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Toys and Play in Babies and Toddlers

Michelle Z.
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Join toy expert, Michelle Zayas, from Green Piñata Toys Share for a Q&A all about toys, development and learning. Michelle is here to answer questions about the best toys for certain ages, the relationship between toys and language development, and more!

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Developing language skills


My son is one and needs to develop his language skills. We read him tons of books and talk to him a lot. Are there toys I can use to help him say more than "mama" and "uh-oh"? Thanks!


Hi Erin,
My oldest didn't say his first word until he was 15 months old he is now almost 3 and talks constantly. Remember all kids develop at their own pace, but there are always ways to help boost their vocabulary, even if they aren't speaking yet, they are listening! Narrating pretend play with play sets like the Hape my pet kitty or puppy sets are a great way to encourage dialogue and increased vocabulary. Narrated walks around the neighborhood, or even while you are cooking or grocery shopping are also great and easy ways to boost the vocabulary that he is hearing. I would steer clear of toys that talk at him, because those toys are inevitably doing all of the work for him.


Thank you! Our pediatrician said 5-6 words by 15 months was the expectation so I was getting a little nervous he was behind. Good to know it's not set in stone (new mom here, can you tell?). Appreciate the help!


Glad to help! From my experience boys are a little slower at the social development...the seem to want to learn how to move and how things work before being bothered to talk about it!


Great question, thanks!


Activities and toys for a toddler (19 months-3 years)


My daughter is 19 months but wanting to plan ahead to know what activities and toys are best for this age. Since we have a small space, I would like to have less toys but have toys that serve multiple purposes. What do you recommend for activities and toys for this age? Also do you recommend a push tricycle like a radio flyer or getting a balance bike or would you get both at different ages. I think my daughter would prefer the radio flyer in place of a stroller at this point even though she wouldn't be pedaling on her own.Also when do you recommend starting a scooter?


Hi Michele,
Open ended toys that foster creativity are a great staple to have in the house for this age group. Blocks, playsets, like kitchen sets and musical instruments are a good place to start. These types of toys will be great to grow with your child as she develops new skills through the early toddler years, and can be used in a variety of different ways allowing her to have many options of play without all of the clutter! I also really like the upper case letter puzzle by Hape. There are so many ways to play with the one puzzle.

To start, this puzzle is a pretty decent size, and very colorful. So it seems to easily gain the attention of an active little one. But the versatility of it is what really got me. Here are five quick ways to use this one puzzle!

Activity one: ABC’s
This was the most obvious way to use this puzzle. Spread all the letters out, and starting at the A, find all of the letters and place them correctly in the puzzle. To help boost recognition, I would say the letter that we were looking for, point to the outline, then when he found it and put it in the correct spot, say it again, now having him repeat after me. Simple enough!
Activity two: Color Sort
Have your little one sort the puzzle pieces into color groups, then identify the colors they have sorted them into. The extra challenge here is that there are two different shades of blue and green. So we got to talk about light versus dark colors!
Activity three: Name Game
We have started spelling names, so this was a great toy to reinforce this. He started by finding the first letter of his name, then continued until we found all and were able to spell his name out. We continued and found the letters for his brother’s name too! This could be expanded for parents’ names or even pets!
Activity four: Letter Match Up
While going through the alphabet and finding the correct puzzle piece, challenge your little one with naming an object that starts with the same letter. Or put an extra spin on it by giving them an object and trying to find the letter that the word starts with. “Apple, what letter does apple start with?”
Activity five: Vowel Identification
My guy isn’t ready for this yet, but this would be a great way to use this toy with an older sibling as well as a toddler.

Green Pinata Toy Share also seems like it would be a perfect fit for you, with a toy share subscription you get up to 4 new toys a month that are specifically designed to foster creativity, develop motor skills, as well as early literacy and math skills.

As far as outdoor equipment it is more of a personal preference. The push tricycles are good because they can double as a sort of stroller. I personally got my son a balance bike (he will be three in July) and he seems to like it, but it does seem to have more of a learning curve. We got him a scooter when he was 2 years 4 months, and he LOVES it! As with any outdoor equipment it is always a good idea to start instilling the importance of safety equipment, and toddlers look super cute in helmets!


Thank you for this question as I had exactly the same questions for my 18 month old! :)


Almost 8 Month Old - games and toys


Hi Michelle,
My son is almost 8 months old, and I would like to know what are the best games to play with him and the best toys to have around this age, in your opinion. Thank you, Mishell!


