Often when one thinks about educational toys, the first things to come to mind are toys or videos designed for certain skills, such as learning numbers or the alphabet. These can be video sets like Baby Einstein or flashcards with pictures of animals, numbers, or letters colorfully displayed on the cards. While many of these items are ideal for a toddler or even some preschool-age children, many of them are too advanced for a baby. If you’re looking to give your baby – or a baby you’re buying a shower present for – a head start, some educational toys are available. But, especially for children under one year, educational toys are referred to as “stimulation toys” or “infant stimulation.”
Infant stimulation toys are designed to stimulate the five senses, or, at this point, sight, touch, and hearing. As a baby has unfocused vision and hearing and is unable to use its fingers, these toys are designed to help a baby use these senses. For example, many baby toys and crib items are designed in black, white, and red – both solid colors and patterns – as the sharply contrasting colors are more visible to a baby’s eyes than primary colors. Objects like a mobile, a play mat, rattles, and even the edge of a baby crib mirror are designed with this color combination to enhance and “stimulate” a baby’s vision. These objects, in addition, are coupled with hearing features, such as music or sounds that come out when a baby touches it. To enhance touch, even when a baby can’t fully use its hands, a play mat or any other crib objects may be made of different textures or sounds, such as crinkling or jingling, that a baby can make when lying down on or rolling on a play mat or touching a stuffed animal.
As soon as a baby is capable of using its fingers to some degree, toys now have touching, grasping, and holding purposes and this extends past infancy through toddler stages. Only, for toddlers, toys start to have pretend and creative purposes to help a child start emulating the behavior of adults, which, as he or she becomes more aware of the world surrounding, he or she wants to imitate.