Eat, Sleep, Play! When Do Babies Play with Toys?

Are you a new mom, with your bundle of joy safely ensconced at home with you? Are you now in the routine of eat, sleep, diaper change, and repeat? You might be wondering, when do babies start playing with toys?

Life has changed and all your attention now revolves around your newborn. While it’s wonderful to spend hours just gazing at them, you might want to know when they’ll start interacting with you.

Let’s take a look at when babies play with toys and what sort of toys they might like.

When Babies Play with Toys

All babies love to play but when can you expect them to do what? When will they start reaching for toys, or playing with them on their own?

Let’s break it down into some developmental stages and what sort of toys might be best for each stage.

1. Birth to One Month

A newborn’s world consists of what they can see about eight to 10 inches in front of them. Their vision will not be clear, although they might move their eyes and follow your face, or respond to contrasting colors. As their vision develops, your little one might start tracking objects or reaching for things (source).

You may also notice that your little one will grasp their tiny fingers around anything that’s placed in or near their hands. This could be your finger, your hair, or a dangling earring or necklace.

That grip can be vicelike and hard to break. I quickly learned to keep my long hair tied up, and not to wear dangly jewelry.

This reflex reaction is called the “palmar grasp,” and lasts up until a baby is about six months old. It’s thought to happen to prepare them for grasping things voluntarily as they get older (source).

Your baby’s hearing is another aspect of development that helps them play. They’ll begin to turn towards noises or familiar voices (source).

During this stage of your baby’s life, talk to them as much as you can. Let them see changing facial expressions, smiles, and silly faces.

You could give them smooth rings or rattles which are easy to grasp. Walk around with your little one while singing to them. You don’t need to have a voice like Mariah Carey; they’ll be just as pleased to hear your out-of-tune renditions of lullabies or your favorite songs.

These interactions will encourage baby to follow the sound of your voice and movements.

2. Two to Three Months

Babies will now start to control their arms and legs and also begin to develop hand-eye coordination (source).

The type of toys your baby is likely to enjoy playing with at this stage will be those they can see easily or ones that make a noise.

Bright colors and textures, like those on a playmat, are a good option. Give your baby some tummy time and let them explore. You can dangle bright toys just over their head to encourage them to lift their head, improving neck strength.

Try a baby gym, which will have hanging toys to attract your child’s attention and arouse their curiosity. They’ll likely try to reach for them. The floors of these gyms often have different textures and colors to keep baby amused.

At this stage, babies play with toys which you put in their hands. As well as textured activity blankets, consider things like activity boxes which have movement and sound. Soft blocks, plastic cars, rattles, and balls are good options.

3. Four to Six Months

By this stage, your baby will start grabbing toys that interest them within their reach. They will begin playing with toys on their own, and guess what they do? They put them in their mouths (source).

This is one way your little one learns how things feel, and taste. There are lots of nerve endings in a baby’s mouth, which is easier for them to access than prodding or poking with their fingers (source).

Make sure any toys you choose are large enough that they can’t swallow or choke on them. There should be no sharp edges or toxic substances. Also, make sure the toys aren’t heavy enough to hurt them when dropped – you can almost guarantee they’ll lose their grip at some point.

What Should I Look For?

Now we know when babies play with toys, what factors should we be considering?

  • Color and contrast: Until eight weeks, babies can usually only see black and white. This can help them to pick out patterns and shapes. As babies develop, they’ll love bright colors.
  • Noises: Wind chimes, rattles, and musical mobiles help baby learn where sounds are coming from. Squeaky toys are as much fun for your baby as they are for a puppy, although they’ll drive you crazy once they get the hang of it! Music is also thought to be beneficial, so — as long as they respond well — don’t hesitate to turn on the speakers and turn up the volume.
  • Movement: Baby will follow a moving object when their eyesight is developing. They’ll see it more easily than something which is stationary.
  • Texture: Fabric books and toys which have different textures will help stimulate the senses and encourage exploration. Babies love to play with toys which feel different to them.
  • Hanging toys: Toys that are suspended overhead will encourage baby to reach for them, and can help them develop their grasping skills.

It’s Playtime!

No two babies are the same. Your baby might begin playing with toys or start grabbing toys earlier or later than the timelines we have described. Whenever it is, this will be great fun for them and for you.

Babies play with toys when they’re content, so make sure they have had their nap and been fed. They will also let you know when they’ve had enough, by discarding the toys, becoming fussy or losing interest (source).

We hope you enjoyed our brief guide on when babies play with toys, and found it useful. Please leave us a comment about your own experiences, and don’t forget to share with other moms.

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