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Best Developmental Toys for Babies and Toddlers

Best Developmental Toys

Stimulating your child’s mind early is important. Toys are a safe way for babies and toddlers to explore their world. Learn about the best developmental toys for babies and toddlers.

As parents, it’s difficult raising children with the internet. Age-appropriate development toys are more important than ever before. They will help make connections as well as foster curiosity, imagination, and more.

Through play, young children learn how to think critically and use reason to solve problems from an early age. Encouraging your child to play with age-appropriate developmental toys has lots of benefits. No matter when you start, there are toys and manipulatives to engage your child.

Developmental toys for babies and toddlers

One of the most important things for a child to develop at an early age is the imagination. Toys that are open-ended — not just one way to use them and learn from them — are one the best. Choose from among these developmental toys to help babies and toddlers learn essential skills.

Best Developmental Toys

Best developmental toys

Shape Sorter

This is a terrific toy for many reasons. If you are buying just one toy, buy a Shape Sorter or a Shape Sorting Cube. This dimensional toy is also a classic and is the epitome of the best development toy. Children from 6 months – 3+ years will enjoy this toy.

Children match the shapes to the shape cut out. The pieces fall into the cube. These are colorful and help build analytical skills. They also help children develop fine motor skills and hand eye coordination.

Shape Sorter

Shape Sorter

Toddlers will also enjoy opening and closing the sorter. It’s one of the best developmental toys as it encourages critical thinking and problem solving. As the child gets older, you can help them learn colors and shapes. Kids can sort by shape or color. In addition, they can use the pieces to practice counting.

What’s also nice is it stacks well and all the pieces fit neatly inside. This is an excellent teaching toy. Some of them are wood or wood-like material. Others are plastic.

You may also find a set that includes a key that the child needs to insert and turn in order to open the box. This adds additional learning opportunities.

Stacking Cups

Stacking Cups

Stacking Cups

You will be amazed at how much your little one will enjoy using stacking cups. You may also find them as nesting cups. Some have an edge to them (overhanging plastic edge) which will help kids hold them better.

These are colorful plastic cups in different sizes. They will have fun figuring out how to nest them together. They will improve hand eye coordination as they learn to build them in a tower. Indirectly, they will learn physics and cause and effect as they build.

Kids can use this development toy to help with motor skills. They can also learn to order from smallest to biggest. You can use them to teach colors.

There are differences between stacking cups. The best ones we’ve used are more than just the colorful cups. You will get more learning opportunities out of the cups if they have additional features. Some look like animals from the top. Some of them, on the bottom of each stacking cup, is a shape. You can help your child recognize different shapes such as a triangle, circle, square, etc.

Toddlers will make their own fun with the cups as well. This is an open-ended toy they can use in many ways.

You can supervise them playing with stacking cups in the bath. As they get older, these are fun to use to make “special potions” and mixtures or use at the beach or in a sandbox. These are easy to wash because the cups are plastic.

Blocks and Cubes

Blocks and Cubes

Blocks and Cubes

Not only will your child have tons of fun with blocks, they serve multiple purposes. Blocks help children understand counting, shapes, ABCs, spelling, and colors. There are soft stacking blocks, plastic blocks, and wood blocks.

Children can stack, make patterns, and sort.

They are also some of the most classic development toys around… a back-to-the basics type of wholesome toy. There are blocks strictly for building, arranging on the floor, stacking, and categorizing by shape or color.

There are also letter blocks. As your child ages, they can learn to recognize letters, letter sounds, learn to put them in ABC order, and eventually to build words. They can build word towers out of the blocks as well.

Stacking Rings

Stacking Rings

Stacking Rings

Choosing a stacking ring is another excellent developmental toy for babies and toddlers. These are for children ages 6 months to 24 months.

Babies will be able to explore the different rings, colors and textures. They are large enough for babies to grasp. Some come with balls that move inside the ring, like a rattle. Babies can shake it to make noise. This helps teach cause and effect. Picking up, grasping and later holding the rings  enables them to work on fine motor skills.

Note, there are different types of stacking ring sets. There are some where all the rings are the same size in the center so they all can fit without being in a certain order. This is ideal for babies and younger children.

As they age out of this toy, there is another type of stacking ring. This is one in which the child learns to figure out how to stack from largest to smallest for all of the rings to fit. As babies grow older, they can use the stacking ring to figure out how to stack. They will learn about how the larger rings have to go on the bottom for them all to fit.

Stacking rings make for excellent development toys. Babies, one year olds and toddlers will learn about sizes, including concepts such as sequencing as they learn to order the rings largest to smallest. They will learn about same and different. In addition, they will learn about colors.

You can wash these easily as they are plastic; however, they also make fabric stacking rings. The best stacking ring for babies is one that has different textures to the ring as well.

Musical Learning Table

Musical Learning Table

Musical Learning Table

While children today will have more than their fair share of light up, electronic devices, a musical learning table is an enriching developmental toy.

Parents can hold babies as young as 6 months while they explore a learning table. These are sensory wonderlands with levers, switches, gears, flaps, buttons, and dials. Tables can have 15 functions or more.

Many learning tables have removable legs so it can rest flat on the floor. As the child learns to stand and walk, he or she can stand by the table and play. These tables provide a lot of interaction with sounds, lights, and music.

Children will begin to make connections — if I press this, it lights up — which helps teach cause and effect. They learn they can impact their surroundings. The various activities also help youngsters to develop fine motor skills. While they figure out what to do with each piece, they build upon their critical thinking skills.

