To celebrate Innovation Day 2023, we have put together our list of the 10 best toys to help your baby’s development and that creative instinct. After all, the innovators of tomorrow are here today.
1. Activity Gym
Sometimes called a baby gym, it’s usually a place for your baby to lie, with toys attached to an overhead arch. Activity gyms are designed to stimulate your baby’s brain development and encourage her hand-eye coordination as she reaches out to touch the toys. Suitable for newborn babies to around 5 months these are great for encouraging baby to play independently.
Pick one with a lovely soft padded mat for comfort and also make sure it has lots of features such as a rattle, baby safe crinkle toys, musical functions and detachable toys. All of these will provide sensory experiences essential for encouraging those developmental skills.
From tummy time to self-discovery baby gyms nourish motor skill development along with cognitive skills, fine motor skills and also the emotional development of your baby through interactions with the toys
Look out for:
- Easy set up and dismantling for storage
- Reversible Mat that is machine washable
- Removeable washable toys
2. Cot Mobiles
Baby cot mobiles are an essential from 0 to 3 months of age when baby can’t grasp objects on their own but they will still be stimulated by different colour shades providing there is enough contrast. A black and white mobile will attract baby’s interest from birth.
Even though baby mobiles hang over a baby’s sleep space, they’re not actually intended to lull your baby to sleep. Instead, baby mobiles are designed to gently stimulate your tot’s brain, visual, and motor development.
When a baby is looking up at their mobile, they are watching how it turns and moves and follows this movement with their eyes and can also start to develop the ability to judge distances and spatial awareness, as the objects move towards and away from their eyes.
As your baby grows and their movement develops, reaching up for the mobile toys help them to master hand-eye coordination – or foot-eye coordination!
It’s recommended to raise or remove the mobile when babies are able to sit up themselves to prevent any accidents from happening.
Eventually the practising your baby has done in pointing and reaching for the toys that interest them will start to pay off. They’ll start to become more accurate and this will translate to how they aim for and grab other objects they see, developing their grasping reflex over time.
As they repeat the movements of reaching for and grasping objects, they will also be strengthening the muscles that control eye movement at the same time.
Over time, they will learn to distinguish colours, objects and sounds and their curiosity will help their language skills as they try to identify the objects to you especially if they have animal names.
Look out for:
- High contrast especially black and white for a newborn
- Different shapes and sounds
- Music features
These are suitable from about three months when baby starts being able to grasp items. Babies love to be able to grab and shake so a rattle sound will keep them intrigued. Many rattles make noises and sounds when they are shaken and many also have other textures that provide sounds like crinkling noises.
Rattles are not just a source of entertainment for a baby to play with. They can help to teach babies many new skills. When you hold a rattle up, babies might first look at it with their eyes. If you move the rattle from one side to the other, babies learn to visually track and coordinate their eyes together to watch it.
The sounds rattles make can also alert babies to noise. If they hear the sound of a rattle, babies will eventually turn their heads towards the sound.
At first, babies will hold their rattles tightly with a strong grasp reflex. As their fine motor skills develop, they will learn to hold and shake their rattle in the air. Babies also learn to hold the rattle in one hand then transfer to the other and they will play by bringing their rattle to their face and exploring these baby toys not only with their hands but their tongue and mouth.
Many rattles also have textured surfaces that allow them to double as teethers, as babies chew on toys to help soothe their gums when they start to teethe. If your baby has a teething rattle be sure that it is BPA free so that baby can safely chew it.
Rattles sometimes have moving parts that can be twisted, turned and spun, which can help further develop a baby’s attention span and fine motor skills. Although normally held in a baby’s hand, there are rattles which attach to a baby’s wrist or ankle with velcro. These can help babies to learn about their body parts. They begin to realize eventually that they have control over the rattle by moving their arm or kicking their feet.
Look out for:
- Wrist and ankle rattles
- Rattles made of different materials, wood, metal.
- Rattles that have multiple grasping points for added interest
4. Crinkle Books
It is never too soon to introduce your baby to books. The bonding that happens when you’re reading to your baby is irreplaceable. A black and white book will help a newborn’s optic nerve development, encourage cognitive development and they can gradually learn about the world around them. Using high contrast colours encourages baby to really focus.
As with mobiles a sharp black and white image sends a strong signal to the brain increasing visual and brain development. These high contrast books are suitable up to 6 months of age
Cloth books for babies are more than just a standard reading book. These touch and feel soft books are sensory toys, designed to stimulate the senses of your little one.
Packed with bright and colourful imagery and interactive elements, different textures, peek a boo flaps to lift and reveal images and sound components with their crinkle paper pages, squeakers, rattles and chimes to stimulate the auditory senses too
Soft cloth books are interactive toys, designed to keep babies entertained and engaged. With their vibrant colours, patterns, fun imagery, crinkle paper, peek a boo flaps to lift and playful squeakers, soft cloth books will entertain for hours as babies turn the pages again and again to explore the sensory elements of the book.
