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What Toys Are Best To Encourage Baby Development?

When buying toys for baby, you want to find something that she’ll love; but it’s also reassuring to know that what you’re giving her will help her grow, and learn.

To give you the inside scoop, baby development expert Fiona O’Farrell shares her advice on what to look for in toys, and how best to encourage your little one’s development.

Some Tips to consider before purchasing a toy!

  • Consider what development stage your baby is at. Remember, all children develop at different rates.

  • Playing is how your baby develops and learns new skills, which in turn will develop the skills required for preschool and later school readiness.

  • Consider: What play value does the toy offer? Does the toy encourage your baby to look at, concentrate on, and try and engage purposefully with the toy?

  • Is the toy visually attractive, and offer sound when moved?

  • Check the quality of the toy: This means the toy will be more durable, and will withstand the banging and throwing that goes with play.

  • Examine the toy very carefully for any potential parts that can be removed. Be vigilant about parts which can be removed, put in a child’s mouth and cause choking. You will be amazed at how children have the ability to get these parts off, and always straight into the mouth!

  • Check the toy for the safety standard mark. This will ensure the toy is safe in terms of non-toxic, baby safe materials.

  • If a toy is too basic or too advanced in terms of your baby’s developmental readiness, he will get no benefit from the toy.

  • Expensive does not necessarily mean the toy is the better in term of facilitating your baby’s development.

Newborn to 6 months

  • Try wearing a white top with a black necklace: This will help develop your baby’s early visual-focusing skills. It is important to position yourself about 8” from your baby’s face, as your baby will initially be able to see this distance.

  • Between two to three months, place a rattle bracelet on your baby’s arms and legs. This is great for further encouraging your baby’s movements, as your baby will get a response from the rattle when he moves his limbs. This is a great activity for encouraging body awareness. Supervise your baby so as to prevent your baby placing the rattle in his mouth.

  • Place a keyboard where your baby will be able to kick and touch the keys; so when he does it will trigger a noise. Again, this is a great activity for encouraging your baby’s leg movements and for body awareness.

  • Overhead mobiles are great for encouraging your baby to reach out and grasp. However, it is very important your baby can actually touch the mobile toy when he reaches his arm toward it.

  • Introducing Tummy Time from an early age will help your baby develop the skills/muscle strength needed for sitting and crawling. This will help your baby develop body awareness, and is important for sensory development.You can begin Tummy Time on your own chest, letting your baby lie on your stomach, progressing to Tummy Time on the floor.

Always supervise your baby, and actively engage with her. Engaging with your baby will help her develop and maintain her interest. Remember if your baby cries, lift her out of the position and try again later.

6 to 12 months

Your baby is now ready to explore toys in a more purposeful manner. So now it is an ideal time to get her some toys which she can have fun playing with, and at the same time facilitate her development. Again, developmental readiness is vital.
It is important to note your baby will tire very easily, now that she is sitting up independently, using her little muscles and beginning to explore her little world.

  • Activity books are great for encouraging your baby to explore with her hands, and for developing early communication skills: You point to the picture, say the word, make the sounds and exaggerate your facial expressions.

  • When your baby does start crawling, strip her down to her nappy so there are no restrictions especially around her hips or knees. Encourage her to crawl over different textures, over and under and remember to supervise closely.

  • During this period encourage lots of Tummy Time. This will facilitate development of skills needed for successful rolling, crawling and later walking. The mirror and jungle mat for great for Tummy Time play.

  • Early cause and effect toys (e.g. drums & popups) are great for developing awareness of the relationship of object to object.

Toddlers

  • When playing with shapes, you pick the shape out, encourage your toddler to pick same shape up, turn around and fit it correctly. Play with form boards first (e.g. a shape insert board) before progressing on to 2-3 piece jigsaws. Also, say the name of an object, and match the object to the picture. Great for encouraging communication skills, hand skills and concept development.

  • Sand and water play: Pouring, filling up, digging, hiding objects. Encouraging exploring with hands, sensory skills, social and communication skills development.

  • Hand paints. Great for pre-drawing skills.

  • Building blocks. You build 2 – 3 blocks, and encourage your Toddler to copy. Great for early development of construction skills and communication skills.

  • Toys for Outdoor Play. Great for encouraging Gross Motor Development.

Remember: Toys are there to facilitate learning, and at all times the experience should be fun.

You can read more from Fiona in our Baby Development Expert and Sleep Expert sections.

What are your favourite educational toys for your little one? And what are their favourites? We'd love to hear.


About the Author

Fiona O’Farrell is a Paediatric Occupational Therapist, specialising in baby development, premature babies and is an experienced sleep consultant, validated by the department of health. For information on workshops and sleep consultations visit fionaofarrell.ie or Facebook. Call Fiona on 0879144323

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