There are many types available. Some have four sides and some are more in a circular shape.

Note, there are some tables where all the activities face forward, meaning, a child is “supposed” to play from one end. We highly recommend the four-sided tables or circle tables where kids can approach it from any direction, looking at it from a different perspective.

Some brands to consider are Vtech and LeapFrog. These can be called activity table, learning table, learning center, etc.

Toddler Musical Instruments

Find a set of toddler musical instrument. Typically, these come with a set of at least six instruments. They usually include some wooden, plastic, and metal pieces. It’s best for ages 3 and up.

Many sets contain small bells, strings, and other pieces that can become loose. If you find any of the instruments questionable, you can put them away until the child is older.

What’s great about a toy musical instrument set is that children up until 11 years old will likely find these fun. Older children may have fun playing in the band and having performances for the family.

Most sets will include a drum, xylophone, triangle, maracas, shakers, cymbals, and a tambourine. Larger sets will include castanets, bell stick. Typically, the only “mouth” instruments are a whistle. Some sets come with a recorder, trumpet, flute, and a harmonica. You may want to consider these sets for when they are younger.

Kids will enjoy using these musical developmental toys… parents? Maybe not as much! Sometimes they can be loud. However, giving kids time to play with these toys will enrich them in many ways.

Each instrument will make a different sound. These sounds will also vary depending on how the child manipulates it.

They will work on eye hand coordination, fine motor skills, rhythm, imagination and creativity. In addition, they will learn cause and effect.

Musical instrument toys have the benefit of being interactive with sounds and noise without them being an electronic. Many include a carry bag, making cleanup easy.

Pound a Ball

Pound a Ball

Pound a Ball

A good developmental toy for one year olds is a pound a ball. You will need to supervise small children as the balls can be a choking hazard.

This is a toy in which children use a mallet to pound the balls into the holes. The balls fall down through the levels and out the bottom.

This is a STEM toy that will help kids build problem solving skills. It teaches cause and effect as well as critical thinking skills.

Kids learn to match the color ball to the same color hole.

This is a toy that helps develop fine motor skills and strengthen hand eye coordination. It’s a fun set. The only downside to it as there isn’t as much more to do. While kids will have fun sitting down to play, there isn’t much more to it. This wouldn’t be the only toy we would recommend if you were just buying one toy. However, kids will really enjoy playing it.

Children will have fun playing on the floor with this toy. A hard surface will make it more durable.

Puzzles

As children continue to grow, incorporate other toys into the mix. They may enjoy puzzles. Kids learn concentration, focus, and problem solving skills.

Puzzles are excellent developmental toys. Kids learn concentration, focus, and problem solving skills. They also feel pride and a sense of accomplishment when they complete the puzzle.

There are many puzzles which have just a few pieces. You can find toddler puzzles on wooden boards. Each piece has a peg holder for the child to place in the correct spot. You can find them with animals and sets with more pieces that include numbers or the alphabet.

There are many types of puzzles and matching sets your child will benefit from. The advantages to these types of activities is they are educational and fun. Kids will enjoy the hands-on opportunity to learn.

The Learning Journey Match It

There are many two and three piece puzzle sets. The Learning Journey has a series called Match It.

Kids can start with the animal sets that challenge them to match the head with the correct body and tail for animals. There are sets that match objects with words. As an example, the puzzle will be a dog and part of it includes the letters to spell dog.

GYBBER&MUMU Wooden Preschool Shape Puzzle

This toy is deceptive in its simplicity. This is a wooden board with shape cutouts. It’s a powerful learning tool.

Children can learn shapes and colors. They will also get a head start on problem-solving while figuring out which shape goes where.

These types of toys help cognitive development in children. Any toys in which children find and match shapes is an age-appropriate development toy.

Alphabet Set

Having kids use manipulatives helps to enforce skills and helps them learn in new ways. One of the best ways to judge a child’s development is the alphabet.

There are foam letter sets, plastic letters, and magnetic sets. Be aware of your child’s age and abilities to be sure you get them large enough so they aren’t a choking hazard.

Language is not only an important way to communicate but opens up doors to creative expression, independent thought, and reading.

Your child can feel proud mastering smaller words — mom, dad, dog, cat, book, toy — as well as sorting them by color. In time, you can teach your child about vowels.

Having tangible letters that kids can manipulate fosters and speeds up learning.

If you choose magnetic letters, children can leave messages on the refrigerator for their parents, learning new words along the way.

The magnetic toys also allow for interaction between the parent and child, giving you the opportunity to take part in the teaching process.

This is a simple developmental toy the entire family can enjoy. If your refrigerator isn’t magnetic, you can use these ABC magnets on a cookie sheet or a dry erase board.

As children get older, this is a tangible way for them to practice their spelling words for school.

VTech Musical Rhymes Book

This musical rhymes book helps teach children how to read, associating words with sounds and images.

This sound and word association will increase literacy in all age groups. The interactive book also comes with play pieces to help develop motor skills.

The book also has bright pages and a flashing star that lights up with the sounds and music, giving your child positive reinforcement for learning and playing.

Developmental toys prepare children

Learning cognitive skills early in development helps children in school and social situations.

Playing with the appropriate toys and proper parental engagement can give your child a head start to success.

Investing in educational toys can make a big difference. These are the key years for your child’s learning and development.

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Stimulate your child’s curiosity and imagination and improve their fine motor skills.

Promoting a growth mindset in children is more important than ever. Make it easy for your kids to be engaged with play with these challenging and fun developmental toys. They will have plenty of time for the iPad when they’re tweens!