When do babies need toys?
In the early stages of a baby’s life, it is through play that developments are made. It is through play that a baby learns how to use the senses and react according to instincts.
By playing with toys and games, babies are not only having fun, they are learning too. This is why it is very important to choose baby toys and games wisely so that they are age-appropriate and stimulating apart from being fun.
When do babies need toys?
During the first couple of minds following your baby’s birth, the number of toys he should have is probably the last thing on your mind. You and baby are still busy trying to navigate his new environment – sleeping, feeding and basically getting used to life outside the womb.
But after a couple of months, your baby is more awake and is more open to learning and play comes into the picture. Of course, one way to play and explore with your child is with the use of some toys.
“As children go through different developmental stages, the right toy for them should target motor, play and cognitive skills.
This could mean reaching for and activating a toy, using a toy that encourages a child to practice standing, walking or playing with a ball, or a toy that helps improve balance, coordination and motor planning,” says Magdalena Oledzka, a paediatric physical therapist at HSS.
“Toys that encourage children to move their bodies are better than games on a screen,” she added.
Throughout the early years, children are also busy developing their sensory capacities.
“Toys that allow children to use their imagination, role play and think about concepts like number, size and shape go hand in hand with toys that encourage physical activity,” says Lorene Janowski, an occupational therapist at HSS.
“These are critical areas of development that children should practice as they continue to grow.”
We give you the perfect tips on how to choose baby toys and games for your child’s development
Choosing age-appropriate toys for your child
Babies 0 to 6 months
When do babies need toys?
Newborn babies up to 6 months are still on the journey of discovering new things. While these babies are primarily fascinated with their hands and feet, these little angels are very curious about everything that they sense.
Babies enjoy looking at people and following them with their eyes. They typically prefer faces and vivid colours. Babies can reach, are captivated by what their hands and feet can accomplish, can lift their heads, tilt their heads toward sounds, can place items in their mouths, and much more!
At this age, parents should choose baby toys and games that further stimulate their senses and allow self-discovery. Toys that have different textures and bright colours are great choices. Also, the toys must be light, soft and considered safe when chewed on.
Appropriate toys for babies at this age:
- Huge rings, squeeze toys, teething toys, soft dolls, textured balls, and vinyl and board books that they can reach for, grip, suck on, shake, and create noise with
- Books with nursery rhymes and poems, as well as recordings of lullabies and basic tunes to listen to
- Things to look at—pictures of babies’ faces hung so the infant can view them
- Toys with black, white and red contrasting designs
- Music players or musical toys with lights
- Soothing sounds and lights (e.g., aquarium, rain stick, musical ring stacker)
- Activity quilts and playmats/busy gyms with stimulating parts for tummy time and with hanging toys to promote reaching and swatting when the child is on his or her back
- Colourful teething rings
- Books or toys with varied textures
- A small ball with holes to allow the baby to grip with both hands
- Rattles, either handheld, sock or wrist
Because babies cannot see colours well, black-and-white designs with fascinating patterns will pique their interest.
“You also want to engage in lots of tummy time to develop belly and rolling skills, as well as reaching for toys and supported sitting,” says Oledzka.
Movement, music, and simple black-and-white pictures fascinate infants. They are becoming more aware of their own bodies, practising eye-hand coordination, reaching, and grabbing.
RELATED: Choosing appropriate educational toys for kids
Babies 6 to 8 months
Infants of this age are usually more aware of their surroundings and want to explore. Choose baby toys and games that showcase cause and effect and age-appropriate adventure. Select toys that encourage a lot of movement too.
Small toys can be held by older babies. They are learning about cause and consequence, and they will repeat exercises until they have mastered them. They also enjoy moving toys from one hand to the other and into and out of containers. Many of the same toys that were designed for infants will be enjoyed in new ways by older babies.
Older babies move quickly, progressing from rolling over and sitting to scooting, bouncing, creeping, pulling themselves up, and standing. They can identify body parts, detect concealed objects, and put things in and out of containers, as well as understand their own names and other common terms.
Appropriate toys for older infants:
- Pretend play items such as baby dolls, puppets, plastic and wood vehicles with wheels, and water toys
- Drop-and-take items—plastic bowls, huge beads, balls, and nesting toys
- Building materials—large soft blocks and wooden cubes
- Toys that require them to use their enormous muscles, such as giant balls, push and pull toys, and low, soft objects to crawl over.
- Exploration, as well as reading and playing music, are vital during this stage. Between the ages of six and nine months, assist newborns in sitting on their own and pushing up from their tummy. The emphasis shifts to crawling on hands and knees between the ages of nine and twelve months.
