There is a good chance that if you could read the minds of new parents, the secret thoughts would include wishes that the newborn was more aware of mom and dad and the world around the baby. During the first few months of life a newborn is learning and growing but in a very subtle manner. The baby quietly soaks up sights and sounds but is unable to do much physically except watch, sleep, and cry. The “watching” part is where toys play such an important role in the life of a child from the first.
During the first three months of life, toys need to be colorful and have bold patterns to make it easy for under-developed baby eyes to discern. They need toys that encourage interaction. Though physical movement is limited, the toys can encourage use of the senses. As the newborn grows, the toys should squeak and have textures that tiny fingers can feel and that make it easier to grasp when able to do so.
The toys should “grow” along with the baby. In other words, the toys should encourage the baby to use developing talents and abilities to their fullest. For example, rattles may be good for a baby that is a newborn but will not be enough for an older baby. An older baby wants to play and explore, and toys should encourage the effort. Floor gyms and activity boards make excellent toys. The floor gyms encourage a child to grab, pull, kick, and twist. These toys encourage using all of the body and the senses. It is fascinating to watch a baby trying to figure out how to convince a toy to make noises or how to reach up for handles or something swinging above them. The smiles and laughter that accompany each new skill learned are delightful to witness.
Build it Up and Knock it Down
Once the baby turns a year old, the toddler is rapidly advancing in motor skills. The small child is now ready to build, sort, pile, and knock down stacking blocks or wooden alphabet blocks. The toddler will also want to hammer with make-believe tools or pound pegs into a wood bench. Shapes get a toddler’s attention and so puzzles and toys that fit together become popular. Naturally, all the toys must be age- appropriate. For example, a puzzle will have less than ten pieces. Another good choice in toys are puzzles that make sounds. When the puzzle piece is inserted in the right spot, a sound relevant to the puzzle theme is made.
As a child approaches two years old, your son or daughter has developed skills like building with blocks without help. Soon you will see the toddler begin to indulge in some pretend play time. Playing like mommy with a doll or acting like daddy driving a truck shows the child is becoming much more aware of the world and what other people do. The world is expanding. In addition, more complex toys can be added, like those that snap together.
Time Passes Quickly
Newborns are not newborns for very long. From day one they are growing and learning at an amazing rate, and toys play a big role in how well that process goes. During the first two years, the child goes from being a helpless infant who is unable to communicate verbally or turn over in the crib to an active, chattering toddler with a vivid imagination. It is a fascinating and immensely enjoyable time for parents and their children.