In your baby’s first few weeks they won’t have enough co-ordination or muscle tone to support their own head or lift their own toys. So at this stage the majority of toys will be simple and designed to help them reach the first few milestones, such as clearer eyesight and reaching out for toys.
A rocker can give your arms a much needed break from constant cuddling and keep your baby soothed.
Suitable from birth until about 6 months, a rocker may be able to be reclined at different angles so that your baby can have a good look around or keep an eye on you while you get on with some work.
While some are simple and straightforward seats, others have toys and entertainment bars on them to encourage your baby to focus their eyes and start to reach for toys. Even more high tech options provide you with the opportunity to plug in your MP3 player so your baby can hear some of your favourite music.
Much like a rocker, a bouncer is a seat to give your arms a break, and keep you baby safe and comfy. Bouncers come in a variety of different types and styles – some are high tech options with activity bars for when your baby gets older, and some are simple seats on a wire frame.
A bouncer normally doesn’t rock, but will give a gentle ‘bouncing’ motion when you give it a nudge or with your baby’s own movements. Some even have built-in vibrate functions or music players to help soothe your baby.
Even at the earliest stage, babies benefit from tummy time to encourage strong neck muscles. A playmat can be a great way to get your baby enjoying time on his front.
Most come with bright coloured patterns and pictures, suitable for a baby’s young eyes, and toys attached for when they get older.
Some young babies can become distressed when placed on their front, and it’s worth considering a playmat with a bolster cushion to raise your baby so they aren’t lying completely flat. At this age it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t leave your baby unattended on their tummy.
A play gym is usually an arch attached to a play mat with toys hanging down to encourage your baby to reach out with their hands and feet.
Although your newborn won’t be able to reach the toys yet, they can still enjoy looking at the toys and will be stretching out in no time! It also encourages your baby to move their arms and legs, strengthening their muscles, getting them ready to roll.
A play nest is really a variation on a play mat, and are basically a doughnut ring with detachable toys, or sometimes a play arch, to keep your newborn entertained.
While these are advertised as suitable from birth, newborns can find it awkward to be propped up on the arch, and can slide down.
However, play nests are great at encouraging your baby to learn to sit and support themselves so are a good investment. If the toys are detachable, you can use them to play with your baby.
If your newborn has a craving to be rocked back and forth, you might find a swing chair invaluable. There are a lot of different options to choose from. Some have soft toys and play music, others are simpler, with just a rocking seat.
When you’re deciding which one to go for, some points worth thinking about include where it gets its power from (batteries or mains) and how much space it’s likely to take up.
You might also want to check how loud the motor is that causes the swinging action – some can be quite noisy, and if your baby is very keen you might get sick of the sound of it!