The best sensory toys for newborns

The best sensory toys for newborns

What toys should a newborn have?

Sensory toys for newborns, do you need them? To answer that, it helps to understand what the world looks like to a newborn baby. 

Newborn babies don’t appear to do very much other than eat, sleep, poop and cry on repeat, and you don’t really need to entertain them (as if you have the time for that anyway).

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They do however, have well-developed senses at birth, which are still growing rapidly. 

Babies have quite blurry vision at first, but can still focus on objects quite closely within 8-10 inches (most importantly, your facial features).

It is thought newborns see black, white and shades of grey with limited colour vision (possibly including red).

Colour and distance vision begins to develop gradually after birth and over the next few months.

Babies start following moving objects with their eyes at around 3 months (known as tracking), and will attempt to reach for objects, as their hand-eye coordination starts to develop. 

They are born with well-developed hearing, which continues to develop after birth.

Does a newborn need any toys? Newborns don’t need toys as such. However, there is a range of toys and equipment you can buy to assist their sensory development, suitable from birth.

1. High contrast toys

Because of their blurry, near-sighted eyesight, high-contrast, black and white shapes and patterns are easiest for newborns to see, and can be used to engage and hold their attention.

Bold bright colours and pictures of people’s faces can work well too. 

Soft books, board books, flash cards and other toys have been designed with the aim of fixing and holding an infant’s attention, and helping stimulate visual and brain development.

Merka high-contrast black and white baby flashcards include images of shapes, animals, objects and patterns, ideal for developing visual perception and recognition skills.

2. Tummy time mirror

Babies don’t recognise their own reflections at first, but they are still fascinated by their own faces in the mirror.

A mirror can engage your baby’s attention and encourage their developing vision – you may find they stare at themselves for ages!

You can buy a baby-safe unbreakable mirror that easily attaches to the side of your baby’s cot. And/or you can buy a tummy time mirror.

Bright Starts sit and see safari floor mirror is encased in colourful fabric with crinkly leaves, ideal for tummy time. It is also foldable, so you can easily take it with you wherever you go.

3. Cot mobiles

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 visual stimulation for a young infant’s developing eyesight.

Some mobiles also play soothing melodies to help babies drift off to sleep.

Award-winning Tiny Love Take-Along Mobile fits cots and strollers, and has hanging characters to visually stimulate your baby. It also plays lots of different melodies.

4. Night light projector

Night light projectors project patterns on the ceiling to give your baby visual stimulation in a similar way to a cot mobile. 

They can also play sounds and melodies to stimulate your baby’s senses.

Fisher Price 3-in-1 projection mobile has a starry night light show that projects on the ceiling, with lullaby music and other sounds. It can also be removed and clipped to your pushchair.

5. Toys that make noise

Toys that make noise are good for capturing babies’ attention, as they will try to locate where the sound is coming from.

Eventually they will learn to interact with the toy, when they realise they can make the sound happen themselves.

Toys that jingle, squeak, rattle and crinkle are enticing to babies. They are particularly fascinated by toys that make a crinkly sound, and will be captivated by them for ages. 

6. Textured sensory toys

Toys made from a mixture of materials are good for sensory play. Different textures such as scrunchy, soft and silky provide a range of sensations for your baby.

Hahaland sensory toys jungle tails book is full of bright colours and pictures of lots of jungle animals. Made of cloth with lots of different textures, it makes squeaky and rustling sounds.

Your baby can only look at the book at first, but as his motor skills develop, he can explore the different textures for himself. 

7. Pram clip on toys

You can buy clip-on sensory toys with black and white patterns, bright colours, different textures, and sounds and music.

They are useful for clipping on prams, pushchairs, car seats, bouncer bars and cots, and for taking everywhere with you. 

Clip-on toys dangle at close range within your baby’s range of vision, and as his hand-eye coordination develops he will begin to reach for them.

Lamaze Freddie the Firefly, is a hugely popular pram and pushchair clip-on baby toy. Colours, patterns, crinkle wings and more, this is a great sensory entertainment toy to take along with you everywhere, and put in your baby changing bag.

8. Newborn playmats

Are playmats good for newborns? A padded play mat or floor gym is possibly one of the best purchases you could make. Usually made from brightly coloured materials, a play gym is a good place to lay your baby down for some sensory play. 

Play gyms typically have a variety of toys hanging down from above, along with other activities to encourage hand-eye coordination. 

They are a great place to introduce tummy time, and for the baby to safely have a good kick around for short periods of time. 

A play gym will take up a bit of space on the floor, but you’ll soon learn to think of it as part of the furniture.

Baby Einstein 4-in-1 Kickin’ Tunes play gym can be used for laying, sitting and tummy time. It has numerous sounds, activities, music, detachable toys and loads more. It even folds up so you can take it out with you.

9. Baby bouncers

A chair bouncer will most likely prove to be an excellent purchase that you will get lots of use out of.

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.

Look for a bouncer that comes with a toy bar with interesting toys that dangle down. Your baby will enjoy looking at them and eventually start trying to reach for them. 

Some bouncers also have soothing vibrations and music that can be turned on or off.

The Ingenuity soothing baby bouncer chair has a removable toy bar, and plays a selection of melodies and calming vibrations.

10. Foot finders and wrist rattles

Newborns can only look at objects to begin with. After a few weeks they will get the hang of grasping toys, and eventually picking them up, then passing them from hand-to-hand. 

Until then, rattles that attach to your baby’s wrists and ankles are good for sensory play.

The rattles make a sound each time your baby’s hands and feet move. As he tries to locate and reach for the source of the sound, it encourages hand-eye coordination.

Foot finders and wrist rattles help your baby to develop hand, foot and eye coordination. 

11. Blankie toys

Your baby will enjoy the feel of a soft toy or blankie that has a mix of textures. Soft materials, crinkly, squishy, silky fabrics and ribbon tags, will give your baby a range of textures to explore and engage his senses.

You may find your baby becomes very attached to his blankie and wants it with him often. It can be a great source of comfort. 

The Unmot baby comforter blanket, which you can buy in a variety of different animals, has a friendly face, made out of soft material with additional different textured materials. This gives your baby a range of pleasant tactile sensations and promotes sensory skills.

12. Cheap household items

Not all sensory toys actually have to be ‘toys’. Regular household objects will often do. 

For example, if your baby tries to grab the packet of baby wipes out of your hand, it may be because they love the crinkly sound.

Other examples include sponges, a sieve, plastic cups, toothbrush, hairbrush, scrunched up tin foil, egg boxes, and knobbly vegetables. The list is endless.

What sensory toys should a newborn have?

The most important thing your baby sees and hears to begin with, is you, and you are the preferred thing to look at and interact with.

But there are lots of toys you can buy, for you and your baby’s awake time!

Lots of things happen in your baby’s development during the first few weeks. The different types of toys mentioned above are beneficial to your baby’s sensory development and hand-eye coordination, if you wish to use them.

There are a lot of newborn sensory toys to choose from, including:

  • High contrast toys
  • Tummy time mirror
  • Cot mobiles
  • Toys that make noise
  • Textured sensory toys
  • Pram clip on toys
  • Newborn playmats
  • Baby bouncers
  • Foot finders and wrist rattles
  • Blankie toys
  • Cheap household items

You don’t just need baby toys. What else do you need?

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