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When Babies Start Playing With Toys: Everything You Need to Know

image of a baby playing with a brightly coloured toy

Welcome to the wonderful world of parenting. A world full of excitement but also a lot of stress. You’re bound to have many questions but don’t fret as you are not alone. 

If you’re wondering when your infant will start wanting to play, you’ve come to the right place. Whether they start playing with a new dolls pram or trying to imitate you, there are many ways your little one might start playing with toys.

At Play Like Mum, we want to guide every parent through these precious times and hopefully give you an idea of how your child can hit every milestone. 

When do babies start playing with toys?

There are milestones for a baby, but when it comes to playing, each newborn baby will do so in their own time. 

From about six months onwards, children truly start exploring the world around them with sights, smells, touch, and sounds. 

Although children don’t start playing until after six months, there’s nothing wrong with introducing toys to an infant early. 

As their playtime progresses, babies learn quickly and their hand-eye coordination improves immensely. This allows them to play with more interactive toys like interactive dolls

Why is playing important?

Playing is a vital part of development. While the first six months are still a bit hazy for an infant, baby toys are great for children as they develop because each child has a different skill that they are improving. 

As a new parent, you’ll learn about the milestones your baby has to look forward to and how you can help them along. 

Toys with sound, dangling toys and toys with different textures (sensory toys) all play a role in how your baby experiences the world and how quickly they become accustomed to other senses. 

Let’s look at the different ages, what you can expect from your baby, and how you can help them develop. 

For more information, read our guide on why children’s play is important and when to start sensory play.

Birth to one month

For a newborn, everything is brand new as they experience life for the first time. When introducing your infant to toys, it’s good to keep this in mind. 

Here are a few important tips for navigating this stage:

Vision

Your baby is nearsighted for the first few months which means they can only see about 25 cm in front of them. Their farsighted vision develops as they grow. 

If you want to introduce toys at this stage, you’ll have to hold them up to your baby’s face. A toy with bright colours or strange sounds is excellent for keeping your baby interested. 

Making funny faces

Your facial expressions play a significant role here. It’s important to smile, laugh, and make funny faces, so your child gets used to your reactions.

Facial expressions, along with the tone of voice, help your child develop communication skills and recognise different emotions. It might seem early, but they do pick up and respond to a lot in the first few months. They are, after all, observing everything that you do! 

Physical touch

In terms of touch, your infant will have a “palmar grasp” which will have them grabbing at everything, especially your hair. Make sure to keep your hair tied back if you don’t want your baby pulling and tugging away at it. 

The grip is extremely tight, and you may be unable to get your child’s hands off without seriously manoeuvring your child, so be careful! 

Learn more about how play helps your children’s physical development on our blog!

Sounds

Hearing also develops quickly. To help your child, why not play some music or just simply talk to your baby frequently? They will start to become familiar with certain phrases and new sounds. 

A rattle or a brightly coloured squeaky toy are excellent choices to start letting your child explore interesting sounds. 

Two to four months

At this stage, babies still enjoy playing with their newborn toys, but with a slight difference – your baby is holding the toys themselves. 

Encourage independence

To accommodate your child’s development, move hanging toys down onto a playmat so your kid can interact with them freely. A mat is a great idea for welcoming new toys and activities that could get messy. 

Top tip: Start with red toys as it’s the first colour your baby will recognise!

Between two and four months, your child might want to rattle the toys themselves. You can help them at the start to show them how to hold the item. When the toy makes a sound, it helps the baby understand cause and effect. 

A baby gym at this stage is also a good idea. The mat has colours and textures to promote the sight and touch senses. Plus, it usually has already installed hanging toys like a baby-safe mirror which is always amusing to see your little one giggling at themself! 

The only thing to watch out for is anything with a hard edge. Some of the best toys include squidgy balls, squishy blocks, and rattles. 

Four to six months

Here’s where things start getting fun. Between four and six months, your baby’s hand-eye coordination starts developing, meaning they can begin passing toys from one hand to the other. 

Teething

Additionally, they begin lifting toys to their mouth much more easily. Anything a baby can reach will likely end up in their mouth, so be very careful about leaving things around. If you drop something that could be dangerous, be sure to pick it up!

Getting your child soft toys with no loose parts is always a good and safe idea. The same goes for toys that look light, not dark; it makes it easier for your little one to find a toy they might’ve lost.

Muti-textured toys and toys with sound are perfect for this age. Plus, a toy that responds to touch with sound further helps along the cause-and-effect lessons. Show your baby how it works, and then let them figure it out; this builds independence. 

Bonding with stuffed toys

Stuffed toys are great for a child to start bonding with. We all have a favourite childhood toy, so make sure your child finds theirs! Bonding with a toy can also help children understand sharing, roleplay and other communication elements as they use the toy as a fictional friend. 

Six months to one year

A whole lot is happening in this phase of your baby’s life. They will be standing, sitting, crawling, and maybe even walking (or should we say stumbling). 

They will gain a new perspective on the toys they play with. 

Keep an eye on items

Generally, everything becomes a toy to some degree, including things like remotes, newspapers, pillows, curtains, pots – anything you can think of. If you have important items lying around, put them away until your baby is old enough not to pinch everything. 

Object permanence 

Babies start understanding object permanence during the six-month to one-year age range. This is the understanding that when an object leaves their field of vision, the object is still there even if they can’t see it.

This makes peek-a-boo and other hiding games a lot more fun. Babies adore peek-a-boo, funny faces included. 

Rolling toys

We recommend introducing toys that can move away, so a ball or anything with wheels, to encourage your baby to chase after it. A great example is gifting them a trolley or a toddler dolls pram once they reach 18 months; a rolling toy that can help your child’s development. 

You can also try toys that encourage standing, like some stacking rings or a table with super fun toys to push them to stand a bit more and help them with their mobility.

What to look out for when babies start playing 

Here are a few things to note when buying toys for babies:

  • Find high colour and pattern contrasts – Your baby can only see black and white for the first eight weeks, so the bolder, the better. 
  • Get toys with different textures to stimulate the touch sense (fabric books and play mats).
  • Try to find toys with soft sounds that won’t startle your baby (rattles, chimes, and squeaks). 
  • Rolling toys help develop eye movement. 

Things to avoid when buying kids toys

We all want the best for our children, so it’s important to know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to playing. 

Here’s what to avoid in toys:

  • Sharp edges
  • Small removable pieces
  • Hard textures
  • Loud toys (babies’ ears are sensitive)
  • Toxic materials (this includes paint)

The good news? All toys should have an age range on the packaging to help determine if it’s appropriate for your little one. For more guidance, read our guide on the role of adults in children’s play.

FAQ about toys for babies

Do babies play with toys at three months?

Yes, even though your baby is still small, they can play with toys. They enjoy toys with sounds and different textures.

When do babies start playing with toys?

Within the first month, they won’t do too much. From two months, you can get your baby to engage in some play. Rattles and soft textures are what you’re looking for in first-time toys. 

What should I avoid in baby toys?

When babies start playing, you want to avoid anything with sharp edges, hard textures, and loud sounds. Your baby will put these toys in their mouth and up to their face, so gentleness is necessary. When it comes to sound, keep it soft and gentle with things like a rattle or a squeak toy. 

Introduce your little one to their first dolls pram today!

At Play Like Mum, we have an abundance of dolls prams and pushchairs and dolls pram accessories that are great for encouraging your child’s development. We offer everything from purple dolls prams and yellow dolls prams to dolls changing bags.