Toys and Play Encourage Development

​​​Although babies don't play with each other at very early ages, they watch older children play with toys. What is a toy? Toys are what we play with.

girl with cochlear implants playing with toys 

Mom and Dad are Definitely Toys!

As parents, you are the first and perhaps the child's FAVORITE playmates.  Playtime with your little one is a time for joy, laughter, learning and exploring. 

  • Joyful play interactions foster learning and social development
  • By playing with you, your child learns how to play with others – an important building block for later play with peers
  • Play experiences with parents and peers help children become happy, well-adjusted, and creative

More information on playing with babies and toddlers.

Toys are Toys

When babies are in their first year, appropriate toys change with every month. From mobiles to keys to stacking cups to sorting boxes, your baby wants more and more challenges.

More information about selecting age-appropriate toys.

Safe Household Objects are Toys

Big plastic lids and washed out BPA-free plastic bottles can be as much fun as commercially made toys.

Water is a Toy

Outside in the wading pool (with you right there!) or in the bathtub. Water is fun from a very early age.

Grass, Rocks and Leaves are Toys

When you go outside, your baby can see new and interesting objects from the stroller or carrier. You can choose what to pick up and bring closer.  As your baby grows into a creative child and begins to pretend, those sticks can turn into horses, and the rocks can become little houses on a cleared spot of earth.

Clothes are Toys

Nothing is quite as fun as popping your baby's head out of the neck hole of a shirt as you say or sign, "Where are you? THERE you are!" Hands, feet, and whole bodies disappear and reemerge during dressing and undressing, and everyone knows that shoes and socks are designed to be taken off.

This can be a good time for learning the names of clothing and body parts. As your little one grows, clothes will be fascinating toys for Peek-a-Boo, dress up and make believe.

What are Children Learning During Playtime?

"Oh, boy when I get this off, I can chew on it and play with my toes!"

Baby playing with toes

What does baby learn? 

  • The feat of finding his feet! This takes eye-hand coordination and problem solving skills. 
  • A baby's mouth is a "touch center" that has lots of nerve endings. Mouthing tells a baby a lot about what he puts in his mouth.

"How am I going to get all these toys out of the bucket? If I turn it over, can I dump them all out?"

Baby with toys

What is baby learning?

  • Eye-hand coordination 
  • Thinking skills as he solves new problems 
  • That his actions cause things to happen

"If I pull my blanket over me, I bet somebody will play peek a boo with me!"

Baby with blanket

What does baby learn? 

  • To start up games with others 
  • That she can socialize with others 
  • That she can take turns with family members playing "peek," smiling and laughing. 
  • Conversations are a game of taking turns too, so she is learning to take part in conversations. 
  • That people are there even when she can't see them.

"Wow, I leaned over and picked this toy up. When I shake it, it makes sound! I can do it again!"

Baby with rattling toys

What is he learning? 

  • Eye-hand coordin​ation 
  • Fine-motor skills 
  • Large muscle skills 
  • Balance 
  • That his actions cause things to happen 
  • That if he turns and listens, he can hear the sounds with his hearing aids or cochlear implant