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6 Kids' Toys That Promote Development

Toys can provide much more than just entertainment for your child. The right toys can boost cognitive development, improve coordination and promote language skill development. To help you choose the best ones from the hundreds that are available, we at Pottery Barn Kids have put together a list of the top six educational toys for babies.

1. Activity Mats

Activity mats feature bright, high-contrast colors and can include stimulating items like rattles, mirrors, tethers and dangling toys. The mats stimulate the senses of hearing, sight and touch while providing a comfortable and safe learning environment for your baby. Most mats are designed for infants from 0 to 6 months of age, who are developing their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and awareness of the world around them. Activity mats are available in a variety of shapes and designs -- including tummy time play mats, which provide a soft surface and toys to entertain your baby while they are on their belly.

2. Books

It's a well-known fact that reading to older children helps them develop their grammar and vocabulary, but did you know that even infants can benefit from having stories read to them? Not only will your baby learn new words and speech sounds during story time, but they will also pick up on the changing tone of your voice as you read. Reading stories to your baby every day will help stimulate their imagination and help them learn about the world around them. As a general rule of thumb, babies like books that rhyme, repeat and have rhythm. Choose books with bright colors or black and white drawings. Be sure to buy a few plastic or waterproof books that your baby can take into the bath.

3. Mobiles

Baby mobiles aren't meant to simply be distractions during diaper changing. Mobiles are an important tool in helping your baby develop auditory, visual perception and motor skills. Most mobiles feature hanging tones that bounce or move around, encouraging your child to focus on them visually. Many models also have built-in music boxes that help develop your baby's auditory perception. Mobiles are available in a range of styles that can be attached to a crib, car seat, high chair or rocker. Consider purchasing several of them so your baby will be entertained no matter where they're resting.

4. Music Playing Toys

Music is essential to babies' development. Studies show that listening to music boosts children's cognitive skills and improves memory. Songs about the alphabet, numbers, colors or shapes have been shown to help very young children develop their language skills. Music also plays an important role in bonding and soothing; when babies hear music, they feel calmer and happier. Whether it's a sing-along storybook or a musical plush toy, there are dozens of ways to foster an appreciation of music in your child. A good way to introduce very young babies is to attach a hanging music toy to your baby's crib, car seat or stroller.

5. Teething Toys

Many people assume teething toys are just for pain relief, but teething toys also play an important role in developing a baby's coordination and problem-solving skills. To relieve pain, your baby must see the toy, grasp it and place it into their mouth; doing so repeatedly builds confidence and teaches the baby to solve problems. When buying teethers, be sure to choose only toys that are sturdy enough to withstand extensive chewing. Avoid teething toys with detachable parts, which can be a choking hazard and if the toy is made of fabric, check to make sure the seams are strong enough to keep the liquid in. Wooden teethers should be free of sharp edges and splinters.

6. Blocks

Toy blocks help young children hone their fine motor skills, learn to solve problems and even understand basic math concepts. Playing with blocks also teaches children about colors, shapes and sizes. When buying blocks for infants, choose soft blocks that baby can squeeze and put into their mouth. Older babies and toddlers may prefer plastic or wooden blocks that can be stacked into different formations.

The right baby toys can turn your little one's playtime into valuable learning time. Keep the above list in mind as you shop for toys that will stimulate your child's cognitive development.

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