When it comes to babies and play, the possibilities are absolutely endless. There are so many toys, different varieties, and various purposes. It can be super overwhelming when you are looking for toys.
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Some questions that I often receive are:
What are developmentally appropriate toys and what are some toys that I recommend for babies and toddlers overall?
It all starts with my theory on toys and play in the first few years of your baby!
Infants and toddlers are developing at a rapid pace with their cognition, gross and fine motor skills, coordination, vision, and sensory systems. When it comes to a babies sensory system, there are several parts to take into consideration. Think about the five senses, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and vision. When we are looking at toys, we want to focus on what is appropriate for each age. The market out there already does some of the guessing work for you, with those little 3 month + or 2 years and older signs on the toys. Some companies have also even upgraded further to put “catch words “such as: fine motor; cognition, gross motor, vision, coordination. I love this and think it can be super helpful for parents out there! However there are some barriers to this as well, because although these toys are labeled to work on some of those developmental areas, they may only be appropriate for that for a short period of time, or your infant is disinterested or having trouble with that toy.
Take a look at this video, its cute and it shows the everyday parental frustration of “why does my kid only want what I have”. Watch the video and come back to to hear this theory and how this video relates.
So, I have a theory on play and toys for the growing child. Infants especially the first 15 months of life are very sensitive to the world around them, as they should be! Their brains are interpreting every single thing 24/7 and it can be overwhelming for them.
Okay so, as you cans see, the random things win out basically every single time. So why is that? Here is my theory. First off the novelty of the baby toys may have a impact on why the baby gravitates consistently to the random and new object. However, my theory is that sometimes the baby toys can be overstimulating to some degree. Many babies can not handle several sensory inputs at a time (i.e. light up toy, with music, with nuts and bolts, and also has various textures on it). Think about yourself when you have a migraine. The kids are crying, the cartoons are blaring, you are staring at your computer screen trying to get your last minute email out, while your dinner alarm is going off. Your brain is working OVERDRIVE to stay on top of all of that.
As an OT, I am trained to watch babies responses. I look at how a child responses whenever a toy or new experience is introduced to them. Sometimes, I can see many babies get overwhelmed within 30-60 seconds of some of the toys that are introduced to them that are deemed “age appropriate”. Other times, infants and toddlers can have no trouble at all! I do not think there is anything necessarily wrong with a lot of the mainstream toys, but I do not believe that babies need all that stimulation all at once or all the time. They can fine tune their development with toys that focus one to two elements versus five or more. So going back to that video, I think that is why babies and toddlers gravitate towards “random objects”. One because of the novelty and interest on adult items, but also it isn’t overstimulating! You don’t usually see a kid crying because he or she is playing with mommy’s fork. They can explore and interact with the toy and have more control on how much stimulation they want, versus the toy doing it for them! Pretty cool concept right?
That is why I LOVE to follow various blogs, Pinterest boards, and instagrams to see all the novel activities for play out there. Many of the DIY toys or activities are lower stimulation overall, thus allowing your child to grade the level of input they are able to handle. Also because the toys/activities may not be overstimulating, it is easier for them to interact with a toy for a longer period of time. It is normal for infants and toddlers (especially 15-30 month olds) to be going form toy to toy, but I also feel that sometimes they could attend better with some lower stimulation toys.
Typical toys are still important! I don’t want you to go and throw all those colorful light up toys away. They are still so valuable to development. In my experience, I think that lower stimulation toys/activities are just more undervalued.
This leads me to a company that I absolutely adore! I continuously kick myself for not thinking of it myself. Lovevery is a phenomenal company that focuses on appropriate toys for various stages/ages of development and support parents in knowing that they are providing the best experiences for their infant during their development. It takes the guess work out of which toys are appropriate for each age!
I encourage you to check out Lovevery.com! They have various play kits, a phenomenal play gym that I highly recommend, and some other resources for new parents for their baby.
Reach out to me if you have more questions about play, are concerned your infant’s play skills are not developing as they should, or notice that your infant gets easily overstimulated during play. I’d love to help you out!