ParentPal Learning Essentials: Best Toys & Books for Months 18 to 24

Research shows that when children have fewer toys, they experience “higher quality” play—meaning, they play in a greater variety of ways with a limited number of toys.

ParentPal Learning Essentials, a curated collection of age-appropriate toys and books, have been hand-picked by our team of child development experts to encourage high-quality play. Our collection is accompanied by hundreds of research-based activities, games, and ideas, to guide and support your child’s creative play and healthy development from birth to age 5.

Discover ParentPal Learning Essentials for months 18 to 24: support your child’s development and promote focus and concentration with this curated list of books & toys.

ParentPal Learning Essentials: Months 18 to 24



Why we love it: Goals in early reading activities are to interest your little one in the process of reading a book, to bond with your child as you read together, and to begin the familiarization of “book.” “Elmer” is all about introducing empathy to your child. Certain aspects of empathy can be learned and fostered in children, and empathy progresses over time.

How to use it: Read along with Elmer’s journey as he discovers the greatness of individuality and exposes your little one to the notions of empathy and how to be kind to others.


Crayola Washable Chalk

Why we love it: Many of the motions involved in making art are essential to the growth of fine-motor skills. Your child’s first drawings may look a lot more like scribbles. These first attempts at making straight lines, squiggles, and patterns will evolve over time.

How to use it: Help your child find a suitable grip style for holding the Crayola Washable Chalk; then, encourage him or her to draw freely. Keep encouraging your little one and discuss his or her creations.


Big Red Barn

Why we love it: As you use this barn and animals to explore farm life with your little one, you are helping to enhance pretend play and creativity.

How to use it: Let your child play freely with the play set as you name each of the farm animals. While playing, ask your child to name each character he or she is holding. Use descriptive language as much as possible when talking to your baby about the animals, taking this opportunity to introduce farm concepts.


Beginner Pattern Blocks

Why we love it: At this age, practice and playtime with shape puzzles, such as the Beginner Pattern Blocks, coupled with adult support and guidance, can help children begin to see how shapes combine to make larger shapes, or separate to make smaller, different shapes. This kit also is great for continuing development of spatial awareness, color recognition, hand-eye coordination, and problem solving.

How to use it: Let your child play freely with the pieces to become familiar with the different shapes. As they play, narrate what they’re doing; for example, “I see you’re putting the yellow triangles in the puzzle for the fish’s fins.” Help your little one learn the names of different shapes by identifying each shape and color in the set.


The Little Red Hen

Why we love it: Little ones appear to have an innate sense of right and wrong. The concept of fairness must be taught and nurtured so that your little one treats others equally and respectfully. Go along with the Little Red Hen as she learns a valuable lesson in the importance of personal initiative, hard work, and fairness, while continuing to build language and literacy skills.

How to use it:  As you read this book aloud to your child, talk to him or her about what is happening in the story, who the characters are, and the important lesson that they learn.


Hungry as a Bear

Why we love it: Introduce the Hungry as a Bear game to your child. Set up the bear in front of you and your little one and say, “Little Bear is hungry! He needs to eat his fruits and vegetables! Can you feed Little Bear so he isn’t hungry?”

How to use it: Let your child practice feeding the bear and as he or she does so, talk about the different foods he or she is feeding him. With Hungry as a Bear, your little one can arrange the servings on the plate, roll the die, and use the spoon to feed him the food that matches the picture on the die, thus fostering memory, dexterity, and language skills.


Sharing Time

Why we love it: Books such as “Sharing Time” provide the opportunity to introduce the concepts of sharing and provide a model of prosocial behavior and language of cooperation.

How to use it: Read this book with your little one, explaining to them that sharing is when we lend or give something to others. Pause to practice “sharing” words such as “May I use that?” or “Can I have a turn?” Going forward, look for opportunities to offer your child positive feedback when you see him or her sharing with a friend or family.


Sunny Patch Giddy Buggy Watering Can

Why we love it: The next time you have some gardening to attend to, bring your little one along. This bright and cheerful watering can makes learning about what a plant needs to survive and flourish fun and exciting.

How to use it: Demonstrate the watering can to your little one; then, let him or her “water” pretend plants indoors, or move outdoors and water plants in the yard. As your child waters, explain that plants need water to live and that a plant has roots under the ground that take up the water from the soil.


Nesting and Sorting Barns and Animals

Why we love it: These Nesting and Sorting Barns and Animals allow children to explore the ideas of space, size, and location. This toy set engages children in investigating how objects fit together, encouraging the development of spatial skills as they explore the barns and animals in terms of their sizes, the space they occupy, and their locations in space.

How to use it: Allow your little one to manipulate and move the barns and animals. Use spatial words, such as in, on and under as you describe your child’s free play with the barns and animals.


These toys and books are designed to be used in combination with ParentPal’s WeeSchool activities, an age-appropriate, research-based  curriculum built to guide your child’s creative play and learning. Get 30% off your first year of ParentPal with coupon: HOLIDAY30  — that’s a savings of $20!*

Don’t have these toys at home? Don’t worry. You can foster these skills and do ParentPal’s suggested activities with similar books, toys, or household items.

Want even more playtime ideas? Find these and more Learning Essential toys and books on ParentPal’s Amazon Shopping page.


*Coupon codes can only be used for ParentPal subscription purchases made via the ParentPal website,