Age Appropriate Toys (Newborn – 6 months)
As a new parent, it can be difficult to determine what kind of things you’ll need in advance. Toys are no exception. Some toys can only be used in a very narrow window and others will last a long while. This will hopefully be the first part of a series of articles discussing toys.
Keep in mind that your mileage may vary here depending on when your child hits certain milestones.
In the beginning, babies sleep most of the time and really need no toys. At this age all they really need is you: your voice, your touch. Some people recommend getting toys that make white noise or simulate the sound of mom’s heartbeat in the womb. The only toy I really used was a glowing seahorse, which I placed at the foot of her bed.
Just when you think your baby is going to sleep 24/7 the rest of their life, they start waking up for longer periods each day. Anything with lights, movement and sound is good, but it has to last a while and not require any trigger on the part of the baby. This is where mobiles come in handy. Babies can’t really do much but look up, as they have no hand control yet. I have two mobiles for my daughter. The first one was part of her jungle decor for her room. She loved it, but it required hand winding every two minutes so we got a second one that lasted up to 20 minutes with no winding. Of course she preferred the two-minute one…
Bouncers also work well for this age and are great for when you need to set your baby down and do something like cook or shower. It’s also to place some toys within reach, so they can at least start working on grabbing. Make sure all toys are removed for bedtime (SIDS risk).
Alert & Grabbing
Eventually your baby will get better aim and actually be able to grab and hold on to toys. At this point you want to provide all manner of handheld toys. The best toys are those that are easy to grasp, not too heavy and provide exciting gumming opportunities. Everything, and I do mean everything, will be put in the mouth.
Probably around the same age as the last category (roughly four months) your baby will discover its feet. Feet are toys in themselves, but they can also be powerful kicking tools. I bought a Fisher-Price Precious Planet Kick and Play Piano for this phase, but it didn’t get anywhere near the mileage of her LeapFrog Learn & Groove™ Musical Table. This thing is great. It has a musical setting and a language setting (English or Spanish). It lights up. The legs are completely removable, so it’s usable at a much younger age and grows with the baby. When I found out how much V enjoyed kicking I propped her up on the bed with a pillow and propped this toy across from her. She kicked the crap out of it. My husband and I are surprised she doesn’t have bruises from how hard she kicks, but she loved it!
We have a second bouncer that I thought we’d never use. It’s a “Kick and Play” and has three hanging toys that are meant to be grabbed. We got this one used and the lights and vibration never worked, and originally V was far to young to be able to reach and grab the toys. Once she got to the kicking stage, and as as her back muscles developed where she could lean forward, this bouncer became far more popular than her rainforest one.
Rolling/Versatile Tummy Time/Sitting Up
Tummy Time goes through stages. First your baby can’t do anything but lie there. Eventually they can move their head and raise it. Eventually they can keep their head up for extended periods and grab at things. Hand toys are important here too, as are more interactive toys. It’s useful to lay a blanket down on the carpet, cover it with toys and watch your kid go to town. In our playgroup the toys that are the biggest hit are those that make noise. There is a plastic teapot at one house that makes pouring noises and talks when tilted, and this toy is extremely popular.
If your child can sit up with support you can splurge and get something like a Jumperoo or Exersaucer. V is six months and prefers the Exersaucer because it has a lot of activities. She also can’t jump very well yet, so maybe the Jumperoo will become more popular later. For now it seems dull to her, though she can spend about 15 minutes in it on a good day.
V’s Favorite Toys
She has two. One is homemade and the other isn’t even sold separately. The first is this:
And it comes from this:
She loves this toy. It has a huge “handle” that she can grab on to and chew. The wings are also stuffed with that crinkly material and she loves to suck on them. This toy goes everywhere with us.
The second toy is not so fancy. V is fascinated by liquid and will try to grab drinking glasses whenever possible. One day I decided to give her water bottle with about an inch or two of water in the bottom (just enough to keep it from flying out of her hands, but not so much water as to become excessively heavy). She loved it! She can tilt it around and watch the water inside and it’s also something she can try to put in her mouth. It’s another toy she never gets tired of.
Craigslist and other parents are wonderful resources. We got tons of used items from friends. When I couldn’t decide between a Jumperoo and an Exersaucer (every child seems to prefer one or the other and both cost around $100), I chose to go cheap and just get both on Craigslist for $30 each. You can also check with local mom clubs to see if anyone is trying to unload all their baby stuff.
That said, anyone whose ever spent time popping bubble wrap or playing with an empty cardboard box knows that the best toys are often whatever you have lying around the house. Babies are all about exploring their world, and while you have to make sure they don’t get into trouble there’s no reason not to supervise some safe play with certain household items.
Is your baby restless at the restaurant? Hand her a spoon to play with, show him the menu, or let her dip her fingers into your water glass while your spouse watches in horror and keeps repeating “This is a bad idea.” It’s all about exploration.