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Robin Gilbert

Just how many toys does a baby need? A tip from The Classic Baby Closet

Another tip from The Classic Baby Closet:

Just how many toys does a baby need?

Well, your great grandma would tell you back in her day, babies were happy with a doll made from a sock or corn husks, or a teddy made from burlap and stuffed with straw!

Through the progressive years toy producers, albeit factory or small toy shops, strived to come up with safest, the brightest and the most educational toy to be had!

Now many toys are rated by age, and developmental uses, such as puzzles. These have improved from the sharp edged, hard board jigsaw shaped puzzles, to the simple smooth shaped with large knobs designed for the youngest of puzzle fans!

All parents want the best or most appropriate toys for their new baby. Martha Mae down the street has wonderfully hand crafted shelves adorning her princess’ nursery. Each shelf is carefully organized with specialty toys shipped from the ‘best’ toys producers around the world. From exquisite hand embroidered plush blocks, to silver plated rattle.

As we all may have witnessed, toss an empty box to an older baby and watch the fun ensue! Having the most expensive, the best name brand infant toys do not make a baby any smarter than those given the simpler forms of toys.

Sure, the Moms in the baby play group may be envious and the nursery probably looks spectacular, but…..is it really necessary?

Nowadays, emphasis is on the safety and sterilizing factors of baby toys. Especially in group care facilities, many licensing guidelines insist that toys are able to go through a sterilizing process.

Thus, limiting the kinds of baby toys used in the groups. Water proof, hard plastic toys with no metal or leaking seams are most likely to be purchased.

In a home setting, many parents are satisfied with surface washable toys, and those that can soak in the sink with a bit of safe soap.

So often babies are inundated with stuffed plush animals that cannot be machine washed and can collect dust, and all the germs that are around a baby. Some are able to be a bit sterilized by tossing in a dryer, using the heat process to help stave off any parasites.

I, myself have vacuumed a plush collection of furry friends, even setting them in the sun for several hours!

The topic of this article is just how many toys does a baby really need?. Some are under the impression that the more a baby has... the smarter they will become and even the faster they will learn.

A new baby’s brain starts rapidly developing with each stimulus it receives, but…there is only so much we parents can control.

Too much stimulation can shut down even the most gifted baby’s brain, just to get a break!

Many newborns give us the clues to over stimulation. From the earliest form, a baby merely averting his gaze away from the stimulation, the baby’s way of resting his brain.

Some will become fussy, and try to move away. Others just simply nod off!

Many of us have experienced this with even the toddler stage, we may be engaged in what we, adults perceive as a fun activity, only to have the child just fall apart, perhaps in a tantrum, or the child runs off to mommy.

We may believe the child to be ungrateful, spoiled or suffering from those dreaded ‘terrible twos’, but……..we should consider there is only so much these youngsters can deal with, adults can curb the urge for frustration, but at certain stages of everyone’s life those urges are difficult to suppress.

So, is the answer to supply so many toys the child never gets bored and can easily transfer from one toy to another when frustrated? Or perhaps is it better to set out fewer choices, or exchange some toys for those that were put away, thus allowing less frustration and brand new experiences, even with toys used prior.

The youngest of newborns definitely benefit from simple forms of stimulation. Gazing at a caregiver’s face, learning to recognize every facial feature.

Learning that pleasurable experiences come from the smallest of interactions. See how Mommy reacts when her baby seemingly attempts the first coo! Both baby and mommy are learning through one on one interaction…no toys even involved!

So, you say, hey, we parents can’t just sit and entertain our babies with one on one constantly! Remember, even your baby needs a break from....you, too!

So, which toys are best for baby’s development and entertainment? As in every baby has its own personality, each has different reactions to different toys.

Some are frightened by the soft smiling teddy Grandma insists gets propped in the crib. Some babies light up by the same rattley, over washed lovey doll.

Many babies enjoy handling ‘just the right size’ toys, those they can hold without being too heavy, those that can be mouthed and are easily accessible.

In my personal experience with my own newborn’s favorite activity (of course I deemed it his favorite) was to lay him on his secure changing area, with colored links draped above.

Some links allowed rattly toys to be batted about. Other links encouraged reaching and hand eye coordination.

He would get so excited and pleased with himself when he achieved a new goal, perhaps to chew on the link itself or to make a great clanking noise by kicking his feet on the table!

I would stand back from view and allow him to have the experience himself. It was wonderful watching this young newborn learn about how his own body worked and with only a few plastic links and rattles.

I continued that activity as long as he could maintain himself. I did engage with him at times, but for the most part he became so excited just at the glimpse of the activity area.

I would even exchange the links for mobiles or a few safe plush friends.

Of course newborn toys are somewhat limited in their use, as are the newborns themselves.

Many parents can recall the first time their newborn was able to hold onto a rattle, even if just for a few seconds. Each time getting longer until that precious smart baby could reach out and take the toy themselves!

Such a big smile on mom and dad’s face it would bring!

Though all newborns go through many of the same phases of development, each and every newborn reaches those milestones in their own way. Some take a bit longer, only meeting the goal when they themselves are secure enough. Others breeze right through, almost missing the opportunity for full development of a skill.

