As parents, you are now starting to understand your little one. You are barely able to master their sleeping and nursing routines, able to bathe and change them. Before you know it, they have started crawling and are bored with the same silly faces you make which would earlier make them laugh for hours on end. How do we engage them with suitable toys? What toys are playful but not too stimulating? What toys are safe for them but not too heavy on the budget? Does everything go in their mouth? What toys are safe for the baby when they are teething? Did I not get them enough toys?
The truth is, no matter how many toys you may get your little one, you may be surprised at finding out that they prefer the wrapping paper to the actual toy, or worse, they leave the wrapper and the toy behind to play with an old sock! So the best toy you can give your child is the power of imagination. There are no limits to what that can lead to. However, if you are going to buy them toys, or have your friends and relatives gift them, then be sure to follow just five guidelines and you will be fine.
- Keep it simple – and things will be easy to follow. Toys need to be colorful, child-friendly and depending on your tolerance for noise, may or may not be musical. In the first few months of the baby’s development, they will be stimulated with enough people and things around them so you won’t need anything. However, you can start with a simple baby mobile to hang on the crib. This toy is guaranteed to hold your little one’s attention for hours at a time. You can create something at home by hanging colorful ribbons or small soft toys around a hoop or get the basic version from any toy store. There are musical versions that may play nursery rhymes or soothing songs for your baby to fall asleep to. The variations are endless but your objective is to get anything that can catch your baby’s attention and at this stage, it can even be a simple mobile that your parents bought for you when you were born.
- Get a grip – next in line will be the toys for the hands and mouth – helps in grasping and developing gross motor skills, can also be a great diversion from the mobile hanging in the air but still out of reach. A rattle or maracas made from silicone or plastic are great to add on’s once the baby is 3 months old. Musical toys are an added bonus for the little one (though may drive you and your partner insane as you hear it for the 100th time) but they also provide hours of entertainment for the child as they keep playing with it over and over again.
Next, you can progress them to building or stacking toys such as toy blocks, rings, cups. Again, several options for you to choose from and you may even land up playing with them so go for the simplest version and then move up from there.
- Sink your teeth in- you can get a teether around 3 – 5 months when they may start gnawing at almost everything around you. Again you have several variations in color, texture, shape of the teethers so don’t go overboard. In fact, you can also give your child carrot or breadsticks and they will find that fascinating too. Just make sure you swap them for fresh ones before they become too gooey and may choke the baby. All toys need to be sterilized easily, either by dishwasher or handwash. The baby will drop them no matter the safe and secure you make their environment.
- Stay clear of these – so many websites swear by this or that toy but here again, follow the golden rule of keeping it simple and you will be fine. Toys have to be child-friendly and easy to clean. Make sure they don’t have tiny holes – or the fingers may get stuck, no tiny beads, objects or the child may ingest it when you are not supervising, nothing with any fluorescent lights or chemicals in them. They can be kept as a lamp light but stay clear of any fancy liquid in a toy, these can break or leak and your child may put it in their mouth as they do with any new object. This is only one of the 5 ways the child is exploring the world around them and no amount of you saying “No” will take away the thirst for learning. So your best bet is to stay clear of these toys or if any of your relatives or friends gift them, pack it away once they are gone.
- Growing older and going further – other good to have toys as the child gets older, bath toys like boats, ducks or ships (choices are too many) or soft toy books with a story or two to read. Picture cards are a great learning tool, just ensure the material is slightly durable as your child will, yes you know it, put it in his or her mouth. Soft toys are great to cuddle but watch out for the beady eyes and soft fibers that the toddler may inhale. The jury is still undecided on walkers or baby strollers. There are several instances where they have not only harmed the toddler but also delayed their development towards walking. However, some parents swear by it and can also leave their children in them while they do the dishes or take care of the laundry. When in doubt, avoid such toys. Your child will learn to walk and run irrespective of this toy.
As they grow older, they will be able to identify toys that appeal to them. Buy them using the same guidelines underlined above. You will never go wrong if you keep it simple, safe, easy to clean. For all you know, your child’s imagination will help them invent more toys than the ones out there.