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Baby's first toys

Your baby's first playthings are meant to amuse and delight, but some can help stimulate more than just giggles.

Posted: 23 December 2007
by Laura Lee Davies

With the arrival of a new baby comes the usual flood of beautiful baby clothes, flowers for you and lots of gorgeous new teddy bears twice the size of your newborn child. The clothes will come in handy for those endless photo opportunities on family visits and the flowers will brighten your sleep-deprived early weeks, but the teddies are probably a good few months away from being appreciated.
Fear not, the cuddlies' time will come when your baby becomes a toddler and begins to seek comfort from the world she can relate to. But in the meantime, if you want to find something for your baby to play with in those brief periods between feeding, sleeping and gurning at you, here are a few pointers:

Touch and feel from birth: Lamaze Musical Inchworm, rrp £12.99
You're probably aware of the need to keep toys with sharp edges or breakable parts away from your child. You're also most likely aware that many toys carry warning signs because they are unsuitable for under-3s due to being made with small parts. (Parents of children who have passed their third birthday should continue to be cautious if their child has a particular love of chewing everything she picks up).
Look, too, for toys which might have long ties on them which could strangle a baby, or hard and heavy objects which a small baby might drop onto her face when she is laying down.

Age appropriate
Beyond basic safety, most toys for young children come with age-ranges on the packaging. Any toys for children under one year will be safe for your baby to handle, but if they are better suited to babies who can sit up, then don't push them on a younger child in the hope it will advance their mental stimulation. It is better for your child to find easy amusement than to fail to understand something beyond her ability.

First senses
The earliest toys your child will enjoy are those which contrast shapes and colours. Black and white patterns offer a bold contrast that is appealing to your baby's developing eyesite and many two-tone mobiles work well, placed at a safe distance from your child's cot. Bright colours soon begin to stimulate your child, as do simple, sweet sounds. These toys are suitable from birth but will be enjoyed for many months.

Shapes, sound and texture
As babies begin to suck on things other than their mothers' breasts, and start to appreciate the sensations sending messages to their brains via their fingers, you can introduce textures. Velvety toys with contrasting smooth textures, or soft-edged plastic objects not too big to handle, work well. Toys that crinkle, bells that tinkle and anything which rattles will also appeal. She won't be able to squeeze with great pressure on a toy yet, but things which squeak or play a simple tune if she chews on them will probably raise a smile.
These toys can be introduced from about three months but don't feel dutybound to introduce them this early if your child doesn't show an interest for a few months yet.

See, hear: Lamaze Chime Garden, rrp £19.99
Motor skills and hand-eye coordination
When your child can sit up she can enjoy a whole new range of experiences from forces of gravity and movement to spatial awareness and concepts of dimension. Toys with buttons that trigger noises and pictures, and gizmos with holes through which to post things work very well now.
Although you do not want to give your chilld small toys at this age, when you start to allow her raisins or peas, you will see her begin to pick them up one-by-one. This is valuable coordination practice.
This stage is most likely to be from around seven to nine months but can start earlier.

Imagination and the years to come
In the early years, the stimulation of imaginative play is all-important. From enjoying the link between a fluffy blue dog and the real thing running around a park, to pretending that a heap of cushions is a huge snowy mountain, to the first experiences of interaction through playing 'tea time', these things help your child put into practice what they are learning in their daily experience.

What to buy?
You don't have to rush to the nearest toy shop to stock up on playthings. Your child will love playing with boxes, fabrics and even (safe) kitchen utensils as they pass through these different stages. However, there are companies which specialise in 'developmental' toys, taking into account contrasting colours, sounds and shapes.

Lamaze (pronounced La-mars) offer clearly defined ranges from birth upwards as part of what they call their 'Infant Development System'. Soft, bright and safe to play with, their toys feature mirrors, things that make noises and plenty of texture for young fingers to explore.

V-tech make battery operated toys better suited to children from three months and into toddlerhood. Their chunky toy mobile phone is a favourite with parents of children who are often found rooting in bags for gadgets that make a noise!

Baby Dazzlers is a website specialising in baby and toddler toys for pleasure and developmental purposes. Their ranges source from different companies and include the beautiful wooden Sonello Grasping Toy.

Gymini is a bright baby gym range available through Jojo Maman Bebe. Other companies like Mothercare and Early Learning Centre also offer 'baby gyms' which are colourful playmats with arches over them from which small cuddly objects hang. The idea is that your child can enjoy the stimulation of colour whilst playing on her front and learn to reach with her arms and legs to move the mobiles above her if she rolls on her back.

The First Years Toys for the nursery and bath, developed with expert consultants, to compliment the brand's strong range of home, safety and feeding products.

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eye, coordination, toy, baby, hand, toddler, sense, stimulation, Vtech, toys, texture, Lamaze, stimulate

Discuss this story

A gift from granny or an old rag? What's your baby's favourite plaything?

Posted: 14/02/2006 at 17:37

Lavender Lamb is the first thing that Freya was intrested in. It always gets the biggest grin and a few kicks!

Posted: 15/02/2006 at 12:46

A soft doll called Bridget, brought for her by a woman my Mum and I used to work with. She always takes it on holiday and has it every night in bed.

Posted: 21/02/2006 at 12:12

At 8 weeks, her muslin burp cloth.  She hugs it gleefully!  Also a small teddy hanging from the arch over her bouncy chair.  She will stare at it for ages.

Posted: 23/12/2007 at 14:56

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