Do babies need toys?
We get loads of people asking for suggestions on the best baby toys - so it's prompted me to write this post and answer the question "Do babies really need toys".
The answer is yes, and no! In essence babies need stimulation of their senses to develop, but how to do that doesn't need to involve expense or endless 'toys'.
If we focus on the key senses you can help develop with toys (or general objects), let's take a look at what options we have.
Sight - in the first few months babies have a limited distance they can see of up to a few inches getting up to a few feet by around 6 months. Early on just encourage your baby to look at different objects, whatever you have around (tv remote, cup, watch, pen, hairbrush, keys) just bring it within your babies field of vision and back out again - this works on eye tracking. As they get older they will start to reach and grab for objects so make sure what you have is small and light enough that they won't hurt themselves if they grab it and wave it around. For this reason our infant section of the shop is filled with light timber toys, natural rubber teethers and toys and softies as the most popular choices.
Hearing - Very early on babies can hear a variety of sounds and will be able to look towards loud sounds and by 6-12 months they are learning what different word sounds sound like and beginning to mimic and babble. Encourage the use of their hearing by using a few musical or sound making toys within ear shot, singing or popping music on and reading to them. Variety is the key, so mix it up between soft lullabies and your favourite rock station on the radio, wooden musical toys and clapping along to nursery rhymes you sing. We find small musical items are popular with parents to shake and make noise for their babies.
Touch - Early on babies just crave skin to skin touch and you will notice them grabbing for your face, fingers and hands especially during close snuggles and breastfeeding. After a few months start exposing them to a big variety of touch textures. Offer toys that are smooth, hard, shiny, cold, soft, squishy or scratchy. See the different responses they make to each one. A great way to do this is to sit with them on the floor and offer a basket filled with objects such as wooden rattles, silky fabric scarves, metal spoons, rubber toys, a soft doll or softy, things like velcro strips, smooth wooden blocks, anything really as long as they are all safe for baby to touch, grab and put in their mouth (because they will!) and as long as you directly supervise them. Once you get a sense of which things they go for over and over it will help guide you when you are wishing to make purchases.
So as your baby grows and develops, think ahead to the next step. Have they started reaching out for things during tummy time? Look at what options you have that they can safely reach and grab, that will also entertain them in 6 months time. Things like shape sorters are great, just look at the age recommendations for individual products. Are they enjoying popping things in their mouth? Look for natural and safe options that have multiple uses, our Tikiri Natural Rubber toys are safe to go in the bath as they are fully sealed so are a great option for teethers, bath toys and they also rattle so plenty of use over a period of time rather than a single use product. Once they are grabbing for toys and able to wave them around look for light safe options that make noise, you can add them to the music collection for later so your toddler and preschooler can make a band. So as you see, our general advice is to use what you have and make purchases that will cover more than one 'thing' and last for more than a few months - we always suggest quality over quantity.
Hope this helps!