Do infants really need toys? Sure they do! Interacting with toys, even if it is just looking at them, is an important to your infant's development. Your baby spends her first few weeks of life adjusting to the bright, new, and sometimes loud world around her. Studying, focusing, and interacting with toys can help your baby develop and explore her new world.
Infant Toy Recommendations by Age
An infant's age often determines the type of toys she'll enjoy. Most toys are labeled with age recommendations, and you will want to stick to those age ranges, especially when your infant is younger.
Birth - 3 Months
In the first few months, babies do not need a signficant number of toys. Because your baby will not be able to grasp a lot of toys, you will want to focus on toys that can hang or can be kicked and grabbed at while the infant lies in a crib or on the floor. Babies are beginning to develop their sensory skills, so you want to provide them with toys to develop the senses, particularly vision. When babies are first born, they respond best to black and white patterns and a few bright colors. Some suggested toys for this age range include:
- Mobiles, such as the Baby Einstein Sea Dreams Mobile, which attach to the crib, play soft music or ocean sounds and have colorful lights.
- Tummy time mats like the Fisher-Price Discover and Grow Kick and Play Piano Gym, which has a toy bar, colorful pictures on a mat and a piano for baby's feet to kick.
- Mirrors, including the Sassy Crib and Floor Mirror which stands up on its own.
- Books with large pictures, such as Black on White by Tana Hoban, which features black and white pictures that are easy for babies to focus on.
- Rattles and other soft toys that hang from a car seat, bouncy seat or toy bar like the Tiny Love Tiny Smart Rattle that has a hook to easily attach to a car seat handle.
- Wrist and ankle rattles like the Lamaze Wrist Rattles and Foot Finders that include cute and colorful bugs attached to velcro wrist straps and socks.
3- 6 Months
From three to six months, babies begin to grab more, learn how to hold toys and begin to interact more with toys around them. For this age, choose toys that babies can safely chew on, along with toys babies can interact with. Babies at this age will delight in shaking a toy and hearing it rattle, grabbing a toy and hearing it crinkle or squeak or kicking a toy and hearing it play music or seeing something pop up. A few toys that will be enjoyed at this age are:
- Rattles like the Bright Starts Rattle and Shake Barbell Rattle, which has an easy-to-hold handle and rattles on both ends.
- Soft blocks such as Bright Starts Grab and Stack Blocks featuring colorful pictures and the letters of the alphabet.
- Light-up toys, including the Lights & Sounds Butterfly from Redbox that has four flashing lights and plays a fun tune when baby presses a button.
- Books with textured pages or fabric books, like Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt, a classic touch-and-feel book for babies.
- Balls that squeak or rattle, like an Oball from Rhino Toys which has holes designed to make it easy for babies to grab.
- Stuffed animals with lots of parts to pull. For example, Captain Calamari from Lamaze has 8 legs that crinkle, clack and rattle.
6 - 12 Months
At six to 12 months, babies start interacting even more with the world around them. They are usually rolling over and starting to sit up, crawl and even walk. They need toys they can interact with by pulling knobs and levers or spinning and hitting objects to make sounds or produce lights. You will also want to begin building motor skills by giving them toys that allow them to sort objects, empty and fill buckets and encourage them to crawl and walk. Teething toys are also good choices as most babies are starting to get their first teeth. Get your infant active with toys such as:
- Balls, including the VTech Move & Crawl Ball which moves on its own, encouraging babies to crawl toward the lights and sounds.
- Pop-up toys, like the Playskool Busy Ball Popper that continually pops up balls for baby to chase.
- Teething Toys, including one of the most popular teethers, Vulli's Sophie the Giraffe, a cute rubber giraffe that is fun to chew and play with.
- Cars and Trucks, such as the Sassy Pop and Push Car. All you do is push it down and it runs across the floor while making a popping sound.
- Activity Centers like an Evenflo Exersaucer, keeping baby contained while allowing him to play, or a Fisher-Price Jumperoo, which lets baby get exercise by jumping around.
- Nesting cups and stacking rings, such as the Plan Toy Stacking Rings, which are made from organic materials and feature bright colors.
If you do not have a lot of money or a lot space, you can also create toys from items you have around your home. Pots and pans make great toys for older babies, especially when accompanied by plastic spoons to bang on them with. Plastic measuring cups and spoons work as rattles and stacking toys. Fill a plastic bottle with coins, beans or beads to make a rattle for the baby, making sure to glue on the cap so a baby cannot remove it and choke on it. You can also roll up a pair of socks to use as a ball.
Selecting the Right Toys
You'll quickly find that not just any toy will do for your infant. Choosing your baby's toys is a very serious business. You want to encourage his curiosity and his natural tendency to reach beyond his limitations, but you also want to ensure that your little guy is safe. Be sure you follow the age recommendations that are typically listed on toys, and make sure an infant's toys meet the following safety guidelines:
Do not give an infant anything that can fit through a toilet paper tube. It is a choking hazard.
Avoid toys with small pieces that could come off and become a choking or strangulation risk. These include beads, buttons, strings, bows, paper tags, small plastic caps and detachable wheels.
Avoid toys with sharp pieces or hard edges, magnets or parts that could pinch your infant.
Playing with Baby
Whatever toys you choose, do not just give them to your baby and walk away. Part of the learning experience comes from you playing with the toys along with your baby. Reward your baby with smiles and cheers and she learns to manipulate her toys. Encourage her to grab for new toys and regularly switch out toys to keep her from getting bored. Babies can also become tired or over-stimulated while playing, so you need to be nearby to watch for fussiness and signs of frustration and attend to him when he has had enough.