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Baby Toy Buying Guide

Laura Doss

Your newborn finds endless joy in just gazing at you (and vice versa), but soon he’ll start to show interest in toys. But when it comes to plaything for babies, there’s more than meets the eye. What might seem too cute could actually be too dangerous—or just a big bore. We’ve got info to help you choose wisely, so your baby is happy, engaged and perfectly safe.

What Babies Want

From 0 to 1, babies explore their fascinating new world through their senses, which are swiftly developing as they see, touch, smell, hear and taste everything they possibly can. For the first couple of months, though, babies are a light on motor skills, so they rely on their eyes and ears to soak it all in. They gravitate toward bright primary or high-contrast colors with simple designs and changes in sound. This is the best time for a crib mobile—your baby can’t reach it (it’s a strangulation hazard when they can), and it provides a great source of entertainment. Attach it about 8 to 14 inches from your baby’s eyes, then as soon as he can push himself up on hands and knees, or at 5 months old, (whichever comes first), remove it from the crib. By about 8 weeks, your baby is ready for rattles and teethers, cloth toys, soft squeeze balls, and musical and chime toys.

As soon as babies can reach and grab, they’ll get a thrill from textured toys that are safe to test out in their mouths. It’s also tummy time, and cloth interactive activity mats are perfect for that. Disks and keys on a ring give them something to hold, shake and listen to, and teething toys always win raves. “At 6 months, all those teething toys come into play as they become more orally fixated and they’re cutting teeth,” says Adam Cohen, who blogs at DadaRocks.com, a kid product review site.

When babies start to sit up, they’re also mastering hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills. “They love banging, repetition with open and shut, toys that are cause and effect,” says Adrienne Appell, spokesperson for the Toy Industry Association. They like to see what their bodies can do—and they’re dying to practice! Give them balls, push and pull toys, nesting and stacking toys, activity cubes, shape sorters, pop-up toys, squeaky toys, rubber blocks, large pop beads, and simple musical instruments.

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