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Introducing Toys to Babies

Young infants who don’t have purposeful control over their arm movements are not yet ready to hold objects in their hands. It isn’t until they begin to play with their hands, usually around three months of age, that they have the physical ability and mental readiness to explore objects with their hands. 

Giving infants objects to play with before they are able to let go of them on their own makes them dependent on the adult to remove the object from their hands. This is not play and it takes away from other important tasks young infants have of learning about their bodies. 

What does it look like to support newborn & young infant play? 

  • Having a safe, flat surface for Baby to move on his/her back.

  • Allowing Baby to choose how to spend his/her time when awake and not participating in caregiving routines (ex: wiggling his/her body, staring at a feather blowing across the floor, gazing at mom’s face, etc.)

  • Offering toys to infants when they are ready by placing them on the floor near the baby, within reach, but not forcing them to engage with the objects. Play should always be a choice. 

  • Placing a couple toys near Baby, but not too many. 

What makes for ideal first toys for infants?

  • Objects that are safe, lightweight, easy to clean, and don’t “do” anything. Objects that catch the baby’s eye when lying on his/her back. Objects that are easy to pick up with one hand. 

  • O-balls

  • Cloth napkin standing up like a teepee

  • Simple rattle

  • Circular teether

  • Metal condiment cup

It can be tempting to want your newborn to explore all the new toys you received at your baby shower, or want to pass the time by “doing” something with your little one, but the newborn stage is meant for other things, and babies appreciate the value we place on giving them space to get acclimated to their new world and their bodies before ushering them into a new stage of learning. 

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