The first year of your baby’s life is thrilling, stressful, amazing, exhausting, and wonderful. Every day, infants seem to do something new and more delightful. Taking in their new, noisy, and bright world is, essentially, a baby’s job. With parents working from home, and uncertainty about when daycare and educational preschools may come back after the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, knowing about the developmental benefits of toys for babies is more important than ever for new parents.
Sensory Development and Differentiation
Toys that expose a baby to contrast and color develop visual skills. Toys with different textures enhance the sense of touch. Gentle music offers the opportunity to develop listening and hearing. The big, bright world can be overwhelming to sensitive infants. Gentle, age-appropriate toys give a baby the change to sort it all out. Not to mention, they help infants differentiate how they experience light and color from how they experience touch and sound, and to associate faces with particular people and themselves.
Mobiles, rattles, and reflective surfaces give babies the chance to experience sound, motion, color, and visual stimulation. Babies love to look at their own reflections and delight in seeing their own facial expressions.
The first time your baby deliberately drops her pacifier, just to watch you pick it up, is an “ah-ha” moment for babies. Simple blocks and puzzles develop problem-solving skills like sequencing—first, I have to do this, then, I can do that. Knocking the blocks over means the baby can build them back up again in a new pattern. Toys help build hand-eye coordination and concentration. Babies learn to persist to achieve a goal: if the block falls off the tower, put it back until it stays.
Imagination and Language Skills
Toys that come with stories or offer the opportunity for a parent to engage in storytelling are wonderful introductions to the world of creativity and imagination. Babies learn that they have the ability to imbue their toys with personalities and backstories. Even a baby layette set with coordinating onesies and caps featuring animals in the patterns provide the stimulus for a story: Who is that? An elephant? What do elephants say?
Along with storytelling comes language. The simple, colorful board books for babies that feature animals, colors, and faces help babies begin to associate words with objects and people. Reading aloud helps babies link sounds with words and start to process the idea of spoken language as the shaping of sound into words.
Play mats featuring bright colors, numbers, and animals encourage infants to play on their tummies, wiggle their arms and legs, and figure out ways to get from the lion to the puppy across the mat. Coordination and motor skills get a workout when a baby tries to hammer the round peg into the square hole, spin the rattle attached to their bouncy chair, or push a button to get the happy reward of a pop-up children's character.
The developmental benefits of toys for babies are well known, and the choices many. Take a look at our toy collections for infants to find inspiration for your baby’s development.