Best baby toys (12 to 18 months)

It seems that my son can make anything and everything into a toy. He has way too many toys. But I justify all this mayhem because most of them are hand-me-downs or garage sale finds. (I am a garage-sale/mom-to-mom sale maniac.) But there are many toys that he still plays with every day. These are the ones that have stood the test of time.

This iPlay Funtime Tractor son’s favorite toy of all time. At first, he was happy to push the animals down and hear their individual sounds. Then, he’d love to watch it move across the floor. Now, he throws the animals aside and “rides” the trailer as the tractor attempts to ride. He has played with it every day since his great-grandma bought if for his first birthday. (iPlay also makes an awesome sounds Noah’s Ark toy as well.

The best toys for one year olds are ones that mimic an action they will see an adult doing. My son absolutely loves using his Dirt Devil Vacuum, both while I’m vacuuming and while I’m not.  I only wish this thing actually worked.

My son got some Mega-Blocks for Christmas and absolutely loves them.  He does have some Duplo (big) legos, but these Mega-Blocks are so much easier for him to handle.  He is beginning to make his own creations and he is so proud of himself.  I cannot emphasize how much he loves these and I think they should be a staple in every home.

Little People are always a great go-to toy brand.  We only have a few items, including this Little People school bus, but my son loves taking the people in and out, driving it around, and hearing all the different noises it makes. He loves anything and everything that will make sounds.

This Melissa & Doug Fruit Cutting Tray also mimics adult action.  He loves to act like mommy and daddy in the kitchen and could play with this for 30 minutes at a time.

I bought this Fisher Price Laugh and Learn “cd player” at a local store (not at this crazy price on Amazon).  But my son loves any sound-maker, so this was his only Christmas present from us (besides a couple of Schleich animals — amazing, true to life animals made in Germany — for his ever-growing collection).  It is simple, but he enjoys it and plays with this every day.

And the best garage sale finds are:

  • All the books you can find (that are high quality, both board or hardcover or even paperback).
  • Trucks, trucks, and more trucks: I have grown to not care if these are plastic, made in China, whatever; my son plays with these all day, and it feels great that I have only spent about $5 on his collection of about 10 good-sized tracks, tractors, taxis, etc.
  • Riding tractors or cars
  • Wood blocks can be very expensive if you buy them from a store.  However, I have found some great brands (Haba!) at garage sales.  Also, recently, I found an awesome farm blocks set that I know will be a favorite for years to come.

Of course, you have probably noted that this is a boy list, as the distinctions in toy lists become apparent around one year, but I think girls can play with all of the above too!

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Best baby toys (9 to 12 months)

I have presented my favorite toys for children 3-6 months and 6-9 months and now humbly make my 9-12 month list. I can’t believe my little boy will soon be one year old! He has been playing independently every day, both with and without me playing with him. (His alone time, or “individual structured playtime” as we affectionately call it, is sometimes in his room and sometimes in his play-pen). He plays with the toys listed below, but more so loves to play with toys that aren’t really toys at all. Bowls, whisks, spoons, cups of ice, measuring spoons, a little bottle with water in it (has become his “security blanket” as of late), lemon squeezer, and remote controls (we have put a kabosh on that last one). So in my new list, I include children’s toys that have stood his test of time while knowing that a stainless steel bowl and a stainless steel whisk is all he needs to hold his attention for over 30 minutes. He mixes with me for that amount of time or more every evening while I cook dinner!

A lot of the toys that we have bought for him, now, are from garage sales. I am attaching the Amazon websites, but this is the garage sale season, so take advantage of the 25 cent prices! It is funny, now that I’m a “mom,” I’m looking for the bright colors of toys while perusing which yard sales are worth my time.

I have been wanting to buy this Fisher Price Musical Stacker for our son for quite some time, and just last week, I found one for fifty cents! It teaches hand-eye coordination with in the stacking and there is a reward for his efforts with some cool bright lights and noises. His eyes light up every time he hears the sound. He hasn’t mastered putting the large star rings on the stacker yet, but I’m sure he will soon.

We bought this Thomas the Train for our son’s cousin, and I was so excited to see one at a garage sale about a month ago. Thomas rides around the room on his own with the help of some double AA batteries. (I actually like the noisy and moving toys and dutifully replace the batteries.) This is the first toy that our son began moving around the room on his own! We couldn’t believe our eyes; he is getting so smart. This train has started his love for all things that have four wheels and roll. We have a couple of tractors and little baby Tonka trucks as well.

