As an adult, we know that play and learning are two different things. But to a baby, those two words are synonymous.
Play is how a child learns, especially during the first few years of his life. It’s how he learns about his surroundings. It’s how she learns to move and communicate. When you play with your child, you show him that he’s loved and important, while also providing activities for him to better develop socially, emotionally and cognitively.
You can play with your baby by playing pat-a-cake, peek-a-boo or with finger puppets. You can talk and read to your baby, which are both very important to cognitive development. Research has shown that talking with your baby a lot during their first 3 years of life constructs the brain architecture she needs to support good reading and thinking skills later in life and perform better on cognitive development tests, while reading to your baby develops listening, vocabulary and memory skills.
And another way to play with your child, or a way that he can independently play by himself, is with baby toys.
Age and developmentally appropriate baby toys provide infant stimulation—stimulation that’s shown to improve a child’s curiosity, attention span, memory, nervous system development, muscle coordination as well as help her more quickly reach developmental milestones.
Baby toys are fun for infants to play with, and sometimes more fun for parents to watch their child play with. They encourage infants to interact, explore and learn how cause and effect and if-then reasoning both work.
So what baby toys should you buy for your baby?
Specifically, that depends on the age and developmental level of your child. But more generally, you want toys that stimulate the senses, help develop language and motor skills and teach your child about different sounds, colors, shapes and textures.
Below is a small age-appropriate list of baby toys that are fun and also promote learning and development:
- 0-3 months: Rattles, brightly-colored mobiles, small unbreakable mirrors
- 4-6 months: Activity gym, balls, squeeze and squeak toys
- 7-9 months: Stacking cups, stackable rings, blocks
- 10-12 months: Touch and feel books, walkers, toy drums
Babies are unique, so remember that your baby might develop at a different rate than your firstborn or your neighbor’s kid. And that’s OK because normal child development is wide-ranging.
Just make sure that the toys you get your baby match his developmental age and ability, and that you play with him daily because your baby is learning and developing every day.