10 Great Baby & Toddler Toys for Learning, and Development
From Colorado Springs, CO

Ask a Speech Therapist

Rikki DeGrove
By: Sprout Therapy Services,

Picking out gifts for the youngest members of the household can be a challenge for many parents. After all, a does a baby really need a pile of shiny, flashing, noisy toys? What about all those expensive gadgets your toddler tossed aside on his birthday in favor of playing with an empty wrapping paper tube? One thing is for certain: a baby's favorite thing to play with is usually his favorite person: YOU!

Below is a short list of age appropriate toys that make great gifts for babies and toddlers, as well as ways to play together to encourage growth, learning, and development! For more age appropriate gift ideas, follow our Pinterest page!

1. A Ball

Let's start with something simple. A ball is a toddler's best friend! In terms of play, a ball never gets old. Help a young baby practice sitting while rolling a ball back and forth. Entice a reluctant walker to let go of your hand by giving them a big ball to hold on to! Teach action words, such as catch, throw, roll, kick, bounce, get, and come back! Don't forget adjectives such as big, small, fast, slow, and gentle! Important concepts like taking turns and sharing are all part of playing ball. And if you want to get a little crazy, what could be more exciting for a ball-loving toddler than their very own ball pit!?

2. Toy Phone

What's a toy that toddlers seem to instantly know how to play with? A toy phone, of course! They're watching mom and dad, and pretty much everyone else they know engaged with their phones, and they want their turn too! Take turns talking on the phone with your baby; use greeting words "hi" and "bye" and short phrases like "love you!" Following simple directions and learning to give and take are important early play skills. Reinforce words like "mine" and "yours" while you pass the phone back and forth, and send your toddler on a mission to "give the phone to Daddy! Now give the phone to Sissy!" Plus, what could be cuter than a toddler babbling on the phone, just like mom and dad?

3. Musical Instruments

Let your little one make her own music with a xylophone, drum, or toy piano. Babies learn cause and effect (ex, "When I hit the drum, it makes a sound"), while toddlers and preschoolers can begin learning musical notes and simple concepts. See if your child can copy a rhythm on the drum, or strike the red note then the yellow on the xylophone. Toddlers love learning through music! Sing simple nursery rhymes and songs together.

The best toys encourage Open Ended Play. The more ways you can play with a toy, the better, of course! So when shopping for a baby or toddler, choose classic toys that can be played with in numerous ways, over and over again, even as your child grows older!

4. Blocks, Cars and Trains

Toys like blocks, cars and trains are perfect for open ended play. Build towers as you talk about big and small, short and tall, and shout, "uh oh!" when the blocks fall down! Drive cars up and down, practice "fast" and "slow" with trains, and work on simple questions like "where is the train going?" and "who will we visit in our car?"

5. Pretend Food & Clothes

Pretend play is a very important skill for children to master. Children begin using objects for symbolic play as early as 18 months! They may hold a banana to their ear to pretend it's a phone, or put an empty box on their head like a hat! By age 3 children are really using their imaginations during play: pretending to fix things with tools like dad, putting out fires like a fireman, all while holding the baby like mom! Toys like play food, tools, and dress up clothes are perfect for encouraging pretend play. But don't just leave it in a corner, Mom and Dad are the best playmates! Have your child pass out cups to all the dolls, and pour a drink for each one. Order up a banana sandwich for pretend lunch, and call for help from the fireman! These all encourage good listening skills and following directions, as well as pretend play skills!

6. Colors, Shapes & Numbers

Colors, shapes, and numbers, oh my! Basic concepts like these are learned by babies and toddlers through repetition and exposure on many levels. Count your steps every time you walk upstairs; point out colors while you play with blocks, look at books, and serve pretend ice cream! Point to the first letter of your child's name any time you see it. They will feel special, and learn to identify "their" letter! As a child hears, sees, and plays with these concepts over time, they will become part of their knowledge base. Try some of these amazing toys from Learning Resources! Count the cookies, match the shapes to the cupcakes, and learn the alphabet with these fun groceries!

7. Bath Toys

Bath time is an excellent time to encourage language skills. Many children love playing in the water. Talk about parts of the body as you wash them, "Show me your feet first so I can scrub them!" Put toys in the tub and point out the difference between "wet" and "dry." Bath toys such as foam letters and numbers encourage learning of these basic concepts too!

8. Little People

Little People are classic, durable, open ended toys for babies and toddlers. Whether it's a farm, zoo, school, doll house, school bus, or favorite character set, Little People can be played with for many years! By around 2 years old, children are beginning to make short sentences. Encourage putting 2 words together as you say "Night-night cow, night-night horse" while putting the farm animals to bed. Have the Little People climb on the school bus and tell them "Bye-bye girl! Bye-bye boy!" Maybe Grandma and Grandpa even saved a few Little People sets from when Mommy or Daddy where little!

9. Puzzles

Puzzles have so many learning benefits for children! Hand-eye coordination, fine motor planning, problem solving, cognitive skills, and social skills can all be targeted while playing with puzzles! Add in the fun of learning shapes, colors, animals, vehicles, body parts, clothing items, and more, and you have one fantastic toy!

10. Chew, Rip & Water Proof Books

It has been said that one of the best gifts you can give your child is the love of reading. Reading to your child has so many benefits! Besides developing vocabulary, building comprehension and language skills, and increasing attention and listening skills, reading to your child is a bonding experience. Does your baby only seem interested in books as teething toys? Check out these chew proof, rip proof, waterproof, indestructible books for babies and toddlers!