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When do babies start playing with toys? What you need to know

If you can picture walking through the aisles of your favorite department store and perusing through the toy section, you might ask yourself, “When do babies start playing with toys?”

This is an excellent question considering that babies—from newborn to a year—are developing many skills in such a short amount of time. (That first year seems to fly by quickly, after all.) Hence, we have the scoop on when babies start playing with toys and which types of toys to choose for different phases.

crib mobile with lambs
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to play with a newborn

During the first few months, your newborn’s biggest source of entertainment is the people around them. At this age, you play a major role in your baby’s playtime. The sound of your voice and your face close by capture your baby’s attention more than any other stimuli in the room. When your baby hears your singing or talking, don’t be surprised if they turn their head to try to find you if you’re not within immediate sight. Since your baby’s vision might still be somewhat blurry during those first days, your face will be the first they recognize.

The best toys for newborns

For now, you’re primarily the one who’s “playing” with the toys with the goal of providing sounds and sights that facilitate learning and comfort for your baby. Some great toys for newborns include:

  • Small rattles
  • Toys with a variety of textures
  • Musical toys
  • Unbreakable crib mirrors

Likewise, your baby will gradually develop skills for self-comforting and keeping themself occupied. Thus, a crib mobile that has bright, contrasting colors and swirling, symmetrical shapes offers entertainment that promotes eye development and increased awareness of surroundings.

brightly colored butterfly toy
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to play with a 3 to 6-month-old baby

Once your baby grows out of the newborn phase, they experience some major milestones from rolling over to sitting up. Plus, their fine motor skills are developing at a rapid pace along with their ability to make sounds. At this point, toys come more into play, but you can also help your baby by placing their favorite items close enough to grasp. Also, you can teach them cause-and-effect relationships by demonstrating one action that brings about another, like peek-a-boo.

The best toys for young babies

At this point, you’ll be looking for teethers that are brightly colored, textured, and easy to grasp. Any other toys should also be lightweight but still a good size for grasping, cuddling, or even throwing. Some ideas are:

  • An O-ball
  • Multi-sensory toys
  • Cloth books
  • Play gyms
  • Cloth stuffed animals (remember not to leave them in the crib)

Additionally, when you combine age-appropriate toys with tummy time, your baby will build up the core muscles and fine motor skills. Propping up your baby with a pillow underneath the tummy will allow your baby to use their hands to manipulate the toys.

little girl with book and toys
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to play with an older baby (7 months to 1 year)

Keeping up with your baby, who’s now mobile, offers much fun for the both of you. However, at this age, your baby will also be accustomed to playing by themself. Nonetheless, the interaction between the two of you is still key to development, not to mention priceless. Since your baby can now sit up, you can roll a ball back and forth. Also, your little architect can start stacking blocks and rolling large, toy cars.

Other fun pastimes include board or cloth books that feature song lyrics, nursery rhymes, or animal sounds which encourage verbalizing and learning different sounds.

The best toys for older babies

Toys that encourage your baby to explore and gain mobility are ideal for this age. And yes, at this age, you can expect the toys to get noisier, but the sensory stimuli are very important at this age.

Some of the best toys for older babies include:

  • Blocks or stacking cups
  • Activity and pounding tables
  • Push walkers
  • Toy musical instruments

And even with all the bells and whistles that some toys have, your role in playing has not diminished, and your little one will have a blast playing with you or alongside another child.

So, when do babies start playing with toys? In short, they might not start playing independently until 4 months and older, but as you can see, every age has its own set of toys that are safe, fun, and even educational. From the newborn phase to the early toddler months, you can always find toys and books that your little one can enjoy.

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Leslie Anderson
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Leslie Anderson is a freelance writer/writing coach from Roswell, N.M. She enjoys gardening, cooking, and helping students…
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