Let's first talk about safety. Children and babies under 36 months of age are subject to strict standards to ensure their safety. The toys should be large enough and there should be no small parts falling off. This is to keep the child from choking or suffocating. Moreover, the toys, as well as their parts and surfaces, should be free of physical and chemical hazards.
BASIC RULES FOR SELECTING SAFE TOYS
Standards have been set by government agencies to prevent injuries to babies and children when interacting with toys (some information here for those in the USA, UK, Australia). Standardization was the result of product testing and continuous assessment (often by independent laboratories). Toys, for instance, have specific sizes specified for both the parts (that may or may not come off) and the actual toy. Moreover, the toy manufacturer should anticipate every possible behavior that could occur while children play with the toys.
Toys still need to be chosen carefully, even with those standards. When purchasing a product, parents should examine the product label and note the manufacturer's age recommendations and warnings. To purchase a product, we read product reviews online and gather as much information about it as we can (latest recalls and news regarding the toy and its components and manufacturer) before making a purchase. Even when it is a stuffed toy, parents must check for sharp ends and edges. By doing so, parents can ensure their babies' safety and gain total peace of mind.
TOYS THAT HELP TO DEVELOP A CHILD
Now that safety has been ensured, we can look for toys that will stimulate our children's minds and bodies. Toys should, however, be within the capability of our children (which is why there are recommended toys according to the child's age).
The best toys for babies between zero and six months of age are objects that they can shake and make noise with. They are great for stimulating their senses and entertaining them.
Babies over the age of seven to twelve months should be given toys that enable them to interact with, explore, and imagine (e.g. cars with wheels, puppets, dolls, a ball, soft blocks).
Children who are one year old are ready for simple puzzles, while children who are two are ready for creative expression (drawing, painting).
As the child grows older, the toys become more sophisticated and involve their senses as well as their cognitive abilities. The key to maximizing learning and fun is to have the child use and interact with a variety of toys. As a result, they quickly gain a variety of experiences and the various parts of their brains are stimulated constantly (which is particularly important during their early development because of rapid brain growth).
Learning, having fun, and staying safe are the priorities. Be sure to read all the available information about the products you choose for your baby before making a decision. It's still important to choose a toy that is safe and an optimal fit for your child, even if his or her enjoyment will be short-lived.