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Best toys for your little ones

Child development

When you’re a new parent, choosing a Christmas present for your little one can be a confusing time. Do you buy the biggest, most colourful toy on offer, or a black and white object that’s got your paediatrician’s seal of approval?

We have put together some tips when selecting the perfect gift, based on age and developmental milestones. Happy shopping!

0-9 months old

When they’re first born, babies have fuzzy vision and will only be able to see things that are about 20cm from their eyes. They can recognise your face from about a month old and like bright colours and contrasting patterns.

At about the age of three months, your baby will be able to hold things in their hands and put things in their mouth.

Playing music for babies is a good idea because it can soothe and entertain an infant. Songs that rhyme and have an easy beat are the best.

Hang mirrors on their change tables or put one in front of them when you lie them down for tummy time. Although they are not aware that they’re looking at themselves, they find their own reflection interesting.

Books and toys:
Soft books, toys and dolls with contrasting or bright colours that they can grasp or cuddle are ideal for this age group.  Ensure they don’t have any parts that could be ripped off.

Because babies love looking at bright colours and listening to music, mobiles are ideal to keep them occupied but you need to make sure they don’t have any parts your baby can reach.

Rattles and squeaky rubber toys:
Babies love these because they not only provide something they can play with and chew on, they make a noise as well.

Activity centres and play mats:
At about the age of about four or five months, babies begin exploring more and like being able to interact with an activity centre of play mat.

Toys for 9-18 months:

By the time your baby turns about nine months old, he or she will be starting to make their way around rooms by crawling and by 12 months by walking. Interactive games are important for this age group as your child becomes more interested in grabbing everything nearby and putting it in their mouth.

For this age group, the focus is on objects that can be sorted and studied.

Anything that can open, is colourful, has tabs and pops up will interest this age group. Textures are also good making books such as the That’s Not My . . . . series popular and hard cover books are easy to clean.

Balls and blocks:
Blocks give children the chance to build and stack which helps with coordination and control. You’ll find your child loves to build and knock everything over. Balls are also popular, especially ones with flashing lights or that make noises. Make sure balls are big enough that they can’t be swallowed and if they have batteries, that the covers are very secure.

Shape sorters:
These come in to their own at this age although they can be frustrating for the younger age groups.

Sand tables:
Playing with sand with a pail and shovel is great fun for toddlers and sand/water tables can keep everything contained. Always keep an eye on your little one when water is involved.

Toys for 18-24 months old

Children this age are determined to do things by themselves but become increasingly frustrated when they can’t work out how to do them. The want to open and shut everything, investigate everything and basically drive parents crazy. Because of this, the best types of toys are those with interlocking parts, and toys that enable them to act our realistic scenes from home.

Tea party sets:
Pretending they’re a big kid and hosting a tea party is something all small children love to do. They also love mimicking parents, so toys such as brooms and washing baskets can be good.

These are still popular for this age group but children will start sorting them more and organising them in to shapes and colours.

Toy instruments:
Noise is good so anything that makes a big loud noise will be much-loved. Keyboards, drum and guitars are all popular with this age group.

Crayons and paper are much loved by those aged 18 to 24 months and beyond. If you’re worried about the damage they may make, buy washable crayons for them and make sure they’ve got plenty of clean paper to draw on.

Train sets and cars:
This age group has the ability to easily grasp cars and trains and set up different scenarios. They’ll also investigate different textures under the wheels of the cars or trains, such as carpet of polished timber floors.

Don’t forget . . .
Remember, while it's tempting to buy lots of cheaper toys, quality is important. Check toys for young children to make sure parts can't be broken off and swallowed before you buy them. Button batteries are found in more and more toys these days and the cover for these batteries needs to be  on tight and screwed down.
Easy to clean toys are the way to go at these ages. Being able to quickly wipe them and go, especially when you're out and about, helps you keep the germs at bay.

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