We’ve heard it before – babies come with lots of stuff. Well, as a mom of two, I can tell you that babies don’t actually need all the things many think they do. In fact, the opposite is true. A number of studies have shown that fewer toys help children play longer, deeper and with more creation and less frustration. Especially for the first year, babies need very little – they are so new to the world that everything is entertaining for them. So, do yourself a favour and buy fewer toys. But make sure you pick toys that are of high quality and can actually benefit your child’s development.
To be able to maximize your baby’s physical and cognitive development with just a few simple toys, you need to look for these qualities:
- Toys featuring simple designs and basic shapes that are easy to grasp and will engage your child’s growing imagination.
- Multipurpose toys, like a rattler that can also be used as a teether.
- Toys that grow with your child like blocks.
- Toys made from natural materials that are better for the environment.
- Here is my minimalist list of the top 7 toys that can enrich your baby’s first months.
Baby Activity Gym
While you will spend a lot of time holding your little one close for the first year of their life, there will come a time when your baby will need more than swaddling and rocking. And this will happen sooner than you think! So, when your baby is ready to move past your arms, a baby activity gym will provide stimulation and a fun way for them to begin exploring their independence.
When you choose an activity gym made especially for infants, it will come with objects and designs your baby will reach for. Some play gyms have designs that are directly on the mat so that your baby can enjoy them during “tummy time“, even before they are ready for interactive toys. Some models come with small hanging objects that your baby can grasp. As they begin to reach, grasp, turn and kick, they will develop their hand-coordination and motor skills.
When will your baby be ready for a play gym on their own? You can start letting your baby get comfortable with a soft play mat as soon as he/she isn’t satisfied with only being held and swaddled. This generally occurs anywhere from six weeks to two months. By this time your baby will be probably ready to start spending a few minutes of playtime each day. Start with short periods of tummy time (only a few minutes) and as your baby grows and becomes more comfortable, you can increase the amount of time by a couple of minutes each session.
If you are wondering how long do babies use activity gyms, it can be until your baby is 9 months old or older. By this age, babies start crawling and that is usually a sign that your little one has outgrown their play mat.
Nesting Cups or Boxes
One of the most versatile toys, nesting cups or boxes can help babies with sorting shapes and colours. Give them to your baby and watch them become a mini engineer, building tall towers. Later on, cups and boxes can be used in imaginative play as pots or bowls, nests or beds, dollhouses and parking garaged. Plastic cups and boxes can also be used in the bath.
A traditional toy that your child will play with from infancy to teenager years. As an infant, your child will reach for balls during floor play. Like a toddler who can sit up and crawl, your child will love tossing, rolling and chasing them.
Babies explore their world not only with their eyes but also with their hands, ears and months. A quality rattle will engage many senses at once. Versatile and portable, a rattle is an essential component of a baby’s development arsenal.
Many children have a “special friend” they take with them everywhere. This is a natural part of a baby’s development. Soft animals and dolls are best for this age group – teddy bears are my favourite choice. Make sure the toy you choose is not too large for your baby and that it doesn’t contain small parts that could represent choke hazards.
Cloth or Board Book
When it comes to books, it’s never too early to introduce them to your baby. Even if your baby can’t hold their head up, they will relish cuddling in your arms and listening to the rhythmic sound of your voice as you read. Once your baby can sit, they can enjoy turning the pages themselves and gazing at the pictures. At this stage, you should choose sturdy cloth or board books with simple graphics. Interactive sensory books that squeak, have different textures that baby can feel, or flaps they can lift are a great choice.
Your baby won’t need many toys in the bath as well – some cups, a boat and a rubber duck will do. Keep in mind that bacteria and mould can be a problem with these toys, so choose products with no holes and always dry everything thoroughly.