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2019 First Things First

Our guide to free or low-cost gifts and toys for young
children at each age and developmental stage.

Gifts for Babies

For babies and infants under 1 year old, look for toys that stimulate their senses. Babies are fascinated by faces and bright colors. They enjoy playing hide-and-seek with different objects.

Board Books
Board Books

Board Books

Board books are easy for a young baby to hold and turn and are durable enough to take a beating (or a chewing.) Pick books with high contrast (black and white) or bright, simple colors. And start reading with your baby from day one!

Reading with your Baby

Toys with Mirrors
Toys with Mirrors

Toys with Mirrors

Your baby will be happy watching his reflection. While you can buy many different, inexpensive varieties, you probably already have some perfectly good, safe mirrors around your house.

Reflecting on Mirror Play

Chewable Toys
Chewable Toys

Chewable Toys

Your baby is exploring their world constantly, and that includes putting things in their mouth. Safe, soft and sturdy chewable toys will keep them smiling long past the holidays, (especially when they are teething).

Conversation with You
Conversation with You

Conversation with You

Talking with your baby is the best gift you can give and it’s free. Engage them in back-and-forth conversation, responding to their sounds, gestures, and expressions. You help them develop language skills while also building a close relationship with you, which is what they need most.

Baby, Let's Talk!

Gifts for Toddlers

For toddlers between 1 and 3 years old, look for toys that encourage imagination and problem-solving, such as:

Pretend objects
Pretend objects

Pretend objects

Pretend objects stimulate your child’s imagination, allowing them to act out activities they see other people do, like cooking and cleaning.

The Power of Pretend Play

Balls to roll or catch
Balls to roll or catch

Balls to roll or catch

Simple and timeless, a ball can provide a toddler with hours of play. Rolling, throwing and catching a ball builds coordination and reflexes your child will need later on.

Parents Playbook: Playtime

Building Toys
Building Toys

Building Toys

There are few things a toddler will enjoy more than stacking blocks. They want their towers to go big and tall, and they’ll enjoy knocking them back down again. And empty tissue boxes make good building blocks, too!

Block Play Builds STEM Skills

Children's Books
Children's Books

Children's Books

Sharing books with your toddler helps them develop the language skills and vocabulary they’ll need later on. Children’s books introduce kids to new and unusual words you might not use in everyday conversation at home.

5 Toddler Reading Tips

Playtime with You
Playtime with You

Playtime with You

This holiday season, look for opportunities to read, talk, sing and play together. These experiences will mean the most to a young child’s learning and build memories that last a lifetime. Truly the best gift you can give, your time, attention and love are priceless.

Playtime is Learning Time

Crayons & Markers
Crayons & Markers

Crayons & Markers

Big crayons are best for little hands, and they build big skills! They help a child develop the fine motor skills they’ll need to write and create works of art when they are older, and they also spark creativity and imagination.

Gifts for Preschoolers

For preschoolers, which covers ages 3 to 5, look for toys that help them relate to each other and the world around them, including:

Dress-up Clothes
Dress-up Clothes

Dress-up Clothes

Pretend play has an important role in a young child’s healthy development. It allows them to learn through action, think creatively and work together. It’s also a lot of fun. You can find costumes at thrift stores, garage sales or, with a little imagination, in the back of your closet.

Puzzles & Games
Puzzles & Games

Puzzles & Games

Stimulating for little minds, puzzles are great practice for more complicated challenges kids will face later on, and simple board games are fun ways to spend time together.

Counting &  Letter Games
Counting &  Letter Games

Counting & Letter Games

Reading and math are essential skills that are best started early, but getting there doesn’t have to be boring. Counting and letter games make both concepts fun and interactive, while building a foundation for school success.

Togetherness
Togetherness

Togetherness

The best things in life are free, especially when it comes to your preschooler. Just spending time together, doing whatever, is the best gift you can give them. Play with them, listen to them, and show them just how much they matter.

Parents Playbook: Quality Time

Musical Instruments
Musical Instruments

Musical Instruments

Age-appropriate instruments are wonderful introductions to the world of music, and you can find them at yard sales or thrift shops. Go ahead and start a band with your child, and make great music together.

Art Supplies
Art Supplies

Art Supplies

You don’t have to be an artist to help your child explore their creative side. If you do it together, you and your child are guaranteed to create a work of art. And take the opportunity to ask them questions about their work.

First Things First has tools, information and resources to help you support your child’s healthy development and learning.

Learn more about how you can help prepare your child for success in school and in life.

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