Re: What are good musical toys for tots?
Ali Wing: For babies, it's all about percussion. While lots of everyday kitchen items can be utilized as a percussion instrument, musical toys are designed with safety in mind (and will prevent your kitchen from becoming a playpen). Here are my top choices for kid-friendly instruments:
Mini maracas or egg shakers
Maracas have a handle and egg shakers don't, but both are easy for little hands to hold onto and are easy to play. Babies as young as 10 months old can enjoy shaking them back and forth like a rattle, encouraging early rhythm and motor skills, but toddlers love them too. Buy.com, $18
These are also incredibly easy to play and instantly create delightful sounds with no skill required. Some have drumheads in the middle and some don't, but the most important feature is that they're junior-sized so they won't be too hard to hold onto. Diapers.com, $19
Anyone can have fun with a train whistle. And it's more versatile than you’d think: Even the simplest train whistles change in pitch with different breaths. (They're also a great way to get a little boy who’s otherwise more interested in trains and cars focused on music class.) HeirloomWoodenToys.com, $7
A fun, simple tool for learning rhythm -- and you might just create a little flamenco dancer in the process. Grown-up versions are complicated, but these kid-friendly castanets come in cool animal shapes and are a snap to play. Music Together, $5
Drums and mallets
Kids love the gratification of banging on drums. The best versions have cloth heads for safety. I love this drum set that incorporates multiple surfaces for a variety of sounds. It's great for teaching rhythm and a lot more fun than a single surface. One Step Ahead, $30.
*All prices are subject to change.