Tuesday, February 16, 2016

5 Best Toys for Babies

Babies are born ready to learn about the world around them. There is no better way for them to learn about their world than through play and exploration. As the late Mr. Rogers said, "Play is really the work of childhood." But how does one play with a baby? Do they need toys? What kinds of toys do they need? Not surprisingly, the only toy babies need is their favorite thing of all- YOU! You are the most interesting thing in your baby's life. You are already equipped with everything your baby needs: from warmth, comfort, safety, and nourishment, to fun and entertainment. Here are my picks for the 5 Best Toys for Babies.

1. Your Face

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Your baby loves to look at your face! Babies love to see exaggerated faces with big smiles and big surprised eyes. Because babies process what is going on around them much slower than adults, it'll take almost an entire minute for a baby to mimic what you are doing. Literally, give them a minute, and they will try to mimic you. Newborns can only see a few inches in front of them, about the distance between your face and breast. Lean in close to them so they can see your face.

Things to try:
  • Make funny faces
  • Poke out your tongue
  • Give kisses
  • Wiggle your eyebrows
  • Smile

2. Your Voice

Even before birth, your baby recognizes your voice. It is amazing to watch a brand new baby turn toward the parents' voices when they greet their new baby. Your baby loves your voice! It is a great toy.

Things to try:
  • Sing songs
  • Make funny noises
  • Talk to baby
  • Be sure to listen too!
  • Read to your baby

3. Your Breasts

Breasts are used for more than just nourishment. Even if you are not breastfeeding, your breasts can provide some entertainment, or even just comfort, for your baby. Many babies want to nurse when they are hungry, sleepy, scared, lonely, or even bored. I often ask people, "When you pick up a new kitten, how to you usually hold it?" Most people cuddle a kitten right up close to their hearts. Because they are cute. The same goes for babies. They like to be snuggled close.

Things to try:
  • Let baby have tummy time on your chest
  • Wear your baby in a carrier against your chest
  • Wear a nursing necklace while cradling baby
  • Skin to skin contact on chest
  • Warning: older babies sometimes entertain themselves by twiddling nipples

4. Your Hands

You will do so much for your baby with your hands. Your baby has likely already enjoyed your touch while in the womb. You may have already noticed how your baby responds to your touch with kicks, jabs, and wiggles. The fun continues after birth!

Things to try:
  • Massage
  • Tickles
  • Peek a boo
  • This Little Piggy
  • Let your baby grasp and explore your hands

5. Your Legs

Your legs can provide so much entertainment for your baby, especially when they get a little older and more mobile.

Things to try:
  • Dance with your baby
  • Bouncing games in your lap
  • Sit in the floor and just let them climb over your legs
  • Lie on your back and play airplane
  • Prop your baby up with your thighs and just let your baby look at you

Your body can provide plenty of entertainment for your baby. In fact, they can become overstimulated just with you being their sole source of fun. Signs that your baby is overstimulated and needs a break include (1):

  • Looking away
  • Shielding face
  • Pushing away
  • Fussing 
  • Crying

When your baby becomes overstimulated, things you can try include (2):

  • Let baby suck on something
  • Hold baby close
  • Stay calm
  • Wait for baby to look back at you before resuming play
  • Wait for baby to be calm and relaxed

It doesn't take much to entertain your baby. As you can see, you are all your baby needs for hours of fun. In fact, I still joke that Mommy is a jungle gym when it comes to my three kids, who are 5, 3, and 6 months. You are more than enough for your baby!


(1) And Baby Makes Three, Dr.'s John and Julie Gottman, pages 44-45
(2) Ibid. 46-47

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