EARLY LEARNING—SO MUCH MORE THAN ABCs

Day after amazing day, all the fun-filled things they do and discover are the very things that help children learn. And all the things you do for them? Part of giving your child the best possible start.

Physical Development

BUILDING BUSY LITTLE BODIES

Mastering physical skills is such an important part of childhood —and it paves the way to all kinds of learning.

  • SENSORY SKILLS
    Hearing, seeing, touching, tasting—the senses are the very first windows to helping your child learn, “lighting up” areas of the brain.
  • FINE MOTOR SKILLS
    From grasping a toy to holding a pencil, developing fine motor skills helps lead to success in school and beyond.
  • GROSS MOTOR SKILLS
    Huge physical milestones occur in the early years—and motor skills keep getting refined as your child grows.

Cognitive Development

ENGAGING CURIOUS MINDS

The best way to learn? Though play. You’ll be astounded at how much brain power they build in the early years.

  • CURIOSITY & DISCOVERY
    Encouraging that natural sense of wonder and amazement will help your child want to learn more—every day!
  • PROBLEM SOLVING
    How does it work? Figuring things out is one of the best parts of play—from simple challenges to more complex ones.
  • IMAGINATION & CREATIVITY
    Asking “what if?” Dreaming up new ways to see the world. Being able to imagine and create. They’re hallmarks of great thinkers.

Social & Emotional Development

NURTURING CONFIDENT PERSONALITIES

Express ideas, sharing with friends, being a good listener—playing is a natural (and fun!) way to develop good social skills and enhance emotional well–being.

  • LISTENING
    A child can hear even before birth—and will always benefit from being a good listener (and talker!).
  • SELF EXPRESSION & CONFIDENCE
    Feeling good about yourself and communicating your thoughts are essential skills that develop naturally through play.
  • SECURITY & HAPPINESS
    Playful children are happy children. When all is said and done, you want your child to have emotional connections, to feel happy and secure—now, and when they’re all grown up!

1 month old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
Your precious newborn will light up your life. And sensory stimulation actually “lights up” key areas of your one-month-old baby’s brain.

How your 1-month-old might play now:
Your baby can see objects 8-10 inches away but can’t make out details or the full color spectrum
He follows objects slowly with his eyes over very short distances
She mimics simple facial expressions and, when someone speaks to her, looks intently
He’s startled by loud or unexpected noises
Her fists are closed

2 month old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
Now the senses are beginning to work together as a way to learn about the world. So be sure to provide plenty of sensory-stimulating experiences for your two-month-old. And enjoy beginning social skills … like that first real smile!

How your 2-month-old might play now:
He may smile at people and coo when spoken to
She shows excitement by waving her arms and legs
He’s able to learn that one event follows another
She will turn toward a sound at her side, but she can only locate sounds that are in front of her
He can start figuring out how to make things happen

3 month old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
Sleeping and eating patterns should become more predictable now. You may notice your three-month-old discovering new ways to communicate with you and discover the world … touching, feeling and grabbing everything within reach!

How your 3-month-old might play now:
He recognizes parents and is interested in others’ faces
She knows if something is familiar
Lying on his tummy, he can support himself on his elbows and raise his chest
She turns her head toward a sound and watches you as you speak
When toys are placed in his hand, he can grasp them and wave them around
She can swipe at an object but does not reach for it

4 month old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
As eye-hand coordination improves, your four-month-old will enjoy greater interaction. Play simple games or offer activity toys to help your baby start to understand cause and effect.

How your 4-month-old might play now:
She may recognize familiar faces and take an interest in others
With your help, he can reach for things
She laughs, squirms and squeals with delight
He’s interested in watching his hands move
She can grasp toys that she touches

5 month old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
Each day brings something new for your five-month-old. With increasing fine motor skills, your baby not only sees things, but reaches, grabs and tastes them, too! Offer a variety of safe toys in different shapes, sizes and textures.

How your 5-month-old might play now:
She can reach out and grasp toys
He smiles at other babies—and his own reflection!
She can now “multitask”—for example, babbling and reaching for something at the same time
When offered a toy, he adjusts the position of his hand to accept it
She can roll from belly to back
To explore his world, he begins mouthing objects

6 month old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
“I can make things happen!” That’s what your baby may be figuring out now. Here are some toys and activities to help your six-month-old learn about cause and effect, and encourage other learning through play.

How your 6-month-old might play now:
She can sit up with only a little support—or maybe none at all
When he drops something, he looks for it
She enjoys simple games like peek-a-boo or pat-a-cake
He can bang a toy and shout at the same time
She participates in activities that center around her

7 month old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
Enjoy the give-and-take of early “conversations” with your seven-month-old. Because those coos and babbles are not only adorable, they’re really important for language development.

