Baby Toys: A Playtime Guide for Every Age

baby playing with toys

When Do Babies Start Playing With Toys?

Playing is an important part of development for babies, toddlers, and children of all ages. Even newborns can benefit from it. Most new parents usually wonder when babies start playing with toys — after all, you probably got some really cool toys and gadgets at your baby shower. The truth is that babies start playing with toys almost right from the start. How they play is what changes as they get older. Our guide for playtime will take you through each stage of a baby and toddler’s life to show you just what toys they need and how they’ll interact with them.

Newborns to Three Months

While you won’t find that babies start playing with toys until they are around three months old, you will find that they are still interested in them up until that point. Their vision isn’t that great at first so any toys you do use to interact with them should be held less than a foot in front of their little faces. You’ll also want to choose toys that feature strongly contrasting colors, like black and white, which helps them see better. During this earliest stage, your baby will enjoy hearing new and unique sounds, so rattles and toys that beep or play music might be fun for a little stimulation during playtime. Just keep in your mind that your little one can’t yet grasp toys, so you’ll have to hold on to them during playtime.

Three to Six Months

Once they reach three months, the real fun begins. This is when babies start playing with toys by actually batting at them and grasping for them without help from older people. As a matter of fact, holding a small toy in front of your baby can help her work on her motor skills. This also helps her build upper body strength and eventually, helps her with the ability to hold her head up. Keep in mind that during this stage, as babies start playing with toys, they also start putting them into their mouths, usually around five months. This means you’ll want to avoid any toys with small parts that can break or have sharp edges. You’ll also want to avoid any potentially toxic toys or toys that are too heavy and could fall on your little one.

Activity Gyms

One of the best toys for babies between three and six months is a small activity or play gym. You can place your baby on her back and allow her to watch and reach for the toys that hang from it. The gyms can help with grasping and reaching motions, vision, some cognitive activities, motor skills, and movement. When you shop for a gym, look for one that is easy to wash. You’ll also want to make sure it has bright and contrasting colors, especially if you want to use it with your baby before she reaches three months.

Six to Twelve Months

By the time your baby reaches six months old, you’ll wonder if you even have enough toys in the house. At this age, babies start playing with toys on their own more, and it’s so much fun to watch, especially as she begins crawling and walking. You’ll notice that your little one is holding more toys, shaking them, throwing them, passing them from one hand to another, and exploring to find out just what exactly she can do with her hands. She may enjoy pulling toys out of a container and putting them back in. Noises, contrasting colors, and bright colors are still enticing at this age too. Again, always make sure you choose soft, easy-to-handle toys that won’t cause a choking hazard and don’t have sharp edges.

Twelve to Eighteen Months

By the time your baby is a year old, she’s ready to explore. She will most likely be walking, crawling, climbing, and getting into absolutely everything. Because she’s mobile and extremely curious, you’ll want to keep enough toys around to keep her interested. In other words, toys are a necessity by this stage of life. To help with their balance and leg strength, babies start playing with toys that they can push around or walk with at this age, in addition to the smaller items they enjoyed when they were younger.

Babies and toddlers in this age range may even be able to describe some objects with words or, at least, point to them when you mention them. They may also begin to mimic the things you do, like pretend to drink out of a cup or talk on a phone.

Eighteen Months to Two Years

By eighteen months, your baby is no longer a baby at all. She’s a toddler who can walk, talk, and play like she’s been doing it all of her life. Babies start playing with toys they can manipulate at this age, like sorting toys, magnets, small puzzles, and toys that require you to push buttons to make them work. They also appreciate toys that mimic real-world items, like plastic food and dishes or dolls and stuffed animals. And while toddlers at this stage can handle smaller and larger toys than they could before, it’s still important to remember that they can get hurt easily.

General Tips for Playing with Your Baby

No matter how many cool gadgets your little one has, when babies start playing with toys, it doesn’t mean they no longer want to play with mom, dad, and other adults. As a matter of fact, it’s more important for your to spend time playing with your baby than it is for you to ensure she has all of the latest toys on the market. Here are some tips for playing with your baby for the first year:

  • Talk and make funny faces while you play to provide your baby with extra stimulation.
  • Read books, listen to music, and sing together, even during the first few months before babies start playing with toys on their own.
  • Once your baby is around two months old, make sure she gets some tummy time every day to help build up her strength.
  • Never use the TV or a car seat as a babysitter. Your baby should have a safe place to play with plenty of stimulating toys, especially as she gets older,.
  • Babies have short attention spans, so pay attention to signs that she may be tired of playing, including turning her head away, crying, arching her back, yawning, falling asleep, and general fussing.

Toy Shopping Tips

When babies start playing with toys, it’s hard not to buy everything available in the store. However, when you do shop, keep these tips for buying safe toys that will make your little one happy in mind:

  • When younger babies start playing with toys, look for items that have bright colors, that have highly-contrasting colors, and that make sounds for added stimulation.
  • Once your baby is a little older, look for toys that are soft and easy to grasp. She will also enjoy toys with different textures.
  • Avoid any toy that isn’t non-toxic or safe for your baby to put into her mouth.
  • Check the box to see if a toy is age-appropriate. Read all labels. It may have small parts that your little one can choke on.
  • Avoid cheap or poorly-made toys that may fall apart easily.
  • Avoid toys that could fall on your baby, trap her in a small area (like her crib), or suffocate her if she gets stuck underneath them.