With so many different options on the market, it can be hard to know what toys are worth purchasing and which will end up at the bottom of the toy box never to be seen again. What makes a good toy? In this age group we are looking for
Longevity: Will it grow with your baby? Will it stand up to little Hercules hurling it from the highchair 345 times?
Developmentally appropriate: Will it provide the right type of stimulation at the right time to help your baby learn and grow?
Likeable: Will the toy be a firm favourite that provides hours of entertainment? Will Mum and Dad be trying to pry the batteries out by Day 2?
1. High contrast toys for visual stimulation. Babies at this age are most interested in faces and bright colours (think black, white, red, yellow). Soft books and mobiles with bold patterns and mirrors are great for working on fixing and following and will keep your baby mesmerised.
Baby's Very First Book: Faces by Jo Lodge; Huggamind Printable DIY mobile kit
2. Toys with texture. Young babies are learning about their environment through touch, and will be interested in toys with a mixture of crinkles, soft and satiny textures. Good texture toys will be easy to hold and encourage baby to bring their hands together and to their face. Details like tags and ribbons will encourage visual and tactile exploration.
Lamaze Musical Inchworm; Brightstarts Little Taggies
3. Play gyms are a brilliant workhorse that combine visual and tactile stimulation, and encourage your baby to reach, swipe, roll and play on their tummy. Look for one with simple colourful toys, and mirrors or rattles to encourage movement of the arms and legs and distraction during tummy time.
Bright Starts Silly Safari Gym
4. Easy to grip rattles and teethers to encourage grasp, hands together and to the mouth, reaching and rolling, and controlled release. Many babies start to get their first teeth around six months, and will be looking for something easy to hold and gnaw on. Look for different textures, the right size for little hands, and the right shape to gum on. Linking rings are cheap and the duct tape of the toy world – use them as a teether, join them together and hang off the pram, attach them to toys on the play gym to lower to an appropriate height for tummy or side play.
Bright Starts Lots of Links; Sophie the Giraffe; Bright Starts Rattle and Shake Barbell
5. Baby swings are an amazing tool for the "fourth trimester". They provide your baby with a safe place to rest when you need your hands free, provide soothing movement in a semi upright position when your arms get tired during witching hour, and the movement across different planes helps to provide input to the developing vestibular system. Babies should not be left to sleep in swings unsupervised, and they should not replace ample floor play time, but when you pop your baby in the swing for 20 minutes while you make dinner you are providing a lovely and soothing sensory experience. Look for a swing with multiple degrees of recline and the option to change the direction of swing.
Fisher Price My Little Lamb Cradle Swing
Save your money? Jolly jumpers, Baby walkers and Exersaucers:
Parents love them. Babies adore them. So what’s the problem? The muscles and movement patterns used for jumping up and down in a jolly jumper, propelling forward in a walker, and standing in an exersaucer are very different to those used for rolling, sitting, crawling, pulling to stand and walking. A short amount of time each day is unlikely to cause too many problems, and can be a much needed respite while you get things done. However, it is very easy to get into the “Container Shuffle” – 30 mins in the jolly jumper, then 30 mins in the exersaucer, 30mins in the baby walker – then it is nap time! There are also safety concerns with Baby walkers and Jolly jumpers. Jolly Jumpers can be pulled down from the doorway, and Baby Walkers can fall down staircases or tip, causing significant injury.
The verdict – these are expensive pieces of equipment that take up plenty of room, so you might want to think about if they are worth the investment. If you would like to pick one “big piece” to entertain your little one, I would pick an exersaucer that doesn’t bounce, that your child can sit/stand in with flat feet, and limit it to 20 mins a day. Some exersaucers can be used as activity tables to practice pulling to stand and cruising, and will give you more bang for your buck.