Today’s baby toys industry is so developed that it’s easy for parents to get confused: all sorts of rattles, hangers, mats, squeakers, development boards… It’s easy to buy something unnecessary, without noticing the really useful thing. However, there are children’s toys, which the baby can’t do.
The first months of life are a time when a child develops at an incredible rate! Babies explore the big and confusing world for the first time: they notice a rattle in mum’s hand, or smile, or turn their head to the sound of a familiar voice, or stretch out their hand to the toy … The baby masters the big and confusing world in every way imaginable: listening, examining, tasting and touching. The task of adults is to provide the little explorer with all sorts of objects to explore. The first toys are the best for this task.
Your baby’s first toy: A baby rocker.
In the first 2-3 months of life, the baby is not yet able to play: he can’t take and hold rattles, does not understand how to extract sounds from the developmental panels. However, you can entertain and develop your child with a mobile. This is a musical merry-go-round over the baby’s cot. Observing the moving figures and listening to the sounds, your child trains its eyesight and ears and learns to concentrate. Usually, a carousel is purchased alone and used for several months. Mobiles are of two types, mechanical and electronic. Mechanical mobiles require winding up every 2-3 minutes. This is not very convenient. In addition, these mobiles have only one melody. Electronic toys work with batteries, and you just need to turn them on and they will entertain your baby for much longer – 15 to 20 minutes. Often, these pendants have several musical compositions to choose from. Just be aware that these models are usually heavier than mechanical ones and need a more secure attachment.
For the first 1 to 2 months. You can have the baby rocker on the cot at 2-3 weeks of age, but usually babies start to notice suspended toys around one month of age. Set the carousel so that the toys are hanged 30cm from the child’s eyes, not above the head, but at chest height. This makes it easier for your child to focus on the object. Even if he looks long and fascinated by flying planes or spinning elephants, do not include a merry-go-round for a long time. The movement and sound may overwork your baby’s nervous system and cause her to cry instead of being soothed. It’s best to let it go for 3 to 5 minutes and then take it off so your baby can rest.
2-4 months. Babies are already clearly responding to the mobile: expressing joy when they hear familiar sounds, closely following the movement of the figures, and turning their heads. Turn the carousel on when the baby is lying in the cot. Try to use the toy as a “sleep aid”: many babies fall asleep to it. Mobiles with projector functions are good for this. They project a kind of cartoon onto the ceiling: Quiet music slowly moves over the head of the different pictures. Babies are fascinated by this evening magic. But you have to watch carefully how the little one behaves. Some kids are soothed by such “cartoons” and fall asleep easily. Others, on the contrary, react vigorously and overexcited. These babies are better off not to turn on the projector before bedtime.
4-6 months. At this age, babies are still happy to watch the mobile. But now they are actively reaching for the toys. So the baby’s mobile is also a stimulus for movement. Just make sure that it is securely fastened – many babies will already want to pull themselves up by holding onto the bars of the cot. Reaching over and grabbing the toy might pull the baby down. And hurt or frightened as a result.
Mobile becomes obsolete after six months. However, if your baby likes to fall asleep to familiar tunes, you can leave the hanger above the cot for longer.
A rattle is the most important developmental toy. It is very useful because it stimulates hearing, vision, tactile sensitivity, coordination, fine and fine motor skills and thinking. In order for the rattle to be of maximum benefit to the baby, it needs to be chosen correctly.
Up to 2 months. From about one month old, your baby will already notice a bright rattle in the hands of an adult. Gradually the baby will learn to focus on a noisy toy, and later will follow the eyes of its movement if the mother will slowly move it from right to left. The main thing is that the rattles should be big enough, bright and not too loud (so as not to frighten the baby). You may want to try putting soft bracelets with bells on the baby’s arms and legs. He will move and the bells will jingle, attracting the baby’s attention. Just watch how your baby reacts. It happens that babies flinch from the harsh sounds of a rattle. Then the game with the bracelets is better to postpone.
