When buying a gift for a baby, perhaps for a baby shower or a christening, it is tempting to think that the gift isn’t really for the baby at all. Instead, it is all about helping the new mother out. We might pick up a baby bouncer or a night-light for the little one, but who really benefits? Well, with less crying late at night or a contented rocking baby giggling and cooing instead of the crying for milk, it is easy to see how mum can benefit too.
However, it doesn’t take a degree in child psychology to know that babies must get something out of these gifts as well. The earliest years are incredibly important for the development of our mind as we learn how to make our way about the world through games, play, and toys. We have all heard the cliché about those rather over-earnest parents playing Beethoven and Mozart to their children in the cot, right? Well, there’s no need to take things quite that far, but you may wish to consider that, given the right gift, a baby can get a great deal out of it – and it can help them develop too.
The Perfect Baby Gifts
So what type of gifts do this? Well, gifts which stimulate a baby’s senses, such as a ceiling mobile or a colourful projector, may entertain or distract a baby pretty effectively, but the key is interaction. The best baby gifts, for sure, are partially those that make life for mum easier, but they are also those which delight the baby themselves and, more importantly, stimulate their mental development.
We have all seen how infants tend to explore the world around them by biting, chewing, pulling, and grabbing nearly everything they come into contact with. Some of those things they learn to like they return to, some of those things they ultimately learn to avoid. This is a massive part of the infant development, and the best part of it is that it’s only fun for the baby.
Do bear in mind, however, that interaction to the extent necessary for a particular toy or game is not always possible for the very youngest babies. Those up to two months old, for example, will have a hard time interacting with a play gym, for example. Therefore, you should bear these developmental milestones in mind when selecting a gift. We will look at these milestones in the following paragraphs.
To decide the perfect gift for a baby, you will need to consider how old the child is first. If you are off to a baby shower or visiting a new-born at the hospital bedside for the first time, then you’ll probably be buying for the very youngest of children. Though, do keep in mind that you can always buy something to be used a little later. Gifts such as strollers “for when she’s ready” or teething rings “for when he starts chewing everything” are common enough gifts for new-borns.
To help you take into consideration the age of the child and purchase the appropriate gift, it might be worth setting out the many developmental milestones for young babies and at what age they occur. As we are talking about babies here, we’ll keep everything pre-toddler. Here then follows the main developmental milestones for babies. Keep these in mind when picking out your gifts.
0 – 2 Months
At this earliest stage, babies usually learn the most basic motor skills as well as begin to develop responses to sight and sound. For example, it is at this point that babies learn to hold up their head on their own and to smile. These basic motor skills are then integrated with responses as they learn to follow objects with their eyes and turn their heads towards sounds. This is usually when they start making noises other than an ear-piercing cry and begin to coo and gurgle. For babies of this age, toys that exercise these basic responses are great. Examples include mobiles, night lights, and colourful soft toys that mum or dad can wave in front of the baby to see if they can recognise and follow it.
2 – 4 Months
This is when babies begin to develop real social interaction such as smiling at things that delight them, copying facial expressions, and even babbling. Accordingly, now’s the time for toys baby can actually reach for, grab, and shake about. Toys which make a bit of noise when doing this are great. Toys that light up are great ideas for babies of this age, too.
4 – 6 Months
During this period, babies really begin to explore and learn about their environment. Whereas before they may have merely reacted, now they can retain information and recognize things like their name or their reflection in the mirror. Babies tend to do a lot of rolling about at this stage and they will pass toys from one hand into the other. This is also the age when mothers and fathers are recommended to start playing peekaboo with their child to stimulate retention of important concepts such as object permanence and social development. Accordingly, this is the time for toys that are detailed enough for a baby to properly pay attention to. Anything “pop up” is recommended for this reason. You might also consider a baby bouncer as it is at this time that children begin to really move themselves around and have fun doing so.
When choosing a gift for an infant child, you may wish to pick something that will really stimulate their development, but you should not lose sight of what is essential in children’s gifts – safety. Toys for babies should ultimately be safe and simple objects that can still help them fully exercise all the skills they typically develop in these months. There are many great new baby products now that cater to precisely this need.
For developing a baby’s sense of sight perception and discernment of shapes and motion, you might wish to check out so-called “sensory activities panels” that feature sharply contrasted shades and colours for them to interact with. Another great idea is a play gym, which features dangling objects over a mat; this is perfect for babies from 4 months onwards who can sit upright and interact with objects.
Alternatively, you might wish to invest in a mirror toy, which can encourage that all important developmental stage when the baby first learns to recognise their own reflection. Toys that combine this effect with plenty of other colourful and noisy distractions are always safe bets and can offer different benefits to the child at each of the major developmental stages. A classic jack-in-the-box makes for a great toy too – and even if it frightens the baby a little, this is considered a good thing.
At the end of the day, choosing a gift for a baby is not particularly difficult. The manufacturers and the child psychologists and developmental experts with whom they work have already done the hard part. However, it does well to know just what the main developmental stages are over those first few months of life. This way you can truly tailor your gift to the child and show that you’ve put some loving care into it as well.