Top Toys for Tinies

images Buying toys for toddlers can be quite confusing. It’s important to strike a balance between learning and fun. We’ve put together a list of the best of 2013 so far, with something for every price bracket.

The ThinkFun Roll and Play Cube is designed, quite literally, to help your toddling grandchild get to grips with all sorts of learning concepts: from following simple instructions to identifying colours and shapes. ThinkFun call it the first game ever designed for the under-threes, and it’s certainly eye-catching. Throw the large, colourful plush cube up in the air and pick a card matching the colour of the side that faces up in the air when it lands. Each card has a specific action or fun thing to do on it – roaring like a lion, for example, or making a happy face.

Ideal for introducing the concept of structured play, the Roll and Play Cube also helps with basic learning activities including shape recognition and identifying different emotions.

Developmental plush is clearly all the rage at the moment. If your grandchild already has the Roll and Play Cube, make a new friend with a BuckleyBoo. These award-winning “Buddies” are designed to develop pattern recognition, small hand strength and motor skills – and they’re pretty cute into the bargain.

The BuckleyBoo Buddies are made by the perfect team: a grandma and a young mum who’s also a child psychologist. The original Buckley, a friendly blue cat, has now been joined by a whole menagerie of fun animal alternatives, including a lion; a bear; a dog; a bunny; and a monkey.

Each BuckleyBoo has a series of belts and buckles attached to it, which feature different colours or patterns and different clasps. The toddler learns to match patterns with patterns and colours with colours – and the increasing difficulty of the different clasps is ideal for teaching gradually improving manipulation skills. Plus, every Buckley loves to be hugged, and makes a friendly chiming noise if shaken.

Of course most toddler’s toys make some kind of noise – that’s half the fun (for the grandchildren, anyway!). The LeapFrog Poppin Play Piano is no exception. Eight coloured keys correspond to eight coloured balls, which leap about in the clear “organ pipes” sticking up off the toy. Each key features a different instrument or sound, and there are preset songs to pay along with.

For a more “authentic” piano feel (it’s got a proper octave, with black and white notes), the Early Learning Centre Chunky Keys piano is perfect for every mini-Mozart. Keys light up when they’re pressed and there are six beats for your grandkids to play along to. Running on just three AAA batteries, and weighing in at a surprisingly lightweight price, this is an ideal first instrument for a creative little one.