How your 7-month-old might play now:
He rocks on his hands and knees and may creep on his tummy
She responds to her name, recognizes voices and different tunes
With full color vision, he enjoys looking at complex objects—and might even move for a better view
Her eyes help her explore, and she uses them as a gauge when reaching out for objects
He starts cupping his hand around toys and can push them into his hand with his thumb

8 month old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
Your eight-month-old may enjoy picking things up, passing toys from hand to hand, and starting to associate words with objects.

How your 8-month-old might play now:
He may be able to crawl in both directions
She starts to connect two behaviors together
He’s beginning to understand “object permanence,” that objects don’t disappear when they’re out of view
She remembers recent events
His fine motor skills have improved, allowing him to pick up tiny objects
She begins to articulate sounds, beginning with vowels

9 month old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
With lots of love and praise, you’ll enjoy encouraging your nine-month-old to move on to new achievements. Toys that respond to actions will reward your baby with fun surprises … and reward you with an “I did it!” expression.

How your 9-month-old might play now:
She adjusts her posture as she moves, using furniture to steady herself
If a ball is rolled right to him, he can catch it
Her movements are more varied and deliberate
He can indicate with gestures, perhaps waving goodbye or lifting his arms to be picked up
She may follow your gaze
He can reach for a toy without falling over
Her hands are more dexterous; she can pass objects between them

10 month old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
As thinking skills mature and your baby begins to understand more complex concepts, try games that encourage natural curiosity, and busy activity toys with lots of features to explore.

How your 10-month-old might play now:
He can respond to one or two simple instructions
She may anticipate the “surprise” phrase in favorite children’s songs
With you holding his hands, he may walk
She mimics more, copying others’ actions
He likes to play peek-a-boo—and peek around corners, too
She can anticipate and remember simple sequences, such as expecting food when you open the pantry
He begins to show preferences for the different sounds he hears in language

11 month old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
Your baby is growing and learning at an amazing rate. As you watch the progress from day to day, offer encouragement with plenty of cheers and positive reinforcement—your approval will help your child believe, “What I’m doing is great!”

How your 11-month-old might play now:
He can stand unassisted and cruise along the furniture
Her babbling begins to have the inflections of language
He understands that smaller objects fit in larger ones
She can pull herself up and sit securely
He understands what “no” means but may be too curious to resist
She can respond to one or two commands

12 month old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
What a year! Full of discoveries, physical progress, and so much fun for you and your baby. The confidence you’ve inspired will help your one-year-old be ready for the second year’s exciting milestones … eager to learn even more through play!

How your 12-month-old might play now:
He understands much of what you say to him
She mimics others’ actions, like talking on the phone
He will move a toy out of the way to get to another
She likes other children but doesn’t play with them
He can anticipate your action: when he sees you holding his jacket, he’ll hold out his arms
She only makes sounds in the language she knows
He’ll show affection with hugs, kisses, smiles and pats

12-18 month old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
Newly mobile and more vocal, your little explorer is full of enthusiasm and—sometimes—a very strong will. Find out about toys that lend support as first steps lead to confident walking. And there are toys and activities to help your child absorb ideas and learn to respond to others during play.

How your 12 to 18-month-old might play now:
Your child may be walking—and very proud of it!
She’s better at entertaining herself and more deliberate in her exploration
He can string together ideas to form a basic plan
She shows affection with hugs, kisses, smiles and pats
He can put objects in and out of a box
She starts to treat objects in an appropriate manner—for example, cuddling a teddy bear
He likes to imitate familiar household routines

18-24 month old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
“I do it myself!” That may be your toddler’s mantra, embracing every opportunity to learn, do, and become more independent. Role-play toys that encourage pretending will help your child understand new experiences, bringing the big world down to size.

How your 18 to 24-month-old might play now:
He’s on the move, walking forward, sideways and backward as well as running
Her rapidly-increasing vocabulary may range from 50 to 200 words
He can express a range of moods, from joy to frustration to jealousy
She can use shape sorters and throw balls
He can follow basic directions
She can scoot on toddler ride-on toys
He can stack one block on another

2-2½ years old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
Two-year-olds are full of energy, enthusiasm, exploration—and growing independence. With so many new skills, your child can’t wait to use them! Check out our terrific toys for twos, plus playtime ideas for fun crafts and activities to help your toddler discover the joys of accomplishing new things.

How your 2 to 2 ½-year-old might play now:
He knows the difference between safe and dangerous
She’s becoming more social with other kids
Good eye-hand coordination means he can build with blocks and tuck a stuffed animal into bed

2½-3 years old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
Playing “let’s pretend” sets the stage for a rich imagination. It also helps your toddler make sense of things, express individuality and gain a sense of control. Check out our playtips and plenty of toys just right for this age.

