Through play infants and toddlers learn about themselves, about others, and about the world around them. Finding out what things are, and what they do becomes a key focus of your child’s attention and efforts. Play builds the imagination, stimulates the senses and creates opportunities for success. The benefits of play are so great that every day should be a day of play!
As a parent, you are your child’s very first and most important playmate. You can foster play through interaction and by providing developmentally appropriate toys, materials and experiences. Infant-parent play encourages babies to explore their surroundings, enhances attention (while ensuring infants do not become over-aroused), promotes language development and provides babies with a feeling of control over their environment, necessary for fostering self-confidence and intellectual growth. As well as promoting key skills important for later development, playtime can be an especially important bonding time for you and your child.
Rattles, black & white toys or toys with high contrast designs, mobiles, play gyms, bells, rattles, toys that incorporate varied textures and sound (young babies rely on their senses to learn), wrist rattles and foot finders, musical toys (ones that baby can activate), cloth balls, cloth books, soft blocks, teething toys, colourful pictures and books, pictures of people/faces, mirrors (great for encouraging tummy time once your baby is about 2.5 months), activity mats, recorded music, cause-and-effect toys.
Add from 6 months: wooden blocks, lightweight colourful balls, paddling pool, toy telephones, toy animals, activity walkers that babies can hold on to, outdoor toys and swings.
See our activities section for instructions on how to make a high contrast mobile for bub.
Push and pull toys, balls of different sizes, simple puzzles with large pieces and knobs (loose fit is preferable so children do not get frustrated), peg boards, posting boxes, shape sorters, stacking toys, paper and large crayons for drawing, riding toys, toys for sandpit and water play (e.g., mini spades and rakes, buckets, cups of different sizes), miniature life toys (e.g., iron, tea cups, lawn mowers, shopping carts), dolls, cars/trucks, simple musical instruments (e.g., drum), paddling pools, cubby house, activity gyms/climbing frames.
This article was written by Dr Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett, PhD, Consultant and Lecturer, Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University