Hi Mishell,
At this age working to increase motor skills is a big part of development. Stacking rings, basic shape sorters and toy vehicles are a great place to start. Musical instruments like shakers and drums are typically a huge hit ;) at this age. They help to continue to promote motor skill development as well as basic sound development and cause and effect. Anything to keep those little fingers moving is a great thing!


Thank you!

Our Q&A is now over!


Thank you, Michelle! Green Piñata Toy Share is a service for delivering a variety of safe and educational toys right to your door. When you’re done, send them back and get a new set geared right for your child’s developmental stage! Check out Green Piñata Toy Share here: and get 40% off your first month of Green Piñata with code GP39119


Playing with cell phones, 10 month old


Hi Michelle,
My 10 month old is getting increasingly interested in playing with cell phones and tablets. If he gets his hands on a cellphone, he can sit and play with it for ages, and loses all interest in his other toys. I have allowed him to play with these things for a short amount but then I would distract him with something else, and he would forget all about the phone. But this past week, he is starting to get really upset if he doesn't get to play with a cell phone that he sees, and I don't seem to be able to distract him from it anymore. He is not watching videos, he will just press the screen and explore it like he does with other toys. I still feel playing with electronics is going to promote unhealthy behavior in the future, instead of playing with more age appropriate toys that are probably better for his development. Is it ok to let him play with our gadgets, and how can I teach him that something is off limits at this age, without him getting upset?
Thank you so much!


I'm totally not an expert, but we had the same problem with our toddler. We taught him to say "bye bye" to whatever when we were taking it away, like "bye bye phone." That has really helped us. I don't know if it makes it feel like it is more his decision or what, but he rarely throws a fit about not being able to use it any more.


Thanks Ashley, that is a great idea!
I myself have been going through this with my toddler. I realized that with a new baby at home, putting on the TV became all too common and just became the norm, so I had to put a stop to it.
Starting with Ashley's tip is a great place to start. I would then work to teach him on how to use toys with open ended play. In my quest for screen detox I opted to use the Upper Case Letter Puzzle by Hape. (I have since, fallen in love with this toy) Using this one toy to teach him how to explore the simple and build on it with his own creativity involved a lot of one on one time, but in the end was so worth it. For a little guy of ten months a toy more like blocks and toy vehicles would work too!
Most importantly (and sometimes most difficult) is to lead by example!
I had to put the phone down and turn the TV off. Show him that fun can be had without a screen. We now sing and dance to the Beatles in the kitchen. Play the newest Haba board game in the living room and paint and color in the play room!
Haba has a great new toy, Zoo Keeper Sorting Box, that would be a good place to help him explore different skills and keep him engaged while keeping away from the screens. Check it out here:
Good luck! Screen time detox can be hard for kids and adults alike!! ;)


Incouraging independent play


My very active 2 year old is really only interest in toys if one of us is sitting with him to play. We have toys that I think are appropriate for his age and development, he would rather just walk around and see what he can get into. Can you give me some advice on encouraging him to play alone or maybe some awesome toy that might hold his attention for a bit longer. I started a toy rotation in hopes of that helping... but it doesn't seemed to have had much impact.


Hi Ashley,
I feel like you are living my life! My almost three year old was the same way a few months ago. The rotation of toys is a great start, so even though you aren't seeing a huge change yet, don't give up! While it would be great to be able to get a load of laundry going without a "helper" the truth is, he probably just isn't developmentally ready to play independently yet. However, that doesn't mean you can't help foster that ability! With my guy I introduced play-dough, mold-able sand and lots (and LOTS) of writing implements. The key is to actually teach them how to use these items, not just give them and walk away. We sometimes forget that while their personalities can be big, they are still just little guys, and we need to help guide them in using something that is just second nature to us. So spend a few play sessions with him, exploring whichever one you are using that day ( I would guide you to only do one at a time, and not overload him with too many things at once). Make some "snakes" with play-dough, use cookie cutters with the sand, show him how different colors look different on different textured paper. Then start to do small tasks while he is playing. Think, "sleep training for toys." He will he won't be able to sit for hours on end, but you may actually be able to drink a warm cup of coffee!


Gotta love little boys! Thank you so much for the advice!


One month old


What would be the choice of toys for 1 month old


While a baby's brain is growing tremendously from birth, a one month old
still has limited skills when it comes to playing. For the most part,
cuddling a baby at this age helps to foster a baby's development! That
said, there are a few "toys" you can introduce, just be sure to keep it
simple as babies can get easily overstimulated. Black and white contrast
books are great as babies can't make out colors yet, a simple mobile
without any lights or too many sounds will assist in their tracking skills,
and of course any small, plush lovies or rattles are a safe option. I
personally love the plush rattle socks or wristbands that jingle/crinkle
when your baby moves his feet or arms -- these help in building on the
cause and effect development that your baby will be working to master for
the first few years of their lives.

