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Newborn Toys: When Can Babies Really Play?

Whether this is your first, second, or even fifth baby, you’re probably logging significant time gazing into your newborn’s eyes, touching their tiny toes, or kissing their warm heads. You will spend countless hours holding, soothing, feeding, and changing your newborn. And when you are not taking care of them, they will probably be asleep!

However, there will also be brief moments in the day when they are awake and alert, which raises the question for every parent: Now can we play?

We are all excited about introducing newborn toys, and it’s hard to wait while our babies get ready for play. The first two months of their lives are an orientation to the world. 

While you wait for your baby to be ready for toys

The Montessori philosophy relies heavily on observation. You are becoming an expert on your baby! Things you will notice:

  • Your baby’s favorite body positions
    They might favor holding a fist up to their face. That’s something they could do in the womb, therefore, they do it to stay oriented in this new environment.
  • Different head directions
    Each day, their neck is getting a little bit stronger. By tuning in to this progress, you can enjoy placing your infant on your chest and watching them push to lift their head.  It’s a workout! 
  • Sounds, breathing, and sucking patterns
    As your baby makes their habits known to you, you’ll come to know when they’re falling asleep while eating.

Making a practice of noticing our little one’s unique tendencies enables us to notice their development as well. This, in turn, helps us offer them the right activities at the right time.

Two key developments that will unlock your ability to use those adorable newborn toys you’re staring at are your baby’s strengthening grasp and developing vision.

Montessori Infant Mobile
This activity gym plus four mobiles and four toys to attach to it are included in the Monti Kids Level 1 subscription box

Introducing newborn toys

The best newborn toys are simple and support your baby’s developing hand and eye strength.

  • Rattles that are very small with slight variations in shape allow them to utilize their reflexive grip and feel different objects in their hands. Offering both wooden and cloth rattles allow them to absorb the sensation of different textures and temperatures. Keeping the rattles simple in color and shape ensures your little one will not be overwhelmed by a lot of new information.
  • Balls (soft ones!) may be too big for them to hold at first, but they can work on becoming stronger by doing tummy time while looking at them, and they will eventually be strong enough to grasp them.
  • Mobiles support your newborn’s vision. These will take advantage of their curiosity about the world around them, and give them focused practice controlling their eyes. Again, choosing simple and naturally beautiful mobiles will allow them to elicit the necessary information from the mobiles and practice without too much stimulation.

Related: The Essential Guide to Baby Mobiles

Playing with newborn toys

Simplicity is key for introducing newborn toys to your baby. Do not offer too many toys, or it is likely that your baby will become overwhelmed. Your newborn is not yet able to reach for toys with a purpose, so they cannot show you which toy they would like to use by reaching for it.

newborn-playing-with-toy
This grasping toy is included in the Monti Kids subscription box for newborns

Tips for newborn toy introduction:

  • Wait until your baby is awake and calm, and in a state ready for their “work.” Calmly and slowly give your newborn one rattle at a time to hold with their reflexive grip, or offer one ball at a time for them to look at while they are on their stomachs doing the hard work of lifting up their heads.
  • Quick movements may distract or upset them, so it is important to be deliberate and mindful when you are interacting with them in this way.
  • When you are ready to introduce the mobiles, choose a space where there are not a lot of other distractions. Hang one mobile about 12 inches from their chest and make sure they can look without straining. Ideally, your newborn will only be working with one toy at a time. For your little one to gain the maximum benefit from this work, avoid giving them a rattle while they are looking at the mobile. Let them be fully absorbed in each experience.

The newborn period is a very brief one in your baby’s development. Introducing newborn toys to your baby during this time will support their development and encourage their natural abilities, helping them grow into the next stage of their lives.

Next step: See what’s inside the Monti Kids subscription box for newborns >

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