Many manufacturers try to give guidelines to the age range each toy is suitable for. Use the guidelines if you are not sure whether a toy is right for your baby, but don’t be disappointed if he can’t perform all the activities or if he doesn’t show interest in the toys. Never give a child under the age of three anything small enough to be swallowed or stick in his throat. Choking accidents are a major cause of child fatalities. Each baby is an individual who will develop at a different rate. One baby may be quick to learn to pull levers and buttons, while another may enjoy looking in detail at pictures and exploring the texture of a soft toy. Here are some tried and tested toys:
• Playmat provides a variety of activities. Your baby will enjoy lying on it for short periods of time long before he learns how to ring the bells and squeeze the squeakers.
• Rattle. Choose a soft rattle for a young baby. As he learns to manipulate it, he is bound to hit himself with it, and a hard plastic rattle could hurt.
• Baby gym. Your baby can lie underneath it and try to catch the balls and toys suspended above him. Colorful pictures at his eye level will provide something bright to focus on. Never leave the gym attached over the crib when you are not in the room or when your baby sleeps.
From three months
• Activity center. This attaches to the side of your baby’s crib. It has a set of mirrors, balls, squeakers, and rattles that he can learn to manipulate.
• Soft ball, blocks. He will enjoy exploring the texture of these long before he can throw or stack them.
From six months
• Cloth or board books. This is the perfect time to introduce your baby to books. Choose ones with familiar themes that your baby will recognize—cars and dogs, not dinosaurs or dragons. Buy one or two bath books he can use in the tub.
• Stacking rings, blocks, cups. Your baby will enjoy knocking down the towers you build him long before he manages to construct one himself. He can also explore the different sizes and colors.
From one year
• Shape sorter. Your baby will enjoy pushing shapes through different-sized holes. He will also like to shake the sorter when it is full.
• Push-along toy. After your baby has learned to walk well, a push-along trolley or truck will encourage him. He will also enjoy putting his blocks and cups inside.
From 18 months
• A sit-and-ride toy will encourage coordination. Make sure he does not ride it near hazards.
• Simple lift-out puzzles with large, easy-to-handle pieces will develop his matching and concentration skills. Help him at first.
If you live in Canada, there may be a toy-lending library at your local public library. You can borrow safe toys in good condition for your baby to try out for a few weeks. The staff can give advice on which toy are suitable.