The best toys for baby development

Written by jillian o'keeffe | 13/05/2017
The best toys for baby development
Babies have to learn lots about their new world in the first year (Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Seeing the world through a baby's eyes is hard for adults, who cannot remember the first time they saw snow fall, or the first time they fell over and found that bumping your head hurt a lot. Babies change a lot during their first year, achieving physical growth as well as intellectual development, and toys that help spark their progress can be both useful and entertaining. If money is short after the new addition to the family, baby development toys can even be created at home from household objects like bowls and spoons so the baby can practice mimicking adults.

Baby gyms

The best toys for baby development
Baby gyms can also offer some respite for parents (IT Stock Free/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

For 6-month old babies, a baby gym still holds some interest, as the child practices his or her fine gripping skills and spends time learning about different textures. The movement of the dangling toys also helps them to improve their hand-to-eye coordination as they reach up to grab the toys they like the best.

Play mats

The best toys for baby development
Snoozy time mats can also include activities for when the baby is awake and exploring (George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

When the baby is 6-months old and not yet crawling, placing him safely on a soft play mat can provide him with hours of entertainment if the play mat includes a varied amount of activities. Patches that make interesting sounds, coloured pictures that he can inspect with his big naive eyes, and plastic teething rings that he can chew on all help to enrich the baby's time on the mat.

Dynamic toys

The best toys for baby development
A budding racecar driver perhaps? (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

As the baby gets older, she'll start to crawl around and try standing, so she'll be more interested in moving around the room and exploring. Toys that move with her are good for her to practice controlling her movements, such as toy cars or toy animals on wheels.

Balls

The best toys for baby development
Rolling balls back and forth helps babies practice sharing (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Toys that are good for development can be as simple as a ball, because babies like to push the ball around and watch the movement. Mum or dad can also help with the baby's development by rolling the ball back to the baby so he can learn the knack of team sports early. Tiny little team jersey optional.

Bowl

The best toys for baby development
Bowl was full.... now bowl is empty! Magic! (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Kitchen cupboards are the promised land for babies, as any parent who's heard the clatter of crashing stainless steel pots can attest to. A cheap way of providing toys for development of motor skills and mimicking skills, a plastic bowl and a plastic spoon can provide a baby with hours of fun. Even when she's too young to understand the normal way to use the utensils, the banging and chewing on the spoon can entertain her and help her with grasping skills. Stacking bowls on top of one another and emptying and filling them also helps the baby's motor skills.

Bucket and spade

The best toys for baby development
Playing with different textures helps development (Russell Illig/Photodisc/Getty Images)

An outdoorsy and traditional toy for the baby is a bucket and spade, which can be used for sandpits or indeed at the beach. This toy allows motor skills to develop, and the baby finds out how to make his arm move the right way to fill up the bucket with the spade. Gardening enthusiasts can also sit the child outside so he can play with the soil and dig along with mum or dad.

Blocks

The best toys for baby development
Num num num num num (Polka Dot/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Blocks are not just for budding engineers, and even babies under the age of nine months can learn from looking at a parent stacking blocks and getting to knock them all down. Once the baby gets to be almost a year old, she can stack as many as four blocks up, gaining an understanding of how objects interact with each other and how to hold a wooden or soft block properly. Before the age of one, though, blocks such as those which click together are too advanced for little hands.

Books

The best toys for baby development
A cuddly friend and a book....baby's quiet time (Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

Associating books with storytime can pique a baby's interest and allow him to practice reading like a grown-up. When dad or mum is not reading from the book, he can still entertain himself with pop-ups or practice the fine motor skills of flipping open pages and pointing. Brightly coloured pictures draw his attention and the book can also be used when he starts big school and learns to read.

Sorter toys

The best toys for baby development
No dodecahedrons here! (Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

An early form of academic testing is the shape sorter toy, where the baby tries to fit square pegs into round holes. Although perhaps initially frustrating, the concentration needed for the baby to match the right shapes with the right holes is intellectually stimulating, and arranging the shapes to fit through helps with motor skills and patience.

Plastic telephone

The best toys for baby development
(George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Modern babies will definitely need to be able to use a mobile phone, but perhaps a plastic toy phone is best to start off with instead of mum or dad's new smartphone. Dribble-proof and nice to chew on when bored, a toy telephone allows the baby to practice talking to imaginary people and pretend that she is making real proper sense and using the correct chatty tone, just like mum.

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