Play-by-Age Guide

Even if you have a minivan-full of kiddos, chances are you forget exactly what developmental challenges children are working on at different ages. Here’s a quick reference guide to your child’s developmental tasks from birth-5 years and the toys that support their learning. Enjoy!

0-3 months

Developmentally, here are the exciting things your baby’s been up to:

  • Focuses on objects 8-10 inches from his face
  • Can see patterns and contrasting colors best
  • Visually tracks moving objects
  • Attends to new sounds and music
  • Likes to touch new textures
  • Intrigued by human faces, especially eyes
  • Can recognize familiar voices

Toys that support your baby’s development:

  • Mobiles
  • Soothers (that play soft music, over slow visual stimulation)
  • Play gyms
  • Rattles & teethers
  • Tummy time supporters (e.g., Boppy)

 4-6 months

Developmentally, here’s what your baby’s been up to:

  • Developing depth perception
  • Discovering own hands and feet
  • Grasps and swipes at objects
  • Reaches for objects of interest
  • Beginning to understand cause and effect (batting, kicking, peek-a-boo)
  • Loves to hear own voice and voice of others
  • Reacts to own reflection
  • Learning to sit up

Toys that support your baby’s development:

  • Mobiles
  • Soothers (that play soft music, over slow visual stimulation)
  • Play gyms
  • Rattles & teethers
  • Tummy time/sitting up supporters (e.g., Boppy)
  • Mirrors
  • Toys with music and lights
  • Groups of toys offering different textures, shapes, sizes and contrasting colors
  • Stackers (e.g., blush or rubber blocks)
  • Toys that react to baby’s action (something happens when the baby engages with it).
  • Toys that promote crawling (e.g., balls)

 7-12 months

Developmentally, here are the things your baby’s working on:

  • Because he’s sitting up, he’s seeing the world from a new, vertical perspective
  • Can grasp large and small objects
  • Passes objects from hand to hand
  • Understands objects do not disappear when he can’t see them
  • Remembers recent events
  • Becoming an independent mover – can crawl or even walk to where wants to go
  • Experiments with doing things to see what will happen (rolling, hitting, hammering, etc.)
  • Anticipates what happens next with familiar activities
  • Beginning to understand language
  • Understands what “no” means, but doesn’t have the emotional maturity to resist the temptation!

Toys that support your baby’s development:

  • Toys with music and lights
  • Toys that promote crawling (e.g., balls)
  • Toys that react to baby’s action (something happens when the baby engages with it).
  • Shape sorts
  • Stacking cups
  • Activity tables
  • Locking beads
  • Drums, xylophones, egg shakers , pianos
  • Push cars
  • Toys with buttons, levers and dials
  • Books
  • Toys that encourage language development
  • Early role-play toys (e.g., tea sets, tool sets)
  • Pull toys
  • Toys that encourage baby to put smaller objects into larger objects (e.g., balls into a basketball hoop)
  • Walk-along toys
  • Pretend-play toys (e.g., farms, castles, airplanes, zoos)

 13-18 months

Developmentally, here are the exciting things your toddler’s been up to:

  • Mimics your actions
  • Starting to communicate with you with simply words
  • Gets frustrated if can’t communicates needs/wants
  • Large motor development (walking, running, jumping)
  • Mastering spacial relationships (up/down, in/out, over/under)
  • Intrigued with stacking, sorting
  • Deliberately manipulates environment by opening closing, pushing pulling, putting things in and taking them out
  • Starting to understand stories ― will ask for favorite books
  • Recognizes colors and animals he’s been taught

Toys that support your child’s development:

  • Toys that encourage baby to put smaller objects into larger objects (e.g., balls into a basketball hoop)
  • Walk-along toys
  • Pretend-play toys (e.g., farms, castles, airplanes, zoos)
  • Books
  • Toys that encourage language development
  • Early role-play toys (e.g., tea sets, tool sets)
  • Pull toys
  • Puzzles
  • Shape sorters
  • Stackers
  • Baby dolls
  • Cars, trucks
  • Foot-to-floor ride ons

 19-24 months

Developmentally, here’s what your toddler’s been working on:

  • Improved balance and coordination through running, jumping, climbing
  • Increased ability to understand language
  • Can follow basic instructions
  • Increased ability to communicate own needs/wants
  • Will tantrum when frustrated
  • Enjoys doing things he likes over and over again
  • Wants to do things by himself

Toys that support your toddler’s development:

  • Walk-along toys
  • Pretend-play toys (e.g., farms, castles, airplanes, zoos)
  • Books
  • Toys that encourage language development
  • Early role-play toys (e.g., tea sets, kitchens, tool sets)
  • Pull toys
  • Puzzles
  • Shape sorters
  • Stackers
  • Baby dolls
  • Cars, trucks, trains
  • Foot-to-floor ride ons
  • Early construction/building toys (e.g., blocks, Mega Blocks, Duplo)

 2-3 years

Developmentally, here are the exciting things your preschooler’s doing:

  • Takes physical risks when exploring his world
  • Learning the difference between safe and dangerous
  • Increased physical coordination and large motor activity
  • Problem solves through object manipulation
  • Anticipates basic consequences
  • Tantrums subside as ability to communicate with language improves
  • Becoming more social, beginning to play with (vs. alongside) other children

 Toys that support your preschooler’s development:

  • Books
  • Puzzles
  • Shape sorters
  • Stackers
  • Baby dolls
  • Cars, trucks, trains
  • Foot-to-floor ride ons
  • Role-play
  • Pretend-play
  • Early construction/building toys (e.g., blocks, Mega Blocks, Duplo)
  • Tricycles
  • Slides
  • Simple remote controlled toys
  • Toys that encourage climbing on, in and through
  • Toys that can be taken apart and put back together
  • Creative play toys (e.g., crayons, play dough, stamps)
  • Toys that teach ABC’s, 123’s, and time concepts

 3-5+ years

Developmentally, here are the exciting things your child’s been up to:

  • Developing strong imagination
  • Thinking symbolically; can represent his world through language, drawing and images
  • Understands that people are separate from him with different feelings and experiences
  • Can imagine self in other’s shoes (empathy, sympathy, role play)
  • Increased coordination – can kick, catch, throw, swim, dance)
  • Starting to draw people and forming letters with writing
  • Developing friendships
  • Increased problem solving skills
  • Can explain concepts
  • Learning to differentiate between real and imaginary

 Toys that support your child’s development:

  • Puzzles
  • Books/early readers
  • Role-play/dress-up
  • Pretend-play
  • Baby dolls
  • Cars, trucks, trains
  • Early construction/building toys (e.g., blocks, Mega Blocks, Duplo)
  • Tricycles
  • Slides
  • Simple remote controlled toys
  • Toys that encourage climbing on, in and through
  • Toys that can be taken apart and put back together
  • Creative play toys (e.g., crayons, play dough, stamps)
  • Toys that teach ABC’s, 123’s, and time concepts
  • Leapster and other learning toys
  • Scissor skills
  • Writing skills
  • Sequencing/pattern recognition toys

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