Learning & development toys for newborn – 7 months

As I’ve written before, I regret not including more learning and development toys on our baby registry before my daughter was born. It wasn’t the end of the world, but as a first-time mom, I was really surprised how quickly she was ready to engage with her environment, and I felt a bit unprepared. The good news is, you can have a lot of fun with some pretty basic toys and items from around your house!

There’s absolutely nothing magical about this list. These toys and activities worked for us based on our daughter’s developmental timeline. I highly recommend these two resources on learning and development to help with your journey. A note on this list: one item is included for each stage; the month listed is the month we introduced the toy to our daughter, but she’s continued to play with each toy (and still does today at almost 9 months).

Newborn – 2 months: Black and white art cards

There’s not a lot that you need during those first two months, but there is evidence that visual stimulation, particularly during the early months, may have a profound effect on baby’s development. As newborns, babies can only detect large contrasts between light and dark, so unfortunately those serene pastel nurseries aren’t doing much for them. That’s why products like Black Wee Gallery’s Art Cards for babies are so helpful. The company recommends placing the cards in a baby’s crib, above the changing table or any other place the baby spends time. It also describes how the cards facilitate a baby’s development over time, from birth through the first year.

3 months: Touch and Feel Board Book

Right after the newborn stage, our daughter starting showing an interest in textures. A friend of mine gave her the Jellycat Baby Touch and Feel Board Book If I were a Kitty. Each page of the book features a different texture, and the book itself has a curly cat tail. Unlike the other board books in our rotation during those early days, this one actually held her attention. If cats aren’t your thing, Jellycat makes the same book featuring bears, sloths, dragons and just about any other creature you can imagine.

4 months: DIY ribbon rattle

At around 4 months, our daughter started developing more motor skills and began showing more interest in her toys that made sounds, like rattles. Drawing inspiration from this post on DIY sensory shakers and noise makers, I made filled a plastic bottle with rice and colorful pom poms and attached ribbon to the lid. She likes her other rattles, but to this day, this one is her favorite because of the ribbons and all of the different colors.

5 months: DIY sensory bowl

Our daughter began to show a lot more curiosity at the 5-month mark. Coupling her increased interest in her environment with more awake time, and we found that it took more to stimulate her and keep her active. I started reading about sensory play, and got the idea to fill one of our mixing bowls with items from around the house that had a unique texture (sometimes called a sensory bowl or treasure basket). I went from room to room looking for candidates, but you can also find lists online. We started with a whisk, loofah, ball, wooden hairbrush, silicon cupcake mold, a board book and a few of her bath toys. I periodically rotate out her bowl friends to keep things fresh. I’m not exaggerating when I say we drag this bowl out every day, even now.

6 months: bath time animal stickers

At around 6 months, our daughter started to reliably sit up on her own. Up until that point, we were giving her baths lying down in the bath tub, but she loved her bath time, and I wanted to find a way for her to safely be able to splash around and play more. After doing some research, I got a Munchkin Sit and Soak Baby Bath Tub that we absolutely love. It has a built-in seat with back support so my husband and I can focus on washing and playing instead of trying to keep her in a seated position. That bath tub enabled our 6-month MVP: Weird and Wonderful Animals Bath Time Stickers. She always enjoyed bath time, but she’s absolutely obsessed with these foam stickers. They cling to the bath walls when they’re wet and float on the water surface if they fall in. My favorite feature is that the animals each come in three pieces, so she’ll have fun being silly and mixing and matching them once she’s older.

7 months: Bubbles

At 7 months, we faced a bit of a teething crisis. Our normally very happy girl started to get very cranky around 4 pm every day. I’d heard that babies love bubbles, so I ordered these Bubble Tree Sustainable Bubbles and saved them to play with during the most challenging part of each day. They immediately shift her mood and get her moving. I’m also really glad we didn’t introduce bubbles until we were having teething and crankiness issues; the novelty makes them even more special.

9 baby registry MVPs

When I first pulled together the baby registry for our first child, I spent hours researching the best products and reading blogs like this one. Once our baby arrived and we had a chance to put everything to use, I realized there were gaps in the list and things that would work better for our family. I’ve created a list of registry must-haves; some you’ll find on other lists because they’re flat-out amazing and some you might not…at least I didn’t. That said, all babies are different and your needs and routines will be different than ours, so what works for us might not work for you!

