Developmental Toys for Infant Growth Stages
Baby toys are developmental tools disguised as play things but, even from the beginning, a baby toy has significance for a developing infant. Because an infant doesn’t have gripping mechanisms for the first few months, his or her first toys are going to be for stimulation purposes, particularly sight and hearing first. By the end of the first year, toys that stimulate all five senses will be introduced. However, although the first toys are strictly for stimulation purposes, the toys themselves, for safety reasons, shouldn’t be hung or attached to a crib, playpen, stroller, or baby seat.
Infant toys given during the first three months should be in black and white or brightly colored and should make some kind of noise, but more of a squeak than actual music. Listening types of toys to stimulate infant hearing include squeeze toys, rattles, and chime toys, while toys to stimulate sight and hearing include mobiles and activity mats. The latter, for the best visual stimulation, can be found in black and white colors, with red occasionally added, as infants at this point are mostly seeing in black and white with few other color variations. In addition, Infant stimulation toys that introduce the sense of touch to an infant at this stage include texture and soft toys, as well as activity mats.
Mobiles and rattles are still relevant toys for babies three to six months. But, with touch and sight developing more, other types of toys that can be introduced at this stage include bright pictures, musical toys, soft and squeezable toys and balls, baby swings, and unbreakable mirrors. As a baby is learning to recognize his or her reflection, a baby mirror can be placed in a crib and can be found in many activity mats. Stimulating dexterity is another part of infant development at this stage that can be introduced by toys and, as a baby learns to use his or her hands and fingers, appropriate toys include soft blocks, rattles, and teething rings – anything a baby can grab onto but is soft or with a smooth surface. But, for babies up to seven months, touching toys can stimulate on a visual level, as well. Visually, a touching toy that has different textures and makes different sounds can come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and weight. However, even though a toy may have a different shape, like a cube or a pyramid, it should still be soft and without any hard edges. Small, lightweight stuffed toys are an appropriate stimulation toy for infants by introducing different textures, colors, shapes, and even sounds.
Although toys before the eight-to-twelve-months stage make noise, simple music, or sounds, cause and effect toys are important to introduce hand-eye coordination. Toys that encourage imitation are also beneficial, and these types of toys include stacking toys, nesting cups, and shape sorting toys. Other appropriate toys to illustrate cause and effect and imitation at this stage include baby musical instruments, pop-up toys, containers to empty and fill, stacking toys, and push-pull toys. Dexterity is another physical skill that is going to be improved upon continuously during the early years of childhood and, for infants from eight to twelve months, appropriate toys to encourage dexterity include wooden building blocks, knob puzzles, stacking rings, and water toys. In addition, as books and reading should always be encouraged through childhood, hard cover picture books or book made from cardboard can be introduced to children approaching the one-year mark.
At one year, a baby has gained a lot of mobility and skills over the past twelve months. Toys that would seem appropriate as a first birthday present are ones that encourage mobility, particularly because the toddler period is about to start. Mobility for a one-year-old baby includes crawling, walking, and running. Toys to encourage these and other physical and mental skills include blocks, pretend play toys, bigger plastic balls, push-pull toys, wagons, larger picture books, drawing and coloring books, and “peek a boo” games.
The first year is full of many physical and mental gains for a child, and educational and developmental toys can help a child learn these skills. Although teaching a child many new skills may appear a daunting task over a twelve-month period, many of these skills are learned through play – not sitting in a desk in a classroom. Each new skills leads into another and each child learns at his or her own pace, but appropriate toys, most of which have an educational purpose at this stage, will aid with and stimulate a child in the learning process.