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Toys for young children — what is appropriate?

December 1, 2011
By Sue Junge , Times-Republican

Christmas is right around the corner and many of us trying to decide what we can get our young children, grandchildren, nieces and/or nephews. There are sooo many to choose from, but remember, when shopping for children, always be sure that the toy is age appropriate for the child. Many have recommended ages on them, but YOU need to have the information needed when choosing that special toy. Here are some suggestions:

Birth to 3 months - Babies are just starting to grasp objects and their vision is still a little fuzzy, but they can start to see objects about 8-14 inches from their face so keep this in mind when choosing a toy. Hand-held toys (such as rattles), mobiles, unbreakable mirrors (many can be attached to the bed), sensory toys, and soft books with high contrast patterns are recommended. Another good idea would be a tape player with lullaby CD's.

6 months - As they enter this stage, a baby discovers how much fun their own hands can be now that they're no longer clenched in a fist. They have begun to reach for toys. At this age, always be sure that all toys are safe for chewing - check labels! And never attach a toy to a crib or playpen with elastic, which could end up strangling or entrapping your baby. By 6 months your baby can sit up, giving them a new perspective on life and making them the center of their own clanging, colorful, ever-changing world. Activity centers and/or bars (that go cross car seats, strollers, etc.), light weight soft stuffed animals, board books (which they will be sure to chew on:)), squeaky rubber toys, colorful teething rings, and play mats and/or activity gyms are recommended.

9-12 months - By the time babies are 9 or 10 months old, they're usually able make their way around the room by creeping, crawling, or cruising (walking with the furniture's assistance). By 12 months, many babies have risen to their feet and can stand and even walk. They are also more interested in interactive games. Tickle them and let them tickle you back. Talk on the phone and then pass it off to them so they can babble, then hand it back to you for another round. A baby at this age will want to move, grab, and get to whatever used to be out of reach. Items such as push toys, shape sorters, balls, a toy telephone, books, blocks or even a plastic pail and shovel are recommended.

18 24 months - A toddler is now excited about their independence but is constantly being reminded of their own limits. So while they insist on doing something "Myself!" one moment, the next might find them turning to you for help. The way they learn what they can do is by getting their hands into everything. They fiddle with knobs, open and shut doors, flip light switches on and off - it's enough to drive any parent nuts. Toys with interlocking parts - pop-up toys, nesting toys, sorting toys, trucks with doors that open and shut, play kitchens with knobs and doors - can create endless opportunities for your child to explore, and push their limits while keeping them away from the light switch. At this age, children learn best from unstructured play, so just make the toys available and off they'll go. Plastic tea sets or playhouses, large and small blocks, age appropriate puzzles, toy instruments, illustrated books and cassettes, washable crayons and paper, and train sets are just a few items they would enjoy.

30 36 months - By the time your child reaches his third birthday, they'll be ready for more challenging toys. After all, if they can put on their own T-shirt, wash and dry their own hands, and brush their own teeth, they can certainly manage blocks and even simple memory or board games.

At this age your child is also a confident walker, runner, and jumper, and is likely able to balance on one foot for a second or more. That means it's time to let them play with scaled-down sports equipment. They may want to include other children in their games, and they'll really begin to notice and focus on other kids, which allows them to play more structured games.

As they get older, your toddler will become increasingly imaginative. They no longer are concerned just with their physical effect on the world and will start developing their own story lines, characters, plots, and adventures. Giving them clothes and props for pretend play - something as simple as a cardboard box can be a wagon, a spaceship, a fort, and so on - will help encourage this area of their development. Puzzles, beginning board and memory games, construction sets, kid-size dishes, pots and pans, art supplies, outside equipment, and books would also be good choices.

So as you go about your holiday gift buying, be sure to check the labels when searching for toys for young children. And remember, you don't have to buy high end/pricey toys to make a child happy, they just want to be able to PLAY with it!

Information gathered from


Sue Junge is an Early Childhood Specialist for the Marshall County Early Childhood Iowa Area and is a Thursday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. For more information, please visit



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