Shape sorters are challenging toys - and your baby will enjoy matching the shape of the object to the shape of the hole. Wooden shape sorters available in India are priced pretty steep and not every object fits into the hole meant for it so test the shape sorter thoroughly before you buy it. Also look for splinters in the wood. The other kind of sorter is the one which has squares with four holes which are to be fitted through four upright wooden rods and stacked on one corner of the board, triangles with three holes, rectangles with two, and circles with one, or some variation on the same theme. Both kinds of sorters can be used to teach colours and shapes and are very challenging.
Plasticine is a wonderful toy that encourages creativity and imagination. At first, your baby will probably just poke around in it and squeeze it in his fist but soon he will be churning out rotis and idlis and cookies. Plasticine can be squeezed into 'noodles', 'chakli' or 'macaroni'. Unfortunately Indian plasticine dries up too quickly. Or just give your baby a ball of normal atta into which has been mixed a few drops of food colour, a new colour everyday.
A good, robust construction toy whose pieces fit together easily and neatly is a great toy for children of all ages. Obviously the size of the blocks must be bigger for smaller hands and for beginners who still have to grasp the idea of building things by fitting pieces together. The pieces should not fit together so hard that they are difficult to pull apart but they shouldn't fit together too loosely either.
Crayons, Sketch Pens, Coloured Pencils, Paper
These are tools to uncover your child's imaginative side. Drawing is also imitative activity, which helps to improve eye-hand co-ordination. Start her off with chunky, short, non-toxic crayons and then go on to non-toxic felt-tipped pens and later on to coloured pencils and chalks. Drawing will help her to begin using skills like making patterns and copying shapes which are needed for later writing.
Puzzles help your child with visual coordination and recognition of shapes and patterns. They give practice at problem solving, encourage planning with a goal in mind, and require concentration. The first kinds of puzzles to invest in are those that have individual slots for individual pieces - like trays of vegetable, fruit, animal and bird shapes. The next kinds are those where a big shape is already cut into the tray and six to eight smaller pieces have to be fit into this outer shape. The next kind that you can introduce is a floor puzzle with big pieces that fit into one another. Only then come the more advanced jigsaws, with smaller pieces.
The day you buy your child her first book, be it a simple number book or the Mr. Men series, you will have put the building block of the best legacy you can ever leave your baby. A love for books. You can lead the way to a world that begins with Ladybird books and explodes into The Chronicles of Narnia and Enid Blyton, to Anne of Green Gables to JRR Tolkien to god knows what magical lands.
Books help a child cultivate her/his imagination, you might well be encouraging the way to a brilliant career in rocket science, or astrophysics, or Writing! So rush out now and buy those books for your babies!