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My Favorite Toys for Toddlers 12-18 Months Old
Age-Appropriate Toys to Keep Your 12-18 Month Old Toddler Playing, Learning and Having Fun
Whether you are a parent of a busy toddler, a grandparent looking for a great gift for your grandchild, or a childcare provider wanting to give your toddler area toys that appeal to many children, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to find toys that will be the most fun and the best for a toddler's current stage of development.
Between my own daughter, nieces, nephews, friends' children, and all the kids I've played with while volunteering in my church's toddler care room, I've seen what young toddlers gravitate towards time and time again.
I know I'd much rather spend my money on stuff that my child will actually play with, is made well, and is the best 'bang for the buck'. My guess is that you're probably the same way, so I've put together my list of the best toys in some general categories of playthings recommended for toddlers 12-18 months old. I've seen the vast majority of these in action personally; we either own them, a number of friends have them for their children, or they're favorites of kids in my church's toddler area.
I've made personal comments on each top toy so you can get a real mom's take on them.
Here's what makes a toy grab my attention:
- Holds child's interest (at least to an age-appropriate extent).
- Fun! Must be enjoyable to play with.
- Durable/Quality Construction.
- Age and Developmentally Appropriate.
While all of these toys spot-on for this age and at least a bit beyond, I've also noted the ones which have the most possibility for being favorites for longer. To me, that's an extra bonus. :)
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessicafm/2850362223/
How a 12-18 Month Old is Developing and Playing
Here's a short explanation of how toddlers in this age range are developing, and how it affects their play
This time in your toddler's life is characterized by movement...lots of it. If she hasn't started walking by a year old (around half of babies walk by 13 months), this is the time where she'll take those monumental first steps. By 18 months, you'll be chasing her as she runs down the sidewalk. Toddler-sized play structures will be a thrill for her as she starts to explore and climb, and you'll probably see her dancing and prancing too.
Hand and finger skills are becoming more coordinated; by 18 months she'll be able to pick up small objects with her thumb and forefinger, build taller block towers and scribble. She's into experimenting with cause and effect with her toys, like "What happens when I push this button?" or "What happens if I turn this knob?" to figure out how things work. Imitation is a large part of a toddler's cognitive development at this stage, so you'll see her doing things like holding a toy phone to her ear and 'reading' to you from a book.
Her hands are becoming more coordinated, too, and she can now use toy sorters more efficiently, build even greater block towers, and scribble a drawing. Her play involves lots of experimentation, like "What happens if I drop this ball?" or "What happens if pull this lever?" She's very interested in the consequences of her actions, and because her memory isn't well developed she won't tire of repetition. Toddlers also like to try out what they see adults doing, so look for toys that imitate daily life.
Language development is rapid during this stage; all of a sudden you'll realize that your toddler understands a lot of what you're talking about. He'll probably be able to say between 10-15 words, mostly having to do with objects like 'dog' or 'ball' and can follow simple directions. Books where he can point to familiar objects when you tell him the name for them, i.e. "Where is the duck?" will be fun for him, as well as good for building his language skills and vocabulary.
photo credit: BunnyFabulous: my daughter BunnyJunior on the hand-me-down Fisher Price bus ride-on she got for her first birthday. It was hard to get her off of it sometimes...a fun toy, but there are even better ride-ons on the market today.
Building Bricks and Blocks - Jumbo size cardboard bricks are light and easily stack into huge towers, walls, forts or whatever your little one's heart desires.
Both of these toys have been on the market for awhile, but they're highly rated for a good reason....they've got quality construction and appeal to a wide range of children. While 12-18 months is a great time to get these blocks, they provide lots of fun for older children too.
If you have room for these colorful, sturdy blocks by all means get them. They continue to be an extremely popular item in my church's toddler play area, and they stand up to what little kids can dish out, while still being light enough for little kids to lift and build on their own. Toddlers have fun stacking the blocks, but even more fun is doing a full-body knockdown of their towers.
