Choosing Toys for Babies - Page 2
- Long-term play value: Will this hold your little one’s attention for more than a few weeks?
- Durability: Will it hold up when sat on, thrown, jumped on, mouthed, or banged?
- Solid simplicity: Babies don’t need complicated toys.
- Challenge: Look for toys that teach but do not frustrate.
- Appropriateness. Does it match your baby’s thinking, language, and motor skills?
- Interest: Will it encourage your baby to think?
- Stimulation: How does this toy foster creativity and imagination?
- Interactiveness: Does it engage your child or just entertain him as he watches passively?
- Versatility: Can your baby play with this in more than one way?
- Washability: Well-loved toys tend to get very dirty!
- Fit with your family value system: Does this toy reflect your family’s particular values? For example, is the toy friendly to the environment? Does it promote diversity? Are you comfortable with what the toy represents?
- Novelty: Is this toy different from others your baby already has? You don’t want a toy box filled with 30 different kinds of rattles!
- Fun appeal: Is it something that you will enjoy playing with, too? Toys that encourage you to play along with your baby are ideal.
Best toys for young babies:
Board books Foot or hand puppets Musical toys Rattles Small, lightweight, easy-to-grasp toys Squeaky toys Teething rings Toys with high-contrast graphics, bright colors, or black-and-white patterns
Best toys for older babies:
Activity boxes (levers/buttons/dials/hinges) Balls Beginning puzzles (two or three large pieces; knobs are helpful) Blocks Cars and trucks Chunky small people and accessories Dolls and stuffed animals Hammering toys Large interlocking beads Modeling dough Musical toys Nesting cups Peg boards Picture books Plastic animals Pop-up toys Push or pull toys Shape sorters Stacking rings Toy versions of everyday items (telephones, cooking utensils, doctor kits) Toys you still remember from your childhood (The classics endure and are always a good bet!) Washable crayons or markers and blank paper
As you give you baby new things to play with, keep in mind that there is no right way to play with toys. For example, a puzzle is not always for “puzzling.” The pieces make great manipulative characters, can be sorted or put in boxes, and make interesting noises when banged together or against an empty pot. Children learn through play, so any toy they enjoy playing with is, by definition, educational.
Safety for all toys
- Always consider well the safety aspects of anything your baby is going to play with. Here are a few ways to keep playtime safe:
- Discard any plastic wrapping, plastic bags, packaging, or tags before giving a toy to a baby. Always watch for choking hazards. Anything small enough to fit in your baby’s mouth has the potential for danger. Watch for pieces that may become loose from a larger object, too. Make sure that no small parts can be pulled off or chewed off the toy.
- Check the paint or finish on the toy to make sure it is non-toxic, since babies put everything in their mouths.
- Check toys for sharp points, rough edges, rust, and broken parts.
- Always abide by the age rating on the package. No matter how smart your child is or how wonderful the toy, don't second-guess the manufacturer, since age rankings often are given due to safety issues. If you choose to purchase a toy with an older age recommendation, make certain that the toy is used only when you are playing with your baby, and that it is stored where your baby can’t get to it without your supervision.
- Remove rattles, squeeze toys, teethers, stuffed animals, and other small toys from the crib or bed when your baby goes to sleep for naps or bedtime. The exception here is a specialty made-for-baby toy that has been carefully created to be a safe sleeping lovey.
- Avoid pull toys with long cords that could wind around your baby’s neck. Pull toys for babies should have either very short strings or rigid handles.
- Make sure toys are properly assembled, with no loose parts.
- Beware of excessively loud toys. Babies tend to hold things close to their faces, and you want to protect your baby’s sensitive ears.
- Buy mobiles or crib toys from reputable manufacturers, and make sure that they attach to the crib without dangling strings. Remove mobiles and other crib toys once your baby can sit up.
- Make sure that toys are never left on stairs, in doorways, or in walkways.
- Your baby’s toybox should have a special safety lid (or no lid at all) to prevent it from slamming on your baby's head or hands, or trapping your baby inside. There shouldn’t be any hinges that could pinch little fingers.
- Never give a baby a balloon, Styrofoam, or plastic wrap as a toy; these present a serious choking hazard, since they cannot be expelled using the Heimlich maneuver.
- If a toy is second-hand (whether purchased from a second-hand store or garage sale, or given to you by a friend or relative), give all of the above rules extra consideration. If you have any doubts, always err on the side of safety and discard the toy. Don’t let your baby play with a paint-finished toy that appears to be older than a few years - the paint may be lead-based, which poses serious hazards to a baby who touches or mouths it.
- Keep toys (and parts of toys) designed for older children out of the hands of babies. Your baby may like to play with toys belonging to an older sibling or friend, but these are geared, safety-wise, to older kids and are not safe for little ones to use without very close supervision.
This article is an excerpt from Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)