What kinds of toys will help my baby learn? Gear You Didn't Know You Needed

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Wooded toys on the floor.
iStock/LeandroHernandez
When buying baby's toys, making smart choices can pay off. Here, a pediatrician explains what to look for when shopping, and moms tell us what types of playthings helped their little ones learn most.

Low-Tech Multipurpose Toys Are Best

"Look for toys that are not electronic and that require early problem-solving skills, like stacking cups in graduated sizes and blocks of different colors. Think: things that kill two birds with one stone, such as objects that can be sorted by size but also sorted by color. Look for fun, building toys that are multipurpose, so you can talk about their shapes and sizes and can count them. Also [look for] things like blocks that have letters on them as well, so you can start to identify the...

"Look for toys that are not electronic and that require early problem-solving skills, like stacking cups in graduated sizes and blocks of different colors. Think: things that kill two birds with one stone, such as objects that can be sorted by size but also sorted by color. Look for fun, building toys that are multipurpose, so you can talk about their shapes and sizes and can count them. Also [look for] things like blocks that have letters on them as well, so you can start to identify the letters. You can say, for example, 'Look for the blocks with an A and put them in this cup.' You can be directing that on floor with your child while getting stuff done, like laundry on the couch. Big cardboard books that name things are fantastic as well. Really keep in mind what toys are developmentally appropriate for your child. Things that are for older children, they just won't get yet." -- Christina Johns, MD, MEd, FAAP, senior medical advisor, PM Pediatrics, Lake Success, NY

Simple Blocks Are Great

"My son learned his shapes and colors, and number quantities, just by playing. He doesn't have number recognition yet, but if you have a pile of blocks, he can tell you how many there are up to about 10. It was just through everyday play. I'd say, 'Oooh, this is a really pretty blue car,' 'The wheel is shaped like a circle,' 'This sign is a triangle,' or 'The window is a rectangle.'"

Tub Toys Can Help With Learning

"It sounds weird, but my daughter learns best in the tub. She is in one spot and there aren't a lot of distractions. We play with bath toys, and she has bath crayons, so that helps with colors."

Look for Stacking Cups

"Once my son sat up, he was obsessed with stacking cups. He used to play with those things for hours! And I think his little brain's gears were turning the whole time, learning about size and building and numbers."

Teach Through Song

"I sing the ABC song every time I change my daughter's diaper. It starts that young."

Do Your Research

"When buying toys, I always go to the website to see what they have in each age group category. That way, I knew it was developmentally appropriate. And, of course, don't forget to read the reviews!"

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.