For the one-month to 12-month period there are basically four stages you should be concerned with when it comes to toys that will benefit, as well as capture the interest of, your baby. Here is a brief rundown of some suggestions for these phases:
Toys for newborns: During her first few months, before she learns to grasp objects or sit up on her own, your baby will enjoy things to look at and listen to. Her vision will still be fuzzy at first and she’ll focus on objects that are about eight to 14 inches from her eyes. She will be drawn to faces—and can recognize mom and dad’s faces at about one month.
She will thoroughly enjoy looking at high-contrast patterns, and bright colors will be particularly easy to see. She will have already learned to appreciate sounds and music. Objects that move around slowly and make quiet music will be much more interesting to your one month old than objects that are stationary and silent.
· Mobile: A mobile can be a fascinating source of visual stimulus for a newborn baby. Look for ones with high-contrast colors and patterns as these will be the most visually interesting to your new baby. Many babies are particularly fond of mobiles that play music, so you may want to consider that before picking one out.
Perhaps choose one that plays a lullaby. Attach the mobile to the cot rail. Newborns look to the right 80 per cent of the time, so a toy hung overhead or on the left will be of limited value now. For safety reasons, keep the mobile out of your baby’s reach.
· Music box: Music will be something your infant is very interested in. A music box or wind up musical toy will prove to be a fascinating object for a newborn baby.
· Unbreakable mirror: Baby will love the look of faces, and although she will not realize it is herself she is seeing in the mirror, it will still be fascinating for her to look at. Look for a mirror you can fasten to the side of the cot or hang near a changing table.
· Sound-making plush toys: Plush toys that make noises when squeezed or moved will be very interesting and can occupy the attention of a baby for long periods of time.
Between three months and six months your baby will discover how to use her hands. She will put much attention into her hands, grasping and gripping everything. Keep in mind that at this age she will be putting everything that she can into her mouth (and even trying to put some things in there that will surely not fit) so make sure anything you buy for her is safe for chewing. Also, never attach a toy to a cot or playpen with elastic or string, which could end up strangling or entrapping your baby.
· Plush toys: Soft and cuddly plush toys are a childhood favorite and many children will begin to develop attachments to their little stuffed friends at right about this age. Be very careful when choosing a plush toy for a baby this young. You will want to avoid toys that have parts that can come off (like sewn on button eyes) or wire portions that could poke your baby. As a rule, avoid any toy that has any part that baby could yank off and stuff into her mouth. Read labels that pertain to recommended ages.
· Rattles: The baby rattle is the archetypical baby toy for the ages. Every baby at this age will love to make noise. You can try singing songs with your baby and having her accompany you with the rhythm of the rattle.
· Play gym: For a baby who is still horizontal, this is a rack that comes with dangling toys or from which you can hang toys of your own. These “activity center” type toys have objects that baby can spin, grasp, push, pull, and otherwise manipulate, yet remain attached to a central console. Consider them “baby dashboards” for fun and games.
· Colorful teething rings: These are great for gnawing on when her gums are sore. Some of these contain fluid that cools when you store them in the fridge and can provide cooling relief when your baby really needs it.
· Squeaky rubber toys: Anything a baby can grip and squeak is usually very popular. These toys are perfect for the bath.
· Baby Books: The puffy plastic air filled books and “board books” are also a popular item. It is never too soon to start reading to baby, as indeed many mothers begin while their baby is still in the womb.
At six to nine months your baby will begin to become much more active and play will become much more intense than in previous stages. She will be picking up things and banging all sorts of objects, making noise and generally causing a ruckus. She will pick up two toys and bang them together just to see the sound that they make.
She will be rambunctious, but at the same time will be beginning to develop the fine motor skills necessary for more precise play in addition to ruckus causing roughhousing. The toys your child has should reflect this stage of her development. She is becoming aware that objects are still there even when she can no longer see or touch them. She will miss a favorite stuffed animal if she can’t see it and if you hide it from her while she is looking she will seek it out. It also means you can begin playing hide-and-seek games with objects.
This is the age at which most babies become mobile, and with that in mind, the following toys can help her hone and explore her newly developing senses.
· Activity board: These are similar to the “play gyms” listed above. Many babies love the activity boards that can be attached to a cot rail. They come with parts that move and spin and twirl and twist, giving your baby a place to practice her hand-eye coordination. She is also becoming aware that you can make things happen to objects—so poking, twisting, shaking, squeezing, dropping, and opening things will all fascinate her.
· Plush toys: Soft and cuddly plush toys are a childhood favorite and many children will begin to develop attachments to their little stuffed friends at right about this age. Stuffed animals are particularly interesting at this point in your baby’s development , as are comforters. You will still want to avoid toys that have parts that can come off (like sewn on button eyes) or wire portions that could poke your baby. As a rule, avoid any toy that has any part that baby could yank off and stuff into his mouth. Read labels that pertain to recommended ages.
· Balls: Baby will love to play with balls of all sizes. One fun game is to sit on the floor together and roll the ball back and forth between you.
· Wood or soft plastic blocks: Show your baby how to stack a few blocks and then knock them down. You two could spend an entire afternoon playing “build it up and knock it down”. Pile blocks into containers for her—and then dump them out, she’ll get the idea. Stacking blocks, and filling and dumping games, are very popular for this age bracket.
· Books: This is the age at which reading becomes more interactive and fun for both of you. Cloth or board books work well now. You can read the book to your baby and then she can play with it when you are done. She will mimic your motions and “read” the book to you just like you did for her.
When babies reach nine to 12 months old they are usually able to make their way around the room in some way or another. Some babies will be crawling around the room on all fours, while others will be talking their first steps as they enter the milestone “toddler” phase.
Objects in your baby’s life are no longer simply objects, but baby will be able to distinguish what different objects are and how they can be used for play. She is also more interested in interactive games and problem solving can also be a fun thing for baby to do.
Here are some toys for this age bracket:
· Push toys: Push toys are toys that your toddler can push around the room. He will most likely be a little too young for “pull” toys, which require the young walker to be able to look behind them and walk backwards. Push toys, on the other hand, will be right up their alley. Try to choose a push toy that has some weight to it, so your child can get some good exercise while working on the motor skills involved with walking and leaning.
· Shape sorters: Any kind of toy that requires your baby to sort through shapes and solve problems will be very well received. These will occupy your baby for hours on end and teach important skills for differentiating shapes and colors and hone problem-solving skills.
· Balls: You should have been playing with balls for some months now, and these will still be a staple in your toy box for years to come.
· Sandbox items: Sandbox toys like a plastic bucket and shovel, and anything else that involves filling and emptying vessels of various shapes and sizes, will be perfect for your baby at this age.
· Toy telephone or computer: Babies are going to learn things from watching you and they will have certainly seen you use a telephone by now. Your baby will love nothing more than having a toy version of grown up items. Try a plastic cell phone that really rings or maybe a toy laptop that makes bleeping computer noises.
· Books: Pop-up books and books that foster interactivity will be interesting at this age.
· Blocks: Blocks will be a staple toy throughout childhood and at this point in your baby’s development you will have many types to choose from. Wooden blocks, Lincoln Logs, Big baby-style Lego’s, bristle blocks, and many other types of building blocks will provide hours of creative, motor skill building fun for years to come.