Developmentally Brilliant Gifts for Babies

Developmentally Brilliant Gifts for Babies

Dr Jane Williams and Bindy Cummings

T’is the season to be…doing many things – one of which, for many of us, is gift giving. Here, we have put together a gift-giving guide featuring developmentally excellent gifts for babies. Of course, this list is not only for the festive season and can apply to any time of the year, though it seemed like a good time to put it in print!

You will see all of the items and toys in use and hear why specialists recommend them for your baby’s development during your Baby ROO classes and throughout our free online ABSK Video Series here:

Please note that many of the following can, as long as they are in a clean and safe condition, be borrowed, handed down, bartered for, recycled or sometimes made. Importantly, though, what your baby needs most in the world, above all things material, is you and your love.

A glider or rocking chair. Gliders and rocking chairs are excellent for your baby’s development. Ideally, we would love it if all new parents had one! They are not only relaxing when feeding or reading to the baby, they also provide many opportunities to stimulate your baby’s vestibular system. The gentle rocking motion encourages the development of muscle tone, balance and vision. For maximum developmental benefit, vary your baby’s position when you rock. Ask your Baby ROO teacher how to do this.

Mobiles. Babies are fascinated by mobiles! They provide excellent visual stimulation, helping the development of depth perception and the ability to judge distances. Because babies love and get excited by mobiles, they also stimulate movement.  As babies reach out with hands and feet, they are developing gross and fine motor skills, hand-eye and foot-eye coordination. Find or make a mobile that allows you to change the dangling toys so your baby doesn’t get bored.  If you buy one, check under the mobile and see what the baby will see. Sometimes, the mobile is interesting from an adult height, but not for the baby. There are varying distances at which to hang your mobile that are best for each stage of visual development in this first year. Ask your Baby ROO instructor or find the best distance for your baby’s age.

Squeaky toys. These are super for baby development. Squeaky toys can be used to help with the development of visual skills, hand-eye coordination and fine and gross motor development, and are tremendous for tactile/touch and oral stimulation as your baby grasps, grabs, squeezes and chews them. 

A pair of maracas. As maracas make a sound when moved, they are wonderful for helping to develop auditory and visual skills. Your baby will also learn to reach out for the maracas and shake them, promoting gross motor, fine motor, hand development, hand-eye coordination, thinking skills and more. You can use maracas to help your baby develop a great sense of rhythm and beat – so important for speech and mathematics later on!

Balls and bubbles. Babies love balls and bubbles of all shapes and sizes. They are a cheap and wonderful way to encourage many areas of development and learning, including your baby’s developing visual skills. They are fabulous for tummy time, muscle strengthening and primitive reflex integration as babies lift and move their heads to follow the movement. Balls that make a noise or light up when moving are terrific.

A playmat. These are fantastic for baby development and a great way to keep babies entertained and interested whilst on their tummy or back wherever you are!

Playmats encourage gross and fine motor development, the development of visual skills, hand-eye coordination, foot-eye coordination and more. Try to find one that has interchangeable toys and find a variety of safe and visually interesting items around the home to attach to the playmat. 

A sheepskin rug. Sheepskin or lambswool rugs are beautifully tactile and stimulate your baby’s hand and foot development.  They provide the perfect place to lay your baby for some tummy time and during baby massage.  They are portable and are made from entirely natural fibres.

Clothing made from natural fibres. When it comes to clothing, the more natural the fibre, the better for the baby. Natural fibres allow your baby’s skin to breathe. We recommend clothing made from pure wool and/or cotton. We also recommend fabrics that stretch and allow for lively, natural movement of your baby’s arms and legs. Bare feet are best for development, so when safely possible, keep your baby’s feet free of coverings.

A big beaded necklace. These are wonderful for mums to wear during feeding. Not only do they help restless, distracted babies during feeds, but they are also wonderful for the fine motor development of little hands and the development of visual skills. They do need to be sturdy and made from safe materials for your baby.

Books, books, books. Reading to your baby is such a relaxing and enjoyable activity to undertake! The benefits include stimulation and development of; speech and hearing, communication skills and visual development. Babies are very responsive to the rhythm of the words and the sound of your voice. Read anything – just remember to use a singsong voice. For your infant’s visual development, it is best if books have pictures of a single object with a bold outline. Simple, two-dimensional, sturdy picture books are perfect.

Music. It’s hard to overstate the importance of music as part of a baby’s experience in the first years of life.  Music and rhythm stimulate countless areas of development and help prepare the brain for language, timing and movement. Variety and enjoyment are the keys here, however, do have some music that is rhythmical and has a nice simple beat, such as nursery rhymes. We recommend those sung by Tessarose and Candylion (Candylion Baby Songs), both of which are used in Baby ROO classes and in the ABSK series.

A pram that allows your baby to lie flat. It’s developmentally brilliant to have a pram that allows your baby to lie flat. This provides a non-mobile baby with the unique opportunity to ride around in the pram on their tummy whilst awake. This position provides many more visual experiences and is excellent for muscle tone development and strengthening. At times, turn your baby to face towards you so you can see them! This is also wonderful for bonding, communication and speech development.

Safety Cautions. Ensure that all items, toys and musical instruments you use are safe, clean and recommended for children under three years with no removable parts. While toys and items for babies are generally subject to stringent safety regulations, and certain toxins have been banned in many baby products, it is still essential to check that all things you choose or are given for your baby, are free from the following toxins: Phthalates, Bisphenol A (BPA), lead and toxic paints or dyes.

Never leave your baby unattended with any toy.

Dr Jane Williams (PhD, BMgt, RN(Paeds)) is the Research and Education General Manager for GymbaROO and KindyROO.

Bindy Cummings is a teacher, GymbaROO early childhood neurodevelopmental consultant and early childhood development lecturer.