Grabbing the soft book, turning the book’s pages and interacting with the different textures, peek a boo flaps and squeakers can help baby to develop their tactile, fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Fine motor development helps your baby learn to pick up the book, use both hands together and become more skilled at controlling their hands during their daily play.
Enjoying an interactive soft book together provides an engaging way to bond with your baby as they play and learn. Reading a bedtime story and playing with a soft book with your baby not only encourages social development, but it will also strengthen the bond you share together.
Cloth books are fun and educational baby toys that will not only entertain and educate your infant, but allow you to spend precious time with baby and make special memories together. They are an essential in our 10 best toys to help your baby’s development.
5. Light Up Toys
Light up toys with bright colors are something new for your child from their usual toys like board games and soft toys. Therefore, they are more attracted towards them. The bright lights and the unusual sound from the toy help them to grasp their attention and improve their concentration level.
These toys are a great help when your child is frustrated or anxious as they make an ideal distraction. They can easily grab your child’s attention because of the calming sounds and amazing lights and can easily distract them from a frightening situation that helps them to become normal again.
These light up toys help in developing the motor skills in your child by including small activities like pressing the button and holding it for a few minutes. These toys help them to understand the cause and effect of what they are doing and what will be the final outcome of his action. Along with motor skills, they support language development and social interactions.
6. Musical Toys
Combining bright colours, textures and music to stimulate the senses, musical toys can have crinkle texture as well as dangling parts to chew on and play with. Music plays a big part in all our lives and therefore it follows that music can play a key role in children’s development. That is why we recommend picking up a musical toy for your little ones and seeing their reaction.
The top benefits of musical toys for children and why they feature in our 10 best toys to help your baby’s development:
- Increasing their motor skills and coordination
- Improving their memory
- Helping to create a bond between parent and child
- Helping them to create friendships with other babies
- Uses energy, helping to them to sleep
- Helps with sensory development
- Lifts their mood or can soothe them when upset
7. Bouncers with an activity bar
Suitable from birth, bouncers are a great way to inspire individual play. The hanging toys will provide visual interest and as baby starts to develop the urge to grasp they will promote physical development.
The repetitive bouncing motion is fun and relaxing for your little one. The repetitive bouncing motion makes many a baby smile with delight.
It also encourages fine motor control — the kicks and wiggles they need to get the baby bouncer going — and, when they’ve mastered the bouncy movement, it provides a source of entertainment and exercise.
At the same time, the repetitive bouncing motion can also soothe a tired and fussy newborn into a deep, satisfying sleep.
Those two benefits alone — the entertainment and the relaxation — make having a baby bouncer available for your newborn and essential just in case you need it.
8. Sensory Balls
These simple toys are a great way to encourage fine and gross motor skills, concentration, hand-eye coordination, focus, size discrimination, colour awareness, tactile awareness and visual tracking.
Playing with balls can provide lots of developmental benefits for children as they explore the senses in a wide range of textures, densities, shapes, sizes, weights, sounds and colours.
Ball play builds hand-eye coordination, gross and fine motor skills, spatial awareness, grasping skills, problem-solving skills, balance, and even language and social skills. Experts recommend engaging in ball play as early as possible.
From their first months to years later children improve both fine and gross motor skills with sensory balls. Infants crawl toward them enhancing eye/hand coordination, use muscles to reach a sensory ball, then grasp it and hold on tight!
9. Floor Mirror
Tummy time is when you place your baby on his or her stomach while your baby is awake and someone is watching. It has been proved to be important because it encourages baby to try to lift up their head which will make their neck and shoulder muscles stronger so your baby can start to sit up, crawl, and walk. It can also prevent flat spots on the back of your baby’s head from too much lying on their back.
During tummy time playing with a baby safe mirror will support your child’s healthy development and learning. It helps develop their visual senses, most obviously keeps your baby entertained and gives them more time to develop their muscles and physical abilities
10. Activity Centre
And finally our list of the 10 best toys to help your baby’s development wouldn’t be complete without the Activity Centre. Anything that keeps little ones entertained for more than a moment or two is a bonus for parents and activity centres, packed with toys that encourage exploration, hand-eye coordination and learning about cause-and-effect, provide a safe play space for inquisitive little minds to explore for hours.
Most can be used once your baby is able to sit up and many have a dual purpose – whether as a walker or a craft table.
Price points vary depending on the functionality on offer, but it’s worth considering how much use you’ll get out of your activity centre as your little one grows, as some offer the chance to change up as your child gets bigger.
Each activity centre featured includes different toys in all shapes and sizes, many have musical and light options, some include soft toys and some are removable, so you can switch up activities for your mini explorer
Look out for:
- Age Suitability
- Height settings
- Feeding bowl
- Folds flat for convenient storage.
Finally, if you are considering any toy from our 10 best toys to help your baby’s development check out the opinions of any baby testers who may have posted reviews. Consider the age suitability and remember that all babies develop at their own pace. Enjoy the precious moments that play and discovery can provide.