With so many toys on offer, online and in NZ shops galore, knowing what the right toy is for your baby can be hard. This guide will make it easy to choose the best toys for your baby, so you can relax knowing that their specific stage of development is well and truly catered for.
Things to Consider
When buying baby toys there are two important things to consider. The first is obviously safety, and the second is your child’s stage of development. Toys need to stimulate your child’s learning, but at the same time keep challenges achievable. Your considerations for this age group should be:
At this age everything (and I mean everything!) goes straight to the mouth, so small toys or toys with small parts can easily become a choking hazard. It is also important to check that the toy is made from non-toxic material, and that there are no sharp edges which could cut or bruise the gums. Toys with long strings or ribbons should also be avoided, as young babies can easily wrap themselves up and cause strangulation.
In the first 6 months, babies are just starting to discover the world. They are learning to focus and starting to follow objects with their eyes, so toys with bold colours and patterns are useful. Your baby will also start to localise sound, which means they turn to find out where a noise is coming from. They are fascinated by people, especially faces, and will begin to develop preferences for certain people.
In these early months, babies have little control over their body, but are becoming aware that their hands and feet are actually connected to them! Overtime they will be able to willingly bat their arms or grasp an object, and they will start to develop gross motor skills by rolling and rocking.
Best Baby Toys 0 – 6 month
There are literally hundreds of baby toys available, and they vary dramatically in price and quality. In terms of baby toys you really do get what you pay for, so try to stay with reputable brands, and buy a few good quality toys rather than a box full of junk. Here are our Top 10 Toys for Babies 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6 months old.
Rattles and Teethers
Rattles and teethers are such simple toys, but they are so practical for this age group. When choosing a rattle or teether, make sure they are easy to grasp and light enough for your baby to wave about. Teethers that can be cooled in the refrigerator are especially nice for babies aching gums.
Music Compact Discs
Music helps your child to develop in so many ways – intellectually, emotionally and socially. Whether you are using it to develop a routine around bedtime, or just as a way to have fun with your baby, music is soothing, calming, relaxing and energizing all rolled into one. There are plenty of great children’s discs available, but babies also enjoy adult music especially classical and jazz.
Babies love variety, and activity centres offer lots of variety all in one toy. Look for activity toys which include a mirror (babies love looking at themselves), textures, sounds, patterns, buttons and levers. The moving parts will give the toy added value, as these sections will hold your baby’s interest once they have mastered the more simple activities.
You can purchase activity centres which are made for every environment including cots, prams, highchairs, and of course the floor. While it is useful to have one in every place, there are many types that can be easily clipped from one spot to another. Have a good look in your educational toy store, and ask staff to point out the benefits of each one.
Learning to focus is one of the earliest skills your baby will learn, and a mobile will help them to do this. Musical or spinning mobiles will help your baby to localize sound, and will encourage them to follow the moving objects with their eyes. To begin with mobiles should be hung about 20cm from baby so that they can learn to focus clearly, but you should move them out of reach as soon as baby starts to move or bat their arms.
Babies at this age are too young to play with bath toys themselves, but toys are great for introducing games you can play together. Squirting, splashing, pouring, sprinkling, bubbling, and floating toys all help provide sound and touch stimulation for your child, and makes bath time a fun time for everyone.
Having a special bedtime toy is one way to develop a bedtime routine, and this sleep indicator can be used right from birth. Soft silky toys will encourage a sense of comfort and soothing, and you will be surprised by how quickly your child grows attached to this part of their routine. Make sure the toy is small so that it won’t smother baby in these early years.
You child is never too young for books, and board books are a great place to start. Obviously they won’t be able to read them, or even understand the pictures at first, but exposing your child to books right from birth means that books become a part of everyday life. Initially your baby will use the book as just another teether, but eventually they will start to develop fine motor skills as they learn to turn the pages.
A baby gym is a toy which is placed straddling baby when they are lying on the floor. The baby gym has a variety of toys which hang from the central frame, encouraging baby to reach out and grasp or hit the toys. There are so many different makes and models available, and they all have various types of toys attached. Like the activity centre, look for a baby gym which offers a variety including reflection, texture, sound and pattern.
You can make your own baby gym by tying small toys to a broom or bamboo stake and laying it between 2 chairs. Make sure that both the toys and the pole is secure, so that neither can fall onto baby when they reach and pull at the toys.
Balls and Rolling Toys
Balls and rolling toys are a great way to encourage baby to crawl. Place the ball or rolling toy within reach of baby when they are on their tummy, and let them play. As they knock the toy and it rolls out of reach, they will begin to work out ways of getting closer to it. Officially, balls for this age should be no smaller than 45mm, but in my opinion – bigger is better.
Formula tins make great rolling toys for this age group when placed on their side. A gentle tap means the tin will roll just out of reach.
Swings are a great way to soothe an unsettled baby, and there are various infant styles available. Some come with their own frames, while others need to be mounted from a beam or door frame. Whichever style you choose, double check the safety clips, ropes and harness, and never leave baby unattended. A swing is a great toy for babies, but it is one you should enjoy together.
Remember, your baby’s most favourite toy will be you and your voice, so take the time to sing, smile, dance and play!