When it comes to toys and games, it seems babies are entertained by almost everything.
Yet there are, in fact, age-specific activities that can help your little one get the most out of playtime – for maximum fun and learning.
FitPregnancy enlists the advice of experts to help you choose the best toys and games for your tot’s age and developmental stage:
“Play, whether it’s peek-a-boo, rolling a ball or putting one block on top of another, gives parents a chance to step away from the non-stop care taking role and get to know what their little one enjoys,” says parenting coach Maureen O’Brien, Ph.D.
And because each phase of a newborn’s development fosters a new set of skills and abilities, it’s a good idea to understand how different types of play are beneficial.
“One-on-one play forms the foundation for infants’ social skill development…[while] independent play allows the infant to begin to make sense of the physical and emotional world around her,” explains Karen Dudley, a child development specialist.
0-3 months: sight and sound stimulation
– Songs, rattles, black and white pictures (placed about 6 inches from baby’s face).
For quiet time in a crib, try a mobile with rotating toys. “Babies enjoy looking at moving objects, and if the mobile or suspended objects are low enough, they may even start trying to bat them with hands or feet,” Dudley notes, which helps develop hand-eye coordination.
Introducing a new toy or two every month will keep her entertained, without becoming too overwhelming. “Babies like familiarity because they find it comforting,” says O’Brien. “They’re perfectly content with the same toys for long stretches of time because they learn from practice and routine.”
4-6 months: fine motor skills practice
– rattles, wooden rings and soft toys with tags.
At this point, young ones are just getting to ‘grips’ with things, learning to grasp and move objects.
Parenting coach Maureen O’Brien, Ph.D. advises sticking with lightweight toys, but beware of smaller objects that can end up as choking hazards – and never leave your child unattended. “Infants learn from the objects that they put in their mouths and often find comfort in mouthing objects,” says Dudley. So steer clear of anything not designed for teething.
7-9 months: the law of cause and effect
– anything that makes a noise!
Holding and banging objects together, such as pots and pans, a drum, xylophone or toy hammer, will stimulate the senses.
Luiza DeSouza, author of Eat Play Sleep, encourages mums to verbalise the sounds tots are creating with their ‘instruments’ to help develop language; like “Bang! Bang!” “Toot! Toot!”, etc.
10-12 months: mobility
Your lil’ tyke is officially on the move; exploring his environs at surprising speed. Dudley suggests gentle chase games in which you follow as baby crawls or walks away to help boost gross motor skills.
At this age, young ones may also enjoy stuff that can be manipulated, such as containers that fill and spill, dump trucks, pop-up toys and stacking rings.