Babies are fun to buy for, but how can you tell if what you are buying is the best toy for a baby or just a useless piece of garbage? Ask yourself these questions – sort of a toy litmus test.
1) Is the toy interactive? Something the baby can see, touch, taste, hear, or smell?
2) Is the toy functional? Something that “holds” the baby safely and keeps his or her attention while Mom and Dad get something done.
3) Does the toy encourage new skills? Is this something that encourages baby to stand, grasp, reach, roll over, sit, or explore?
4) Does the toy demonstrate basic truth? Cause and effect is a huge favorite for babies, as is gravity.
5) Are you willing to play with this toy? Babies have to be taught to play, and that means Mom and Dad and all caretakers should be interacting with the baby and his or her toys as well. If you don’t want to play with it – don’t buy it.
If the toy you are looking at can meet any of these goals, chances are it is a good toy. But on the flip side, there are a few things that might turn that toy choice into a bad thing. Try running it through this list as well.
1) Does the toy advertise a television show or movie? These toys are just that: advertisements. Although they might meet one of the litmus tests above, do you really want your child to be immersed in that part of our culture from birth?
2) Does the toy use bad grammar or talk baby talk? You can personally talk baby talk to your child all you want, but the toys he or she plays with should not. One, it’s annoying. And two, it’s not really helpful.
3) Does the toy make loud noises? Noisy toys are amusing to dads for about five minutes and after that they just annoy everyone in the house. We might tolerate a noisy toy if the volume can be turned down or if the residual value of the toy is much greater than the annoyance of the toy.
4) Is the toy electronic and/or screen based? Baby brains just aren’t ready for electronic screens and even though they might keep a baby “occupied” for a moment they do more harm than good. Music, sound, and lights are good in moderation, screens are almost never good for baby.
5) Does the toy have small parts? Small parts are a choking hazard and should be avoided.
One more rule: Board books are always a good choice. You cannot go wrong reading to your baby from a good book.
These toy suggestions are perfect for any baby moving out of the newest “newborn” stage of sleeping all the time and will “play” for short stretches as little as fifteen minutes. Once a baby is moving into toddler stage, they have probably outgrown all of the toys on this list. Babies don’t keep; they will move in and out of this stage very quickly so it is a good idea to get some of these toys while baby is still a newborn and start trying them out sooner than you think. It’s also a good idea to shop yard sales!