Learning through play is of paramount important for your child! They will learn so much about the world when they are given the freedom to explore, and the tools to invent with. At 12-18 months, children learn through copying you – this is the very first sign of their emerging imagination. Providing them with a select few toys, that allow all their senses to work, will help their development, while ensuring that they enjoy themselves. Show your child how to use different objects, and what their toys can do, but also sit back and let them lead the play. They are much better at it than we are, because they do not have preconceptions and prior knowledge of what things should be used for. They will find 20 ways to play with a toys, while adults are limited by their own experiences. Read on to find 5 important categories of developmental toys for this age, as well as suggestions for each group.
1. Musical Activity Toys
Musical activity toys are great for your baby and toddler’s development. They captivate them with sounds and tunes that are simple and friendly, and encourage them to explore further. They are a very fun way to encourage learning, as they use music to teach numbers/colours/letters/shapes etc. These toys help to develop their language, their independence, their fine motor skills, and their curiosity. The best musical activity toys grow with your child, offering new challenges and things to discover as they get older and more able.
Fisher Price – Bright Beats Dance and Move BeatBo
Suitable for: Children aged 9 – 36 months
This cute little robot dances and sings, as his belly lights up disco-style! He sings about numbers, letters and colours, with the colours on his belly corresponding to those that he is singing about. He also has several action songs, where he asks you to clap your hands, stamp your feet and dance! Pressing his left foot enables you to speak a short phrase into his microphone, which is then repeated back to you within a song. J thinks he is hilarious, and his tunes really are quite catchy. He enjoys dancing along with him, and pressing the buttons until he finds his favourite songs. The motor is quite noisy, which can be a bit distracting, but the kids won’t notice it! Very simple to use. It can be enjoyed by babies, who will love watching the bright colours, and slightly older ones who are able to get up and dance along with him!
Fisher Price – Laugh and Learn Puppy
Suitable for: Children aged 6 -36 months
This puppy is adorable, and has so many different songs and opportunities to learn. He is soft and cuddly, and is highly-likely to become your child’s best friend (he is certainly J’s, coming on all our car journeys with us). There are 3 levels of learning, with different songs and phrases used at each level. He teaches about colours, body parts, letters, numbers and actions, as well as singing lots of well-loved nursery rhymes. His buttons are very easy to press, so even the youngest babies will enjoy him! He also has two volume settings, so you don’t have to have him too loud.
2. Creative Toys
At this age, sensory play is still a big part of how children learn. They want to get their hands on everything, because they are so inquisitive and eager. Messy play is brilliant for them now, because it gives them the freedom to explore freely and safely. They can practise their find motor skills, experiment with different textures, and learn about all the things they can do with different materials. There is a large market of creative toys for young children, which encourages them to play with imagination. Don’t feel that you need to set up big art stations, with lots of materials, at this age. They will feel less overwhelmed, and more likely to engage for longer, if their choice is more limited.
Play-Doh is a great material, which I’m sure you remember from your own childhood. It doesn’t smell so bad now, and the colours are much more vibrant and long-lasting. There are lots of kits available, with so many possibilities for sculpting and creating, but I recommend starting simple with little ones of this age. They will get lots of enjoyment out of squishing, rolling, cutting, breaking, prodding, scratching and stacking all of the colours. It feels lovely under their fingers, and is a good introduction into the idea that their actions can change the way something looks – and early beginning to art work!
3. Moving Toys
As many children are on the move by this age, they will enjoy having toys that move with them! Cars, trains and prams are all great examples of toys that can be pushed or pulled along. This gets them more confident on their feet, as they have the challenge of keeping their toy upright while moving themselves. It helps their fine motor skills as they work to balance their toy on a train track or road. They will begin to enjoy the element of imaginative play also, as they pretend these objects to be real. Remote control toys are also a great lesson in cause-and-effect, although it might take them a little while to get the hang of them! Learning that they can control the movements of a toy remotely is very good for their coordination and their understanding of how things work.
V-tech – Toot-Toot Drivers
There are over 20 different play sets available in the Toot-Toot series, allowing for many hours of play. If you’ve not come across these sets before, think Scalextric for little tots! Each set has several vehicles that move around the track using SmartPoint technology. This means that pressing buttons on each vehicle makes them move to set points on the track, teaching children to associate the phrases heard with the points arrived at. They flash, sing, speak, and make fun noises – all enhancing the play experience. Remote-control vehicles are also available, which work on and off the Toot-Toot tracks. All of the tracks fit together, to build one enormous city, teaching your little ones so much about the world and how things work.
4. Imaginative Toys
These are toys that are not all-singing and all-dancing, but which require your toddler to make-believe. This form of play is as old as time, and is very important in your child’s development. Pretending objects are different things is the first step. It’ll be a little while before your child pretends that they themselves are somebody else! Imaginative play teaches problem-solving and comcmuicantion, develops the concept of empathy, and helps little ones to handle their emotions.
Play kitchens are a great starting point, as your child is likely to be familiar with a lot of kitchen utensils and equipment. Initially, imaginative play sets will probably be explored in the same way most things are – by banging, tasting, touching, etc. But with a little assistance and encouragement, you’ll see your toddler begin to copy things they have seen you or others do, before entering into a whole new world of pretend play!
5. Puzzles and Shape-Sorters
These toys really get your toddler’s brain in gear! Learning which shapes are the same, and recognising different spaces for pieces to fit into is really challenging. Even when they have figured out which pieces match up, it is very difficult to make sure they are holding things the correct way for them to fit. It takes a lot of practise, concentration, and hand-eye coordination skills.
Peppa Pig Peg Puzzle
This peg puzzle is a good starting point because there are only four pieces, and they are all very big. There are little pegs for them to hold onto, and the wooden board makes it very robust and durable. Puzzles like this will require lots of help from you at first, but your little one will find great satisfaction in working out how the pieces fit together!
Fisher Price – Cookie Shape Surprise
I have shared this Cookie Jar, but have decided to share it again because we are yet to find a better shape sorter! There are five bright and simple shapes, which slot easily into holes around the side of the jar. There are two options for learning – shapes and numbers – and the jar sings about each one as you insert the shape. Its songs will drive you mad, but they are actually very catchy and memorable for little ones. It’s an excellent introduction to learning about shapes!
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase through these links I receive a small payment – at no additional cost to you. However, I would never recommend something that we had not tried and loved ourselves.