Friday, September 25, 2009

Black, white, & red all over: Developmental toys for the early days

The hospital discharges you and you head home with your beautiful new bundle of joy. They eat, sleep, poop, and spit up. You try and do the same. But isn't there more to this baby thing? What about playtime? Admittedly, in the early days your baby isn't much more than a cute little lump, but there are still ways to entertain them and help them move along the cognitive path to enlightenment (sorry, just read the new Dan Brown!). So what are babies interested in the first few months? Here's a few things Pooka seemed to enjoy.

Newborns spend a lot of time in their bassinets and cribs, so that's a good place to start. There are tons of mobiles to chose from that will keep your baby entertained, but the Wimmer Ferguson Infant Stim-Mobile by Manhattan Toy is an award winning design with simple black and white images that can later be changed for color images as baby's eyesight improves. As Pooka got older, she would lift her legs to kick the mobile and watch it spin. The mobile wasn't the only thing Pooka has in her crib. We also placed Wee Gallery Art Cards for Baby around the crib's edge. The simple black and white illustrations of animals give her something to look at when she is falling asleep or waking up. We also use them the old fashioned way an hold them up for her to gaze at. Another option that one of our mom friend uses is the Double Sided First Book from Tiny Love to wrap around her co-sleeper, and I have also seen them used in stroller bassinets. Finally, we hung the Manhattan Toy Color Burst Mirror on the side of the crib. She didn't really look at the mirror in the beginning but she did like the pattern around the edge. Now she uses the mirror for tummy time.

What about the awake time outside the crib? The item that totally blew our minds was when we showed Pooka the Begin Smart Baby Faces book. She was four weeks old and just stared at the photos, particularly the black and white ones. I had heard babies are into these books, but was unprepared for Pooka's intensity. We also have the DK Eyewitness Baby Faces book, but Pooka prefers the black and white borders in the Begin Smart book.

It will be a while before baby will be able to hold a toy, but there are a few that will interest them now when held in your hands and they will eventually grow into them. One of our favorites is a wrist rattle, which helps babies learn where their limbs are (it's really fun to watch them figure out that they have arms, then elbows, then hands and fingers). We have the black and white Infant Stimulation Panda Wrist Rattle from Genius Babies. It is darn cute and Pooka loves to stare at it when it is on her wrist. These days we attach it to the wrist of her Mi Yim Organic Plush Benjamin Frog so it rattles when she grabs it. All of the Whoozit toys from Manhattan Toy are also fabulous. We attached the Whoozit Baby Whoozit to Pooka's stroller and play gym. The black and white side is perfect for the early days, and as her eyesight improved we flipped the Whoozit to the colorful side. It was also one of the first toys she reached for. She would grab the colorful stuffed loops and triangles hanging from the bottom. They are made with different fabrics and textures and are the perfect size for petit fingers, and at 5 months old Pooka is still fascinated by her Whoozit. We also had a Whoozit Rattle (which doesn't appear to be on thier site anymore) that had the same black and white bulls-eye on one side and face on the other. Even at two weeks old Pooka would track the high contrast rattle with her eyes when we held it in front of her. Now she holds it and shakes it all on her own.

The other fantastic and interactive toy Pooka loved was her Tiny Love Gymini in Black, White and Red. It is a bit difficult to find (it's not on the Tiny Love site but can be found on Amazon) but worth the extra effort. Pooka loved to stare at the black and white arches at first, then gradually took interest in the hanging toys, especially the mirror. This gym does not have crazy lights or lots of sounds like many of the others out there. It's all about contrast, although one of the toys does play a lullaby when squeezed. To compare, we also have the Garden Floral Activity Gym from Skip Hop (replaced by Farmyard Activity Gym), and Pooka wasn't nearly as engaged with it the first few months. Don't get me wrong, it's super cute and we love it, but it didn't capture Pooka's attention the same way the Gymini did.

This is obviously just a sample of the developmental toys available for the 0-3 month set, but these are the ones that worked well for Pooka. Definitely check out the Genius Babies site for the best assortment of developmental toys out there. It may look like nothing's going on in that tiny little head, but babies absorb tons in those first few months!

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