Nov. 26, 2011

Toy Roadmap

I wept this week when we transitioned Thomas to his crib. While the first night was rough (I barely slept out of fear that his swaddle would suffocate him!), by night three Thomas' sleeping habits are almost back to where they were when he was in his bassinet. While I was sad to see Thomas outgrow his bassinet, one thing I do continually look forward to is Thomas' increasing ability to interact with and experience his world. I'm a strong believer that before institutionalized learning begins in Kindergarten, children learn most effectively through play. For this reason, I'm very motivated to continually introduce age appropriate toys to our son to stimulate his play experiences.

If curious, here's our family's road map for Thomas' play for his first three years. I note that the time frames cited may vary from child to child, and toys will likely continue to be enjoyed beyond the time frames in which they're recommended for introduction.

Three to Six Months:

Activity Centre: In our experience, activity centres were the first real toys that Thomas enjoyed. We received two as gifts and are so thankful to have them. They assist with much needed tummy time and leg and arm coordination, and can keep Thomas occupied for up to an hour at a time. Our choices? A Playgro Discovery Gym (I've lowered the toys by connecting additional Nuby teething rings to the yellow hooks, which enabled our baby to reach the toys from about 2 months of age, and I now tie a large tummy time mirror to the overhanging bars to add some additional interest) and an Ikea Leka Baby Gym.

Lightweight Rattles: We started by dangling colouful rattles in front of Thomas' face around 2 months. I've used various types, including a Haba Miro, a Manhattan Toy Skwisk and maracas, to introduce him to a range of sounds. Now that he's three months old, he can clutch lightweight rattles to make noise independently. He tends to favour his Haba Kringeling for this purpose and I intend on introducing a set of Blabla fruit and vegetable rattles soon (his hands don't seem ready yet to clutch something so thick).

Activity bars: These toys that you attach to car seats and bouncy chairs (such as the popular Edushape Sunny Activity Wrap) are perfect for newly exploring hands. For now, we're using Pippalily toy straps to attach his favourite rattles and squeaky toys to his car seat, stroller and baby carrier, while his portable bouncy chair - a Bright Starts Fun on Safari Cradling Bouncer - came with an activity bar. They're perfect to occupy a baby while you enjoy dinner.

Soft stuffed animals: We were given many sweet soft toys for Thomas when he was born and I keep a basket filled with them in his nursery to allow me to easily change up which bear, duck or bunny I'll rub on his cheeks, feet, hands and belly each day to make him giggle and to enhance his sense of touch. Right now, he finds bear blankets fun to cuddle and babble with. They're also great to introduce as soothers; I recommend moms and dads tucking one into their shirt for a few hours and then giving to baby at night as a way to help them calm down if they wake at night and are looking for comfort from their parents.

Squeaky rubber toys: We were given two Playgro squeak toys, which have proven effective at calming a car seat induced crying fit, and I'm sure it is only a matter of time before Thomas can make the sounds himself.

Board books: I highly recommend setting aside time every day to read. Board books are the most durable so it might make sense to purchase your favourites in that format.

Teething rings
: While Thomas has started drooling (a first sign of teething), he doesn't seem to need the comfort of a teether yet. I'm ready for this stage with a range of Koukku necklaces and teething rings. I may also introduce a Manhattan Toy Winkel for this purpose.

Six to Nine Months:

Balls: Lightweight fabric balls are fun to roll and clutch. I love the varieties sold on Etsy, and plan to introduce a puzzle ball in the coming months.

Household items: All babies seem to enjoy playing with pots and pans, measuring cups and wooden spoons. Homesense has great colourful options that you can stash in your kitchen if you'd prefer that baby not play with your actual kitchen utensils.

Wood and soft blocks: My mom crafted soft blocks for our son before he was born. If you're interested in doing the same, I recommend Wren Handmade's instructions. For tactile reasons, I also plan to introduce a set of Haba baby blocks. We'll use both sets to stack and knock down, and collect and dump out of containers.

Moving toys: We have a Plan Toys baby car and I'd like to purchase a Playsam Streamliner to roll along the floor together. Right now, at three months, I roll toy cars on Thomas' belly while he's lying down, which is always sure to secure a smile.

Cloth books:
At this age your baby may want to practice 'reading' and cloth books are light enough for baby to replicate your reading motions. I love Manhattan Toys' options.

