Monday, April 23, 2007

Choosing a toy for your baby

For new parents, choosing a toy for your baby can be a bit confusing at first. There is a lot of choice out there and not a lot of data points on which to make your decision. I have a 19 month old daughter, and I think I have learned a couple of interesting things about choosing toys, from the time she was a newborn, until now.

First - and I think this is the most important message to other parents on this subject - the most interesting, entertaining, and positively awe inspiring toy for your baby is you! Yes, that's right, you. Think of it like this: A baby is born with limited vision and only a handful of instincts to help her get started in life. Everything else is up to you. Baby will probably start breastfeeding almost immediately after birth and will have frequent visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation from mom and dad. Baby will learn mom and dad's faces and sounds and will draw a familiar comfort from it. From then on you will find that as baby develops she will appreciate you at different levels. I remember with my little one, coming home after work when she was about 2-3 months old, and just upon seeing me and hearing me calling out she would break out in hysterical laughter, every time. Now that she's older, it's about more sophisticated games, such as dancing, reading, or playing "where's daddy's nose?" (you get the idea). But the fun she derives from me and my wife is still beyond any toy we have purchased.

But then, there are some awesome toys too.

Let me start from the 0-6 months stage. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, multi-sensory toys are staples for babies under 6 months. Toys and mobiles with high contrast shapes (such as Wimmer-Ferguson toys from Manhattan Toy) and textures, such as the Whoozit will give baby interesting stimulation. I also found that toys that can be wound up to play a soothing song for 30 seconds or so can also bring comfort and stimulation to your baby. Toys that come to mind here are Whoozit Starz Lights and Sounds from Manhattan Toy and Fisher Price's Ocean Wonders Aquarium. There are always plush toys (such as teddy bears), but I find that baby will not really really appreciate those until later on. Also, don't forget grasping toys in many different shapes and sizes that your baby will use as a toy and teether at the same time. Brands like Haba and Manhattan Toy have some great grasping toys.

As they get a bit older and they can sit and play, I have found that blocks, Legos, balls, and other toys that can be stacked, squished and thrown and have interesting colours and themes are also big winners. As they start to stand up or get more aware of their surroundings you might find that activity tables with buttons, clickers, spinners, and music are also popular.

Last but not least, for babies over 12 months, there has been a strong resurgence of wooden toys and puzzles. Toys ranging from shape sorters to alphabet blocks, and puzzles are great learning toys and visually very appealing. Brands like Melissa & Doug, Plan Toys, and Hape Toys come to mind here.

Some of these products, of course, can be seen at

Happy toy hunting!


Craig said...

Shouldn't you be working at 10:49 on a Monday? :-)

Frank said...

Haha. The wonders of being on vacation. ;)