Toddler Essentials Buying Guide (12 Months-3 Years)

Your little one is growing by leaps and bounds! Great job on making it through the first year. Now that your toddler is on the move and exploring the world, their needs are changing. This post picks up where our baby essentials guide left off, offering a glimpse into the wonderful world of toddlerhood – from fostering independence to sparking creativity through play. We’ll explore age-appropriate activities, must-have toys (with a focus on practical, open-ended play!), and tips to encourage learning and development. So, get ready for giggles, messy explorations, and tons of heartwarming moments as your little one blossoms into a curious and capable toddler!

Here’s a breakdown of activities and toys to consider for each age group, keeping in mind the focus on practical, open-ended play:

Age 12 months

  • Activity: Encourage walking with push toys or by holding their hands for short distances.
  • Outdoor Fun: Plenty of walks in the park, trips to the zoo or the playground. Let them explore different sights, sounds, and textures in a safe outdoor environment.

Age 18 months

  • Clothes: Choose comfortable, easy-to-put-on clothes that allow for movement and exploration.
  • Practical Toys (Montessori):
    • Shape sorters: Help develop problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination.
    • Stacking cups: Promote fine motor skills and coordination.
    • Blocks: Open-ended play material that encourages creativity and imagination.
  • Cleaning and Cooking Activities:
    • Let your toddler “help” with age-appropriate tasks like wiping down the table or sorting laundry.
    • Provide child-safe toy cleaning tools like a play mop and bucket.
    • Offer safe opportunities to “help” in the kitchen, like stirring ingredients in a bowl or putting away plastic containers.
  • Picture Books: Look for books with colorful pictures and simple stories. Read together and narrate what you see on the page.
  • Learning: Sing songs and rhymes that introduce animals, numbers, colors, and the alphabet.

Age 24-30 months (2-2.5 years)

  • Independent Play: Encourage independent play by setting up inviting play areas with a variety of toys and materials. This helps them develop focus and creativity.
  • Advanced Montessori Toys: Consider puzzles, nesting dolls, or threading toys that promote problem-solving skills and fine motor development.
  • Responsibility: Give your toddler small tasks like putting away toys or picking up their clothes.
  • Building and Imagination: Building blocks, Legos, or wooden pretend food sets encourage creativity and imaginative play.

Age 36 months (3 years)

  • Chores: Expand on helping out with chores. They can help set the table, sort laundry, or dust furniture.
  • Imaginative Play: Provide dress-up clothes, dolls, action figures, or car toys to fuel their imagination.
  • Show-and-Tell: Encourage dramatic play where your toddler can act out stories or scenarios. You can take turns playing different roles and characters!

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