When your baby was born, their body already knew how to do many things. Essential activities for survival such as eating, sleeping and breathing come naturally to a newborn, but the majority of their brain functions are still undeveloped. Perception, memory, thought and language learning are all apart of cognitive development. As your baby grows, they should develop these key skills through the time you spend with them. There are ways in which your baby’s development can be stimulated to maximise potential and one of the best is for them to play with certain toys. In this guide, we look at the various stages of your baby’s life and recommend some fun activities and toys to stimulate their development.
Toys for developing babies: 0-6 Months
In your baby’s first month, their vision will be very blurry. Newborns are only able to see about 20-30cm in front of them, so this is a good time to exercise their eye muscles. Your baby will love faces and yours in particular will make them gurgle with glee. Try some toys that have big funny faces like soft books or cuddly animals.
Your baby will also be unable to distinguish between similar colours, but will be able to see high contrast patterns e.g. black and white. Handheld toys with patterns are ideal, your baby will most likely respond by batting at it, a definite sign that they enjoy it! These activities will aid your baby’s ability to recognise patterns and shapes, developing their perception.
Mirrors fascinate babies. Your baby will not recognise their own face at first, but they will certainly enjoy the reflection. Many toys have built in mirrors but you can also purchase mirrors that hang on to cots and car seats as well. Your baby will learn one day that they are a separate being from you, which is valuable to their understanding of the world.
Rattles are a very popular choice for babies. They are also good for developing your baby’s memory. Strap rattles are particularly good at this e.g. attach the strap to your baby’s wrist. They might wiggle around occasionally and hear the sound of the rattle. Eventually, they will learn that moving their wrist recreates the sound.
Play mats and tummy time mats are all in one toys. Typical models will have mirrors, rattles, colourful patterns and music. They offer a very stimulating environment for your baby to develop whilst also providing you with a safe place to put them down.
Toys for developing babies: 6-12 Months
Your baby might be able to sit up by now which is a tremendous development, but it may also mean the end of his tummy time/ play mat. Investing in an activity gym will pay dividends to their progression. The dangling toys that hang from the activity bar help to develop spatial awareness and perception of shapes. Your baby may also show signs that he favours certain toys by holding onto them or batting them more often. Activity gyms also feature colourful quilting and fun animal pictures, further developing your baby’s eyesight.
It may also be a good time to introduce your baby to books. Reading to your baby at an early age will help them acquire language much faster, also acquainting them with subjects like the alphabet or numbers. These books also have colourful pictures, which will delight and enthral your baby. Baby books can sometimes have textured pages e.g. to mimic an animal’s fur. Touching these textures will certainly arouse your baby’s curiosity and develops hand to eye coordination.
Baby books have very thick pages that can withstand a fair amount of punishment, which is a good thing, because your baby has probably started teething, and he may take preference to baby books to ease the soreness.
Your baby may also be more nimble with their hands nowadays, picking up toys and moving them about. Stacking blocks or stacking rings are an excellent toy for cognitive development, introducing your baby to problem solving which will also develop their hand to eye co-ordination.
Another toy that stimulates hand to eye coordination is an activity board. These fun filled boards present your baby with many adjustable objects that they can turn, squeeze and switch. Some also have problem solving aspects, such as fitting wooden shapes into corresponding holes.
Toys for developing babies: 12-18 Months
Stimulating your baby’s mind by presenting problems will engage and develop their brain. At this age, your baby will enjoy solving simple problems, which in turn will build confidence. Shape sorters are an ideal problem solving toy, not only exciting your baby but also developing their awareness of shapes and size. They may sometimes cause your baby to get frustrated but they will soon get the hang of it.
Another great activity for your baby to enjoy at this age is drawing. Not only will it stimulate hand to eye coordination, but they will also try to draw recognisable objects or maybe even objects recalled from memory. Washable crayons are probably the best, as babies can get over excited when practicing art!
Interactive toys help your baby imitate you. Copying and repetition are important in cognitive development. Your baby will often try to copy you, so giving them a toy telephone or plastic tea set will encourage key parts of their development, including understanding and language learning.
Your baby may have started to show preference for certain characters they have seen in books or on the television, perhaps even imitating them. Imaginative play stimulates your baby’s mind because it requires them to use their imagination, which may also involve using memory functions. Scenario toys like a plastic kitchen or workbench will give your child the chance to utilise imaginative play. They can let their imagination go wild and become a chief or a builder… the possibilities for your baby are endless.
Books will continue to captivate your baby and they may even get involved by flipping the pages, pointing at things they like, perhaps even miming what you say. Some books feature pop outs and buttons to play music, which will stimulate your baby’s curiosity.
Toys for developing babies: 18-24 Months
Your baby should be more interested in imaginative play by now and this is good because it is very beneficial to their development. Costumes will allow your baby to take imagination play to a completely new level as they relive their favourite characters whilst applying important memory functions.
Problem solving toys are always good for developing your baby’s understanding and perception. Puzzles like jigsaws not only present your baby with a challenge, but they will also give your baby a real sense of achievement once they have completed them. Jigsaw puzzles are normally made from thick card or foam to withstand a baby’s rough play.
If you own a laptop and you use it with your baby, you may have seen them watching you, perhaps even trying to interrupt your work by pressing on buttons they have seen you press. Babies like to do what adults do, so buying a preschool computer will fulfil this need. Most of these computers feature an array of development friendly tools such as fun sounds and educational buttons that will teach your baby about shapes and animals.
Books are, again, a recommended choice. You should try to read to your baby every night if possible. Firstly, it will engage and develop your baby’s mind whilst also making them sleepy for a good night’s rest.
The most important tool for stimulating your baby’s development is the time you spend with them. Playing with your baby encourages them to develop not just cognitive skills, but also social skills. Try these recommended activities together with your baby. Watching them develop will fill you with immense satisfaction.