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Top tips for toys for babies

Very young babies spend the waking hours of their first few weeks feeding, burping and being changed, but by the third week , they are beginning to become more alert and aware of their surroundings. Even at this early stage, they can benefit from social activity and visual stimulation, This can be both an amusement and an aid to brain development, as well as encouraging babies to learn to entertain themselves.

Toys for babies under six months old

  • A musical mobile hung above the cot will give hours of amusement to a young baby, and help develop his eye muscles as he follows the moving objects. Choose one that is brightly coloured and interesting to look at from underneath. Faces of animals and clowns are always great favourites. Remember to remove the mobile from the cot when your baby goes to sleep.
  • A baby gym is a frame with a variety of toys hanging from it, and the baby lies underneath it. Alternatively, the baby can lie on an activity mat that has toys attached to it; this can be folded up when not in use. Both gyms and mats come in an assortment of styles and colours, but the black, red and white versions seem to captivate babies’ attention the most. A baby gym will encourage your baby to kick and develop his hand-eye coordination as he tries to grab the dangling toys. A very small baby may be more comfortable if a travel rug is placed on the floor under the baby gym.
  • Black and white cloth books are always popular with young babies. They can be secured along the side of the cot or pram, or hung near the changing table so that the baby can see them while being massaged after the bath or when he is having his nappy changed.
  • Other books that show colourful single objects or faces will be popular. Even very young babies will show and interest in simple lift-the-flap books, such as Spot the Dog.
  • Fabric rattles that are soft and light to handle are very popular with babies over four months. Choose brightly coloured ones with smiling faces.
  • A baby mirror is another toy that babies seem to love. Some have a mirror on one side and a black, white and red design on the reverse.
  • There are various colourful soft toys designed to squeak, rattle or rustle. These are usually made from different types of fabric, encouraging an awareness of texture. The most popular ones are an octopus, a snake and a clown that wobbles.
  • Babies of all ages will benefit from hearing different types of music, and they enjoy being danced with. There are also many classes that they seem to enjoy, including massage, swimming and baby gym. Check with your local library for details of classes in your area.
  • Toys and classes are not the only way to relieve your baby’s boredom: even the youngest will enjoy the atmosphere, noise and activity of a trip to the local museum, art gallery and even the supermarket

Toys for babies over six months old

Babies over six months can get particularly frustrated and bored. Unlike younger babies, they will not be content to lie for 20 minutes or so under the cot mobile or on the activity mat. The toys listed below are some that are more popular with older babes. (Always check that they conform to British Standard)
  • Colourful balls are a great hit with older babies. Some have several buttons that, when pressed, make different sounds. Others are clear, with an object inside that wobbles when the ball is rolled.
  • Activity centres that fix to the side of the cot or playpen are designed to help develop a baby's manual skills. They have a selection of dials, buttons and bells that make different sounds, and some incorporate a musical device. The one that is designed to look like a teddy bear is very popular.
  • Baby bouncers that are suspended from a door or special frame are excellent for older babies who have enough neck control to support their heads.
  • Soft toys, such as snakes, crocodiles and birds, that are designed to squeak, crinkle, rattle and make different noises are great for a multi-sensory experience.
  • Stacker toys, composed of different stackable shapes, will help develop your baby's hand and wrist control. Choose brightly coloured ones, where each shape has a different texture and makes a different sound.
  • Be careful to avoid overstimulation. I find it helps to have quiet toys and soft books for the wind-down period before a nap or bedtime, and to keep noisy games, toys and high-level stimulation for the baby’s wakeful, social time.

Taken from Gina Ford's Top Tips for Contented Babies and Toddlers.

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