Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Best toys for 0-1 years development

Almost half a year ago I came across a blog post recommending 15 top baby toys. I'd been thinking about writing my own "mama advice" posts before then, but I think that was the post that really pushed me into writing letters to myself, and not just about mommy stuff (so far my only letter has been about making friends when moving to new places), but general tips and advices from my life experiences. These types of posts may only be useful to me, and that is enough. Who knows, it may be fun to one day look back and see what toys I used to aide in my childrens' development and exploration of the world.

So here's my list!

1. Books -- both board and cloth

We love board books of every kind! Touch and feel books, lift the flap books, classics, nursery rhymes, and on and on. There is no such thing as too many board books when it comes to a baby. They can be as rough as they want with them and hardly do any damage. I read each of my kids two or three stories before every nap and we read stories as a family at bedtime each night. During the day we snuggle up on the couch and read. My kids are free to make the biggest mess they want with the kids books on the bookshelves (lowest shelf, so that it is super accessible for them).

For babies, I also love cloth books. Though I don't think there is as big a need to stock up on dozens of cloth books as there is board books.  I have 5, and we really only use/read 3 of them. The nice thing about cloth books is kids can sleep with them a lot more comfortably than board books. Also, they tend to be interactive in nature. Of the 5 we have, the only ones I have felt are really worth their buck are the Lamaze and Manhattan Toy brand ones. Unfortunately, I think all 3 of the ones we have are discontinued (discovery farm, where is caterpillar, and good puppy). I loved these cloth books so much I decided to branch out and try a less expensive but highly recommended brand off amazon and I was sorely disappointed. I would recommend spending a few more dollars for the Lamaze or Manhattan Toy cloth books. Sometimes better quality is worth the higher price.

2. Teether w/ rattle and gummy

We haven't splurged on Sophie the Giraffe yet, but she is by far the #1 teething toy on the market. For me, a teether has to serve more than one purpose. Most the ones we have double as a rattle. My kids seem to prefer teethers that have both a hard surface and a gummy, gel-filled surface. These are great because you can throw them in the freezer and let the cold gel sooth those sore little gums. Just be cautious once your child grows their teeth. A friend told me her gummy liquid teether popped once her baby had sharp enough teeth to chew a hole into it. Yikes! We haven't had that problem yet, and all our gel teeters are sassy brand.

3. Ball w/ rattle

There are so many different versions of this kind of toy, and apparently we can't have too many baby balls with rattles in them (I actually regret returning an o-ball someone gifted us when Nell was born). I think a couple of those pictured above have made it into the goodwill pile a time or two, only to be pulled out and kept a little longer. My personal favorite has been the Manhattan Toy Winkle (far left). It has the widest range of use. It works as a rattle, a ball, a teether, and it helps develop grasping muscles.

4. Baby Gym

This is probably the priciest item on my list, but it does not have to be a splurge item. Although I must confess if/when #3 comes I think I will finally splurge on a nicer and newer baby gym. The baby gym Reid used was a hand me down with lots of hard plastic elements. It had some nice features -- soft blanket, rattles, spiny ball, dangling farm characters -- but when Nell came around I replaced it with a newer (still at least half a decade old), softer baby gym we found at a garage sale. To be honest the baby gym was nice to have with Reid, but it was a lifesaver with Nell. This is why I may splurge if we add a #3 to our household. The more children you have to divide your time between, the more time baby is likely to spend lounging around in a baby gym.

5. Attachment toys

I'm really not sure what the technical term for these kinds of toys are. But we take them everywhere and attach them to everything. Strollers, car seats, the baby gym, and now they even hang on Nell's teething guard in her crib. There is so much variety with these toys as well. Taggie makes ones with tags, which all kids have an infinite love for. Sassy makes some that shake and vibrate when pulled on. Lamaze (I promise they did not pay me for this post) makes the most versatile ones in my opinion. We love Freddie the Firefly (pictured above).