This is a classic oldie, but goodie — I got a farm version of the ‘Pop Up Pals Thingy‘ (which we love because there are real, live cows, sheep, and chickens on our road). Our son has learned how to close the doors, but is still working on how to open all of them.

My son’s all-time favorite toy is his Radio Flyer red wagon. He got it a couple months ago and wasn’t very interested, but he began walking with it at about nine months. Now, he flies across our living room with lightning speed. He never stops smiling while walking with it. This wagon is really great, it has a slowing mechanism which can be removed, but it prevents little ones from bumping their heads when they are starting to get the hang of walking. Also, I was skeptical of the “bumper” at first, but it really does work, our son slams his wagon into the wall, and there have been no marks thus far! His new favorite activity is walking his Radio Flyer outside, up and down the hills.

Books, books, and more books are my favorite toys for my son. He lights up when I read a couple of very familiar ones and will sit still while reading them as long as he gets to turn the pages…. this means I can’t read all the text, but who cares?! He is excited about literacy! He has started to eat the cardboard, so we are teaching him to love and respect his books. He also loves books with fuzzies. His favorite is Good Morning, Good Night. He puts his little face to the soft puppy, kitty, bunny, etc. Such sweet times with our sweet little boy.

Every boy (and girl!) needs a good set of blocks. We have bought his first set from Plan Toys. This brand features sanded rubberwood blocks with a couple of dyed blocks thrown in for color. I like that the paint can’t chip into his mouth, because after all, these and everything else ends up in our baby’s mouth! I will want to buy more Plan Toys blocks (they can get expensive!) and perhaps buy the Melissa & Doug non-painted bigger blocks for when he is older and needs to master huge creations. But for right now, this small 50-piece set has worked out just fine.

There are two toys that I already reviewed that our son still plays with every day. One is the Fisher Price Shape Sorter. He absolutely loves it. He used to just take the shapes out of the bucket. Now, he throws them across the room and then puts them back. He also has just started putting them into a bowl and mixing them with a spoon or a whisk and then back to the original container again. He is learning! The other toy is the Hohner Kids Glockenspiel Xylophone. This xylophone is still on pitch after several months of constant usage; he plays with it every day and absolutely loves making his own beautiful music.

Happy playing.

Best baby toys (6 to 9 months)

I have found new and age-appropriate toys that my seven month old joy loves to play with.  Here is my new list:

This Crocodile Creek ball is a hit at our house. Our son has just recently learned how to push a ball to roll it to a partner!  This has been so fun for him and for us to watch him.  He also enjoys chewing the ball, almost just as much.

The Fisher Price Shape Sorter was a gift from our son’s step-cousin-in-law.  At first, he just liked chewing on the toys and taking them out of the bin.  Now, he plunks them back into the bin!  This is after much demonstrating from me.  Oh, such a proud mama moment!  This toy really creates a lot of fun for all ages, and I hope, eventually, he will understand the shapes and colors and how they are supposed to go through the sorter.

I read through many, many reviews to get to the “best” xylophone for toddlers. Many are made of wood and don’t have any sound. Many are made of plastic and don’t have any sound. It was just all around tough to find a good one. But alas, I came upon the (very well-reviewed) Hohner Kids Toddler Glockenspiel (which comes with bag and a mallet). According to reviews (on Amazon and Google), this has correct pitch, and is safe because of the plastic border around any sharp edges. Something to bring out the musician in our son!

Our son first saw a “tumble and twirl” at the weekly Babytime group we visit at our public library. They have an assortment of age-appropriate toys and I have gotten a lot of ideas, based on which ones he is interested in. I found this Playskool Explore and Grow Tumble N Twirl at Amazon.com for a great price. It is easy to press down and fun to watch the balls twirl. Bonus: the balls come out to play with and chew too!

Another popper toy: the Sassy Pop N Push Car. This (less than $7) popper has wheels to roll around the living room for any crawler.   Our son loves to watch the balls pop! You can push this car back and it goes forward a little on its own.

