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When Do Babies Start Playing With Toys?

When Do Babies Start Playing With Toys?

When you first bring your brand new baby home from the hospital, they might not seem to do much beyond looking adorable—other than eat and sleep, of course. However, soon they will be going through astounding physical and emotional developmental leaps in what seems like the blink of an eye.

In no time, your little bundle will be rolling, sitting, crawling—and likely, playing with toys.

Each developmental stage brings new ways for your baby to interact with and learn from the world around them, and toys can encourage practice and mastery of their newly acquired skills.

Play and interaction are encouraged right from the beginning of your baby’s life, but some types of toys might be more effective for specific ages (and more likely to cause giggles and glee).

The Stages of Play for Babies

So, when do babies start playing with toys? As your baby achieves milestones, there are different types of toys that can help them to embrace and master their new abilities. By exploring the stages of baby play, you can determine the best toy for your baby according to their age and developmental stage.

Birth to 3 Months

In their first few months, your newborn bundle is still becoming accustomed to their new lifestyle on the outside. From 0 to 3 months, their baby developmental milestones involve subtle advancements like following objects with their eyes and learning to smile.1

While these may not look like huge leaps from the outside, your baby’s brain is rapidly making connections with lots of help from parental playtime.

Your baby’s birth to 3-month developmental milestones can include:

  • Arm and leg movements
  • Opening and closing hands
  • Following faces and movement
  • Social smiles

Ways to Play

Though they may still be teeny-tiny, a young baby’s grabbing hands and curious eyes can still benefit from plenty of playtimes. Consider these baby toys for your little one’s enjoyment:2

  • Black and white toys – Very young infants respond well to black, white, and red while their eyesight is still developing. The sharp contrast of black and white draws their attention and keeps them visually interested. Soft toys and blocks with bold black and white images will grow with them as they are able to better use their motor skills. If you’re looking for something for the car seat or stroller, an animal-themed spiral baby toy offers high contrast, multisensory visuals on the go.
  • Rattles – While they may not be able to grab and grip yet, your baby can enjoy a little shake with help from mom and dad. Rattles can help them identify and follow the sound and movements. Look for rattles made from soft, natural materials, like the Meri Meri Peach Daisy Rattle with unique textures for their little hands.
  • Mirrors – Babies love looking at faces (especially yours). Toys that incorporate a mirrored surface can give them a new friend who will start to look more and more familiar as they grow—themselves. While they are wonderful on their own, many toys for young infants also include a mirror as part of a multisensory activity toy.

3 Months to 6 Months

Now that those first few newborn months have flown by, your baby is starting to be more involved in the world around them. They are likely learning to hold their head up and could have some tiny teeth appearing at any moment.3

Their sensory focus may still be very oral—fists, feet, your shirt, and everything else goes right into their mouth. Rolling and reaching can add a new element to interactive playtime with toys.

Between 3 to 6 months old, your baby might start displaying milestones such as:3

  • Rolling over
  • Sitting up (assisted or using arms to prop themselves up)
  • Reaching for objects
  • Recognizing faces
  • Making new noises

Ways to Play

With all these new skills, your child could probably benefit from some new toys. A baby of this stage can likely still enjoy their previous toys but may also enjoy playing with:

  • Teethers – Once you notice the telltale drool drip that signifies an incoming tooth, you’ll know it’s time to break out the teethers. They’re available in a variety of shapes, styles, and textures, so try offering a few options to see what your baby responds to best. You can’t go wrong with a teether like the famous Sophie The Giraffe, made of safe, natural rubber.
  • Books – Reading is a perfect bonding activity with your young infant. Held close while listening to the sound of your voice; your baby will love looking at the illustrations while you narrate. The Farmer’s Market Counting Book has multiple ways for you and your baby to engage and play during storytime (as well as plenty of opportunities to practice those new noises).
  • Dexterity Toys – Textured toys they can hold and explore can help to encourage curiosity and fine motor development. Look for hand-held toys that can do double duty as teethers, like these rainbow beads or an elephant you can pop in the fridge for cooling teeth relief.

6 Months to 9 Months

You’re probably in awe of everything your baby has accomplished after only half a year earthside. Your little babe is growing like a tree and may be starting to move and groove.

