Shake, Rattle, & PLAY! Choosing that first special toy – tips from the EI therapists!

You’ve waited for what seems like forever for that sweet bundle of joy and now that baby is here, you want to hug, adore, love, and….shop! Parents, grandparents, & friends love to buy that first toy. It’s often seen as a special a right of passage and such an important decision, but how long do we spend considering that first toy?

A baby’s first toy is one of their very first ways to learn through play. By touching it, moving it, and placing it in his/her mouth, that tiny infant is learning about spacial concepts, exploring and wakening the sensory system, and getting that sweet mouth stronger to produce lovely first sounds. Important roles indeed for a simple rattle, right? That’s why when choosing a first toy, like any toy that comes after it, we suggest first examining the child’s developmental stage and finding a toy that matches those abilities.

For example, a newborn infant has tiny hands that have the ability to grasp with a whole palm, so smaller diameter rattles will be easier to maintain a toy in the hand. Did you know that a newborn only  sees 8-15 inches in front of them at first and initially only recognizes black, white, orange and red? Typically, babies don’t see pastels well until close to 5 months of age. This fact makes seeking out toys with bold, contrasting colors a smart choice. Ever notice babies seem to put EVERYTHING in their mouths? As therapists, we actually encourage this because it strengthens those muscles in the mouth and brings self oral awareness that later helps babies to make noises and speak and eat safely. Choosing first toys that are safe to place in the mouth from a size standpoint as well as ensuring the toy is made with safe materials.

Over the years, we have found a few favorites that we are excited to share with you here.

Sophie the world’s most famous giraffe (found at: is loved by all babies. But do you know she’s been a fan favorite since 1961 when she got her start in France? Still made today by a top secret process utilizing specialized rubber made by Hevea Tree sap, Sophie is a classic.
Simple links like those shown here (found at: are wonderful first objects to hold (a single red one is my personal favorite).  These are fun to link to make longer chains and hook to a car seat as baby grows.
Wooden toys are some of my favorite and infants seem to love them too.  This one (found at: is a nice option for a rattle and a great teether.
Manhattan Toys does a wonderful job at creating developmentally appropriate first toys. Here’s two of our favorites. We love them for the easy of grasp and unique designs.
Found at:
Found at:
Some of the greatest toys come out of Germany.  Wish I had known about this awesome option when my girls were tiny.
Found at:
While these are great commercial options, don’t hesitate to make your own rattle or toy.  Small water bottles, plastic Easter eggs, or small baby food containers with beans or popcorn inside (be sure to glue lids and openings shut tightly for safely) make simple options.  Before you know it, that baby will be shaking and learning, and you’ll be able to continue to hug, adore, love, and…play!
Are you intrigued by the idea of being mindful of your child’s development when choosing toys and play activities? Head over to our HOME PAGE to learn more about 1-2-3 Just Play With Me.  We’ve uniquely paired 3 years worth of milestones with play in each domain of child development. PLUS, this generous information is presented in accessible card format, because we know, as parents you want to save your valuable time for PLAYING!
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