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learning through play

It won't be long after baby's arrival that you'll see her playful side take shape. From the very first time she shakes a rattle, pushes a button, rolls a'll realize your little one is a sponge soaking up as much of her experience as possible. And playtime is an important part of that experience. To make it the best it can be, choose age-appropriate toys that enhance each stage of development and stimulate creativity.

We've highlighted some guidelines to help you find the best toys for your baby as she grows to toddlerhood.

age-appropriate toys for baby/toddler:

0-3 months

In her first months, baby will enjoy playthings that spark her visual or auditory interest. Choose high-contrast, colorful toys with geometric patterns and shapes, as well as mobiles, wrist rattles, rhythmic and motion-oriented toys that make engaging sounds.

3-6 months

At this stage, baby is now starting to roll, move and grasp more. Select toys she can hold such as rattles, soft stuffed animals, squeaky rubber toys and board books. Bouncers, baby gyms and play mats allow baby to pull, spin, rattle and reach. Make sure all toys are safe for chewing. Consider keeping a colorful teething ring handy!

6-9 months

During this period, baby will learn to sit, stand, and perhaps even begin to creep or crawl. Activity centers, baby walkers, balls, stationary and doorway jumpers and wood or soft blocks will keep her engaged and stimulated. The more baby moves around, the more fascinated she'll be by toys that do, too.

9-12 months

By this time, baby is on the move! Whether creeping and crawling or cruising and walking, she'll be curious and ready to roam. Push toys provide plenty of fun and double as a cruising assistant. Challenge her problem-solving skills with simple puzzles and shape sorters. Touch and feel books will also stimulate her senses.

12-18 months

Active! Active! Active! She's now a toddler and will be keeping you busy, and you'll need to find ways to keep her busy as well. Push and pull toys or sorting and nesting toys will help develop her eye-hand coordination. Coloring books and picture books will allow her to be creative while learning. Ride-on toys and climbing gyms are added fun!

18-24 months

Curiosity is in full force, and she'll want to discover things on her own. Watch as she starts imitating your actions, like talking on the phone. Pretend play and dress-up games will help her mimic everyday life. Anything from paper money to plastic kitchen sets to role-playing will enhance her imagination. Toy instruments, coloring books and puzzles are also toddler favorites.

Find the toys/entertainment you'll need:

fun on the go

Having some form of entertainment available for your little one is always a good idea, especially when you're on the go. There are numerous toys that attach to car seats and strollers, and anything from teethers to tiny plush that can fit right in your diaper bag. Having a portable DVD player for the car, whether you're taking a long road trip or sitting in unexpected traffic, would be an added bonus, especially for a toddler on board. Keep an extra set of toys in the car for those trips to grandma's house, too!

Be sure to follow the manufacturer's age recommendations on toy packages for maximum safety, proper usage and play value. After all, when it comes to learning through play, giving her all the educational and fun tools she needs today will help pave her way to future discoveries.