As soon as they’re born, babies begin to try to understand the world around them. They use their eyes, ears, noses, hands, and definitely their mouths to try to learn: Who is this? What is this? What can it do? What does it sound like? What is it for? What does it mean?
You can stimulate your baby’s senses, and help her brain grow, with these things to look at, touch, listen to, and chew on. The objects and toys may be simple, but the effect on your baby’s development is huge.
1. Something New
Grab your baby’s interest with novelty: Show him something he hasn’t seen before, and he’ll be curious to know more. This could be a new toy or book, which is why it’s a good idea to rotate your baby’s things to keep them fresh. Put out just a few toys and books at a time and keep the others reserved for another day, when they’ll seem like brand-new treasures.
But you can also delight your baby with something simple, like a set of shiny measuring spoons to jingle and gnaw on. Or offer him a big cardboard box to thump his hands on.
2. Something Blue
Or black and white, or red: Because your baby’s vision is still developing, she likes to look at black and white images and objects, or those that have strong, bold colors and contrast. So forget sweet baby pastels and bring on the brights!
Don’t be surprised if your baby loves to stare at the shadows created by your window blinds, or gravitates toward a green-and-white striped blanket over a pale pink one. And of course, you’ll find plenty of baby books and toys designed to appeal to infants’ interest in sharp outlines and contrasting colors.
3. Something to Do
Babies love to move, and they are fascinated by moving things around them. Busy boards with buttons to push and sounds to make let them explore the concept of cause and effect: Look what I can do! Littler babies enjoy simply watching motion, like the twirl of a mobile or fan or even the antics of a big brother or sister. Motion combined with noise is an especially big hit.
4. Something Like You
Guess what really fascinates your baby? You do! He loves looking at faces, especially yours and also his own. That’s why toys that incorporate mirrors are a big hit, and so are books with lots of pictures of baby faces.
Your baby also likes to do what you do, especially as he grows into the toddler stage. When you use a big spoon to stir something in a pot, he wants to do the same. When you push buttons on that really cool toy that turns on the TV, he certainly wants to try that, too. You can give him baby-safe objects that you use (like that big spoon), or toy versions of other fun things, like a mobile phone.