I decided to make a list of gifts for babies aged 0-6 months, since it can be such a difficult age to know just what toys to get in order to facilitate the most development in this age band, since there is so much happening!
Our little ones are far too young to understand the concept of Christmas or gifts – but that doesn't mean we can’t spoil them already! I bought my little girl presents that we have already opened and started using, just so that we could get the full use of them and she could develop in the meantime. The gifts she will receive on Christmas will be those that she should be able to use soon after the day!
Some of these gifts are suitable from birth, others closer to 4-6 months, but all should be of use to you before the 6 month mark. The milestones we want to achieve in these early months are as follows:
· Tracking or following an object with the eyes
· Locating sounds not within the visual field
· Head control in an upright position, and in prone (on tummy)
· Swatting at and reaching toward toys
· Bringing hands together in the mid-line and up to the mouth
· Supported standing / weight bearing through legs
· Grasping large toys
· Kicking legs into the air, holding onto feet and bringing feet to mouth
· Rolling over – first from tummy to back, and then from back to tummy
· Initiation of sitting independently (some may achieve this only after 6 months)
· Identification of self in the mirror
The list of toys I have compiled are things I found to have more than one purpose, and something that could be of use for a long time, to help with achieving more than just one milestone. It is important to remember that younger babies are able to see strong contrasts better, so black and white stripes or patterns, often with one bold color, are ideal. Those pretty pictures with detail are lovely to look at, but all our little ones really see at this stage is a big blur of a picture. There needs to be a bold contrast, and you will be able to see a difference in just how much your baby likes to look at these rather than pretty patterns and colors. Many toys I have selected have aspects of bold contrast for this young age, but also have more complex pictures so that as the baby grows and his vision improves, he can still use them.
It is also important to remember that from 4 months onwards, our little ones may start teething and this causes them to drool everywhere, over everything. They also have better developed tactile sensory abilities in their mouths as opposed to their hands, which is why they use their mouths to touch and feel toys as a form of exploration. The toys baby uses should be something you are able to easily wash and sterilise, since he will be putting them right into his mouth! Electronic toys are no good when it comes to being sterilised or being covered in drool! Wooden toys are lovely for teethers because of their hard, rough texture – but to sterilise? Such a pain! The same can be said with soft toys like teddy bears, unless they can go through the wash, but they are generally dust collectors and cause vast amounts of allergies! Always consider this when buying toys for your baby.
So here is my list, in no particular order!
An activity gym! Probably my favourite piece of furniture in the house at the moment – if only the colour scheme matched the living room! I prefer the ones where the sides fold up. These can be used as a type of play-pen and also, when she is big enough, a ball-pit she can climb in and out of! I have the Tiny Love Gymini Developlace, simply because it has an arch at the top that I have been able to use to put high contrast pictures onto, and because it becomes a crawl-through tunnel and a play-station (not the electronic gaming device!) she can sit and play in. It also comes with many different places to hang toys, and comes with a high contrast toy to use with newborns. There is a peek-a-boo hole on one of the sides as well. It is adjustable and easy to use, and my little one will use it up until she starts walking – which makes it very cost effective.
A tummy time mat! I used to believe that a rolled up blanket or feeding cushion would do exactly the same thing as the cushion the tummy time mat comes with. But for some reason, she tolerates this cushion, and nothing else! The density of the foam and height of the cushion provides the right amount of pressure and lifts the tummy off of the ground slightly, without making the floor too far for the forearms to reach. I have seen ones (unfortunately not available in South Africa) that have an inclined play surface at the front of the mat to help babies with head control. The standard mats have toys flat on the floor, which does not encourage them to look up and around, so you need to do more entertaining or use other toys. This brings me to my next toy.
A small standing mirror! A mirror that can be placed up in front of your baby to encourage head control. I find that the 0-3 month old babies are only really captivated by a mirror, not so much bright and colorful toys – probably because they aren’t able to grab them and figure out what they do, where the mirror provides constant visual input. A mirror is so useful in teaching a baby how to coordinate and control his movements, because not only is he moving, he is able to watch himself move and get visual feedback, something we all use when doing a new skill (we can look at the area, but with limited head control and poor body awareness, a baby cannot physically look at himself when doing a new movement, so the mirror helps him to do that). Try to find a mirror that is of good quality and doesn’t distort the reflection – imagine seeing yourself for the first time as a blurry, distorted version of yourself and developing body awareness this way!
