I get asked a lot for recommendations for baby toys and I struggle to answer to be honest because I don't really think babies need 'toys'.
Before a baby can sit unassisted, hold something steady in their hand and pass it between each hand they are not really ready for toys as such, and certainly don't need a lot of money spent to entertain them. Their most favourite toy is you!
At home I'm a huge fan of sensory play for babies. This is as simple as giving them loads of different objects to hold, look at, suck, chew, throw or in some cases avoid!
Up to 12 months of age babies grow and develop at an extraordinary rate so they soon tire of 'baby toys', so instead I recommend you utlise objects from around the home where possible. Things like small bottles filled with rice and water are great. Some paper scrunched up makes a great noise and is fairly safe if they eat it! Get them outdoors and in nature. Pop them on a blanket in the backyard where they can access leaves, grass, flowers, dirt (yes, dirt!) - and do things with them like blow bubbles, hit some sticks together whilst singing a song. Even simply walking around the backyard talking about what you can see (clouds, sun, sky, trees, grass, pets, bricks, windows) is fascinating and stimulating for babies. I find this kind of play is wonderful for the witching hour just before dinner time!
I often see mums in cafe's trying to keep a fussy baby entertained while they finish their luke warm coffee (often while juggling a toddler or older child!). Usually they have half a dozen toys they keep passing to the baby to keep them happy. Each toy lasts for approximately 6 seconds before it is abandoned in favour of trying to get mum or dad's attention. That is the key. They don't really want fancy toys while you try to have an adult conversation or stop your toddler from spilling their milk or food. They want your undivided attention. I'm not saying you can't go to a cafe and enjoy a coffee or head to a park and play with your toddler. All I'm saying is that you are better off planning ahead and saving your money and not buying umpteen toys for your baby when they grow so quickly and tire of them just as quick.
Instead, keep your baby close to you where possible, as they will be calmer and less fussy if they are close to you in a carrier or wrap or at least on your lap instead of in a pram or bouncer. If they are old enough to be eating food, time your coffee break for their snack time and get them engaged in food. Heaps of mums have also realised that babies like to play with their jewellery and now opt for baby friendly silicone jewelry so that is a great option as it gives them something to grasp, chew on and play with. Chompies are a great example of fashionable baby safe mumma jewelry that babies can play with and even chew on.
So what else does your baby do if you are not passing them toy after toy to keep them occupied? If they aren't happy in a baby carrier or wrap, or asleep, then improvise!! If you are at a cafe, give them the menu to hold, hold them up so they can see other patrons (who will no doubt swoon over them!), get your toddler or older child to sing to them or tickle their hands and feet. Most babies love peek-a-boo so hide behind the menu or your hands, my babies at least never tired of this and if I had the stamina I'm sure they'd still giggle after 45 minutes of peek a boo. Give them a teaspoon to wave around or suck on or I'm sure your coffee date is happy for some baby cuddles while you finish your coffee. At home keep a box of 'stuff' handy and once your baby is sitting then let them loose with the box as they pick and choose what takes their fancy at that point in time.
There are a few toys that I do recommend for babies that make great newborn baby gifts, christening gifts or just general baby purchases. They are our Natural Wooden Teethers, Natural Wooden Rattles and Baby Grasping Toys. They are all great eco friendly toys and the teethers especially are very popular with babies suffering teething pain.
So in summary, keep it simple for babies, don't spend a lot of money, use what you have and keep baby close to you and keep them happy and engaged. Also look out for an upcoming blog of ours talking about toy choices based on developmental milestones and ways you can help your children develop key skills.