Play is your baby's work and toys are tools. They are how newborns make sense of the world around them and discover how things work. Sounds, sights, smells, tastes and the way toys feel are discoveries that feed your little one's eager senses and help infants' developing brains to make all the right connections.
There are many theories about how much of the world newborns can appreciate. Some well meaning friends will tell you that a new baby cannot see or interact with the world at all and infant toys are a waste of money. As long as you provide food, cuddling and a clean diaper when necessary your baby will be contented.
It is difficult to argue with that, but the latest studies do point to the fact that your baby was interacting with the world even before birth. Sounds and voices that were present while you were pregnant are familiar to your new baby. The sound of your heartbeat and the sound of your muffled voice were part of the experiences in the womb. If you listened to music while your baby was growing inside you, those sounds carried through.
While the stories that listening to Beethoven will make your baby a genius have pretty much been disproved, the benefits of stimulating your baby's senses as early as possible are still holding up. This doesn't mean that you should bombard your newborn with noise and distractions. There is such a thing as over stimulation and newborns get overexcited and cranky when there are too many things going on - just like you do.
The best toys for newborns are designed to provide stimulation without overdoing it. For your baby, musical mobiles and other toys that hang above the crib are the best choices. Since baby does spend most of the day sleeping, a mobile or crib gym is there when they wake to catch their attention.
Stuffed animals in bright colors that are certified as safe for babies make good crib companions, too. Babies do react to shadows and bright contrasting colors, such as black and white or bright red and green, so these contrasting combinations are the best colors to choose for babies first toys.
Pretty pastels may seem more fitting for babies, but they just don't catch your babies attention as well as more striking colors. Babies do not know how to control their hands to grasp at this point, so toys that require holding are too advanced.
As your baby grows there comes a point when hands and feet become objects to be explored. This is normally around the two month baby development stage, but remember that each baby is a unique person and they don't always follow the timetables you expect.
This is the time to introduce toys to help your new baby explore. Hand toys that are easy to hold on to, little rattles and colorful keys and rings, help your baby to learn to use those strange things we call hands. Little booties in red and black make your baby's feet more interesting to play with and help to exercise those little eyes and stimulate the connections that are developing in baby's brain. Some of the booties also make noises to catch your infant's attention.
Musical toys that produce soft sounds are intriguing, but remember that nothing takes the place of a familiar human voice with its language sounds and up and down inflection. The more you speak to baby, the more familiar language becomes. Babies love to copy facial expressions and sounds. You'll notice that every once in a while a word you say seems to be repeated...that's not your imagination. It is baby learning the sounds that we use to communicate. After all, crying may be effective at getting a bottle, but there are definite limits to it as a good form of interacting with the adult world - and baby is driven to learn how to a part of that world.
Around this time and for the next few months teething toys are a parent's best friend. In the days before parents had such things as teething toys, Granny used to dip a cloth in cold water and let the baby chew away on it. The chewing helps to exercise the gums and relieves some of the pressure of the new teeth cutting through. The coolness helps soothe the soreness.
Teething is not a lot of fun, but toys that are designed to take the place of granny's cold washcloth are a big help. Make sure when buying toys for your teething baby that there are no loose pieces that can become choking hazards. Also make sure that the toys cannot be punctured - and if they do get bitten through the cooling gel is not going to make your baby sick. Expect any toy that you give an infant to be tasted and used as a chew toy - make sure that none of the toys your baby plays with have parts that can be swallowed.
Remember that your baby is a little person with likes and dislikes from the earliest days. Choose toys that will encourage your infant to explore the world without frustration.
Pay attention to your child's preferences. Some babies enjoy musical toys, some infants are more visual and love bright colors and some will try to interact with stuffed animals. Give them a balanced diet of toys that will allow them to develop all of their senses and your baby will be happy with your choices.
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