It is also a nice way to begin teaching your baby to vocalise and babble, by pointing to the mirror and saying “baba!” every time he sees himself he can then associate that with who he is. He will also be able to explore with different facial expressions and the emotions associated with them. I often hold my baby girl while looking in the mirror and we make faces in the mirror, she can watch me and herself. Most of these mirrors can be clipped onto the side of the crib or hung from an activity gym, so they are really useful!
Wrist rattles! These are little rattles and bells that can be strapped onto the wrists, hands or feet that jingle when baby moves. The aim of this is to develop his body scheme as well as cause and effect (if I do this, it makes a noise!). Since he is only going to be fully grasping at around or after 4 months, this is a fun way of letting him explore with sounds before that milestone happens. It also draws his attention to his hands and feet, making him more inclined to explore with them by looking at them, touching them and bringing them to his mouth. These can be used when he is a bit older too – I often use them with little ones when I put them into a ball pond, so that even though there is no visual feedback of their arms and legs moving since they are covered with the balls, they can feel the balls against the skin (tactile input or touch) and also hear them moving (auditory or sound), to help them develop that ever so important body scheme I am constantly talking about.
A clutch cube! I actually have two of these toys – one by Lamaze, and one by Tiny Love. We haven’t started using them yet but when we do, I’ll be sure to let you all know which one I prefer. One came in a gift pack of 3 toys and the other was a new toy on the market I just had to try out. The Lamaze clutch cube has a hook to hang from an activity gym or car seat, which is really useful. The Tiny Love Flip Cube seems to have more elements of fine motor control, which makes it something she can use until a much older stage of development. Both are focused on exploration and senses! There are different textures, pictures, mirrors and sounds associated with the cubes. The Lamaze cube has different things on each side, where the Tiny love has the ability to open up and reveal more toys inside, and is completely reversible. A small baby won’t be able to coordinate opening this and flipping it, but there are definitely more aspects to look at and explore with because of this feature, and it makes it something that can be useful until she is well over the age of 1 year!
A fold out book! I have the Tiny Love Princess book. The reason why I prefer the fold out book to the normal flip-through one is because babies younger than 4 months can use it without having to hold it, or have mom hold it for them. I like this one because it is double sided, one side for younger babies, the other for older babies who are able to visually process pictures and colours better. It also can stand if placed correctly, since it is super rigid! It also has little strings to tie it to the crib! I use it during tummy time and I have even placed it in the arch of the Gymini Developlace, as well as around the car seat. This is one of my favorite toys because it can be used in so many ways and is so portable as well! The colorful side has different textures and things to explore with too!
A fold-up stroller arch! This is my portable Activity Gym that can be clipped onto anywhere – the car seat, crib, bassinet or stroller. It can even be clipped onto the actual Activity Gym at home! I like the Tiny Love Woodland Arch, because it folds up really nicely and the toys it comes with are good too. My baby girl still prefers to look at us when she is in her stroller though, so we will probably start using this when she starts grasping and showing more of an interest in toys. It comes with a teether attached to it too!
Soft baby blocks! Very similar to the clutch cube, aimed at exploring with different textures, sounds and pictures. These are nice because they can be stacked at a later stage when she starts wanting to construct things, and also have numbers and letters and pictures for when she begins to learn concepts. They require a larger grasp than the clutch cube (since that has smaller “handles” to hold onto), which are nice to develop hand strength. They make great stocking fillers!
A sit-to-stride activity walker! This is advanced for the 0-6 month age band, since it helps with sitting, but it is multipurpose and goes all the way up to walking age. This is a type of walker that really does teach a baby how to walk since there is no support provided on the trunk, he has to learn how to balance and displace his weight on his own and in the most natural way. Taller babies should be observed with these because we don’t want them to almost lean over if the height of the toy is too low, and the same with babies who are too small to learn to walk, holding the handles when they are not the right height affects the arch and angle of the hips to the spine and affects the way we walk. A toy like this is useful to encourage sitting, especially when it can easily be moved to their side to encourage rotation of the trunk (a skill we learn so that we can crawl, and also use to move from sitting into the crawling position called 4-point kneeling). It is similar to the new crib activity centres that clip onto the crib and baby can sit and play there, but I personally want to keep the crib for sleep time, not associate it with play time. For this reason, I also don’t have a mobile over her crib – it is a stimulatory toy, which contradicts why we put them in the crib to begin with – to sleep!
And there you have it, perfect gifts for our perfect babies! This is a nice article to share with friends and family who want to buy your baby a gift but aren't so sure what to get for this age. I hope it proves useful in choosing some gifts that will last and ensure many hours of fun for your little one! I'll be sure to post this off to Santa from Peyton!
Happy playing, but most of all - I hope you all have a fantastic (and safe!) Festive Season!