These gorgeous wooden blocks aren't only classy looking, they're super durable and hold up to teething toddlers. The perfect size for little hands, they're great to stack and have colors, letters (upper and lower case), numbers and animals to sort and talk about. My daughter loves the satisfying noise of wooden blocks tumbling down, and these fit the bill perfectly.
A Ball Toy That Gets Rave Reviews From Toddlers - Playskool/Hasbro's Busy Ball Popper. It's on the way to becoming a classic, and there's a good reason for tha
Five colorful balls that 'fountain' out of the top, roll down a chute, go back through a see-thru pipe to do it all again...and with music. What's there for a toddler not to love? The toddler childcare room at my church where I volunteer has a Busy Ball Popper, and every child is fascinated with it. I know of many families who've bought one after their son or daughter enjoyed it in the toddler room because they enjoyed it so much. Grabbing for the balls as a gentle stream of air pushes them out is great fun, and 12-18 month olds can easily see how pushing the plunger gets the toy started. Lots and lots of fun, even for kids older than 18 months.
Granted, the balls can scatter as a result, but children who are newly walking can also get great delight out of chasing the balls. Even if they don't naturally seek out the wayward balls, it can be a good teaching moment to help your child learn to bring a toy back to keep the fun going. Some parents note that the music is a bit on the loud side, but in my experience it's not as loud as some other toys can be. Personal preference, I guess. If you strongly prefer quiet toys, then this one may not be for you.
Summertime Fun - Water Tables - All the toddlers I know love splashing around with water, so water tables are great for cool summer fun when a pool isn't an opt
Even if it's not summer, you can look ahead to fun in the sun!
My best friend got this table when her son turned 1 year old, and it's been something he and his older sister would play with every day if their mom let them. (We live in Florida, so it's almost like summer year-round. They get to play with it a lot) The water pouring wheel helps kids see how water can cause other things to move, and it shows them how water flows downhill too. Besides those educational features, the table is just plain fun. When I bring my daughter over to my friend's house to play, all three kids love getting anything that will scoop and pour water, and they all fit around it quite easily. The table is light enough for an adult to handle, but sturdy enough that three active kiddos have a hard time even tipping it. Right now the oldest one of our trio is 4 years old, and she's still really into this toy. It'll hold up well as your child grows.
Playsets - A themed playset brings the great big world down to size for your toddler, giving her the opportunity to make the decisions, control the action, use
This home is an activity-fest for all stages of an 12-18 month old toddler's development and interests. There are buttons to push, shapes to sort, things to spin, songs, doors to open and shut, and words that go along with actions. My daughter has found hours and hours of fun with this toy, and different parts of it have appealed to her at different ages. This is a toy that'll last beyond the 18 month mark too; it's still a popular one at our house. In fact, I wrote an entire review on it because we enjoyed it so much. The link to the review is just below the video of my daughter playing with the learning home.
Playing with the Fisher Price Learning Home - A sample of some of the Learning Home's features, as played with by my daughter.
Review of the Fisher Price Learning Home
- Toys That Grow With Your Child
Full blog review of the Fisher Price Learning Home on AFewOfMommy'sFavoriteThings.com
Best New Playset - The newest version of Fisher Price's Animal Sounds Zoo has upgraded features that I love.
My daughter has played with each upgrade of the Animal Sounds Zoos and found each to be delightful. This version gives even more expression to the features that she and so many other kids love about this line of playsets. First of all, the slide is longer, goes around the back and the animal (or whatever else your child chooses to slide down there) actually stays on the slide and lands in the playset. There's a swing for the animals to go into, which is always a big hit with my daughter, and the animals make fairly realistic sounds. (Big improvement -- one of the earlier models had really fake-y sounds for the lion and polar bear) One nice thing is that whichever animal you put on the paw at the base of the toy, it'll recognize the animal and make its correct sound. There are other sounds to discover too.
For parents, the set assembles easily and it has a handle to move it easily. It's big enough for two kids to play with at the same time, which is a nice bonus. However, I wish this came with more animals; only the lion, gorilla and polar bear are included. You have to buy the other ones separately.