How your 2 ½ to 3-year-old might play now:
She enjoys mimicking the actions of those she knows
He creates simple sentences and uses the words “I, me and you”
She can hop, jump and climb stairs one foot at a time
He understands what “inside,” “under” and “on top” mean
She can recall what to do when given simple instructions

3 years old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
With imagination in full gear, three-year-olds are entering a peak period for pretend play. And they LOVE to ask questions—about everything! Have fun encouraging self-expression and rich, exploratory play for your increasingly independent three-year-old.

How your 3-year-old might play now:
She likes dressing up or pretending she’s someone else
He loves to move and does not care to be still
She’s reassured to hear that people love her
He begins to compare and contrast himself with others
Basic ball play—like catching or kicking a ball—can improve balance and coordination
He can throw a ball a short distance and can catch it if it’s thrown directly in his arms
She starts drawing faces and people
He can make balls, sausages and figures out of play dough
Her squiggles begin to look like writing
He shows sympathy for storybook characters

4 years old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
Make-believe play fills your preschooler’s days, and the first true friendships begin to develop as social skills improve. You’ll find ideas here to help your four-year-old exercise problem-solving skills, get the most out of imaginative play, and even meet new physical challenges.

How your 4-year-old might play now:
With a longer attention span, a new activity can keep him engaged for extended periods

She can learn to swim, skate, dance, ski and bounce on a trampoline
He can explain something that happened when you weren’t there
She begins to grasp that people have different experiences and feelings than she does
As coordination improves, he can use the monkey bars at the playground, walk along a curb, and dodge when he’s chased
She is starting to add details to her drawings
He may print his name on his artwork
Her gait is more grown-up

5+ years old
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
Making friends, forming ideas, following rules … it’s all coming together now, just in time for school! Imagination also reaches new levels, and athletic abilities start to shine. Here, you’ll find ways to make creativity and problem-solving part of each day for your five-year-old, paving the way for continued learning and a “can-do” approach to life.

How your 5+ year-old might play now
He draws recognizable pictures, writes his name, dresses himself and completes puzzles
She can solve problems and explain things
His friendships become stronger
She can sort things into basic categories
He can imitate your pose and tone of voice
She can finish activities without waiting for directions
He differentiates between “pretend” and “real” when playing
She begins to make comparisons and her memory expands
He can explain games to other kids

Toy shopping is serious business. Toys that are too easy will bore your babe. Those that are too advanced will aggravate him. But pick one that’s just right for his skill level, and you’ll be giving him hours of education, exploration, and enjoyment. Toys are an investment in a child’s development. Ready to shop? We’ve compiled a list of age-appropriate toys — as well as ones to avoid — for each developmental level.

 

Babies (under age 1)

Best Bets:

  • You. During the first three months, you’re their favorite plaything. It’s all about sensory development, interaction with your face and your voice is what they really need.
  • Mobiles. Take them down when your baby begins grasping so he doesn’t pull it on top of himself.
  • Rattles. Toys that shake or make squeaking sounds are appropriate once baby is acquainted with you.

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  • Hardback or cloth books with simple, colorful figures to aid visual development. Make sure the books have rounded edges.
  • Push and pull toys. These come in handy at about 9 months, or when your baby attempts to walk by holding onto something.

What to Avoid:

  • Toys with strings or cords more than 12 inches long
  • Products made of PVC
  • Small objects like marbles that fit through a toy-testing tube
  • Toys with small parts (such as batteries or loose magnets) that can be swallowed
  • Stuffed animals with loosely sewn-on parts that can be easily removed
  • Sharp-edged toys
  • Toys made with lead-based paint

Toddlers (1-3 years)

Best Bets:

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  • Pop-up toys
  • Stacking rings
  • Shape sorters
  • Simple puzzles

What to Avoid:

  • Small objects like marbles that fit through a toy-testing tube
  • Toys with small parts (such as batteries or loose magnets) that can be swallowed
  • Stuffed animals with loosely sewn-on parts that can be easily removed
  • Sharp-edged toys
  • Toys made with lead-based paint

Preschoolers (4-5 years)

Best Bets:

  • Basic board games, The key word here is “basic”, don’t introduce anything too strategic yet. Preschoolers are still mastering how to play by the rules and take turns, so pick games with simple scoring methods.
  • Dress-up clothes, accessories, and props to assist with pretend play
  • Large crayons, pencils, paints, blunt-edge scissors, glue, and other art supplies

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  • Modeling clay
  • Books
  • Basic musical instruments
  • Outdoor toys, like a sandbox, pail, and shovel
  • Puppet theaters and puppets
  • Puzzles

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  • Ride-on toys. Make sure they go no faster than 2.5 miles per hour, and are used on flat, smooth surfaces under your supervision.
  • Tricycles or bicycles with training wheels (plus a helmet and your supervision)
  • Wooden train sets

What to Avoid:

  • Electrical toys
  • Remote control toys operated without parental supervision
  • Sharp-edged objects such as standard scissors
  • Toys made with lead-based paint
  • Costumes or clothing items that are tripping hazards
  • Mini-bikes

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