Buying Baby Toys for Dummies

When shopping for toys for your little one, things can get a little crazy. The “products” that companies are calling toys these days can be baffling to even the most progressive mommies and daddies. So how do we go about buying toys for our babies that enhance their growing minds, not turn them to mush?

According to, playing is so much more than entertainment—it’s how they learn, and how they develop. Since babies develop 50% of their adult intelligence in the first four years, picking out a toy becomes more than a simple matter of which ball bounces higher, or which Barbie has cooler clothes.

Folks this is seriously stressful stuff! I don’t even have a child and I’m feeling anxious. Okay, let’s breathe. They tell me that picking out a toy is easy once you understand the developmental stage that your little nugget is in. In other words, once you realize HOW your child learns, you will be able to find a toy that will help them to develop faster, more creatively, and fully cognitively.

So what stage is my baby in--well not my baby—yours? Well let me enlighten you.

0-6 months Stimulating Sensory and Motor Development

Expose your baby to rattles, mobiles, baby mirrors, teethers and other objects that will promote sensory stimulation. Babies at this age have limited vision, so colors in black and white are best.

6-12 months Interactive Play

Babies begin to understand Mr. Newton’s third law "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction," or something like that. Shape sorters, nesting cups, activity centers, sound making toys, and adventure courses are great for babies at this stage.

12-18 months Goal-Oriented Play

With walking, comes increased curiosity and the overwhelming desire to explore. Babies at this age will imitate grown-ups, and develop fine motor coordination. Toys that are hands on like toddler swing sets, non-complex instruments, building blocks, and water toys are suggested for this age range.

18-24 months Problem-Solving Play

Imaginative play is really important and prominent at this age. Toys that promote role-playing and make-believe are great developmental tools to promote problem-solving play. Puzzles, puppets, costumes, rocking horses, and active toys are recommended.

24-36 months The Age of Mastery

Fine motor coordination has really improved by this age, enabling children to begin arts and crafts projects. At this age, children are very responsive to music, videos, and books, and are talking—a lot. Toys that are suggested are train sets and cars, dolls with accessories, simple board games and miniature appliances.

WHEW. In all of my 276 months of life, I have never realized how complicated buying a toy was. But, now that I do understand the varying toys appropriate for specific ages, I think that when my biological clock starts ticking, and I get baby fever, and I start speaking in a baby voice to more than just my dog—I will be ready to venture to the toy store, and land the right toy.