You want to get a toy for a new baby. But what do you get? There are literally thousands of toys for sale both online and in brick and mortar stores. How do you choose? There are guidelines that can help you make the best choice for the new baby in your life.
This needs to be the most important consideration when choosing any toy for a any child. Look for small pieces that might come off and pose a choking hazard. Also look at the materials. Some wooden toys, for example, might have toxic paint or shellac. Teething beads need to be BPA free to protect the baby from long-term problems. If an item is designed to be chewed upon and doesn’t say it’s BPA free, pass it up and look at another item.
In many cases, it’s a good idea to stick with name brands for baby items, since they have a reputation to uphold. They must comply with all safety laws and conventions. That custom plush bear from Etsy may be adorable, but those felt claws can be chewed off, and that bright ribbon about its neck could wrap around the baby.
The same holds true with vintage toys. There are a lot of things out there that our parents and grandparents played with that were dangerous. The fact is, some of their age-mates were injured or even died from their playthings. If the toy is older than 1970, test any paint for lead.
If you choose a toy that is custom made, or vintage, look at the item carefully before you give it as a gift. If there are any sharp edges, or small pieces, put the item aside until the child is older and can play with the item carefully. You might also want to offer the item as a decoration instead of a plaything.
Yes, it’s a baby shower, but that doesn’t mean that you can only give toys that newborn infants can enjoy. That’s good news, since newborns don’t play with a lot of toys. Instead, try to provide Mom and Dad with a variety of toys that will keep the baby interested as he grows and develops. Here is a quick guide to toys for ages and stages.
Birth to Three Months
Newborns need people more than they need things. It is important that your favorite newborn learns to attach to people rather than objects, so they don’t need a lot of toys. But there are a few exceptions. A mobile over the changing table can offer a welcome distraction during changing or even bath time. A small digital music player can lull the little one to sleep or play a wide range of music to stimulate her mind throughout the day. Books are always good. They will help her learn language, even if she isn’t that interested in the pictures yet. Finally, rattle socks make noise every time he kicks his feet, giving him his first experience of cause and effect.
Three to Six Months
As the baby gets used to her surroundings, she will be more interested in exploration. Her eyesight is better, so baby books with bright pictures may interest her more now. He will also begin reaching for things and exploring items with all his senses. Look for toys that have a wide range of textures and make sounds while be sturdy enough for early teething behavior. Finally, around six months, most babies are beginning to sit up by themselves. Look for sitting helpers in the form of pillows or seats that support them while their muscles are developing.
Six to Nine Months
At half a year old, the baby is really growing strong. She should be able to sit up by herself and may even try rocking, getting ready to crawl. Look for larger toys that strengthen her legs and get her ready for the big show: walking! Activity centers that allow the baby to sit, stand, and even jump, help her muscles develop and even help her sense of balance.
He will also enjoy toys that let him change things. So, look at activity mats, boards, or cubes that let him dial, zip and press buttons that make sounds or changing color. Babies this age are also becoming more active, so choosing a toy that suctions to the table or highchair tray can keep him busy while Mom and Dad finish their meal. Something that every new parent enjoys.
Finally, going along with the cause and effect development, think about giving toys that build or stack. These might be blocks, either simple shapes or interlocking blocks. You might also look at different stacking toys such as rings, cups or cubes. Think about choosing toys that have multiple uses, such as stacking cups that Mom can use in the bathtub, or blocks with different sensory experiences such as rippled, rough or smooth sides.
Nine Months to a Year
By nine months, the baby is starting to enjoy simple problem solving. So, puzzle cubes that encourage baby to move items around a set course can be a lot of fun. She might also enjoy toys that ask her to sort shapes, sizes, or colors into specific holes on the toys.
Music is an early way for babies to learn to communicate. You can encourage the next Mozart with musical toys designed with baby in mind. Tiny pianos, xylophones and drums can give any baby a new way to explore the world of sound.
Finally, since this age group is really cruising, think about offering riding or walking toys that encourage baby to stay on the move.
It is tempting to think that exposing babies to technology early will help them later in life. But recent studies have shown just the opposite. Instead, the APA encourages parents to keep babies away from screens of all kinds for the first year. Not only is that baby tablet expensive, but it might actually hurt his development.