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From your baby's first mobile to shape sorters, walkers and balls, the toys you choose for your little one will all help them learn through play
Babies have lots of skills to learn. Their senses of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste, and their motor skills, are all developing as they grow and toys can play an important role in stimulating them. Take a look at our selection to start them on their learning through play journey.
Soon after birth, babies begin to focus on and respond to stimuli, such as lights and sounds. They can only see about 20-30cm away at first so place some soft picture books, featuring high-contrast patterns, colours and even faces (which babies are drawn to) near enough for your baby to focus on. This helps develop their vision. Baby mobiles, particularly ones that play music, are also great for both visual and aural stimulation – just make sure they're well out of your baby's reach.
Sensory toys, rattles and play mats are colourful and fun, but they're also invaluable for learning through play. That squeaky pad, scrunchy fabric and unbreakable mirror all help your baby explore their surroundings and learn how they can make things happen if they press this or shake that.
Touch and feel books with plenty of windows to open, textures to feel and sounds to listen to will stimulate your baby's senses and teach them about touch and sound. Older babies love pop-up toys, where they press a button to make something pop up – teaching them about cause and effect.
If your baby isn't already on the move, they'll be thinking about exploring and fascinated by things that move around them, which is why push toys are great for this age group. A ball might motivate your baby to crawl after it and a baby walker might offer just the support your baby needs to get them standing up and taking their first steps.
12 months and beyond
Your baby is now able to solve more complex puzzles and loves to copy what you do, so keep them busy with shape sorters, chunky stacking bricks, toy phones and dressing up outfits to develop their imagination and improve memory. You could also boost their creativity with paints and mark-making tools.
You don't have to restrict learning through play to dry land. Bath toys are equally as effective in teaching your baby life skills, and can help build their confidence in water. Bath fishing sets are popular, as toddlers can scoop up toy fish with a net, developing their hand-eye coordination and motor skills. Bath squirters similarly develop motor skills and stimulate their sense of touch. You can even buy bright, waterproof books, which are a great way to introduce children to basic learning while they're relaxed and happy.
Whatever you choose to buy, make sure it's suitable for the age of your child, and remember, as long as your child is having fun, they're probably learning, too!
By Anna Penniceard