Your baby is born with rather blurry eyesight, but he’ll soon start following objects with both eyes. It’s a tricky still and he’ll need to master the ability to co-ordinate his head movements with his eye movements. To encourage this, fix a little toy on the end of a stick, hold it in front of him but away from his face, then slow move it from side to side. An overheard mobile with lots of different colours, shapes and movement will also attract his attention and encourage him to practise focusing on objects. As babies see high-contract images first, black and white designs are great for grabbing their attention. Mirrors are also fantastic fun for your baby at this age. He’s naturally fascinated by faces, and a moving mirror is a great way to entertain him.
From 3 months
By now, your baby may have started to move his head towards a sound as he learns to pinpoint where noises are coming from – a crucial auditory skill. This also encourages head movement. Sit your little one in his bouncy chair or rocker and make various sounds from different directions. For example, shake a box of matches slightly to his left and wait for him to turn his head towards the sound, then shake the box to his right. Play the game again with other sounds.
Rattles are great toys for your baby, because grasping and holding the toy helps develop his fine motor skills. He’s also learning about cause and effect. Noisy toys teach your baby that it is he who makes the sound start and stop. This gives him the delightful feeling that he has control over something – and important development step.
From 6 months
Until now, your baby will have been interested in people, but from the six-month mark he’ll also be fascinated by objects. If an item catches your little one’s attention, he’ll quickly forget about whatever he has in his hand and will want to grasp the new thing. He can now hold onto a variety of differently shaped objects, but is likely to seem a bit clumsy because his motor skills are still quite rudimentary.
At this time, your little one’s mouth is more sensitive than his fingers, so everything will go straight in his mouth to be explored. Sitting upright gives your baby a new view of the world and also helps him to develop balance, back-muscle strength and motor skills such as head and neck control. Support him with cushions so he’s sitting up, or seat him in a toy ring and make sure he has lots of objects and toys at hand. He’ll love reaching out and grabbing at them and it’s great for developing his hand-eye co-ordination.
From 8 months
Your little one will stay occupied for ages filling and emptying containers with objects – no drawer of undies or shelf books will be safe from inquisitive hands! Give your baby rolled-up socks from your drawer and a box for him to fill and empty. Emptying is easier than filling, so, initially, you may need to help him put things back in – perhaps that’s why in later years children love tipping out their toys, but are far less keen to tidy them away!
While babies learn to crawl at different ages, if your little one is scooting about confidently, make a tunnel out of a large cardboard box and encourage him to crawl right through by waiting at the other end and saying “boo!” when he emerges. This helps reinfore his sense of security, as he finds out that things won’t disappear just because he can’t see them.
Toys that roll are also a good way to encourage your baby to start crawling.
Reach for a ball that’s out of arms length also promotes hand-eye co-ordination and grasping skills. Your baby may also start to understand that he can pick up a ball and then let it go deliberately. He’ll soon start to enjoy watching it fall from his hands, as well as the noise it makes when it hits the ground.
From 12 months
As your baby starts to pull himself upright and take his first unsteady steps, push-toys are the ideal way to support his early walking attempts.
Stumbles and falls are the inevitable partner of learning to walk, but it’s important to make sure the push-toy is stable and can support your baby’s weight. This type of toy also helps your little one to balance when he’s standing and provides him the opportunity to load blocks or other objects into it and then unload them again.
Once he’s started walking, toys that need to be pulled can improve his balance and co-ordination. They also help reinforce the idea that he can control things. Pull-toys don’t need to be expensive – thread different items from around the house, such as cotton reels, dried pasta, or yoghurt containers, onto a length of string for a fantastic home-made version.