Answer: The first months and years of a child’s life can shape their future, with their brain rapidly developing cognitive, emotional and motor skills during their first three years. The best learning toys for a 6-month-old include action/reaction toys, stacking toys, role-play toys and toys which can aid crawling.
It’s never too early for them to start learning, so keep reading for more background on how your baby will be developing at 6 months old, and the best toys to engage them in learning play.
Choosing the right learning toys that are appropriate for babies of 6 months is an important part of helping develop their cognitive and motor skills i.e. toys that exercise their brain and their body. It is a time of great discovery for your baby as they become strong enough to do different things with their body and understand more of what’s going on around them. Your input can make a big difference to their learning, so it is a really important time to engage with your baby to help them grow.
Changes your baby is going through at 6 months
To understand why certain toys are relevant at this age, you need to know what’s going on with their physical/motor, cognitive and social/emotional developments. The more your baby sees, hears, smells and tastes at this age, the more connections occur in the brain, shaping the way the baby learns, behaves and feels, now, and in the future.
A major part of learning at this age is your baby’s realisation of cause and effect – if they drop something, for example, they will look to see where it goes. That’s why games such as peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake can be great at this age, as they recognise the appearance and disappearance of your face is because you move, or put something in between you, and that clapping your hands together creates a noise.
At 6 months of age, it is likely your baby will be displaying the following learning developments:
Baby will be able to move their head, follow noises and movement, and will reach for things with some grasp of depth perception. They will sit up without help, or with a little guidance needed for stabilisation. They will roll and wriggle when on the floor, and will be trying to crawl or become more mobile.
Their brains are in overdrive, so baby will want to touch, taste and smell pretty much everything! They will be curious about things, watching what you do intently and they will be starting to make recognisable sounds like “ga-ga” and “ba-ba”.
At 6 months, baby will be able to recognise themselves, as well as their regular caregivers – that’s you mum and dad! They will recognise the difference between someone they know and a stranger, and will know the difference between a smile or a frown according to how they feel and who is around them.
Which toys are best for a 6-month-old baby?
Armed with this knowledge of what is going on inside your baby’s brain and body, you can make the right choices when it comes to their play time. There are certain age-appropriate toys that will help facilitate this learning, and encourage your baby to explore more feelings and actions.
These toys are categorised into the following groups:
These toys are really anything which baby can interact with to make stuff happen. If there are buttons to press which make noises or lights flash, rattles to shake to make noises and different textures to touch which feel different against their skin, it’s all going to be developing their cognitive skills.
A baby activity gym is a great set-up for action/reaction toys. Look for an activity gym which can be set up both as an arch that baby lays under, and as a low dashboard of toys that baby can sit in front of to play with. The different positions will also give their motor skills a work out. Laying underneath the toys, baby will practise reaching for things and lifting their head, strengthening their back and neck. Sitting in front of the toys, baby will also be working on their balance and core stability.
If you don’t have room for an activity gym, an array of toys like rattles, toys which light up or are made of a variety of textures are all going to develop the same skills. If you need something to keep them amused on the move, stroller accessories like rattles or soft toys that make scrunchy noises or squeak, that attach to the stroller handle are great ideas to keep little hands occupied and brains working.
Role-play toys are great at this age to develop their social skills because baby will be watching what you do and try to mimic you. Mobile phones and TV remotes have a major draw to babies, so letting them play with an old phone or just taking the batteries out of a TV remote and letting little one experiment with the buttons will keep them occupied. They may hold the phone to their head, mimicking your actions, when playing and pushing smaller buttons will help their hand-eye coordination.
A simple walk around the house can be a voyage of discovery for your little one at this age, if you talk to them about what things are and what you’re doing. Let them turn a light on and off at the wall switch for them to see how they make it happen. Saying what it means when the doorbell rings, or talking about the sound of the oven timer meaning dinner is ready, will also broaden their understanding. To encourage their social engagement skills, mirrors are also a source of fun for them to get familiar with themselves and their own movements.
There are various role-play toys which are especially good for developing social skills. Dolls are great for them to mimic you and your caregiving role; they will like to hold a doll close and try to cuddle and comfort it. Toy phones and remote controls allow them to copy your actions (without the real things getting chewed) and they may enjoy a toy handbag or suitcase to put other toys in.
Stacking toys are great for their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination as well as their cognitive development. There are many different stacking toys on the market, such as building blocks, stacking cups and stacking rings that fit around a central pillar.
Although not a stacking toy, different-shaped building blocks with a corresponding bucket to fit them back into is a great toy for developing the same skill sets.
If you get involved with their playtime, you not only develop their motor skills with these toys but also help build their understanding of descriptive words too. Naming the colour of each stacking cup, and using descriptive words like “big”, “little”, “top” and “bottom” will reinforce their understanding of the words and keep their brain developing a wider vocabulary.
They will also build on their cause and effect knowledge with these toys by building them up, and knocking them down! It is not a destructive streak – don’t worry! They are just experimenting with what they can do with their hands.
Toys to let them practise crawling
At this age, baby is getting much more mobile. Whilst some children skip crawling altogether, and some research suggests crawling is a recent and unnecessary developmental stage, most babies do to tend to start trying to crawl at around 6 months. By this point, rolling and wriggling while having some tummy time will be normal and baby might have even started scooting along on their bottom to get around.
There is no need to fret if your little one seems reluctant to get on the move – they will all develop at their own pace. But if you want to give them some playtime encouragement, there are toys to help out.
Balls which make noise or flashlights when rolled can encourage baby to follow them, so place baby on their tummy and show what the ball can do, before rolling it a little way ahead of their head. Sitting behind baby, put your hands on the bottom of their feet, to give them a solid platform to push against, and this may well be enough to encourage the first crawl!
Roll-along toys like cars and animals on wheels can help them keep momentum going forwards, now they’ve got their crawling skills mastered.
At this age, your baby will probably surprise you with the things they have learnt how to do, and their new found confidence in moving about and keeping themselves entertained. It is a great time to get engaged with your baby to keep their brains active and having fun.
These moments are precious and so important to share with your loved ones. With families spread far and wide and busy lives meaning not everyone can be there for those landmark moments, the free Lifecake app provides you with an easy way to keep everyone up to date.
By uploading a photo or video, no one needs to miss baby’s first experiment with crawling or any other developmental milestone. Keeping a record of your baby’s childhood is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so don’t miss a moment, and share your journey with Lifecake.