Let’s face it, the only thing newborns really need is loving parents. For the first month or so, it seems that they’re pretty much baby blobs, doing nothing but eating, sleeping and messing nappies (oh, and keeping you up nights!).
There's a lot going on in that tiny newborn brain, however. The brain develops faster in the first 12 months than it does at any other time of life, and there are lots of things that you can do to help your baby develop essential skills.
Newborn babies are learning to focus their vision, and they are naturally attracted to faced. You'll find that you instinctively put your face close to your baby's, as a newborn has a vision range that is only about 20 to 30 cms. Everything else for a tiny baby is just a blur, or a shadow.
While your newborn is working on that fuzzy vision, high contrast colours are great, as they are easy to see. Black and white is perfect for newborns, as are brightly coloured objects.We love the Books for Newborns
range of black & white and high contrast images - it's a great way to help develop baby's eyesight, and it's never too early to start baby on books!
Babies' fascination with faces includes their own. A baby safe mirror is perfect for developing a sense of self. Although your baby won't know it's her own face she's looking at, she will be drawn to it. You may even find her laughing and smiling at it.
Noisy items are great for newborns, too. Not too noisy, though – you don’t want baby jumping out of her skin! Anything with a gentle rattle is good, or perhaps a musical mobile. Soft sensory toys with different sounds, such as a squeaker and crackly fabric, are great too, as they’ll not only develop baby’s auditory skills but also their sense of cause and effect.It’s best to keep mobiles away from baby’s cot, as you don’t want to overstimulate a baby that should be learning to go to sleep! However, mobiles are great to put above the change table as they can often distract a wriggly baby at nappy change time.Mobiles are great for newborns, as it’s another way to help develop their vision. The movement will attract baby’s attention, and you may find that baby is fascinated by shadows cast in bright sunlight, and things that move and chime in the breeze.
Cause and effect is when baby realises that if she does something, like grab the soft toy, that something else will happen, e.g. it will make a squeaky sound.
Auditory skills are when baby reacts to a sound, for example, if you shake the rattle baby should turn her head in the direction of the sound. As baby's auditory skills develop, she will turn her head to the sound of your voice.She'll combine these skills to work out that when she grabs for a toy, she'll get to hear the sound. Move toys to within her line of vision, so that she can focus on them. Although she might not be able to get them yet, you'll find that she bats at the toys she likes.
Try laying your baby on a playmat with a baby gym above her. As her muscles develop, she'll learn that she can swipe at the baby gym with her hands or her feet to make the characters move. The same principle applies to a pram string - it's great for keeping little ones entertained in the pram or the car seat, and they'll soon learn that a whack at it will make the bell jingle.
As baby learns to grab for things, she'll start shaking them, rattling them, and of course, putting them in her mouth. It's important that baby has lots of different textures, shapes and sounds to stimulate her senses. It's also important that anything she puts in her mouth is safe for her to chew.Try laying your baby on a playmat with a baby gym above her. As her muscles develop, she'll learn that she can swipe at the baby gym with her hands or her feet to make the characters move. The same principle applies to a pram string - it's great for keeping little ones entertained in the pram or the car seat, and they'll soon learn that a whack at it will make the bell jingle.
Try to choose toys made of natural materials, with non-toxic finishes. If you're choosing a plastic toy, make sure that it's free from BPA, phthalates and PVC.
Not only is a newborn baby rapidly developing all these different skills, they're also learning to get themselves off to sleep. Some babies find it very comforting to have a fabric toy, aptly called a comforter! Parents can wear a fabric comforter next to their skin, then pop it next to baby in the cot so that baby has a familiar smell with them.
As baby gets a little older, the comforter can also become a teether and you may find that baby loves to suck and chew the ends of the fabric. It's a good idea to choose organic for these, so that you know there is nothing nasty going into little mouths.
First published September 2013, updated October 2015. Copyright © Vanessa Layton 2014.
Don't forget to check out Hello Charlie's great range of newborn toys
if you're looking for some more inspiration!
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