3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy For Children Ages 0-2 (the sensorimotor stage)

3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy For Children Ages 0-2 (the sensorimotor stage)

Remember our play guru, Jean Piaget? He said, “Play is the work of childhood.” Love that! 

Today we’re bringing you a good word from Jean that’ll help you make sense of the toy situation in your house. Whether you need to curate your bursting toy closet or add a few great items to the shelf, we’ve got you covered. 

Remember, one of the major results of Piaget’s research was the Four Stages of Cognitive Development, which we can think of as the Fours Stages of Play. 

Let’s begin by diving into the first stage--the Sensorimotor Stage--for kids ages 0-2. 

Piaget discovered that kids in the Sensorimotor Stage (ages 0-2) are learning with their 5 senses and exploring the world through movement. Not surprisingly, then, ideal toys for this age engage the senses and encourage movement. 

Lots (lots!) of toys for this age accomplish those goals, and they don’t have to be expensive delight and engage your child. Those wooden Montessori-type toys are great--they’re beautiful, they’re sturdy, and they somehow exude wholesome goodness--but the fact is that plastic, fabric, or mixed media toys are just as engaging. 

Go with what’s in your budget and focus on how your child will engage with the toy rather than how it’ll look on your shelf. 

3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Sensorimotor-Stage Toy: 

  • Does it engage one or more of the 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, or feel)?
  • Does it encourage movement and exploration? 
  • Is it safe for babies? 

1 Thing to Avoid in Sensorimotor-Stage Toys: 

  • Avoid toys that do the playing for your child. If it has too many bells and whistles and your child can be a passive observer, they’ll lose many of the benefits of play. 

Take this list to the playspace in your house and take inventory. Are there toys for your Sensorimotor-Stage child that don’t meet Piaget’s criteria? Are there toys that do the playing for your child? Consider removing them--either by donating them or tucking them away for a rainy day. 

Why? Research shows that children play longer and more deeply when there are fewer toys available. Makes sense, right? The benefit of that deep play is the brain connections happening when a child really engages--like, full-body engages--in play. Magic! 

If you’d like to add a few well-chosen items to your playspace, I’ve included a few favorites for this stage below--all products my family loves. 

  • Oball- hands down better than the Manhattan toy company ball that is similar (I think that one is too heavy for a baby). It is hollow, easy to clean, easy to hook onto a paci holder. Perfect to look at when doing tummy time as a wee baby and babies who are sitting up love to explore these.
  • Soft books- we like this one because the legs have crunch too them. These books can get gross and you could wash them.  You can prop this up for a tummy time baby to look at. Teething babies love to gnaw on them.
  • Stacking rings- it's been around for a million years because it's awesome. Babies 7-8 months and up who are sitting enjoy this one. Great way to introduce colors and problem solving. 
  • Stacking cups- these are an awesome grow with me toy that can be used in so many ways. Babies enjoy stacking- be sure to only give 3-5 at a time so they aren't overwhelmed. They can turn into bath toys, sand toys, or sensory bin toys. My kids use them in their outdoor water table.
  • My First Wagon- another grow with me toy. Ours started out as a place to store toys. It quickly became a walker and now it can be a grocery cart, a car, a stroller...this toy has been loved for over 4 years in our home.
Next we will tackle the stage where so much of the toy consumption happens- Developmental Stage of Play--The Preoperational Stage (2-7). Stay tuned!