I have been wanting a good set of blocks. Our son enjoyed his soft play blocks, but now he is definitely ready for the next step. I was thinking about getting him some wooden alphabet blocks, but since he is still at the very (very!) early stages of scooting and crawling, I don’t want him to slam his face on any sharp edges. Also, while reading the reviews of many wooden, small ABC blocks, many parents stressed that the paint comes off them when chewed. This gives me (obvious) concern, so we’ll wait a bit before purchasing some — more manly — wooden blocks. We chose these Earlyears Sweet Baby Blocks. They are so cute, easy to hold, easy to chew. They are made in China, but isn’t everything, and they are PVC-free. (Target sells some nicely reviewed soft-plastic blocks, the One Two Squeeze Soft Blocks, for just $8.99, but the catch is you have to go to the store to get this great deal.)

A wooden toy that my son loves is the Melissa & Doug Pound-a-Peg.  I found this second-hand, and could not be happier with it.  He likes chewing on the pegs (no paint chips yet) and putting them back in the holes.  He grabs the yellow pegs first and screams if we try to replace it with another color.  I think we found his favorite color, folks.

Finally, our son’s (real) favorite toys continues to be our cell phones, lap-tops, and television remote. He sees us playing with them and wants to play with it like mama and dada. Of course we can’t blame him! Looking for a (realistic-looking) baby cell-phone is tough!

And one more shout out: to our beloved board books. Our son has become our precious little reader! He loves listening to stories, chewing the pages, grabbing at the bins of books and bookshelves. He makes me so proud. So, if a child needs anything at all besides a stick to play with, first and foremost, I believe, a child should be given a book.

Best baby toys (3 to 6 months)

I have always wanted “our house” to stay ours and not become “the baby’s house.” I still agree with this sentiment, but am slowly beginning to realize that as our four month old begins to develop his senses and his motor skills, he needs fun things to play with.  During our days together, my son goes around the house with me to different “stations” we have set up.  The living room, his room, his gym, the pack ‘n play, our bed, guest room bed, etc.  In every space, I keep rotating the toys and books to he doesn’t get bored (and so I don’t get bored….)

I thought we were covered in the toy department.  We have bought several nice teethers and rattles (Sophie the Giraffe, Green Sprouts teethers, Lifefactory, and the Haba Kringelring), some sweet animal blankets and crinkle books, and my mother-in-law bought us a play gym. However, these last few weeks have made me realize that he needs more toys around the house to keep him (and me) occupied. We don’t want to go overboard, but I now recognize that he needs many fun, and age-appropriate, things to play with! I love wooden toys, and have bought him a few items, but realize now that it isn’t logical to give him hard toys (Melissa & Doug, Plan Toys, Haba) when he can’t even sit up yet (= borderline dangerous). So here I am, on the Christmas lookout, asking friends and searching websites, for what are the best and most useful toys for my less than six months-er. Since he is so young, he needs plush toys, which I obviously can’t buy used, but pretty soon, I will be looking at garage sales and mom-to-mom sales in my area for more toys! (Organization comes later, right?)

I decided on the following toys for Christmas presents (from his mom and dad, not Santa Claus, who we have decided won’t be a part of our Christmas celebrations):

The first gift I bought was a set of soft baby blocks. I think these are so cute — they have beautiful colors and are farm-themed — which is nice because we live right next to a farm. by Skip Hop

And the matching activity mirror. Our little one loves to look at himself in the mirror, so I knew this would be great to promote tummy time (should have bought this months ago). by Skip Hop

The best ranked baby toy on Amazon and elsewhere: the Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes. It is like a little Baby Ipod. I am skeptical about electronic baby toys, but apparently this one is amazing.

Ezra needs some bright-colored soft plush toys — for at home and on the go. Lamaze offers many creatures that are fun and have many sounds and textures. We decided on Freddie the Firefly which, according to Amazon, offers “hours of fun” for babies:
* Stimulates baby’s vision and auditory skills
* Soft velour body and multiple textures on the wings keep baby engaged
* Tethered ladybug teether and knotted antennae perfect for chewing
These descriptions always crack me up, but now that I have my own child, I buy into all of this. I really do think that babies need the auditory and visual stimulations! And I think he just looks like a lot of fun.

And some stacking cups for bath time and play time. by Green Sprouts

We also purchased a couple more baby board books (to add to our ever growing collection), as well as a beautiful wooden, hand-crafted tractor. We are so excited to watch our little one open his gifts (or is it that I’m excited to open his gifts?). And I know there will be more surprises in store from grandparents and family (I gave some suggestions of other toys I’d love him to have as well). I think that I have his age group mostly covered (4-6 months), but what toys are MUST-HAVES for 6-9 months? 9-12 months? I’d love to hear your opinions.