What do you fill a baby's toy box with?
When we had our baby I thought that for the first few months toys were completely unnecessary, she eats, sleeps, poops and repeats. Well, it turns out that babies do need toys and they need not be expensive but the interaction and stimulation is what helps accelerate and enhance their development. So what do you get for your baby or as a great gift? Here are a few ideas:
Birth to One Month
Music (Cd's, tapes, etc.)
Babies enjoy hearing music, whether it is Mozart or "Old MacDonald had a farm," your baby enjoys the rhythm, melody and repetition. You can test baby's memory by playing the same songs over the course of a week and then going a few days without. When you play the songs again, baby will show signs of recognition by becoming more alert or kicking his or her feet.
A mobile with black and white patterns and faces, or simple colorful shapes will interest a newborn. Musical mobiles that go round and round will fascinate baby and help develop his or her tracking skills. Newborns will spend most of their time looking left or right, so be sure to position the mobile on one side of the crib as opposed to directly in front of baby.
Similar to a mobile, if you place a baby-safe mirror on the side of your newborn's crib it will capture his or her attention and also reinforce the natural reaction to seeing the human face.
One to Two Months
It is never too early to promote baby literacy. Choose cardboard books with bold pictures of faces, babies, animals and patterns. Babies will look for contrast so black and white or bold colors are the best. Baby is not concerned with a story-line as of yet, so allow baby to touch and even mouth the books while sitting on your lap.
Although baby will likely not be able to rattle it himself he or she will enjoy the sound it makes when you shake the rattle. This also helps baby understand cause and effect.
Baby Gym or Playmat
A baby gym or playmat is made up of several hanging objects. Choose a gym with toys that are colorful, move, vibrate, and make noises, a squeak, rattle or rustle. The ideal mat or gym will have movable toys which will prevent baby from getting bored.
Two to Three Months
Baby will now be able to hold and shake a rattle on his or her own. Choose rattles of different shapes that make a variety of noises.
This is really an extension of the rattle but wrist toys come in other forms too including black and white shapes and bells. Wrist toys are velcroed around the wrist and help baby discover his or her hands as well as understand cause and effect.
Noisy toys continue to reinforce cause and effect. Choose toys that create a variety of sounds, squeaks, rattles, music, and rustles. Baby will likely need your help but as he or she becomes more dexterous he or she will learn to operate these toy on his or her own. You will see baby's delight as he or she figures out these toys.
Three to Four Months
Glove and finger puppets will bring baby much joy. Babies love faces especially with strong contrasting eyes. Whether you make your own or purchase puppets from the toy store be sure to choose animals or characters with bold faces and big eyes.
Babies like objects in motion. Balls are great for tummy-time. If you place baby on his or her tummy and roll the ball across his or her line of sight (within two feet) he or she will start to anticipate the action and reach out for the ball. In no time baby will be dropping and tossing the ball also known as parents fetch.
Now that baby is trying to grab hold of everything in his or her world you will want to provide a variety of textures to stimulate the senses. Touch and feel books are a great starting point as you can move baby's hand across the pages. Also allow baby to touch a smooth ball and a soft teddy bear.
Four to Five Months
Small musical instruments that are made for baby's little hands will bring big smiles. Tambourines or little drums are favorites as they reinforce cause and effect teaching baby that he or she has the power to manipulate the sounds.
Your baby is interested in peek-a-boo. A jack-in-the-box that can be wound and will pop-up can provide endless entertainment for baby. Toy blocks with faces that pop up or cars that when pulled have parts that bob up and down are other great options. Babies enjoy the element of surprise as well as the repetition.
Five to Six Months
Cuddly toys not only offer baby comfort but they teach baby about being gentle. If you role-play with baby showing kindness and gentleness it teaches social skills and it won't be long before baby mimics the behavior.
Although baby will not be able to stack the blocks by his or herself, he or she will enjoy when mom or dad stacks them up. Choose solid colorful blocks and baby will be quick to grab and knock down the tower.
If baby doesn't already have one the playmat becomes more interesting now as baby can move him or herself around more. Choose a mat with several areas of exploration or one that allows you to spread out the toys.