One step above toy is the hobby version RC Helis that comes with a 3 to 4 channel remote control. They allow for almost all types of flight with the exception of extreme acrobatics. The full capabilities only come out with the 6 channel radio controlled models. This allows for full 3D helicopter movements that really push the limits of what the helicopter can do.
A true newbie should master one type at a time. You can lock out the controls on a 4/6 channel radio and make it into a 2 channel, however you don't want to be flying a nice 5 channel capable heli in 2 channel mode. It's too dangerous for a more expensive aircraft. That said, if you are about to spend a couple bills on a nice Walkera 6 channel copter you want to know how to fly a 2 channel first and then a 3 channel. So go ahead and grab them all together. You'll have that nice pretty one in the corner that you will be thanking me for while you smash the $20 one into the wall. They don't break too easily since they are small and lightweight. You might still break one if you get a bit over excited though, but not to worry. They are easily and cheaply replaced. Another great thing about 2 channel is they are 99% ready to fly out of the box.
So 2- channel helicopters have really only two controls and these are the first ones anyone has to master. These are Throttle and Rudder.
The throttle is the control that sends the motor power to the blades. You always want smooth throttle control. Do not slam it to 100% throttle or you will loose control quickly. Practice slowly increasing throttle until you see the helicopter lift off the table or ground slightly. See if you can "bounce" it gently on the surface
The rudder comes into play so that you can direct these machines a bit. With a 2 channel you don't have total control but it can still be fun. The rudder will simply control the rotation of the body of the heli with respect to the blades. This will balance the heli and allow for forward movement, or a basic direction change.
Now with a 2 channel you begin to notice the helicopter will fly in seemingly random directions. It's not random at all, but very specific to the weight balance of the helicopter and the blade angle. In a 4 channel you control this balance with more control directions as well as carefully managing the weight. On your 2 channel you need to test out different weights and positions to find the right balance for the small copter. Experiment, this will be good practice before you lift off your 6 channel machine. With the right setup and practice you will be able to perform a good hover with your 2 channel at different heights. You'll be able to descend to a hover and take off to a hover just inches above the ground while keeping the body in place with the tail rotor.
Now the only difference between the 2 and 3 channel is the ability to move it forward on command.
You can then direct the helicopter around the room and land on certain areas and fly around obstacles. That simply takes a bit of practice to accomplish but you can learn in one day, granted that you've learned all the basics of a 2 channel.
A 4 channel simply lets you also move backward. Some are larger, and thus easier to hover, but are going to require outdoors.
Moving on to the 6 channel helicopters is a bit different. These are usually a lot larger and require outdoors for safety. The rotors spin very quickly. The trade-off is worth it since the acrobatics you can perform with these are incredible and awe-inspiring.
The sticks on a 6 channel will let you move them in multiple directions at once - like a video game controller with joysticks. You can then learn the inverse hover, loops, rolls and all full 3D maneuvering. The only real way to learn those is with a simulator truly or with lots of preparation through practice and a good feel for the helicopter.