Sorting and Nesting Toys - Give your toddler a chance to develop his problem-solving skills via the joys of sorting, stacking, unsorting, and unstacking. He'll
The word 'baby' in the title can throw you off. While this is a toy that can be purchased for your child earlier, but our 18-month old still plays with this almost daily. She loves sorting the shapes and it can be easily used to start to teach shapes and colors. An inexpensive toy that is fun through multiple developmental stages.
Puzzles - At this age, the best puzzles are the most basic. Start with ones that have good visual clues as to where the pieces go and have some extra appeal lik
Oh, how I wish this puzzle would've been available when my daughter was a toddler. I love that the animal puzzle pieces are also toys in and of themselves; there's a googly-eyed fish, a squeaky monkey and other animals with spinning, rattling and crinkling activities. It develops children's hand-eye coordination/fine motor skills and matching as well. We'll definitely be getting this when we have another baby. Other parents have commented on how well-made it is and how chewable the pieces are.
Picture Books - Your toddler may start requesting favorite books for you to read. She can now take more enjoyment out of picture books that show familiar object
These are our family's very favorite books for young toddlers. They got read and/or played with again and again and again.
Toddlers revel in opening the sturdy flaps to find the different animals who are playing musical instruments in Pip the Penguin's house. It's a smaller board book that entertains my daughter very well in the car.
Reading with young children is extremely important for their development. You usually get to cuddle them at the same time, so that's a win-win.
This book transitions easily from the parent pointing out and saying the words all the way to asking your child 'what's this?' and 'where's the motorcycle?' type questions. You may be surprised at what your child likes to point to and say. I've seen versions of this book in US English and UK English.
Sandra Boynton puts a funny spin on a familiar going to bed routine. My daughter loves the rhymes, pointing at the animals, and it wraps up our day in a fun but relaxing way. The toothbrushing lines from the book have made it into our own bedtime routine. As your toddler gets older, there are some interesting little details to point out and giggle over.
Climbing Structures - With your child's large motor skills catching up with her desire to explore, small climbing and sliding play structures provide lots of fu
One of the few climbing structures recommended for younger toddlers, this climber is immensely popular with the kids in my church's toddler play area. Even after my daughter 'graduated' from that play room, she would ask to come back. The 'stairs' are easy to clamber up, and while the wheel thing on top looks really simple, it's quite entertaining to twirl. It can shake a little bit, but the structure is very sturdy and holds together well. Another bonus is that it's small enough to be an indoor toy, but tough enough to withstand the outdoors.
Ride-on / Push Toys - Newbie or soon-to-be walkers love to practice their skills pushing around a toy big enough to lean into. They may not be ready to ride by
A number of our friends own Wheely Bugs, and a childcare room I volunteered in had one that attracted toddlers like a magnet. My daughter coveted the times that she got to ride this adorable little bug around, and bopping its antennae was a favorite pasttime as well. Holding onto the handle and pushing the bug backwards works well to help budding walkers have something to lean on as they get the hang of upright locomotion. My daughter loved the freedom of 'walking' like that before she could do it without support. If your child is attracted to other animals, the company makes others as well, including a cow.
What About Electronic Learning Toys? - There are certainly other ways for toddlers to learn cause and effect and learn vocabulary, but high-quality electronic l
If you're going for an electronic learning toy for 12-18 month olds, you'd be hard-pressed to find one better than LeapFrog's Scout puppy, or the girl version, My Pal Violet. The songs are catchy, and if you hook Scout up to the internet via USB, you can input your child's name and some of his or her favorite things. I like that the songs play for more than just a few moments and that there's so much to do with this one pup. He's just so soft and cuddly too. Quite huggable for kids this age. If you're tempted to go for a competitor's 'learning dog', DON'T DO IT! The brown dog with colorful ears drove my husband and I up the wall and confused our daughter with how sensitive it was to the touch. Scout's much cuter, and a more toddler and parent-friendly pup.
More Resources to Find Great Toys
- Oppenheim Toy Portfolio
The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio was founded in 1989 as the only independent consumer review of children's media. They test and review products for children the year-round-only we get to do what most parents wish they could do before they buy; open the t