Mimi’s second year of life is coming to a close (?!?!?!) and because I think it’s so interesting, I’m going to share with you what she has liked to play with best during this year. Every kid is different, of course, but I think that the things which were a hit with her would be a hit with any one-year-old you come across. It basically comes down to four B’s: bears, books, balls, and blocks. Plus some other stuff.
1. Bears, by which I mean all soft cuddly toys. During this year, Mimi began to need some company and reassurance during the night. She’s gotten attached to a dollie and to a plush frog. They are squeezed and bitten while she sleeps, and are playmates while she’s awake. Mostly they are fed play food, but they also require good-morning hellos, bedtime kisses, and special seats at meal times.
2. Blocks. Mimi has a set of large, heavy wooden building blocks that are fun to stack and knock down. She also has a set of oversized interlocking blocks–not Duplo yet, I think that will be better for this coming year–but the really big ones (you know the ones I mean?) that go together and come apart easily. She sticks them and unsticks them, and loves to have us build things for her. She has bristle blocks, too, also mostly good for sticking and unsticking and having us build things for her to play with.
3. Balls. The delight these elicit in her is incredible. No other toy moves so fast or in such a fun way. I bought rubber balls in a couple of sizes (small 4″ for rolling back and forth, larger 10″ for kicking in the yard) right around her first birthday. Since then I’ve also discovered small rubber balls with LED lights inside that flash when the ball is bounced. What a hit!
4. Books. This will be highly dependent on a child’s taste of course, but in this year Mimi started to feel that board books are “babyish”. She loves compendium storybooks (there are good ones of Al Perkins, Dr. Seuss, Berenstain Bears beginner books, Curious George, and Little Critter–the earlier stories of those last two are the best) and like I said in my last post Eyewitness books are a recent hit. Eric Carle and Maurice Sendak are big hits too. The regular Berenstain Bears books seem to be too long-winded at this age.
5. Art supplies. Mimi received crayons for her first birthday, and by fifteen months (with a lot of practice) she had figured out how to scribble. At the same age, it was easy to teach her how to use a Magnadoodle and clear the screen for herself, which was great for long car trips. We’ve also tried sidewalk chalk, finger paints, markers, stamps, and play-doh, all with great success though as far as I’m concerned, play school can take the finger paint share of the things. The cleanup lasts longer than the painting. I also realized this year that while coloring books might be blamed for stifling creativity, they are also a cheap and plentiful source of fresh picture books, so I like them.
6. People playsets. Mimi’s Little People castle was the toy that kept her attention the longest when she was one year old–she could happily play by herself for thirty minutes. She got the Little People house for Christmas, and she can literally keep busy with it for an hour at a time if I’m lucky. She’s especially interested in deciding which of a group of objects are the mommy, daddy, and baby, and she also likes putting things in and out of windows and doors. The house is an ideal toy.
7. Wooden puzzle toys. At the beginning of the year she couldn’t do very much with the ones she had. She has one with zoo animals, and mostly liked to play with the animals. She had a wooden ring stacker, and mostly took the rings off and played with them. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it occupied her pretty well. Only toward the end of this year has she begun to be able to stack the rings and “do” the puzzle. She also enjoys a latches board. A puzzle with magnetic balls that are guided with a magnetic wand is a little too complicated, but she’s intrigued by it and will figure it out soon. Throughout the whole year a wire bead “roller coaster” toy has been a big hit.
8. Musical instruments. What kid doesn’t like to make noise? A tambourine, a xylophone, jingle bells, maracas, drums, and shaker eggs are perfect for this age. I recently found a plastic ocarina at Target, and she can get noise out of that, which she really enjoys.
9. Toy food and dishes. Mimi’s plastic cups and plates and bowls live in a low drawer in the kitchen, and she plays with them incessantly. I also let her play in a drawer full of colanders and unbreakable mixing bowls, and she loves it. When I’m desperate to keep her entertained in her high chair, out come measuring cups and spoons, basting brushes, tongs, cookie cutters and funnels. Because she sees me “playing” with this stuff all the time, she’s fascinated too. She also has a lot of toy food and a toy tea set, and gets much mileage out “feeding” us and her cuddly toys. At this age I’d recommend plush food rather than the wooden stuff, because it’s bound to get thrown… at furniture or at you.
10. Anything with buttons that makes noise. The B. Toys Hellophone and Alphaberry are the two I’m thinking of. Leapfrog makes some other toys that she’s enjoyed. Especially in the first half of the year, when she was less able with her hands, the agency this kind of thing gave her was a delight. Push a button, hear music! Hooray!
I hope this list is useful to someone. As I said every kid is bound to have different interests, but their capability to understand and play with different things probably progresses at about the same rate. This age is mostly too old for “baby” toys like rattles to be entertaining, for example, and mostly too young for very complicated puzzles or any toy that can’t be properly played with without narrative imagination. Enjoy!