With an infant on your hands, it might feel like all you do these days is feed, change diapers and catch a nap while baby sleeps (if you’re lucky). But while it may seem like baby can’t do much, it’s actually never too early to start playing with your child. In the early weeks and months, she isn’t exactly ready to kick a soccer ball or put together a puzzle, but there are plenty of fun ways to engage with her that’ll have important long-term benefits for her physical and mental development.
"It’s a myth that babies can’t play, even if they don’t seem to be ‘doing much’ yet—they’re still taking everything in,” says Amanda Gummer, a research psychologist specializing in child development and spokesperson for the Genius of Play, a movement to raise awareness about the importance of play in kids’ lives. “Playing is a great way for parents and caregivers to build that vital bond with their baby, while sensory stimulation helps the baby’s brain grow.”
3-month-old babies are just beginning to find their hands and play with toys. It’s a fun stage where almost any object can be a source of immense fascination. The best toys for 3-month-old babies range from hand-held objects that they can stuff in their mouths to more complex entertainment systems that hang over their heads or allow them to bounce their legs. All of these can serve as great 3-month-old baby toys.
Finding the best toys for 3-month-olds may vary from one personality to the next, but any toy that a 3-month-old baby engages with is going to be a developmental benefit to them. 3-month-old brains are constantly learning and any movement of their hands or grasping of objects is going to help them continue to do so!
Realistically, babies are happy playing with household items like wooden spoons and plastic food containers, so don’t feel obligated to break the bank on toys. The best toys for babies have features that help with developing eyesight, fine motor skills and an ever-growing curiosity about their world—and, of course, are very safe.
Here are some features to consider when choosing toys for your little one:
Contrasting colors and patterns. A baby’s vision isn’t fully developed until they’re around five months old. To help them see and focus on objects, look for toys that have high contrast in colors and patterns; black and white is best for newborns (stripes, checkerboard, or simple images are easiest to focus on), while older babies love looking at brighter colors.
Varying soft textures. Toys with strips of satiny, velvety, rubbery, bumpy or fluffy material are an absolute delight for tiny, grabby fingers. Babies are working on their fine motor skills from about three months and up, and interesting textures make it super fun to develop those skills.
Safe for chewing. Babies want to put everything in their mouths. Everything. The time will eventually come when your curious bub will try to eat something not so great (pet food, a dirty rag, carpet fuzz, etc.), but you can make up for it by making sure some things are actually OK to gnaw, like toys and teethers that are free of harmful chemicals and made with one-piece construction (no small parts to break off and choke on).
Easy to clean. Toys that are machine washable and dishwasher safe are great when you don’t want to spend a ton of time washing toys by hand (we understand, you don’t want to be cleaning all day). It’s also a good idea to check if a toy has trouble drying all the way—plastic, silicone, and rubber are especially susceptible to mold, so those toys should be thoroughly cleaned and dried fairly often.
Audible. Rattles, bells, crinkles, lullabies—if it makes a sound, your little one will pay attention to it. Babies love making things make noise, and you can encourage their curiosity with toys that respond audibly to their actions. They’ll be fully entertained if it jingles when they shake it or squeaks when they squeeze it (admit it, you may be a little entertained, too).
A few fun and bright toys will come in handy to distract a fussy baby or make tummy time more enjoyable. Whether you are looking for simple handheld toys for playtime or soothing amusement for bedtime, the above features should be taken into consideration.