In those early days with your newborn baby it is hard to imagine finding time between feeding, changing dirty nappies and sleeping for a playing session. Besides, why exactly should you fit this extra slot for games and toys even though your baby’s brain is too tiny to understand anything?
Well, according to psychologists, it is never too early to start engaging your little one in playing and exploring the world. You may think your baby is not even interested in what you show to him, but in reality he’s absorbing much more information than we can expect.
Reaching milestones and gaining necessary skills reflects in a big part from the opportunities that baby receives. That’s why choosing the right toys and activities that match your little one’s age is so important; it’s up to you as a parent to pick something that will draw his attention.
Are you confused when you enter the shop or browse through online world of toys? Don’t worry, that’s why I’m here for you.
I prepared a list of best toys for babies development and divided them accordingly to the age so you will know what you need once your little one progresses to the next stage.
Toys for age 0-3 months
Your baby doesn’t do much of a movement yet and she looks so cozy in your arms but it’s important to give her opportunities to wiggle and stretch as much as possible through the day. This way she will develop and strengthen her weak muscles.
It’s a great idea to start tummy time from the first month of baby’s life as earlier you will start the better for the baby. She will most likely not lift her head so soon but could slightly turn the head looking for your face. When she turns 3 months you will notice how much the tummy time has been beneficial for her development; her neck and arms muscles will be strong enough to lift her little head.
My picks for these months are:
Activity mat. Having one of those is a must have for your newborn baby. The clip-on overhead toys might be over-stimulating for your little one until she’s about 2 months old so until then I’d suggest taking them off and placing the mat on top of a rug so your baby is comfortable and safe during tummy time.
Music-playing device. Since baby’s hearing gets developed earlier than other senses, music will catch his attention and stimulate his brain.
The play mat from Fisher Price combines best of these two worlds. It comes with the toys including a mirror (so also great for your baby to stay on her back and stare at her own reflection) plus a little detachable piano that your baby can kick during tummy time and later on use as a toy when she can sit by herself (you may find songs coming from this device quite annoying but at least you will get some well-deserved rest for a minute or two).
• Mobiles. High-contrast black-and-white decorations will be the best pick for your little one. The reason for that is that babies don’t really see colours until they reach about 3 months of age. The black and white graphics will help the early vision development. This mobile from Amazon gives you an option of changing the cards according to age as well as changing the distance of the cord once your baby’s vision improves. This smaller one is portable and you can clip it to most strollers and car seats.
Toys for age 4-6 months
Starting from the age of 4 months babies become especially interested in faces and other circular designs, like spirals. Why? Because their eyesight is developing in a full speed.
From about 5 months they also begin to learn cause and effect, so they may be amazed with shaking toys such as rattles and, obviously, they will put everything in their mouth.
My picks for these months are:
• Soft sound-making toys. For example, light soft blocks or balls will be useful for babies that are in the journey of discovering cause and effect. Any sound that the toy will make will be a great entertainment for your baby.
• Teething toys with a rattle. A toy like this will satisfy your baby’s needs and curiosity so you get a package of 2 in 1. Although the teething process doesn’t usually start until 6 months, gum pain may bother your little one earlier. Plus, the rattle with a handle will force your peanut to exercise her hand grip while shaking the toy around will strengthen her arm.
**For more information about teething toys and how to deal with the painful teething phase, check out my other post.
Toys for age 7-9 months
After 6 months have passed your baby is probably ready to sit unsupported. If she’s still not doing it independently, you can encourage her to strengthen her abs and spine muscles by showing her how to reach the toys that are lying in front of her.
Once your baby is confident enough, she’ll be using her free hands to play with different kind of toys and entertain herself for a short time (hopefully for a long time but who are we kidding).
My picks for these months are:
• Books. Not exactly a toy category but they’re still a source of fun! Board books and cloth books are safe for little curious hands and they would be really hard to damage. Your baby will love this interactive one as it’s super soft with different textures to explore and it makes noises too! Contrast, black-and- white books are also great as they support eye-development.
—–>For more detailed information about books & bedtime stories, click here.
