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Choosing Toys for Babies

By Elizabeth Pantley, author of Gentle Baby Care and The No-Cry Sleep Solution

What store-bought toys are best?
A while ago, I went to the toy store to buy my youngest child, Coleton, a toy that my older three adored when they were babies. It was a simple pop-up toy for toddlers with various buttons, levers, and dials. I found a bewildering variety of this kind of toy, but to my dismay, every single one was electronic. They made sounds, they made music, they had blinking lights - they just about played by themselves! I finally had to order the prized toy from a specialty catalog that carries "back to basics" toys. Sure, electronic toys can be exciting - for a while - but they can also stunt your baby's developing ability to imagine and manipulate (and let's face it: those repetitive electronic sounds can get annoying). If a toy does everything by itself, it loses its potential as a tool for developing creativity. Also, if your little one gets used to these toys, then simple pleasures like wooden blocks seem boring by comparison because he expects the blocks to play for him. And those simple toys are among the very best for baby playtime.

Look for these qualities as you shop for your baby:

  • Long-term play value: Will this hold your little one's attention for more than a few weeks?

  • Durability: Will it hold up when sat on, thrown, jumped on, mouthed, or banged?

  • Solid simplicity: Babies don't need complicated toys.

  • Challenge: Look for toys that teach but do not frustrate.

  • Appropriateness: Does it match your baby's thinking, language, and motor skills?

  • Interest: Will it encourage your baby to think?

  • Stimulation: How does this toy foster creativity and imagination?

  • Interactiveness: Does it engage your child or just entertain him as he watches passively?

  • Versatility: Can your baby play with this in more than one way?

  • Washability: Well-loved toys tend to get very dirty!

  • Fits with your family value system: Does this toy reflect your family's particular values? For example, is the toy friendly to the environment? Does it promote diversity? Are you comfortable with what the toy represents?

  • Novelty: Is this toy different from others your baby already has? You don't want a toy box filled with 30 different kinds of rattles!

  • Fun appeal: Is it something that you will enjoy playing with, too? Toys that encourage you to play along with your baby are ideal.

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