The benefits of playtime for babies

Playtime for babies is about more than just fun; babies do most of their learning through play, so playtime is your baby's way of growing and developing. Never underestimate the power of play: providing your baby with lots of different options at playtime will stimulate their brains and build their muscles, too!

How much playtime does a baby need?

The answer to this question is very much dependent upon your baby. Newborns likely won't play much at all, but as babies approach the 1-month mark, they'll start to pay more attention to the sound of your voice and your face, both of which are key to newborn stimulation, and older babies will start to grab and bat at toys, baby mobiles and other attractive objects that they take a shine to. Simple nursery rhymes and games like 'peekaboo' are perfect for these early months, and using baby playtime music from CDs or MP3s can help to stimulate your baby's hearing from the youngest age. Your baby will let you know when they've had enough play by looking away or being irritable. To develop physical strength, young babies benefit from tummy time - playing on their tummy - which can be made more exciting by placing them on a bright, colourful mat like this Super Mat and by dangling attractive and noisy toys just out of their reach, which may even encourage your baby to start crawling. Tummy time is essential for babies, but it’s important to take this at your own pace. Start with five minutes tummy time with baby lying on your chest, and slowly build up the time and independence as they grow older and stronger. Some experts suggest that parents should aim to give their babies at least 20 minutes of tummy time a day by the time they're 3-4 months old, but be assured that the right amount of time will be unique to your baby.

Are play gyms good for babies?

Play gyms, like this one by Tiny Love, are a great way to enable babies to play before they're sitting up. Play gyms encourage babies to focus their eyes on different objects and colours, and to reach out for the bright, dangling toys above them. They also help babies to develop their vision, coordination, and physical strength, and they're a great way to introduce babies to the concept of 'solo play'.

How does play help a child's development?

Play is how children learn, not just as babies, but all the way through their early years. It's not just about learning how to stack blocks on top of each other; young babies rely on play for their cognitive, social, physical and emotional development. In other words, it's absolutely essential for any baby or child. When we play with our babies, we talk to them and make eye contact, which is the first time our babies will begin to understand how we communicate with other people. Activity toys like this 4-in-1 walker encourage problem-solving as babies experiment with the gadgets in front of them, as well as muscle development as they use their legs to push themselves around from an early age.

Are toys important for babies?

Yes! While there are lots of things you can do to play with your baby without using toys, such as songs and games, there are many skills your baby can only work on by using toys. Toys allow babies to work on their coordination and motor skills, as well as teaching them basic concepts such as those of object permanence. One of our most popular products, the Oribel Portaplay Convertible Activity Table, inspired by the much-loved story of Alice in Wonderland, brings colourful soft characters to life, that your child can interact with and learn from. This fairy-tale themed seated table brings to life delight, intrigue and ignites your little one’s imagination. When you're buying toys, look for anything that encourages active play from your baby - buttons and knobs to touch and turn, blocks and shapes that can be stacked and sorted, and cars and teddies that can be pushed and cuddled.

Are traditional or modern toys better for a baby's development?

In truth, the best balance for infant developmental play is probably a combination of both. While traditional toys, such as stacking rings and wooden blocks, are crucial for developing a baby's gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination, modern toys can equally help to develop a baby's problem-solving abilities and cognitive development. Technology can even be used to keep your baby happy at night; this popular Ewan the Dream Sheep toy plays soothing sounds to your baby when they wake in the night, encouraging healthy sleep development and making life a lot easier for parents, too. For more toys and activity centres that stimulate your baby's development and encourage learning through play, browse our wide selection of baby toys at Direct4Baby.