5 Great Toys for Infant Development

Think you need a big budget or a fancy catalog for designer toys to provide your baby with fun tools for cognitive and physical development? Think again.
Think you need a big budget or a fancy catalog for designer toys to provide your baby with fun tools for cognitive and physical development? Think again.

It's unlikely that the inventor of the cup-and-ball toy was inspired by a need to help children develop better hand-and-eye coordination. Though, after watching a child play even such a simple a game, you can quickly see advancements in the development of their physical coordination.

Whether or not originally intended for infant development, many toys and objects certainly serve that purpose. You don't need a big budget or a fancy catalog for designer toys to provide your baby with fun tools for cognitive and physical development.

Looking for five great toys to kick-start your infant's development? Keep reading to find out.


A toy doesn't need to be expensive to be beneficial for infant development.

It takes babies several months to realize an object that's covered up by another object still exists. That being the case, the "peek-a-boo" game must seem like pure sorcery, with objects vanishing and then reappearing out of thin air. Over time, babies will learn the concept of object permanence.

You can help your infant learn this concept by playing with scarves. Scarves are inexpensive and easily obtained or made -- you can even take a pair of scissors to an old shirt or towel if need be. However, thin, sheer scarves that allow you to see through them will be best in the beginning since your little one will still be able to see the object that's hidden beneath.

You can also help develop a baby's hand-eye coordination by fluttering a scarf above him. Allow the little one to reach for the scarf, and give just the slightest resistance once he's successfully grabbed the scarf to help your infant develop the ability to grasp objects.

Next: It's about the container, not the cargo.

Box with Hinged Door

While plenty of baby toys come with audio recordings, flashing lights and an abundance of moving parts, you can get lots of developmental mileage out of very simple toys. Such is the case with a simple box that has a hinged door. This may come in the form of a play oven or a small chest. You can even use a small, heavy-weight cardboard box with flaps.

For starters, boxes allow infants to pull themselves up, prop themselves up, and lean on something sturdy when their legs are less than sturdy. This helps in the development of motor skills, balance and physical strength -- all of which come in handy when a baby works up to his or her first steps.

Next we'll take a look at the spitting image of infant development.


While we don't normally think of mirrors as toys, they are very useful for infant development -- and the provide baby with loads of entertainment as well. Imagine the excitement of seeing your own face for the very first time! In addition to countless hours of stimulating entertainment, mirrors provide infants with a sense of companionship as they wonder, "Who is this fabulous baby staring at me?"

Babies will spend more time on their bellies when looking at a mirror attached to the crib, and this is good for developing upper body strength as they push themselves up with their arms and hands. Mirrors also help the development of the eyes, as they require the infant to focus and track their own images in the mirror. Mirrors aid in social development, too, when your babies spends time making eye contact and trying out different faces (and reacting to those faces). Self-recognition is developed through use of mirrors, and with it self-knowledge.


Some infant-development toys (formerly just known as "toys") are classics that need no updating, modernizing or retooling. Take the standard set of baby toy blocks. The last time they were significantly altered to "keep up with the times" was when they replaced cave stones as the preferred stacking medium in childhood.

While it appears that your infant is "just" banging blocks together or making a small pile, there's a lot going on in the way of development. Playing with blocks helps your infant learn shapes, the concept of counting -- and even fractions -- as they match up one single block with two halves of a similarly sized block.

There is also a fun lesson to be learned about gravity, and your baby will be eager to repeat experimental test results by repeatedly dropping blocks, picking them up and dropping them again. Your infant will also start to learn balancing skills as he or she picks up, holds or transports a block using only one hand.

These early experiments with blocks will pave the way toward later understanding about making rows, identifying and grouping same-shaped or same-colored blocks and building more complicated structures.


When absolutely everything in the world is new and exciting for a newborn, a simple ball is an amazing thing. It can be picked up, dropped, sat upon, thrown, bounced, corralled and (last but certainly not least in the long list of amazing ball qualities) rolled.

All of these tasks aid in infant development. While we take for granted our brains' ability to know where a ball will go when rolled, it's a concept that takes time to master. It teaches the use of force as babies experiment with varying degrees of effort when they push a ball across the floor and then watch the results in the distance.

Retrieving a ball helps develop spatial awareness as babies learn to match their visual targeting with the length of the journey. The other thing about a ball: In addition to being a boon to infant development, it's a heckuva lot of fun.

Keep reading for lots more information on toys for infant development.


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  • Bremner, Gavin. "Blackwell Handbook of Infant Development." John Wiley and Sons, April 15, 2008. http://books.google.com/books?id=GVdeYJgPmTMC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
  • Consumer Reports. "Toys for babies and young children." April 2007. (Feb. 15, 2012) http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/babies-kids/baby-toddler/play-and-activity/stuffed-animals/toys-for-babies-and-young-children-4-07/overview/toys-for-babies-and-young-children-ov.htm
  • Guyton, Gabriel. "Using Toys to Support Infant-Toddler Learning and Development." Young Children. September 2011. (Feb. 15, 2012) https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:5Ws0pAhvaHQJ:www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/201109/Using%2520Toys_Guyton_Online_0911.pdf+toys+infant+development&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEEShkApzaOMCNVTkaFGqyU4HThm9Q9QE-f6zjUFz8xkY-wATV1YuqCTGbSjo35BwMDzPWkGCRY8tNTc0T_PUT8XHABcCK2i5bN97h3Hw8icsW1bQJ_Mt9chvPFv7hg4eLj2mxQBJ7&sig=AHIEtbTD-QFqwLFUFs3icYwJQXXvOQu0Yg
  • Krakovsky, Marina. "Reaching in the Dark: How babies learn that unseen toys don't just vanish." July 18, 2005. (Feb. 15, 2012) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=reaching-in-the-dark
  • Lao, Joseph, Ph.D. "Infant Motor Development." Parenting Literacy. (Feb. 15, 2012) http://parentingliteracy.com/parenting-a-z/51-motor-development/57-judyinny
  • Moderelli, Moira. "3 Best Toys for Intellectual Development." American Baby. June 2006. (Feb. 15, 2012) http://www.parents.com/baby/development/intellectual/3-best-toys-for-intellectual-development/?page=2
  • What to Expect. "Why Babies Love Mirrors." (Feb. 15, 2012) http://www.whattoexpect.com/playroom/playtime-tips/why-babies-love-mirrors.aspx