When Do Babies Start Playing with Toys?

Featured image of mother and child playing

If you’ve recently become a parent, you’ve probably already gotten used to the new way of life that comes with taking care of a small human. There’s most likely a clear routine to your day, consisting of eating, changing diapers and sleeping as much as possible. Now that you’ve gotten a hold of that, you might be thinking that it’s time for some new challenges. Some might even say that you’re getting a bit bored of the whole thing. But worry not – your baby will provide you with plentiful challenges, and even more fun situations in the years to come.

All jokes aside, it’s obviously fantastic to spend hours on end just endlessly gazing at your child while they are asleep or merely resting, but you must be wondering when your kid is going to start interacting with you as well as the world around them in any meaningful way. One of the first steps on that journey is definitely playing with toys, and in this article, we’re going to look at some factors that come into play in those first few months of your baby’s play time.

If there’s anything we can say for sure when it comes to babies, it’s that they really like to play, but when exactly can you expect your kid to start having fun with some toys, reaching for them and enjoying them independently? Let’s try to answer this question by looking into some stages of their development, and which toys might suit them well for each step in turn.

Newborns

The world of a newborn child is far from huge. It mostly consists of what they can see right in front of them, up to a distance of about 10 inches. Even though they might follow your face with their eyes, as well as show a response to contrasting colors, their vision will not be clear for some time. As it develops, your kid might start to reach for things in their vicinity, as well as track objects with their eyes.

Another thing you’ve probably noticed with kids before you even had one of your own, is that they tend to grab onto things with their tiny little fingers and hold on tight. Usually, this is your finger or your hair, but it might be a necklace or an earring as well, in which case you may be in a bit of trouble since their grip can be hard to get out of. You’ll quickly learn to keep your hair tied up and stay clear of dangling jewelry while you’re around your kid. This is a reflex reaction, and it’s called a ‘palmar grasp.’ The reaction itself usually continues to happen until a baby reaches about six months of age. Experts say it’s probably an automatic thing meant to prepare them for grasping things voluntarily later in life.

Your baby’s hearing is another important aspect of their development that gives them more options in terms of play-time. The first thing your kid is going to do is start to turn and face familiar voices or noises. It’s vital that you talk to your baby as much as possible during this stage. Let them connect your face with the sound of your voice, and perhaps even more importantly, different facial expressions with the different tones of your voice carrying different emotions. This will allow them to become more socially conscious at a very young age, giving them a head start in social interactions.

Easy to grasp rattles or other noise-producing toys may be a great idea too, but there’s nothing a baby likes to hear more than the sound of their parents’ voices. Don’t be afraid to sing as well, even if you feel like you’re not the best singer, your baby is not going to care or judge your rendition of their favorite lullaby.

Image of baby playing with blocks on floor

Three months

Once babies start to take more control of the movement of their arms and legs, as well as start developing more hand-eye coordination, they will be most likely to enjoy playing with toys that make noise and are very colorful and easy to see. Tactile textures and bright colors are your best bet. Put your baby on a textured and colorful playmat for some tummy time and let them have their fun. If you feel like participating, it’s a great idea to dangle some bright and rattly toys just above their line of sight to encourage them to improve their neck strength by lifting their head.

You might consider getting a baby gym in this period as a slight upgrade to the playmat, with its hanging toys attracting your kid’s attention, and getting your baby to reach for them. Additionally, if you want your baby to play with a toy at this stage, all you need to do in most cases is simply put the toy in their hand. If it has some color or shine to it, and at least a bit of texture, it’s more than likely to be popular. Balls, rattles, plastic cars, fidget cubes and soft blocks are all excellent options.

Six months

By the time your baby is about six months old, they will start reaching out for toys that interest them. You no longer have to put a toy in your kid’s hand at this point, as they now have more control of their hands and will grab whatever is within their reach. The bad news is, they will most likely try to put everything in their mouth now as well.

If you’ve ever been around a six-month-old baby, this will come as no surprise – we all know that this is a way for babies to learn how things taste and feel. A baby’s mouth is full of nerve endings, so it’s a natural response – just make sure that the toys and other objects they can reach are clean and large enough that they can’t be swallowed. Obviously, beware of sharp edges and toxic substances.

Every baby is different. Yours might start playing with toys later or earlier and may not adhere to the timeline we described. Look at your baby for clues on when they are ready to play (it’s usually when they are well-rested and fed) and when they have had enough. Whatever their personal timeline turns out to be, remember that this is all about having fun, so cherish these fleeting moments – your kid will grow up before you know it.

Author: Mary Lynn Holden
Author: Mary Lynn Holden

Proud mom and stepmom to an adorable bunch of kids aged 7 and up. Deeply appreciates three things in life: the help of older siblings in the house, texts on parenting, and strong coffee. Shares her stories and experiences in order to help others navigate the unpredictable waters of parenting.

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