Choosing Baby Toys

haba_dragonstone.jpgToday, Carole Arsenault of Newborn Nurses offers tips for choosing baby toys:

Babies learn by using their five senses: sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste. It’s not always necessary to purchase expensive toys for your baby; some of the very best toys are everyday objects we have in our homes (e.g., measuring cups or spoons, empty plastic containers). However, when you are ready to purchase a toy for your baby here are some basic guidelines to consider.

  • Babies under one month of age generally do not need any toys. They are much more interested in voices and watching the faces of their parents. They cannot hold things at this age and are very happy just looking and listening.

  • Between one to three months of age babies are ready for some very simple and basic toys. Small lightweight toys that baby can grasp are appropriate, as are chunky board books with black and white illustrations. Activity mats with activity gyms are a great idea and can take tummy time to a new level.

  • Between the fourth and seventh months of age baby may be ready for an activity board, balls, nesting cups, dolls, stuffed animals, or musical toys.

  • From seven to eighteen months toys that baby can ride or pull will be enjoyed. Peg boards, chunky puzzles, shape sorters, picture books, stacking rings, and washable crayons are some enduring favorites.

    Choosing Chemically Safe Toys

    The amount of information about toxins and chemicals in our environment is overwhelming and can be confusing to many. I recommend being careful about what you give baby to play with, particularly because babies tend to put everything in their mouth. Here are some basic guidelines to follow when picking out your baby’s playthings.

  • Read the labels. Buy only toys that are PVC, phthalate, lead, and BPA free. Many soft plastic and vinyl toys are laden with harmful chemicals. Labels should be clearly marked “BPA free” “lead free.”

    Check wooden toys. Not all woods are equal. Buy only solid wood that has not been treated with formaldehyde. Make sure the paint or stain on the wood is non-toxic.

    Check soft materials Stuffed animals or activity gyms should not contain the flame retardants found in polyurethane foam and filling materials.

    For more information about chemicals and product safety, the Environmental Working Group is a great resource that provides consumers with unbiased safety information. They have a special section dedicated to information for parents. I also recommend Haba toys (see Oompa for an excellent collection) and in general European toys are a good place to start; their safety standards are set much higher than in the US.

    Image credit: Haba Dragonstone Castle, from Oompa.