You could try:
- Stationary play table with music, buttons and levers to operate (many of these tables can be adjusted by adding or subtracting legs – use it with no legs for tummy time, two legs for seated play and four legs for standing activities)
- Stacking blocks or rings
- Pop beads, blocks or toys that pull apart
- Shape sorters and containers to put in and take out objects
- Cause-and-effect toys
- Board books
- Musical instruments (keyboard, xylophone, drums, tambourine) give great multisensory feedback, encourage engagement with others, singing and hand use
- “Push and go” cars or trains, balls and other toys that move to promote crawling and environmental exploration
- Standing push toys (e.g., shopping carts, lawnmowers, etc.)
- Push and pull toys, baby gyms, rubber blocks, pop-up toys and nesting cups will be fitting for babies of this age.
Check out how to choose baby toys and games for kids older than 8 months
Babies 8 to 18 months
Babies of this age often take action to achieve results. They will repeatedly push or pull something because they know what will happen next. This is the age at which babies begin to predict outcomes, choose a goal, and take purposeful action to achieve it. They also start to play with size, form, and space.
These babies can already find something else to do with them as imitation and pretend play will start to kick in.
One-year-olds are always on the move! They can usually walk steadily and even climb stairs. They appreciate books, pronounce their first words, and can play alongside (but not with) other children. They enjoy experimenting, but they require grownups to keep them safe.
Choose baby toys and games that involve taking it apart/putting it together and shape sorting. Toys with lots of buttons and switches are fun for babies of this age. Toys suitable for one-year-olds include:
- Board books with simple graphics or photos of real-world things
- Recordings of songs, rhymes, basic stories, and illustrations
- Art supplies include non-toxic, washable markers, crayons, and big paper.
- Pretend-play items include toy phones, dolls and doll beds, baby carriages and strollers, dress-up accessories (scarves, handbags), puppets, plush animals, plastic animals, and plastic and wood “realistic” automobiles.
- Building materials—cardboard and wood blocks (smaller than those used by infants—2 to 4 inches)
- Puzzles, huge pegboards, toys with moving parts (dials, switches, knobs, lids), and large and tiny balls for exercising their large and small muscles.
- Push/pull toys, blocks, nesting cups, rings on poles, shape sorters, and basic take-apart toys are examples of age-appropriate toys.
Body awareness and pretend play are the primary purpose of toys for kids in this age group.
Other good choices are:
- Walking toys for pushing and pulling (e.g., wagons, strollers, etc.)
- Ride-on toys
- Toys on a pull string (e.g., dog on wheels on a leash)
- Balls of all sizes
- Fat crayons
- 3-to-5-piece puzzles with knobs
- Stacking toys with sorting of different shapes and colors
- Symbolic/pretend play (e.g., kitchen tools, play farms or dollhouses with toy animals and people)
- Large beads for stringing (using thick string)
- Picture and finger play books
- Bath toys
- Large soft or cardboard blocks
- Child-size household items (e.g., kitchen utensils, plates, food) that promote engagement in feeding and mealtime routines
RELATED: Toys that promote creativity in your child
Image source: iStock
When you choose baby toys and games, make sure that each one is safe. Don’t disregard warning labels, especially ones that warn about small parts and choking hazards. Avoid toys with sharp points and edges as well as strings and cords to prevent injuries and accidents.
Separate toys by age and keep a special eye on small pieces that may be a choking hazard for very young children. Toys that are intended for older kids may pose a risk to their younger, curious siblings.
When playtime is over, store toys in a bin or container. Make sure there are no holes or hinges that could catch little fingers. For soft cloth toys, make sure to wash them regularly to prevent dust and dirt from accumulating.
Also, talk to your child about toy safety. Tell him that he shouldn’t be putting the toys in his mouth and nostrils. Be on the constant lookout for recalled toys by checking the Consumer Commissions site.
Baby’s not playing with the toy
We know you worked really hard just to choose baby toys and games for your child. But don’t be disappointed if your baby doesn’t play with it for more than a minute.
Babies have an attention span of, well, a baby, and they are as fascinated with a piece of paper as they are by that very expensive educational toy that you bought. It is best to keep toys simple and scarce during the first few months. What’s most important is playing games with you. Human interaction is more educational than any toy there is.
If your baby is not yet interested in the toy that you bought, it’s best to store it first in a safe place. Chances are he will find it interesting after a couple of months.
For more information on how to choose baby toys and games, please see the video below: