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Baby Toys You Can Make

by Debra Karplus

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Your new baby or grandbaby is a few months old now and starting to do more than just eat, sleep, cry, and require diaper changes. He or she is starting to show an interest in the world around him or her. At about three months old, babies discover the magic their little hands can perform. What they need now is some playthings, perhaps some baby toys you can make, to manipulate and to learn important early lessons in cause and effect.

If you've been to any of the baby shops or discount stores or looked online at baby toys, you've noticed that they tend to be made mostly of plastic and seem overpriced. Given that most toys interest babies and also older children for a relatively short time, it's good to think economics here. It may be worthwhile to consider baby toys you can make.

Think safety!

Since baby is genetically linked to you, you are certain this little one carries your genes for intelligence and will someday be class valedictorian or our nation's president. True enough. But however bright your infant might be, until he/she is a few years old or probably older, he/she will be lacking in any common sense, especially pertaining to safety. Little ones are curious, as they should be, to learn about the world, and putting objects into their ears, nose, and mouth is a way for them to learn and to please their senses. Therefore, you should always consider the safety of any toy.

Have fun with fine and gross motor toys.

Babies like to touch things first, then grasp them and pick them up, and ultimately learn to manipulate objects. You can make a simple, safe rattle. Find a clean, empty plastic container with a handle, such as the type a quart of milk or orange juice comes in. Put some rice, beans, or colorful beads in it. Seal it very tightly, so there is no chance any of the contents will spill out. Baby will enjoy this homemade rattle. You can add more to the contents for additional weight.

Make a mobile. Replicate the types of mobiles you see in online images. Shape wire or coat hanger safely above baby's bed. Dangle colorful shapes, pictures, or photos that baby can reach for and mobilize. Baby will enjoy watching the motion of these objects and will learn to reach for them to make them move.

Wrap a toy in newspaper, or better yet, re-use ornate gift wrap paper. Encourage baby to unwrap to find the toy. Repeat until baby tries this task.

An empty cylindrical oatmeal container makes a great drum for baby. If you can find a way to seal in the contents, then fill it with some "noisemakers." Use your imagination. If not, then let this become a container that they can learn to open and close and put small objects into. Or play hide-and-seek with baby by concealing safe little toys inside the container and encouraging baby to look for them. Demonstrate, so baby will get the idea.

For bath time, avoid purchasing store-bought toys. Instead, let baby play in the water with some simple kitchen objects, such as a strainer, funnel, measuring cups, or measuring spoons. Look around the house for more ideas. You'll impress yourself with your own creativity and be pleased when baby chuckles with joy about these new "toys."

Sensory stimulation makes sense.

Babies learn about the world by having sensory experiences with their five senses, namely vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Find small scraps of fabrics that feel different with different textures, such as fur, satin, velour, and so on. You can easily make a sensory ball by stitching together these fabrics shaped like a ball and stuffed with clean rags. Mirrors sometimes intrigue babies. Experiment with this idea.

Stimulate baby with pleasant music and sounds. The jingle of keys will fascinate an infant. Playing classical music may have a calming effect during fussy periods.

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Borrow toys and books from your local library.

Most libraries have children's departments that are well stocked with books, puzzles, toys, and more. These items can be borrowed and brought home for a few weeks. It's a great way to try new age-appropriate activities with your little one! Reading to even the youngest of babies is a great way to transform them into good readers as they become school age. You may think they are not understanding the story or looking at the pictures, but reading to baby is a great first step to facilitate good reading skills in a child.

There's no need to spend money on overpriced baby toys that will quickly become uninteresting or outgrown. With a little creativity, you can make fun playthings for your favorite little one. Engage your imagination and you'll amaze yourself at the possibilities.

Reviewed July 2017

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