Michelle Zayas
*Green Piñata*
*Customer Service Manager/Warehouse Manager*


Activities for 12.5 month old


In general I would love to hear about some of the best activities, games or toys for 12.5 month old. My son is just starting to walk and he gets into everything! He has an interest in toys (cars, balls, blocks), but his most favorite thing to do is to go through cabinets he can open and climb up on anything/everything. I've tried to add his toys or put baby safe items in lower drawers/cabinet (e.g., tupperware) but, I'm wondering if I should give him free rein of these spaces or provide him other distractions. Any new ideas are welcome - thank you so much!


Hi Megan,
You sound like you have your hands full! I was definitely there myself when my oldest started to move, and he hasn't slowed down since! As far as giving him free rein over the kitchen, that is more of a personal call based on your preferences, and making sure your little man stays safe.
My guy loves to build, which is a great way to keep developing creativity while also giving him an open ended activity, to hopefully keep him entertained for a little while. Haba has a great block set, stack and play. These can help with fine motor skills as well as color identification!
Pull along toys are now a perfect fit for him. My guy would pull these around the house and put on "parades" for us. Green Pinata has a great assortment of these, some even have different activities like shape sorting to help build fine motor skills and shape recognition. We even just got in a new toy that is a push toy that chirps as it is pushed along! check them all out here:


Toys for 8 month old


I have two questions, if that's not breaking any rules!

In general I try to limit the amount of toys I have, and thus want to make sure we're not getting single-purpose toys or ones he'll age out of very quickly. So first, how strict are the recommend age guidelines, and should I be following those? Second, what are some great toys that you'd recommend to help an almost 8 month old reach multiple milestones/developmental stages?


Hi Julie,
Two questions is great, and let me know if you have any follow ups as well. That's why I am here!
Limiting the amount of toys is a great way to make sure your little one stays engaged and can work on purposely developing skills. Recommended age guidelines are not very strict. Age-appropriateness is a major factor when it comes to how much a child enjoys a toy. Consider the manufacturer’s suggested age range as a guideline (not a rule!), factor in your child’s development, and whether they’ve already developed the skills needed for a particular toy – or if they’re not quite there yet. You can check out our curriculum at Green Pinata to learn more about which skills are developed at which ages before your next shopping trip.
Educational toys are researched and specifically designed to build on multiple skills. The stack and play wooden block set from HABA is a great example of this. This little toy packs a big punch! The stacker helps to develop fine motor skills as your child works to fit the varied shapes together using the pegs and corresponding holes. Math skills are developed as your child works to count out the correct number of pieces they've been able to stack and cognitive skills are sharpened as your child learns that the size and shape of a block changes how it can be used in a building structure. Watching your almost 8 month old find new and exciting ways to use these blocks will be sure to amaze you.
The Zoo Keeper Sorting Box , link here:
is a great toy to have that will work on developing fine motor skills, color identification, and shape recognition, as well as explore differences in sound as the box gets filled with more blocks.
I may be biased, but, Green Pinata has a great selection of toys that would help your little one hit those milestones while also rotating in 3-4 new toys a month in addition to the staples you have at home.


Learning colors


Is there something I can help my toddler learn her colors . She knows her abcs and starting to learn her Day of the week . But having a hard time grasping colors . She knows the colors but just can't pick them out?

Best toy for a infant? Is there such a thing


Hi Danielle, Colors can easily be integrated into daily play. I started with a simple game of "Color of the Day" that my son loved and is super easy to use items already around the house. Here is the link to my blog about it:
The grocery store is also a great place to work on identifying colors, as well as boost vocabulary at the same time! Check out the produce department, summer fruits and veggies are an amazing assortment of colors.
I also LOVE Hape's upper case letter puzzle for color identification.
This would be a great fit for your daughter as she already knows her ABCs. Have her sort the puzzle pieces into color groups, then identify the colors they have sorted them into. The extra challenge here is that there are two different shades of blue and green. So you can talk about light versus dark colors!

As far as infant toys my little one loves plush toys that have have the crinkle to them. He has been a big fan of Haba's Baby Vegetables. These are small enough for him to grasp and move around, and they crinkle and jingle to keep him entertained for a while allowing me a few minutes of 1:1 time with my busy toddler!