A tiny baby, helpless in front of us. Their field of vision is small, and there doesn’t seem to be much they need, apart from food, warmth and love. Why give them toys or play with them? There’s a reason we feel compelled to interact with our babies and play with them.
Why play with a baby?
Babies are learning straight away and as soon as 2 months old they will respond to different tones in your voice. Their hearing develops in the womb and they are born to recognise your voice. The noises a baby makes aren’t just crying, and gradually you will recognise these verbal cues they are practicing. At around 5-7 weeks they’ll start smiling, and you will notice that different tones of you and your family’s voice will produce different reactions.
Once they start the cooing stage at around 8 weeks, making vowel sounding noises like ‘ooh, aah,’ this is the start of them developing their muscles for speech. All those little sounds are your baby’s way of learning to speak and communicate. They will begin to recognise their name and will turn towards it.
Introducing Toys to your baby 0-12 weeks
At the beginning, babies have little control of their limbs, with a lot of flailing about and accidental fist sucking. Toys at this stage are playmats, mobiles (with or without sound, lights and different textures. Books are never too early to introduce. All the toys and interaction with you help fire neurons in the brain to develop and forge new pathways. The more interaction and experiences they have, the more brain growth.
Introducing Toys to Your Baby 3-6 months
At around 12 weeks old, those physical movements become more purposeful, as they begin to grasp objects with intent. Their vision has improved and it’s a time of rapid learning. By the time they reach 6 months they may be able to learn rudimentary signs. The understanding of speech is there before the ability to speak and before their first word is uttered, so learning and teaching some simple signs can help you to communicate with each other. This is where the toys get more interesting, designed to fit a baby’s hands, so they can feel and explore the different colours and textures for themselves.
Introducing Toys to Your Baby 6-12 months
From 6-12 months, your baby’s understanding is growing rapidly and they will start to follow simple instructions, like waving bye-bye or hello, responding to their name and learning how to play peek-a-boo. They will start to enjoy pretend play and you will be given the first of many imaginary cups of tea! They start to ‘babble,’ saying repetitive words, usually “da-da,” “ga-ga,” “ba-ba,” simple sounds that are easy to say.
Movement wise, they are developing fine motor skills; at around 9 months they will develop the ‘pincer grip’ which allows them to pick up smaller objects, usually fluff and dirt from the carpet which goes straight in their mouth! Shape sorters and bead threaders are good at this stage, and pop up shapes. They develop the ability to clap, point and wave. Some will blow kisses and fold their arms. They will start to crawl and explore the world around them. They can learn signs and actions, particularly to nursery rhymes and games which will help them to communicate and develop. The repetitive sounds and actions to the nursery rhymes help cement their learning. They will come to anticipate the upcoming sounds and actions and eventually will join in and sing them on their own.
Below is a list of some of the best sensory toys I’ve seen for babies, and some of the most popular. Some are just too adorable not to share! They all have the added benefits of being designed with the baby’s intelligence and comfort in mind.
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