From birth to 2 years of age, your once dependent infant will develop into an independent and curious toddler. This stage of development, also known as the sensorimotor stage, is full of exploration and trial and error. During this stage, your toddler will be most interested in safe toys that she can use to explore and learn about the world around her.
Look for open-ended toys that will encourage your toddler’s natural curiosity. Toys such as blocks, play food and nontoxic art supplies will encourage your toddler to explore and create. Limit toys that are designed to be played with in a specific way. Often, toddlers grow bored with such toys and you might find them relegated to the bottom of the toy box. Instead, put yourself in your toddler’s shoes and look for toys with many potential play opportunities.
Toddlers in the sensorimotor stage are active, rough-and-tumble little people. Look for toys that will direct all of this energy in a positive way. Balls to kick and throw, safe playsets to climb and toys to push, pull and ride on are positive choices for these toddlers. Look for active toys that toddlers can play with inside or outside so that you have options on cold or rainy days when all of that toddler energy is just too much to handle.
Learning toys for toddlers in the sensorimotor stage are toys that encourage exploration. Older toddlers are interested in what you are doing so consider a toddler-sized broom, dustpan or mixing bowl and spoon so your little one can imitate you. Puzzles, shape sorters and peg boards are also appropriate for toddlers in this developmental stage. Age-appropriate books are also favorites at this age. Look for sturdy board books with realistic photographs of objects your toddler sees every day.
Because children in this stage experience everything through their senses, pay extra attention to the safety of their toys. Avoid toys with small parts or detachable pieces. Remember that any toy that can fit through a paper towel tube can be a potential choking hazard. Strings on toys should be shorter than 7 inches to prevent a toy from wrapping around a child’s neck. Check household toys frequently to ensure they are free of cracks, splinters or loose parts and discard or fix any toys that become unsafe.