Age-by-Age Toy Guide

Expert guide to the best toys and gifts for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

Babies (up to 1 year)

Early on, your baby's vision and motor skills will, in large part, determine which toys are best for her. Newborns are still developing their vision, so at first patterns with a lot of contrast will attract their attention (for example, black-and-white pictures or contrasting stripes or checks). Other good choices for babies from 1 to 3 months include a bright mobile, an unbreakable mirror attached to the crib, and a rattle that she will quickly learn to grasp and shake. Between 4 and 7 months, babies have improved vision and motor skills. They can visually track soft balls rolling toward them, and they are endlessly fascinated by looking in the mirror. Babies this age also love soft and textured toys that make sounds, as well as baby books with board or cloth pages. At 8 to 12 months, appropriate toys include stacking toys with different sizes, shapes, and colors, large building blocks, "busy boxes" with items babies can push, squeeze, open, or use to make noises (babies this age are learning cause and effect), and large dolls or puppets. Also popular and age-appropriate: push toys. And since kids this age have just learned to take objects out of a container and put them back in, they enjoy playing with buckets or pails that they can fill with other items.

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