Newborn babies don't always appear to be very responsive, but they still benefit from looking at bold colours, contrasting black and white patterns, and people's faces, as well as listening to sounds.
Here is a list of the best toys that provide sensory stimulation and encourage the development of fine motor skills, and also allow you to get some stuff done around the house while baby safely entertains himself! All are suitable from birth.
A floor gym or play mat is a colourful mat with different textures and activities, and is possibly one of the best investments you could make. The mat allows baby to safely have a good kick around and begin to learn to entertain himself for short periods of time, and is a great place to introduce tummy time.
Play gyms typically have a variety of toys hanging down that your little one can bat at with his hands, as his vision and coordination improves. Some play gyms also have lights, music and mirrors.
A comfortable bouncer chair is a great place for your baby to sit and entertain himself, and take short daytime naps. Bouncer chairs are generally lightweight and easy to move from room to room, so your little one can sit in his bouncer and watch you get on with things around the house. A bouncer is a good place to put the baby down if you need to get on with other things such as preparing meals and housework, and saves you having to carry him everywhere.
Look for a bouncer that comes with a toy bar. Your baby will enjoy looking at the toys that hang down and batting at them with his hands when he gets a bit older. Some bouncers also have soothing vibrations and music that can be turned on or off. A chair bouncer will most likely prove to be an excellent purchase that you will get lots of use out of.
Until your baby can roll over, he will spend a lot of time on his back and a cot mobile makes the view of the ceiling a lot more interesting. Colourful dangling animals or shapes with high contrast, black and white patterns provide entertainment and visual stimulation for a young infant's developing eyesight.
Some mobiles also play soothing melodies to help children drift off to sleep. In the interest of safety, hang the mobile from the ceiling rather than directly over the cot to avoid the risk of strangulation. Some mobiles are adaptable for travel cots, strollers and cars seats, which is handy for when you are out and about.
Babies cannot hold objects when they are first born, but they can pick out shapes and patterns. Soft books and hand-held toys with high-contrast black and white images help stimulate an infant's visual development. Wrist rattles that make a sound every time baby moves and soft toys that squeak, rustle and jingle are other great choices for stimulating sensory skills.
Eventually your baby will get the hang of grasping toys, shaking them and putting them down, and passing them from hand-to-hand, helping him develop his hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. A blankie made from soft fabric that he can snuggle up to in his cot can be a great source of comfort.
Babies don't recognise their own reflections at first, but are still fascinated by their own faces in the mirror. Hang a baby-safe unbreakable mirror on the side of the cot to engage your child's attention and encourage his developing vision – you may find he stares at himself for ages! A mirror that stands on the floor is handy for tummy time and a mirror with straps can easily be attached to the cot rails.