Toys for Babies 0-3 months
What is the best toy I can buy for a new baby?
By Nicole Pates, Paediatric Physiotherapist
Its probably one of the most common questions I get asked by expecting parents, grandparents, aunts (lets be honest uncles don’t buy the present very often) and friends of those expecting.
To be honest? Nothing. The best toys for a newborn are a face and a voice, preferably their caregivers. There is strong evidence to show this AND that there is a positive correlation between social and motor development.
BUT, most want to buy a gift, and variety is the spice of life. So if you are going to buy “toys” for a baby, what would I suggest as a paediatric physio?
Please note, the products listed below are not sponsored. They are also just examples – the principals underlying the products themselves are what’s important.
1. Play Mat
Having a refluxy baby and knowing the amount of regurgitated milk that can come up in play, a wipe-able, firm but squishy play mat is essential on my list. This is because I believe (and research supports) free floor play is essential for all babies. Australian guidelines suggest 30 minutes of tummy time throughout the day and I find a good mat can make a big difference to making tummy time enjoyable. I have the Mikro, Little Wiwa and Grace & Maggie in my paediatric clinics and at home. They are all from local Australian businesses and I can attest they are all superb quality. I would buy all again in a heart beat. The Kmart mat is a good cheaper option all though not as durable/long lasting.
However, it doesn’t need to be immediately wipe-able. Rudie nudie play mats are also a fabulous option (I hear from physio friends who have purchased) however, even just a dedicated rug (one that doesn’t bunch under bub as they move) in a defined play space will do.
Grace & Maggie
2. Pregnancy Wedge
I much prefer a wedge, firm pillow or rolled up hand towel to assist tummy time for newborns. The main aim of these supports is to reduce the difficulty of tummy time, making lifting the head easier (think of it starting off as a push up on the table instead of on the floor for you). They also allow the elbows to be under the shoulders and in firm contact with the ground. The incline angle can help with the milk regurgitation and compared to the commercial tummy time props that come with mats,these props don’t splay the arms so you can keep the elbows over the shoulders.
3. High Contrast Cards & Books
Hands down one of my favourite “toys” for newborns – very useful for tackling head preferences.
A bubs vision is continuing to develop after they are born. (click here to read more about visual development) To start with they cannot see colour!
Contrast cards, with black/white or primary colours and geometric shapes, draw infants attention easily. They stimulate visual development, helping to train vision and communication links in the brain. High contrast rattles, cards, books and balls will make you the #1 favourite
Books are SUPER important for familiarisation with sounds, words, language and, eventually, the value and joy of books. This all builds your baby’s early literacy skills and helps him go on to read successfully later in life. Reading stories also stimulates your baby’s imagination and helps her learn about the world around her. It’s a great time for you to bond with your baby and share time together too. So ANY book is awesome, contrast books just add visual value. I could go on about books for ages but I will leave that to Elena, our fantastic Speech Pathologist.
Note: The Little Lift Long Learners are free printables
Little Life Long Learners
Two Little Ducklings
My Family Book
Once again – preferences for faces…. And when you yourself cannot be playing with baby a mirror is super handy. Mirrors also support visual tracking and development of body awareness (especially as baby grows and realises its them in the mirror)
5. Baby Gym
A baby gym is an amazing toy, there are so many to choose from! Bright coloured ones, ones with pianos/musical aspects that encourage kicking (there is some interesting research around this and leg control) but my personal favourite is a good old wooden one. You can DIY or purchase one, but I love how you can interchange your own toys, ribbons and objects. This way play can be varied – we all like variety and the same old toys doing the same old thing can be a cause for frustration.
Nester & Cub
6. Noisy and/or Easy Grip
Babies under 3 months are still working on the control of their reaching and grasping (this typically develops after 4 months of age)..
Toys that are easy to grasp are most suitable for this age group. Easy to grasp toys are fantastic for assisting development of hand muscles, proprioception (body awareness) and grasp/reaching. They develop hand eye coordination and visual skills. For some babes, the haven’t quite worked out how to let go, so, especially with the wooden rattles, make sure they don’t bang themselves in the head.
Toys that make noise are also fabulous to draw babies attention and understanding of cause/effect- bubs start to understand when they move they make noise. This can make for some seriously fun play, especially from about 2-3 months onward.
- balloons tied to feet
- cellophane scrunching
- soft crinkle books
- mesh balls / Oballs
I Love Wooden Toys
Remember you, your voice and your face, through singing songs, telling stories, holding conversations and portraying emotions, are by far your baby’s favourite toy.
***do not underestimate the value of being outside, play in water and baby massage***
Toys also do not need to be expensive, and most things you can either find around the home or are relatively inexpensive.
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on DIY toys for bubs.