By 9 months, they are likely sitting up unassisted, trying solid food, and soaking in every sensory experience. They may also start showing off these new milestones:3

  • Dexterity and fine motor skills (like the pincer grasp)
  • Responding to their name
  • Pulling objects toward themselves
  • Self-feeding with finger foods
  • Clapping hands or banging objects together
  • Waving and pointing

Ways to Play

By now, those newborn toys and rattles might be tossed aside in favor of some new, more interesting toys that offer a better match to your growing baby’s blossoming brain. Here are a few toys and games that can stimulate their senses:

  • Peek-a-boo – As your baby starts to have a sense of object permanence, peek-a-boo will be your go-to gag for endless giggles. It doesn’t have to just be your face, either—try it with toys, too, like a ball or their favorite stuffed animal. Where is baby? Peek-a-boo!
  • Bath toys– Now that they are able to sit more securely in a tub, introducing water play with cups, bubbles, and boats will bring a whole new level of fun to tub time. Consider introducing an interactive bath toy that encourages fine motor activity and fill-and-spill play.
  • Activity mat – Provide a safe place for your baby to test their limits as they try out new movements with a multisensory activity mat. These mats can include visuals, textures, colors, and shapes. Try the Crawl & Discover Mat by Manhattan Toy, which incorporates high-contrast graphics, textures, and teethers that will encourage exploration.

9 Months to One Year

While you’re wistfully wondering where your sweet little bundle has gone, your infant is now literally going places. They could be crawling like crazy, pulling up, or even trying to walk. While you’re busy locking down the breakables and gating every exit, your baby is seeing the world from a whole new perspective (and probably height).

As your little explorer picks up speed, they might also pick up milestones such as:4

  • Cruising or walking
  • Throwing objects
  • Imitation
  • Verbal skills
  • Hand-eye coordination

Ways to Play

Your baby’s still not quite a kid, but they can do a lot more than they used to—and so should their toys. Here are some playthings that can encourage their newfound mobility:

  • Push toys – As they gain their footing, your baby will love pushing and pulling toys. These can be shopping carts, vacuums, alligators—anything age-appropriate with handles and wheels will do. For outside play, try a bubble-making lawn mower for an added level of fun.
  • Stacking toys – Your child’s dexterity is improving, and stacking toys are perfect for encouraging focus and fine motor skills. Stacking cups and building blocks can also help them sharpen bigger concepts like problem-solving and balance while having fun.
  • Activity center – Put all your baby’s new skills to work at once with a wonder-filled wooden activity center. Leveling up from an activity mat, kneeling or standing activity centers can give babies a multitude of sensory activities that give them fine motor skill practice and encourage problem-solving.

The Importance of Play for Babies

Why worry about playtime, you ask? Well, you might not need to—for little ones; play might be as natural as breathing. But in infants especially, baby play is also a way of stimulating, learning, and building connections.5 They are constantly absorbing the environment and information around them, which informs and influences their development.

For young babies, play isn’t a separately scheduled activity. Play is learning, and learning is play. As their caregiver, you can support their development by introducing stage-appropriate toys that stimulate and encourage interaction.

More importantly, be an active participant when your child interacts with their toys. Not only do they learn from their own sensory experience, but they learn from mirroring your actions and responses.

According to the American Pediatric Association, interactive play with a parent or caregiver is a necessary and important component of a child’s brain development.4 When a child plays, they are acting out life skills and scenarios that will help them as they mature, and you as a caregiver are a critical component in their play and learning.


Inspire Age-Appropriate Play with Monica + Andy

Toys can be an incredible source of wonder, joy, and curiosity for children of all ages. Providing age-appropriate toys for your infant can help them to build confidence as they play, all while practicing and mastering their new skills.

No matter your baby’s age or stage, play is an essential part of their developmental growth. Choosing toys that encourage curiosity and interaction is a fantastic way to help your child succeed as they learn and grow.

At Monica + Andy, our selection of toys from our favorite brands carry the M+A seal of approval. From teethers and rattles to fluffy friends and play gyms, we have all the toys you need to bond with your baby through play. Plus, our commitment to quality ensures you are getting the best, safest products for your baby.


Sources:

  1. Cleveland Clinic. Well-Baby Care Visits & Developmental Milestones (Age 0-12m). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22063-baby-development-milestones-safety
  2. National Association for the Education of Young Children. Good Toys for Young Children by Age and Stage. https://www.naeyc.org/resources/topics/play/toys
  3. CDC. CDC’s Developmental Milestones. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/119/1/182/70699/The-Importance-of-Play-in-Promoting-Healthy-Child
  5. University of Georgia Extension. The Importance of Play in Baby's Brain Development. https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C1053-10
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