Best Developmental Toys for Baby’s First Year
Blocks have been a developmental standby for decades. And for good reason. Whether you go in for the standard wooden ones, colorful geometric shapes or soft fabric cubes made just for baby, blocks will help baby to refine his gross- and fine-motor skills. As he grows, the blocks will grow along with him, offering up lessons in problem solving and simple math.
Stacking & Nesting Cups
Stacking and nesting cups come in an endless variety of designs from the trendy to the traditional. Similar to blocks, stacking and nesting cups help baby develop important motor skills and refine her hand-eye coordination. Developmental experts also praise stacking and nesting cups for their role in improving baby's intellectual development. So go on, start stacking.
Like babies, balls come in all shapes and sizes. Childhood development experts extol the benefits of ball play for kids of all ages. During baby's first year, balls will help your baby master visual and physical coordination and teach him about cause and effect. An added bonus? While you find yourself throwing out countless toys and clothes as baby outgrows them, the balls will remain a favorite for years to come.
Break out the books and get a head start on baby's language development. Reading with your baby will improve her cognitive development, memory skills and communication. Since baby's hands and mouth are her primary tools for learning, board books and Indestructibles™ -- a new line of waterproof, tear-resistant books -- are a good bet for the younger set. Both will stand up well to baby's loving bites and enthusiastic page turning. As baby grows, lift-the-flap and touch-and-feel books will help her learn cause and effect and further explore the world around her.
Mobiles are ideal for boosting baby's sensory development. Mobiles can enhance your little one's eye control, visual-tracking skills and, depending on its design, sound recognition. They can even improve your baby's concentration -- something that might come in handy later on.
Black and White Toys
The bold contrast of black against white is among the few colors that young infants can see. Cater to your baby and help him develop his visual focus with black-and-white mobiles, books and art cards. The "high-contrast repeating patterns" of Wee Gallery Art Cards have received high praise from parents and experts alike.
Rattles, Chimes and Instruments
Rattles, toys with chimes and musical instruments make up the trifecta of sensory development. All three stimulate baby's sense of touch and directional hearing. What's more, as she learns to shake her rattle and bang her drum, they will also help to teach her about cause and effect.
Everyone loves cooing over an adorable baby and your little one is no exception. Mirrors encourage face recognition and social skills, and are great for developing visual focus. What's more, a well-positioned mirror provides your baby with hours of entertainment and the attention of his most captive audience -- himself.
Activity mats -- with their hanging toys, various textures and stimulating patterns -- can help your baby develop hand-eye coordination, visual acuity, muscle control and gross motor skills. Activity mats (primarily for babies not yet sitting up) are also great for encouraging "tummy time," helping her strengthen the muscles she will need to roll over, sit up and crawl.
Play is how babies learn and develop, so make sure you're in on the game. Reading to your little one, encouraging play, initiating interactive games like peek-a-boo, plus talking and cuddling will all help him to learn and grow. In the end, the best toy to help your baby develop the skills he needs is you.