As your baby begins to grasp items, teethe, sit-up, and so on, you might feel inclined to start buying a wide array of toys. But before you run out and spend a fortune on toys for your baby, let’s talk about why the types of toys you select are important for your baby’s development, and your sanity. There has been a shift in recent years, but generally speaking if you walk down the “baby” toy aisle there is no shortage of stimulation. Lots of vibrant colors, lights, sounds, characters, and so on. Attention-grabbing they may be, but these types of toys aren’t necessarily the best choice for your baby. Your baby’s brain is in a period of rapid development simply by being alive. Every sound, sight, scent, touch is a learning experience for them. Simple toys that allow them to explore their senses with just the right amount of stimulation are ideal for supporting their development.
Here are some things to consider when investing in toys for your baby:
Wooden versus Plastic
Believe it or not, the material that your baby’s toys are made from matters. Plastic toys have all kinds of yucky materials in them (chemicals, etc.), and guess where toys go the minute you hand them to your baby. Yep, straight to the mouth. More on that later. Choosing a toy that is non-toxic and made from quality material matters. If you aren’t sure, read the label. Or ask your trusty friend google.
All children from 0-2 years (sometimes 3) put toys in their mouths. They just do. Child development philosopher Jean Piaget called this stage of childhood the sensorimotor stage, meaning that children are learning about the world around them through their senses and through movement. It is natural for them to mouth toys. Also, children are teething at this age! So they are seeking relief via anything they can get their hands on. Another reason to choose quality materials. You also want to make sure all of their toys are free from any choking hazards. The best way to determine this is with a good old paper towel roll. If you can fit it in the paper towel roll, they can choke on it. Bigger is better when it comes to toys for your baby.
Think about how you feel when the tv is on loud, the dog is barking, there’s a bright light in your face, the oven is beeping--in other words, all sorts of stimuli are coming at you at once. It’s overwhelming, anxiety-inducing, and overstimulating. Unfortunately, many toy companies produce toys for young children that light up, have electronic sounds and movement, etc. These toys are not made with child development in mind. Young children will become overstimulated very quickly, which leads to crankiness. Furthermore, what’s happening to their brains while interacting with these toys is not optimal. These toys also prevent meaningful interactions from happening between child and caregiver. An article published by JAMA Pediatrics found that “Electronic toys for infants that produce lights, words and songs were associated with decreased quantity and quality of language compared to playing with books or traditional toys such as a wooden puzzle, a shape-sorter and a set of rubber blocks.” When it comes to toys for infants and toddlers, simple is best. Say it with me, NO BATTERIES!
Toys that promote manipulation, exploration, and have many possibilities are the best for babies and toddlers. These are the toys that don’t require adult instructions, can be used in multiple ways, are gender-neutral, and are timeless. Think blocks, puzzles, realistic animals, etc. Babies and Toddlers also love toys that have texture to them, or simple instruments like shakers.
We all want to sustain a future for our kiddos where the earth is still livable, right? Investing in eco-friendly toys when we can will help us do our part for the environment.
Less is More
Children, especially infants and toddlers, do not need a ton of toys. Invest wisely in a few quality toys that will last, and your children will play longer, and more purposefully with them. Having too many toys creates clutter and a feeling that they need to rush from one thing to the next. Fewer toys means easier clean-up for you.
I send you off into toyland with these recommendations in mind and can’t wait for you to see how your baby explores the toys you choose for him.
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Amanda Dixon
Amanda Dixon is a mother of three young children and has her master’s degree in early childhood education. She spends her days homeschooling her kiddos, freelance writing and teaching college. Her favorite things are a good cuppa tea, chocolate chip cookies, books, and her 3 dachshunds.