Why Tots Love to Experiment

One-year-olds are little scientists, gleefully exploring the world around them. What kinds of toys are best suited to their curious minds?

Introduction

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The 1-year-old has a truly scientific mind, which she uses ceaselessly to experiment with the characteristics and limits of the people and objects in her world. The simple highchair becomes her laboratory as she drops cereal bits, one by one, squealing with glee as they hit the floor. And she is no less excited than Sir Isaac Newton was when he discovered gravity because, at her level of thinking, that's exactly what she is doing.

The 1-year-old is unquenchably curious and well equipped to satisfy that curiosity. There is a veritable explosion of new skills and behaviors at this time, most of them designed to help your child test the world around her. Just for starters, a 1-year-old child is fascinated with weights, textures, tastes, and smells, and even with the new sounds objects make when they strike other objects.

And every one of those items will most certainly be put through its paces: Every block and toy car, saucepan and bar of soap is felt, hefted, smelled, mouthed, banged on the floor, and thrown. Of course, the young scientist may be less than discriminating in her choices -- your bottle of expensive perfume, the cat, and the crystal vase will be subjected to the same tests and procedures if your baby finds them within reach.

You can take advantage of your 1-year-old's fascination with physics when selecting playthings. Beautiful toys hold little attraction when other objects are available to be manipulated by the child himself. Boxes with lids and sturdy objects to put in and take out of them delight children at this age, as do toys that enable them to hammer a peg through a hole or roll a ball down a chute. Or offer an unbreakable wide-mouth bottle and a few blocks or balls that fit easily inside. Toys that can be taken apart -- stacking toys, for instance, or puzzles with oversize pieces-are also appropriate, though your child probably won't be able to put them back together yet!

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