard and soft, etc. Toys that promote a strong tactile sense help children become more aware of their environment and what's in it.

Suggestions:

  • Activity gyms and mats

Farm Activity Mat - 0 months+

Jungle Activity Mat - 0 months+

Farm Activity Arch - 0 months+

Jungle Activity Arch - 0 months+

Play Gym - 0 months+

  • Grasping toys

Triangle Clutching Toy - 6 months+

Caterpillar Grasping Toy - 6 months+

Wiggling Worm Grasping Toy - 6 months+

Giraffe Grasping Toy - 1 year+

  • Multi-piece sets with a variety of shapes/colours/sizes

Touch Sensory Tray - 1 year+

Creative Peg Puzzle - 18 months+

Snail Whirls - 1 year+

Creative Stones - 2 years+

  • Sandpaper letters and numbers

Small Sandpaper Letters - 3 years+

Sandpaper Numerals - 4 years+

  • Tactile and textural materials

Farm Activity Spiral - 0 months+

Jungle Activity Spiral - 0 months+

Touch Sensory Tray - 1 year+

YOUR ROLE AS A PARENT

Never underestimate your own role in your child’s development. You are your child’s very first teacher. Toys are the tools that help with learning but it’s you who nurtures that growth. Besides providing your child with these fun educational tools, you are there to encourage, instruct, and celebrate as they discover and progress and blossom into the most amazing little beings.

HOW THINKAMAJIGS CAN HELP

We know there are a lot of choices in educational toys out there and we hope this information gives you some guidelines to consider. We’re happy to answer any questions you have about our products and help you find the right toy for your child, at every age and stage of their development.

Thinkamajigs offers a wide variety of Montessori and Montessori-inspired teaching materials, educational toys, games, and related products, and we are constantly adding new items from around the world. While the educational benefits and merits of each product are first and foremost, we also ensure that every item meets our high standards of quality, durability, safety, and value, so you can be confident you’re buying a great product at a great price with great customer service.

CLICK HERE to read Part 2: Age-Related Developmental Stages.

Please visit our website, call us at 1-800-363-3013, or contact us here