• Stackable cups. From building a tower to simply putting them inside of each other, they are multi-purpose; with age your child will be discovering new ways to play with them. These cups not only help baby to practice hand-eye coordination, but also can be used to teach him the idea that items still exist even when you can’t see them. To do so just hide smaller objects under the cups (always under your supervision) and then lift up each one of them making it a game of discovery.
• Balls with holes. Or any other easy to hold ball so your baby can keep developing his grasping skills.
Toys for age 10-12 months
By now most babies will be crawling and starting to pull themselves into a standing position in preparation for cruising. Your little one might also be mastering the act of picking up small objects between the thumb and index finger.
At this age, babies memory is working on more advanced level and they’re able to understand simple words. They’re also more tolerant to various stimulation.
My picks for these months are:
• Household items. Exploring at this age will be your baby’s new favourite activity. Many babies seem to enjoy everyday use objects much more than any toy out there. That’s why its good idea to give your little one pots and wooden spoons (so he can bang on them, for example) as well as empty cereal boxes or plastic food containers. You may find out that there’s no need to buy too many toys after all.
• Activity tables. They encourage development of motor skills and hand-eye coordination thanks to the colourful, engaging buttons. They’re also perfect for entertaining a baby who’s just learned or is in a process of learning how to stand since their strong supportive legs will ensure your baby’s safety during playtime. This one is great as you can remove the legs and make it a ‘sit-down’ toy.
• Plush toys. It is common at this time for many babies to grow attached to objects such as plush toys or comforters and want to hang on to them, especially when upset or sleepy. Giving one may reduce the separation anxiety that a lot of babies develop after 6-7th month.
***For more information on how to deal with separation anxiety click here.
Toys for 12 months +
Your baby’s biggest achievement around the one-year mark is definitely walking (however some babies won’t be ready to take first steps without help until they reach 15 months). Thanks to the observation, they also start to use some objects in their intended use, for instance they will take a phone pretending to talk( so you get the green light to buy a toy phone).
Older babies, at about 18 months age, will most likely start to show interest in more engaging activities that will take their motor skills to the next level. Toddlers may be enjoying kicking the ball around or drawing on a paper with a thick crayon.
My top picks for 12+ months are:
• Push/pull toys. Pulling around an animal on a string or pushing anything with wheels will provide loads of amusement for your walking toddler. This one is a great choice for walking lessons but also for learning first words.
• Cars and trucks. Wheeled vehicles will encourage baby to become more independent by exploring the surroundings by himself.
• Large blocks. Not only building a tower of blocks (and knocking it down right after) is a fun way to play but can be also beneficial to your baby’s brain. Some scientists have found out that young children who play with these toys will be much smarter at maths in the future. Now imagine you are the one who’s raising the next Einstein!
• Baby art supplies. Any toddler will be super entertained by the finger paint—just make sure the drawing tools you buy are non-toxic and big enough for those little hands: Palm-grip crayons, sidewalk chalk and dot markers are the best choice.
- Wooden cube/ shape sorter. Great for cognitive learning, your little one will learn colours and shapes first and soon she’s going to figure out how to match them with the cube. She may need some help at first so keep encouraging her until she figures it out!
- Magnetic fishing table. It’s a great toy for developing hand and eye coordination and it helps with raising your toddlers’ awareness about patience! My daughter was getting quite annoyed when she couldn’t catch the fish at first but with time she mastered it and the toy became one of her favourites.
- Soft ball pit. I could not possibly forget to mention this amazing toy. It will give your child hours of fun while helping him to advance his manual abilities such as grasping and throwing. If you don’t have large space at home or you want to spend less money I recommend getting a ball pit that can be folded. (However, it won’t be as sturdy as the first one).
- Bubble toy. Last but not the least, it’s one of the oldest and most loved toys. Traditional ones or more fancy bubble ‘makers’- they always bring enjoyment for both, kids and their parents. My daughter could try to catch those bubbles forever- our dog is crazy about them as well:)
Hope you enjoyed my recommendations. At the end, remember that YOU are the best entertainment for your little one. Toys just give you an extra opportunity to create the bond between you two.
Can you think of any other developmental toys worth mentioning ?
Let me know in the comments!
Have fun guys:)