Tried and true toys help development and build social bonds with parents.

When thinking about shopping for a baby, there are many different types of toys to purchase. What you need to remember is that the toys should be developmentally appropriate. The age of the child you are shopping for, along with their development and capabilities, should also be considered.

When shopping for those first toys try to focus on ones that aid in physical and mental development. Infants really need the opportunity to explore through all their senses. It is through their senses that babies understand the world around them. Here are some examples of developmentally appropriate toys for babies.

  • A rattle provides all kinds of possibilities for a baby to explore and use multiple senses. The rattle is something they can hold on to, look at and listen to. This is also a toy that helps build hand and eye coordination.
  • Blocks help teach infants about shapes, colors, and numbers. They also help fine motor development, and infants can discover gravity through block play.
  • Books are essential for babies and can create a lifelong love of reading. Books come in all different sizes, textures and shapes, and are great for language acquisition and bonding between the caregiver and the child. Reading to your child helps them learn about communication and also builds listening skills.

With any toys that are available for infants, you want to make sure that they are lightweight, safe and do not have small pieces that are a choking hazard. Most toys have an appropriate age range, and this should be a major consideration when making a purchase.

Another thing to think about when selecting toys for young children is the caregiver’s role when playing with the child. When a child is interacting with a toy or book, it is a great time for the parent or caregiver to discuss what is going on during that interaction with the toy. This helps build language skills and is a great opportunity for bonding. For example, when reading a book to a child, the caregiver can hold the child and provide comfort, read to them using different voices, and point out objects in the story. Not only does this support brain development, but it also supports social emotional development, which can help promote opportunities to learn social rules and help them develop relationships with others.

Yes, there are many toys available for babies and young children. But what infants really need for their development is someone to play with them and their toy or book. So grab those blocks, go get your little one and play together.

Nancy Dayne, Ed.D., has a Bachelor of Arts in Child Development and Family Studies, a Master of Arts in Elementary Education, and an Education Doctorate in Teacher Education. Dayne has worked with young children and families as a director, assistant director and teacher at early childhood education centers. She is currently teaching child development and family studies at a four-year university.