As a new parent, it is an adjustment to get into the routine of caring for your new baby and all that comes along with it. After a few weeks, once you begin to have a schedule and figure out how to work all your new baby gear, it is essential to build in playtime for your little one.
So, then comes the challenge of finding the best baby toys from birth to 6 months.
Babies up to 6 months are in the discovery phase. While newborns can be sleepy at first, you will notice they are awake and alert for more extended periods at different times of the day. Look for these times in your baby's schedule and keep a basket of fun toys nearby for some playful opportunities.
Items that are the most popular for the youngest babies are toys that appeal to or stimulate their senses through sound, touch, taste, and hearing. Babies love to see bright primary colors like red, blue, or yellow. Toys with high contrasts and simple designs are the best buys.
Bouncer Seats and Swings
Baby bouncer seats, swings, and cradles are great items that many expecting parents include on their baby registry. These toys provide opportunities for your baby to learn different skills. Many are versatile and have features that you can change, which appeal to a baby's interest over some time. So while they can be expensive, babies will use them for several months and learn many new skills along the way.
Playmats or Play Gyms
First, babies might watch hanging toys or rattles with their eyes. They may see their toy move and be interested in where it is moving, following it carefully with their eyes side-to-side. You may see them move their arms and bat at the dangling toys. Your baby needs tummy time, and play gyms are perfect for that.
Tummy time helps babies build strength in the muscles in their neck and arms. Later on, they will use this control for other motor skills like crawling and even talking. The best tummy time toys often include small curved pillows for babies to be placed under their arms on their belly to make it more comfortable.
Not all babies like tummy time at first. Do not be afraid and be the toy! Lie down on your belly opposite your baby and sing songs or talk to them. There is nothing more motivating than seeing a family member's face and hearing your voice while you encourage them.
Babies are also discovering how to use their hands, feet, eyes, and most of their senses. Infant reactions are random at first, but they eventually learn by cause and effect. They will also learn to control their actions over time, especially when they get a reaction or a response they like, learning to perform the steps repeatedly.
Babies love rattles. There are so many kinds of rattles. Some rattles make noises or have blinking lights. Others have soft textures, while many are hard plastic. Rattles should be light, smooth, and easy for your baby to handle or hold in their hand. Also, look for toys that can clean spit-up and drool easily.
Babies are tiny humans with likes, dislikes, and preferences, too. Offer your baby a variety of rattles to play with and see how they react. It won't be long before you know which ones are their favorites!
Car Seat Toys
Many rattles have clips and attachments that can easily attach to your car seat, strollers, and high chairs. Clips or velcro straps make these toys more versatile, easy to transport, and convenient to play with anywhere.
Reading to babies is very important for their language and vocabulary development. Look for soft, cloth books or durable board books with fabric spots for babies to touch while they look at the picture and hear new words while you read.
Once babies learn to love rattles, you will see them begin to explore with their hands, feet, and mouth. Always supervise babies when they are playing. Why are babies always putting toys in their mouths? Babies like to explore toys with their senses, including taste. These toys also provide comfort to their gums if they have new teeth emerging.
Babies love to see their reflection in a mirror. While some rattles have mirrors, there are also larger baby-safe mirrors encased in cloth. These fabulous toys motivate babies during tummy time. You can also strap them to a car seat, giving your baby a reflection to babble to.
Babies like to sleep, but they also need to learn to sleep at different times to establish nap and nighttime routines. Many sleep toys include soft, plush stuffed animals that play different lullabies and sounds to help the baby know it is time to rest.
In the first year, a child develops gross motor skills like holding, lifting, pressing, and grasping while discovering the world around them by observing blinking lights, discriminating different sounds, and learning about different textures that they touch. To stimulate those skills, consider learning cubes in two sizes—handheld and larger, floor cubes. A learning cube accomplishes a lot in a compact package. It doesn't matter if it's a handheld plushy cube with flaps and different materials or a plastic one with lights, buttons, and sounds. Both are valuable teaching tools for young infants learning about their new world.
Floor cubes are more like small activity stations. Most are either wooden or plastic. Many plastic ones are electronic, battery-operated toys with buttons, switches, sounds, and lights. The wooden types are rarely electronic and rely more on sliding features, wooden flaps, knobs that turn or move, and gears that spin together.
Even a baby who is just learning how to hold their neck up during tummy time can be intrigued by the looming cube in front of them even if they can't sit up yet. They can also sit in your lap as you demonstrate how it works. You won't be spoiling the mystery; you're already beginning to teach. By 5 or 6 months, when some babies start to sit up, the cube can entertain the baby for minutes at a time, likely accumulating hours once they've outgrown it by age 2 or 3.
If you're thinking about teaching baby sign language, you'll find out that one of the first words that a baby gladly learns to sign is "ball," and for a good reason: Balls are fascinating to babies. They see a ball, and they instantly want it. They want to feel it, squish it, lick it, and throw it. Balls help develop so many skills, such as gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Moving a ball from one hand to the other is a big deal at a young infant's age. Balls also help babies understand spatial awareness, how to grasp (and keep holding on), problem-solving skills, balance, and eventually, language and social skills. The types of balls you can find are varied, including plush balls, balls with a bell inside, textured rubber balls, grasping balls with finger holes, and so much more.
We know the youngest babies are learning about their world primarily through their senses. Sound, particularly music, can positively promote babies' physical, emotional, and intellectual development by strengthening cognition and fine-tuning their senses.
Bring on the music toys. From the ever-popular Kick 'n Play Piano to the classic music mobile or any musical plushie toy, whether it's a wind-up or electronic, babies love them. At the press of a button, some electronic toys even play songs by Mozart and Chopin—while doubling as a teether and a grasping toy.
Zhao TC, Kuhl PK. Musical intervention enhances infants’ neural processing of temporal structure in music and speech. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2016;113(19):5212-5217.