6. Lovey/doll/stuffed animal

Reid and puppy's bond started early!

And feels like it may never end!
Lovies are an important part of child development in this house. Reid's love for puppy started early on, and I'm not sure it will ever fade. Attachment to a favorite stuffed animal, blanket, lovey, or doll is an important part of emotional development. I personally love the half doll - half blanket lovey I've boughten for each of my kids at Carter's. Animal and doll like lovies don't just foster emotional development, but also verbal and life skill development. Reid's beloved puppy has taken baths (when he's dirty he goes through the washer), was the first to get his hair buzzed ("see, it didn't hurt puppy, now it is your turn"), and has had his diaper changed and most recently he pooped on the toilet! The list goes on and on. If your child's favorite stuffed animal can survive something traumatic, so can your child. It is magical.

7. Baby instruments

Inviting play

Invitation accepted!
Hours and hours of play, for age 6 months to 7 years (at least)
Babies love music and they love making their own music. Hoehner is my recommended child instrument producer. Reid was given the five piece toddler set (with in tune glockenspiel) for his first birthday, and Nell was given the four piece baby band for her first Christmas. Reid loves playing my keyboard and my Malaysian bongo drum as well.

8. Table

We have the standard fischer price baby table at our house. I'm not a big fan of battery operated, flashy noise toys, but I do think the baby table is a must. Be sure to buy one with removable legs, for the most versatile use. When Nell first started sitting I put the table, legless, on the floor in front of her. Once she was a little more stable and was army crawling around I put two of the four legs on the table so that she could play with it angled off the floor. Now that she is cruising it has all four legs attached. I do feel like this is the kind of toy that has to be put away and hidden every now and then. Once you bring it back a little bit of the novelty returns with it.

9. Fill and spill

There are lots of options for plush fill and spill toys. We have the Manhattan Toy Put and Peek Bird House toy (since the Szilagyi family loves bird watching). I definitely recommend it. I love that it has three options for filling. It may not be the greatest for spilling, but that is a sacrifice I'm willing to make for such challenge and versatility in fine motor practice. Plus the plush birdies have rattles and are great for babies favorite game, putting things in the mouth!

10. Tummy time mirror

Her very own entertainment center, in case mommy can't run in right away when she wakes up.
When I originally drafted this post (months and months ago) I had mirrors below, on my runner up list, but Nell really does love her mirror. So, in my need to make this list a complete 10, I'll make mirrors the #10 item. Mirrors can be used at a young age during tummy time and actually work great as a great motivator for head lifts. They can be attached to the above mentioned baby gyms or even to crib railings (the later is how we use ours). I actually earned our mirror for free through the pampers rewards program. I ordered it after seeing how much Nell loved her cousin, Henry's, mirror.


Notable runner ups would be baby blocks (rubber or cloth) and plastic links ... they are both on OT Mama's list, but Reid survived/developed just fine without playing baby blocks (and a mirror for that matter) and neither of my kids have ever spent much time playing with links. The plastic links were of little use to us until I decided to dangle some of the hanging toys from Nell's crib guard. I'm sure from a development stand point these are all great toys, but I figure they have to have developmental value and hold a babies attention in order to make it on my top ten list.

Also, this post isn't complete if I don't mention how much we love our jumperoo! I'm a little torn by not including it on this list. But ... I know some Drs and occupational therapists warn against using them, and especially against using them too much. And I have to confess, one of the main reasons I love our jumperoo is because I throw Nell in it every morning while I shower. She always enjoys her time in it, but I fully admit this toy's purpose is mainly safety and convenience, and not development.

Sometimes mommy just needs a break!


Anonymous said...

Great ideas. Can't wait for my next baby! Mom won't cooperate with me, so I guess it's up to you, Laura, Mel or Rena.
We're somewhat overdue, so get busy!

Scott and Claudia said...

Love Nell's attachment toy aka her thumb! You will have to have some more babies to use up all those toys!

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