Studies have shown that newborns are able to developmentally, as well as physically grow from having some form of stimulation.

This isn’t meant to suggest that if you have only a few sorted toys, and have to work full time, compared to stay at home Martha Mae down the street, or have to send your child to a child care center that your baby will be lacking compared to your neighbors.

The studies are meant to show that every living being has the ability to go forth through experiences, trials and tribulations, different forms of education, interactions with others and environments and most of all love!

So, piling hundreds of toys on your smallest family member is not necessary to show a form of love. Cuddling, playing back and forth games, reading, taking trips to the park, even just walking around your 25th floor apartment building hallways together, can give your child much needed interaction and brain stimulus that helps form a lasting bond.

And, also helps the yearning for life branch out from infancy to a well rounded member of society!

Below I have included a compiled list of appropriate infant and toddler toys, (in my opinion) as well as some at home substitutes,

Please keep in mind safety in baby toys comes from secure, well made items, tested for ages and above all else, supervision!

Purchased/handmade items: For newborns to about twelve months (a good rule of thumb for mouthable toys, if it fits inside a toilet paper card board roll…it is too small for your baby!) Rattles, teethers and musical toys should be made of light weight, mouthable material, that can be washed, no metal, small parts (like winders) or sharp edges, beware of long pull cords, all painted surfaces should meet federal guidelines, all mobiles should be taken down once baby is standing!

Interlocking plastic links/rings (be sure baby’s hands/feet cannot get caught in rings and that links are not too small or open to allow getting stuck inside the mouth)

Unbreakable (washable) mirrors secured to a crib side or large enough not to chew on the reflective material.

Soft squeeze toys and balls that are large enough not to fit in the mouth, yet small enough and light enough to hold in one hand. Beware of any squeaker pieces that may dislodge! (no squeakers is preferable) Also be sure painted surfaces are deemed safe!

Soft baby books made of vinyl or cloth for washing, if using cardboard ones beware of chewed edges, some vinyl have sharp edges! (Again, be sure any painted surfaces are safe.)

Floor gyms/play mats be sure all hanging items are age appropriate, secured and the hanging device is not used once the baby is mobile! Also beware of worn connectors on mats, toys may come loose!

Stackable toys for infants that can sit up, look out for sharp edges and be sure painted surfaces are deemed safe!

Bath toys beware of painted surfaces, that they meet federal guidelines, the toy should be appropriate sized and watch for squirters/squeakers that may dislodge! Bath toys also should be sterilized between uses then thoroughly dried and drained of standing water! (newer bath toys may have no squeakers so water cannot get inside)

Push and pull toys use age appropriate toys with painted surfaces that are safe, again, look for sharp edges, be aware of wooden toys that splinter, look for loose wheels, and pull cords that are too long!

Items from home that are great fun too! (Please note, use of any items mentioned here is at the caregivers own risk, supervision should be given as necessary!)

Sturdy laundry baskets make great safe, baby holders, keeps toys within reach for baby. Look for sharp edges, or weak sides that may have thin sharp plastic latticing. Be sure baby cannot flop over, Place basket against/on a firm surface.

A flat secure surface, belted changing table, large lipped porta crib for dangling items for baby’s viewing and reaching.

Homemade mobiles use plastic coat hangers and purchased rings, or items can be tied with string, yarn ect. Secured shiny spoons, pictures of the family (tape on the back of colored wooden spoons),secured large colorful beads, large colored hair bows, shiny colorful Christmas ribbons/bows (be sure mobiles are out of babies reach)

Colorful plastic cups drinking or measuring,manipulating, look for sharp chewed edges

Colorful small plastic bowls and plates great for balancing and matching games,beware of painted surfaces, chewed or chipped areas.

Old remote controls remove batteries, look for loose buttons, and wipe down after use.

Clear small soda bottle filled with a few marbles/colorful beads,or with water and glitter, be sure cap is secure and not sharp and with no ink, please supervise!

Cloth crinkle ball use a new sturdy adult sock, fill with beans, beads crumpled wrapping paper ECT and tie a large knot (watch for wetness if chewed)

Sound roller coffee or hot cocoa tin with added beans, beads, marbles ect, hot glue or superglue the lid on, even cover with cloth, (always supervise when using, be sure the sound is not too loud, a cardboard container is best until the baby is older)

Stacking toys use empty tissue boxes of all sizes, can be covered with sewn cloth, stuffed with cloth to make sturdy, remove any plastic, look for sharp edges, supervise baby to prevent chewing.

These are just a few ideas, you may see others online just please use caution if using foam or contact paper, shrink plastic or packing tape ect. Beware of letting your baby chew on cell phones, active or inactive! They contain unsafe material! Chewing on these items can be harmful!

Even if making foam baby blocks covered in cloth, be sure they are washable!

If you would like more ideas for playing with your baby and toys, please feel free to email me at classicbabycloset@gmail.com

If you would like to...please visit my website The Classic Baby Closet

I offer a huge assortment of baby items, from feeding, to clothing to toys, mostly geared for ages preemie to about three months. I hope to meet you there!

This article was written by Robin Gilbert

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