Toys and Infants
While playing with toys is fun, infants also learn a lot from them, as toys increase their understanding of the world and how things work. Remember trying to force puzzle pieces together or fit square pegs into round holes? A child squeals with delight when repeatedly dropping a block from her highchair. She is also learning about gravity (and about her caretaker's patience). Even when infants manipulate simple objects like stacking rings, they develop physical skills like coordination.
The value of a toy is unrelated to its price tag. Rather, it can be judged by its appropriateness for the child's developmental stage and the amount of creative play it inspires. Many simple, inexpensive toys stimulate a child's imagination more than fancy, expensive ones.
When selecting a toy for an infant, choose one that matches the child's age and developmental stage, but always think safety first.
Think safety first.
In 2009, an estimated 250,100 children were treated in emergency departments for toy-related injuries, and 12 toy-related deaths were reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). There were 6 additional deaths reported to the CPSC involving scooters. Not all toys are for all children.
- Read and strictly follow labels for age and safety recommendations.
- Look for toys that carry the seal of approval from the Consumer Product Safety Commission or the letters ASTM, which indicates the product meets national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
- Match toys to the child's age and abilities.
- Do not give toys with small parts to children younger than 3 years of age. If a piece of a toy fits inside the middle of a toilet paper roll, it should be considered a choking hazard for small children.
- Avoid toys with cords or strings that may strangle infants or young children.
- Avoid toys that shoot small objects.
- Avoid toys that make loud or shrill noises than can damage hearing.
- Make sure toys intended for children younger than age 8 do not have sharp metal or glass edges.
Choose toys that match a child's age and developmental stage. Children will be bored with toys that are too easy for them and frustrated with toys that are too difficult. Infants younger than 1 year of age are developing their senses of sight, sound and touch, and would enjoy playing with:
- Brightly colored mobiles. Hang mobiles over a crib or changing table, well out of your child's reach. Remove mobiles from a crib before he is able to sit up and grab them.
- Rattles. These need to be well made because if the seams happen to open, the noise-making beads inside would be a choke hazard for infants.
- Unbreakable mirrors. Babies love looking at faces and will be particularly amused when looking at their own.
- Washable cloth picture books, board books, rough-smooth touching books. Start reading to your baby very early in infancy. Make books part of the bedtime ritual, too.
- Washable, small, stuffed animals or dolls. These should be soft and fluffy, with no buttons or other small parts that can be pulled off.
- Balls. Choose balls that are about the size of your fist, made of durable, washable plastic, or soft cloth.
- Teething toys. Chewing on soft toys helps relieve the discomfort of teething.
- Blocks. Your baby will hold the blocks, put them in her mouth, bang them together, knock over stacked blocks, and eventually stack them herself.
- Nesting cups, blocks or stacking rings. Choose sturdy versions as many children play with these toys for several years.
- Push toys. These are great for infants who are learning to walk.
- Do not buy or use baby walkers; they are too dangerous.