2-5 months. Babies are not just looking at the rattles, and show keen interest in them – they stretch their hands, and later grab toys. For the little ones, rattles should be light and small, but conveniently shaped so they’re easier for awkward fingers to grasp. For the sake of experimentation, buy several toys of different shapes and take turns putting them in your child’s hand (rattles in the form of small dumbbells are particularly handy). Babies also like garland rattles with all sorts of shapes and sizes, which can be stretched between the rims of the cot. Place the garland above your baby’s chest so that she can lift up her arms and reach for the toys. At first, your baby will only look at the figures, then he might accidentally touch them with his hands or feet. It will make noises and your baby will be happy. Soon it will learn to reach for the garland purposefully and clatter quite deliberately. But don’t forget about safety: use lights of a suitable length and with secure fastening hooks. If a short garland is pulled too tight, it might come off (or the fastener breaks) and bang your baby.
5-8 months. The baby can hold rattles in his hands, picks them up and tries to move them from one hand to the other. And the more variety in shape, size, weight, colour and texture of the rattles, the better the baby will develop. It is good if one toy will have several textures: fabric, plastic with bumps, rubber inserts, etc. Touching the toy with fingers, trying it out (you can’t do it without it!), every time the baby will get different tactile sensations, which is very useful for motor skills development and stimulation of the brain.
Later in life, rattles lose their relevance as the baby has many new opportunities for development.
Baby’s first toys: A play mat
Another “helper” for the mother is the mat. Its surface consists of various materials (smooth, rough, fluffy, rustling), which stimulates the baby’s tactile sensitivity. The more “secrets” on the mat, the better. By looking into pockets, picking up flaps, pulling strings, unsticking and sticking sticky notes, a child develops thinking and curiosity, and trains hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. The mat can be musical: while crawling, your child presses the handle on the sensor – and something beeps, plays, barks… Arcs are good developmental attachments – and many mats are equipped with them. Arcs can go crosswise or parallel. They hold toys hanging and are the first baby exercise equipment: grabbing toys and rings, the baby will be pulled up, actively strengthening the muscles of the neck, back and arms. Some play mats have a special cape on their arcs, which turns the mat into a small house or tunnel. This allows the mat to be used as a play mat even when the baby is older.
1-3 months. The mat for the newborn should be bright, and the patterns and designs on it should be contrasting. Place the mat on the floor (just make sure there are no draughts). Lying on your child’s stomach, the child can look at the bright patterns and touch the mat with their hands. If the mat has arcs attached, you can hang not only the toys included in the set, but any others, small in size. Your baby can look at them while lying on its back. Ideally, the mat should have a music panel.
3-7 months. Your baby will be attracted by all kinds of items embedded in the mat: a mirror, toys, teethers and more. It will reach out, touch, stroke, stroke, rustle and grasp them. Baby will be able to “turn on” different melodies and sounds by slapping its hands and feet on the playmat. At first, it will come out randomly. But gradually, it will learn the cause-and-effect relationship and that you can turn the music on at will by clicking in the “right” place. The toys attached to the arcs and to the mat itself will encourage your baby to reach out and grab them. Replace the hanging toys from time to time and hang new ones.
8-10 months. Your baby will become more active and no longer wants to lie in one place, so it will crawl away from the mat. But the mat is still useful to him: the baby will be happy to consider familiar patterns, showing animals and other characters at your request, listen and repeat the sounds, and look in the mirror.
Of course, you don’t have to limit the infant to a mobile, a rattle and an educational mat. From about 3 to 5 months of age, begin to offer your baby other toys that will broaden his or her horizons and skills.
Game boards. This is a developmental center (often themed) with lots of interesting details: buttons, mirrors, all kinds of handles, “twiddly-tinkly-winkly”, steering wheel, wheels, windows, etc. The play panel may be set in the cot, playpen or simply placed in front of the baby.
Rubber squeakers. These toys are good for training your baby’s hands and fingers. You need to apply a certain amount of force to make the toy squeak.
Chumblies. A small toy will delight your child. Babe will smack it with his hand, push, and the toy will rock and jingle. This toy ‘likes’ to move to the side, which will encourage crawling: the toy has escaped, you need to catch it!