Twelve to Eighteen Months
Your child will enjoy trucks or cars he can sit on, push-and-pull toys, doll carriages, plastic lawn mowers, wheelbarrows, a two-step kitchen stool he can stand on to see high places, pounding boards, toy phones, music boxes, rocking toys, outside and indoor climbing equipment with short ladders and slides, and adults’ shoes he can walk around in. He’ll also like simple toys he can take apart and plastic bottles with tops to take off and put on. And he’ll like plastic containers, measuring cups, and paper cups.
Eighteen to Twenty-Four Months
Your child will enjoy stringing large wooden beads, screwing and unscrewing bottle caps, using a punching bag, pushing a toy shopping cart, using plastic tools, playing with balls of different sizes and shapes, arranging magnets on the refrigerator, and playing with stuffed animals. He may be happy for long periods playing with sand or water if he has shovels, pails, measuring cups, sieves, funnels, and plastic bottles to use. Although he will not be able to pedal yet, he may enjoy a toddler bike.
Two to Three Years
A child this age may enjoy rubber, plastic, or wooden animals, dolls and dolls’ accessories; a play stove, refrigerator, and sink with dishes, pots, and pans; dress-up clothes; a play house; a doctor’s kit; large blocks; cars and trucks; a play fire house and fire engine; and a toy garage and gas station. Most twoand three-year-olds (when supervised) can use pens, paint, crayons, chalk (fun to use on the sidewalk), big paint brushes to use with water outside, and, when closely supervised, child-size scissors. Your child will probably have fun jumping on a mattress that’s flat on the floor, kicking a deflated ball that can’t roll away from him, and riding a tricycle. He’ll also like using puzzles, playing musical instruments, using the computer, and listening to CDs of folk, classical, or children’s music.
When you provide toys for a child of any age, avoid giving too many that limit creative play. So many toys can only be put together and used in one way, and if your child spends all his time with such toys, he’ll have little chance to make his own creations. Instead look for toys that can be used in a variety of ways, and ones that allow your child to use his imagination. For example, instead of buying kits of shrinkable plastic with pre-drawn pictures, buy the same plastic, without the drawings, at a craft store. Then your child can make his own designs.
As you buy toys, you may find that your child becomes intensely interested in a new plaything for several weeks and then loses interest. This is common, although it may be disturbing if you’ve spent time and energy shopping for the right toy, one your child said he “wanted so badly.” Your child loses interest for several reasons: he may have quickly exhausted all the toy’s play possibilities, he may have mastered the toy, figuring out how it works, or he may be frustrated because it isn’t made well or is difficult to use.
To get more use from your child’s discarded but almost new toys, put them away in a closet for several months. When you take them out, they’ll seem unfamiliar to your child, and he may become interested in them again. He may even think of new ways to play with them, since his interests and his play are always changing.
And a child with an older sibling will get an early introduction to toys intended for older children. As your child grows, he’ll let you know which toys interest him and which activities he wishes to pursue.