Now that your baby has stronger fine motor skills, she's ready for playthings she can build, stack, and whack. "The best toys are open-ended, meaning your child can play with them in several ways," says Beverly Fries, who chooses items for the toy company HearthSong. Open-ended toys will also grow with your child, which means they won't get quickly tossed in a corner and forgotten about. Check out three of Fries's all-time toddler favorites:
- Blocks. "At this age you don't need 300 blocks," says Fries. "A dozen or so will do." Rectangle blocks are easiest for little hands to work with -- save the cylinders and triangles for another six months. Help your mini-architect build a skyscraper (or library or road), then watch as she promptly knocks it down. "oddlers love the excitement of knowing they caused movement,"says Fries.
- Nesting containers. You can stack them up like blocks, use them in the tub to pour water (a major fascination for this age!), or help your toddler put them inside each other, which is great for developing hand-eye coordination.
- Jumbo pop beads. Learning to snap together these big, colorful beads and pull them apart will improve your tot's fine motor skills and give her a sense of accomplishment. Imagination boost: Make them into necklaces, bananas, caterpillars, or friendly garden snakes.