According to research, a baby’s brain is about 25% the size of an adult’s brain. In the first year alone, it doubles in size, which goes to show just how much they are absorbing and learning. The right baby development toys are crucial in providing your baby with much needed stimulation and learning-through-play.
And these toys don’t need to be complicated. Simple activities like reading, sensory play, and tummy time go a long way in your baby’s language, cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development. What sometimes does get complicated is choosing the right learning toys for your baby’s developmental stage.
What are baby developmental milestones?
Baby developmental milestones refer to the significant achievements and abilities that infants acquire as they grow and develop. From a newborn who has trouble holding their head up, to tummy time, rolling over, grasping objects, vocalizing, and more - these are all called developmental milestones. Your baby will be reaching many milestones in the first few months alone. Keeping track of milestones is helpful to see your baby’s developmental progress, and communicating with your pediatrician during check ups.
What are educational toys for babies?
Baby educational toys aren’t just there to mindlessly entertain, they often have specific goals and learning objectives in mind. For example, the right toys for newborn babies provide crucial visual stimulation using high-contrast colors. If they are just starting tummy time, certain learning toys will help provide support for their chest and arms, like a tummy time pillow.
Choosing the right toys
In general, when choosing baby educational toys, we recommend looking out for 4 key criteria before making a purchase.
It goes without saying that safety is always the number one priority. Babies don’t have a sense of danger or consequences, and they often put things in their mouths. Legitimate toy companies will undergo lab testing to ensure they are safe for the advertised age group.
Most toys will have age recommendations, but they might not always be accurate. We recommend choosing toys for their learning objectives. For example, if you notice your baby is starting to crawl, look for toys that encourage movement and crawling.
At this age, everything is going in your baby’s mouth. Generally, toys made from fabric, 100% food-grade silicone, wood, and plastic are recommended. Though it’s best to keep in mind that plastic toys from non-reputable brands may contain BPA, phthalates, heavy metals, among other safety concerns.
There are plenty of toys on the market that try to fit as many lights, sounds, and colors as possible into one toy, but this can actually be overstimulating for your baby. They can only focus on one or two things at a time, for a few seconds at a time.
0 to 2 months: Developmental milestones and toys
The first two months can be a blur for you and your baby (literally because they have poor eyesight at this age). Here are some key things to consider when choosing toys.
Developmental milestones for 0 to 2 months
- Tracks your movement
- Looks briefly at toys and faces nearby
- Grasp things that are placed in their palm
- Briefly holds their head up during tummy time
- Cries when hungry or uncomfortable
- Makes throat noises
Recommended learning toys for 0 to 2 months
Rattles and shakers
Your baby will reflexively grasp things that are placed in their palms. Little rattles and shakers are perfect for letting them explore new sounds. Choose ones with handles that are small enough for your baby to hold.
Black and white books
Your baby is born with poor vision, and can only see ~30cm in front of their face with limited color vision. Cloth books and board books with simple black and white illustrations are great for stimulating visual development.
If you have a play gym, hanging mobiles are great for keeping your baby entertained as they lay on their back and stretch their limbs. Those that offer different sensory elements can also encourage your baby to grab, reach, and kick.
3 to 4 months: Developmental milestones and toys
At this age, you may have started tummy time. Tummy time helps strengthen your baby’s limbs, core, and neck muscles to prepare them for sitting, crawling, and walking.
Developmental milestones for 3 to 4 months
- Looks at their own hands
- Reaches for and grasps toys
- Pushes up onto their elbows during tummy time
- Holds their head steady
- Makes cooing sounds
- Recognizes your voice
- Smiles and laughs during face to face interactions
Recommended learning toys for 3 to 4 months
While practicing tummy time, it’s best to offer some simple sensory toys that encourage your baby to reach. This allows them to practice their balance and coordination, which prepares them for crawling.
Research shows that babies love looking at faces (including their own). A baby-safe mirror encourages your baby to lift their head and look up during tummy time. It’s also a great way to let them develop self-awareness.
Your baby will begin to enjoy putting things in their mouth. This is a way for them to explore the tastes and textures of different objects. Silicone, wooden, and plastic teethers are great options to let them safely mouth on toys.
5 to 6 months: Developmental milestones and toys
As your baby approaches their first half-year, they will show massive improvement in their gross motor, cognitive, and language skills. Toys that encourage movement and exploration are perfect for this age.
Developmental milestones for 5 to 6 months
- Reaches for toys that they want
- Brings objects to their mouth
- Pushes up with their arms during tummy time
- Rolls from their tummy to their back
- Babbles with repeated sounds
- Shows some fear of strangers
Recommended learning toys for 5 to 6 months
Sensory balls of all sizes are perfect to introduce at this age. When the ball rolls away from your baby, they are incentivized to reach and crawl towards it.
Tissue box toys
Babies love pulling tissues and the great thing is that this actually trains their ability to sit and balance, while practicing fine motor skills. Tissue box toys are an environmentally friendly alternative to wasting actual tissues.
At this age, your child will enjoy exploring with all their senses. Toys that have multi-sensory features like fun textures and sounds are perfect for your baby to touch, listen to, and put in their mouths.
From 0 to 6 months, your baby will develop at an astounding rate and learn new things every week. Choosing the right educational toys goes a long way for their learning and development as it can encourage them to do things that they are ready to do, such as tummy time, babbling, crawling, and more. We tried our best to boil down the ‘must-have’ items from 0 to 6 months, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is simply being present as you play and interact with your little one.