Nine to Twelve Months:

Push toys: An Ikea Ekkore Toddle Truck is in our playroom awaiting Thomas' first steps. Such push carts assist wobbly legs and provide a place to transport favourite toys.

Shape sorters: This is the perfect age to begin shape recognition with a toy like the Plan Toys Shape and Sort.

Toy telephone: Children love to imitate their parents, and with grandparents in British Columbia and Alberta, we expect that Thomas will want to play telephone to talk to them. I'm still looking for a fun, wooden option -- any suggestions?

with flaps and textures: At this time you may want to grow your child's library with fun to feel books. I love Jellykitten's publications.

Twelve to Twenty-Four Months:

Large lightweight building bricks: At this age, your toddler might be interested in buildings forts and walls to play around and then knock down. To build a tower, I love Charley Harper's nesting blocks and to build walls and forts, I love Imagiplay's options.

Push and pull toys: To expand on the fun of Thomas' Ekkore Walking Wagon and to make walking fun, I plan to first introduce a push toy, such as Selecta Tambourino Drumming Push Toy, and then a pull toy, such as a Sevi Pull Along Marajah.

Sorting and nesting toys: Sorting and nesting toys assist with early problem solving skills, and a toddler's desire to organize. I plan to introduce Grimms' nesting blocks.

Washable crayons and paper: This is when my childhood love of Crayola will be reignited. We'll introduce a few colours at a time to baby to assist in teaching him the names of various shades.

Ride-on vehicles: Ride on vehicles get me really excited. There are so many fun, modern options that I've yet to decide which one we'll select for Thomas. They're a great form of exercise for little legs, so I recommend avoiding electronic versions. I think we'll go with a beautiful rocking horse to keep in our living room, a push car for indoor fun, and a tricycle to ride in the park and on the sidewalk.

Tool bench or toy kitchen: Learning through emulating cooking and home fix it jobs will hopefully make Thomas want to be an active participant in the running of our home. It will be fun to set up a tool bench near our utility space and a small play stove in our kitchen. I love the wide range of wooden play kitchens available, including versions by Plan Toys and Pomme NYC.

Picture books: In Thomas' early days, I read him long picture books while nursing and napping. These books will be perfect to introduce again when he is one.

Twenty-Four to Thirty-Six Months:

Balls: Though Thomas will have many types of balls to play with before now, starting at two rudimentary basketball (tossing balls into baskets on the ground) and soccer (kicking balls between two pylons) can be introduced.

Art supplies: We have a large table in the unfinished portion of our basement that we now use to wrap gifts and dry laundry flat that I plan to convert into a supervised art space for when Thomas is older. We'll stock the space with crayons, watercolors, clay, collage basics like magazines, construction paper, and tempera and finger paints.

Instruments: Excitedly, we already have a tambourine, maracas and a recorder on hand. I also know for certain that a glockenspiel will be waiting under the tree for Thomas this Christmas from one of his Grandmas. Though Thomas might not be ready to play solo with these toys until later, we're already introducing them to Thomas by playing them for him, which is a fitting accompaniment to the range of music that we already play for him throughout the day. We also plan to start him in violin lessons when he's older.

Dress-up clothes: I loved dress up time as a child and plan to amass a range of clothes, hats and masks for dress up play. Ecotots storage bin will be the perfect place to stash these outfits.

Child-size household equipment: To supplement the play kitchen, we'll add a table and chairs, an ironing board and a grocery cart.

Construction toys: To encourage Thomas' design and construction sensibilities, we'll set up a play house, model train set and smaller building blocks. Depending on his interests, we'll supplement as necessary.

Puzzles and manipulatives: As Thomas' dexterity improves, he'll be ready for simple puzzles and memory games, and dolls to dress. I love Dwell Studio's puzzles and memory games for this age group, and plan to give Thomas a simple Blabla doll that's easy to dress (aka no Barbies!).

Outdoor equipment: To encourage outdoor play and to avoid a computer/video game addict, we'll want to ensure Thomas gets plenty of yard and park play. To keep it interesting, we'll ensure he has simple sports equipment such as balls and bats, soft soccer balls and a croquette set to keep him healthy and active.

Books: Of course, we'll continue to expand Thomas' library with stories with narratives and more complicated language, characters and themes, such as Madeline.


  1. Thanks Jane. I love your Elephant book, and want to get a few more from the series for Thomas :) Thank you! xo