What really makes a toy educational is that it engages cognitive and sensory skills and helps develop gross- and fine-motor skills. Toys that show lights and sound, but that don’t require much interaction, take away the element of creativity.
The following age-appropriate ideas will ensure your little one gets the most from play time.
Educational toys for babies 0-6 months
- “This is a big sensory motor phase, so you want toys that offer plenty of sensory feedback − either auditory or tactile,” says Nicole Hilburn, paediatric physiotherapist and owner of Brightbeans Toys.
- “Colour is important, and for children under two months of age, stark contrasts, like black and white patterns, are ideal.
- From two to four months old, Nicole recommends a light rattle. A toy that provides cause-and-effect is preferable, so when your baby moves her arms the toy either crinkles or rattles.
- “After this, things like play gyms are perfect. Anything that’s hanging gives your baby plenty of feedback – he can swipe something and it moves or jingles,” says Nicole.
- Under six months of age, the colour, feel and sound of a toy is important.
Bright Starts 5-in-1 Your Way Ball Play Gym, R1 255, takealot.com
Pigeon Training Teether Step1, R90, takealot.com
Tiny Love Double-Sided First Book, R269, takealot.com
Educational toys for babies 6-12 months
- Hand function is improving at this stage, so look for toys that provide sensory feedback as well as more cause-and-effect toys, for example plush books that allow your child to turn the pages himself, or toys where an action causes a reaction.
- “Melissa and Doug have a lovely tower toy, where you put a ball in the top and push it, and something happens. Your baby will be able to manage this a couple of weeks after he starts sitting. Later on, he can hit the ball with a hammer, so the toy extends with the child,” explains Nicole.
- However, although items like shape sorters and stacking rings are often marketed for this age group, they can be too difficult cognitively, cautions Nicole. Simple games like packing and unpacking (Tupperware are perfect for this), or knocking down a tower of blocks, are highly recommended.
Fuzzy Bee and Friends fabric book, R159, takealot.com
Melissa & Doug Wiggling Worm grasping toy, R130, takealot.com
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.