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Top 10 Classic Baby Toys for Imagination and Learning

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Many parents hope their child will develop a vivid imagination. After all, what’s childhood without wild imaginary adventures? Experts agree that imaginary play helps babies gain valuable social and developmental skills. You don’t need expensive baby toys to encourage imagination and learning, though. Here are my top picks for classic, inexpensive baby toys that are sure to spark your child’s imagination and provide a fun learning experience.

1. Zapf Giggling Chou Chou Doll

Dolls and stuffed animals offer young children a chance to practice their people skills and model behaviors that they see in other people. For example, a one-year-old might practice rocking the stuffed animal or feeding it (with pretend food, you hope). An older toddler might practice routines and reinforce house rules by repeatedly putting the doll to bed or telling the doll not to run into the street.
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2. Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Phone

Providing a child with a toy phone gives them a chance to model the discussions they hear around them, which helps develop their speech and social skills. Older babies and toddlers will enjoy “calling” people to practice their expanding vocabulary. While they imagine calling grandma, they’re also reinforcing the phone-appropriate words they have learned from listening to you.
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3. PlayHut Yellow Bus Play Tunnel

A small play structure that a child can get inside offers unlimited options for imagination play. From a bear cave to playing house, this is a baby toy that will be used by children from babyhood through school age. Even babies in the crawling stage can enjoy a game of peekaboo from inside their playhouse. Inexpensive collapsible tents are a good choice if you’re limited on space. They fold flat and can easily be stashed in a closet or under a bed.
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4. Melissa & Doug Wooden ABC Blocks

From building basic two-block towers to creating elaborate castles, blocks are a good choice for kids of almost any age. Young babies can play with blocks as soon as they are able to grasp an object in their hand, and will soon learn to manipulate the blocks and make basic towers. The tower building skill is followed by the all-important skill of knocking the tower over, giving baby a lesson in cause and effect. Shape sorter block sets are also a great tool for learning.
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5. Fisher-Price Animal Sounds Farm

By caring for animals and driving a tractor with a farm set, babies can begin to learn about occupations and hard work, as well as having an easy outlet for practicing a baby favorite - animal sounds. A zoo set or other animal-related baby toy set would also be appropriate for this purpose.
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6. Little Tikes Shopping Cart

It’s the toy that no baby can resist! Pretend shopping is the obvious choice for this toy, but when baby is feeling imaginative, I think you’ll find that the simple cart can become a car, a train, a doll crib or, in strange cases, a hat. I like to use the shopping cart as a cleanup device for the playroom, too. We make a game out of cleanup by having my daughter fit as many things as she can into her cart and racing me to the finish line, otherwise known as a toy box.
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7. LeapFrog See and Learn Piano

Babies and toddlers love music, and allowing them to create their own music helps them gain confidence and an ear for what sounds good to them. A simple set of plastic musical instruments can be used by younger babies, who will learn cause and effect from their banging and shaking of the instruments. Older toddlers can learn valuable social skills by sharing the instruments with friends and making music together.
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8. Little Tikes Home Improvement Workshop

Every kid needs a toy hammer! Not only does a tool kit provide many options for the noisy banging that babies and toddlers adore, it also lets them model adult behaviors (make sure you don’t say anything you shouldn’t when you hammer your thumb!). Pretend play as Mr. or Ms. Fix-It will help kids develop self-confidence, and it nurtures the child’s natural desire to see how things work.
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9. Little Tikes Cookin' Sounds Gourmet Kitchen

A toy kitchen is a must-have for boys and girls alike. Babies and toddlers can engage in pretend play with a toy kitchen, and as they cook plastic eggs and bananas (together in the same pan, naturally) and serve them to their dolls, friends, or you, they will learn the joy of doing for others. They’ll also reinforce safety skills by telling friends and stuffed animals about the hot oven and the sharp knives.
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10. Little Tikes Cozy Coupe

I never thought much about how a ride-on toy was stimulating my daughter’s imagination until she announced to me one day that she was taking her baby doll to Pizza Hut. Regardless of the type of riding toy you choose, this toy is sure to get a baby’s imagination going. Babies strengthen their safety skills by teaching dolls to buckle up, and develop their sense of independence by pretending to go on adventures on their own.
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Related Video
How to Choose Toys for Infants
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