  1. Treatments for mom. I deeply regret not including gift cards for massages, chiropractic work, physical therapy and/or acupuncture on my registry. It’s a lovely, thoughtful way to recognize mom and give her a nudge to do something for herself. By including it your registry, you help shift the perception that these treatments are necessary for healing and recovery, not luxuries. A healthy mom is the best foundation for a healthy baby.
  2. Help with the household. Keeping a household running with a newborn around is tough. In the early days as a new mom, I would’ve traded all of the outfits and swings and blankets we got as gifs for a warm meal and a hot shower. Unless you have an actual village to help you with meals, cleaning and errands, I recommend adding gift cards for food delivery, cleaning services and (if you’re really lucky) a postpartum doula. If you do have a village nearby to support you, here’s some advice on getting help from them.
  3. Homeopathic remedies. I wish that I’d spent more time researching and buying homeopathic options so that I had them on-hand when I needed them. Our daughter suffered from colic during the first two months, and this Colic Calm Homeopathic Gripe Water was a miracle. It gave our baby instant relief within minutes and also helps with gas, upset stomach, reflux and hiccups. We recently purchased Camilia Boiron Teething Treatment as an alternative to Motrin Infant Drops; we’ve had to dose her more often with the Camilia drops but they’re a lot more gentle on her digestive system than Motrin was. And so many parents rave about Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath for boosting immunity and neutralizing colds and flu before they start. Here’s a great article on DIY therapeutic baths for kids.
  4. Sensory and developmental toys. One item you won’t need on your registry is stuffed animals; my daughter received dozens of stuffed animals as an infant, including at least six white bunnies. Don’t get me wrong. I adore stuffed animals, and they look precious in her nursery, but she’s seven months old now and has never played with one of them. Do yourself a favor and register for toys that promote your baby’s learning and development.
  5. Board books. Speaking of things you won’t need on your registry: any books that aren’t board books. Your baby will be rough on books, rip the pages and chew on the covers. While it’s tempting to get all of your favorite kids’ books now, you won’t be able to enjoy them until much later. I’ve also been surprised at how much our daughter craves variety with the books we read to her; she definitely gets board with repetition. I highly suggest focusing on board books and stocking up on them.
  6. Kyte onesies. Kyte onesies are our absolute favorites. They’ve got zippers instead of snaps, the fabric is super soft and they’re lightweight enough to wear under swaddles and sleep sacks. This is all you need for the first three months!
  7. Wraps and carriers. We’ve gotten so much use out of our Solly Baby wrap and Ergobaby carrier. The wrap was great to wear around the house; my husband carried our daughter constantly in her newborn days, and it helped so much with their bonding. It settled her, and I’m convinced she got some of her best sleep in it. Once she grew out of the wrap, we started using the Ergobaby carrier more (around four months) and are still using it now (seven months).
  8. Swaddles, sleep suits and sleep sacks. We swaddled our daughter from the very beginning, and it was a life saver for getting her to sleep. (Here’s a great step-by-step video we used.) A friend of mine recommended the double-swaddle method, which we eventually used because our little one was very skilled at breaking free of her single swaddle from a young age. Around three months, she graduated from her cloth swaddle and we started using the HALO Micro Fleece Sleepsack Swaddle. It mimics the feel of a swaddle, but it’s got velcro and a zipper, making it easier to take on and off for diaper changes in the middle of the night. We used it for about six weeks until she was able to pull her hands out. The final transition outfit we used was a Baby Merlin’s Cotton Magic Sleepsuit. She wore it for about a month until she was able to roll over in her crib, but during that month, we absolutely loved it.
  9. Soaking tub. We took friends’ advice and didn’t buy a traditional newborn bath tub. Baths in the early days were typically fast and functional, so we just laid her in the bath tub on a folded towel until she was starting to sit up more independently, around five months. By then, she was loving bath time and her bath toys, so we wanted to spend longer and needed a better way to keep her warm and comfortable. I got a Munchkin Sit and Soak Baby Bath Tub that we absolutely love. It has a built-in seat with back support so my husband and I can focus on washing and playing instead of trying to keep her in a seated position. She’s sitting upright, so she can play and splash, and it’s easier to keep her warm because she’s more submerged. It also saves water because we’re filling up a mini tub. She squeals and gets so excited for bath time every night.