Everything you need to know about toys
The experts are agreed on one thing: toys play an important part in babies' development. They build their imagination, stimulate their senses, develop their coordination and - above all – instill a love of FUN. Note to self: have camera at hand to capture the giggles!
When buying toys always make sure they're age-appropriate. Some have small parts which aren't suitable for younger children.
The early days will be mostly taken up with sleeping but in the daylight hours (not the 3am shift!) you can introduce some simple toys your baby will love – almost as much as mum's beaming smile and words of praise.
For the first few months babies explore with their eyes and ears so anything that makes a sound or squeak like a musical toy or a nightlight that plays a tune is a hands-down winner.
Newborns are still learning to focus so toys with high contrast, black and white or bright colours are particularly appealing.
Play gyms, cot mobiles & play mats
A play gym with an arch is a brilliant buy to keep baby entertained. So too is a cot mobile with lights and lullabies (fingers crossed it'll give you an extra ten minutes' sleep each morning.) At 4 to 6 weeks introduce a play mat so you can start your baby with 'tummy time'.
At around 6-8 weeks babies will be able to start grabbing things so small Ratlles and other soft light toys are ideal buys.
Babies start to become active around this time with lots of wriggling and rolling. They're also more aware of their environment and everyone around them – there's nothing quite like your baby's smiles to tell you 'you're doing a good job mum'.
Once babies can reach and grab you can be sure that whatever they reach and grab will go straight in their mouths. Cue teethers – ideal for chomping on while relieving the ouch of teething. Rattles, comforters, soft toys and fabric books are all destined mouth-bound too so make sure they're squeaky clean.
Babies will start rolling at this stage, first front to back and then back to front, so a large play mat will become a firm favorite.
After about 4 months an unbreakable mirror toy is a great addition to the toy cupboard. Your baby will love seeing the smiley face that looks uncannily familiar…
This is a truly lovely time in baby's development. Personalities are starting to shine through, smiles are abundant, little hands are more dexterous and little legs are starting to get mobile.
Around this time babies start 'passing and posting': passing objects from hand to hand or back and forth to mum and dad. Encourage this as it's the early development of taking turns. At around 9 months babies will start 'posting', ie putting objects in to other containers.
Start exercising these new skills with toys that are both interactive and durable, after all, they're going to take quite a hammering. There's nothing like an Activity Packed Walker to get little legs on the move; Stacking Rings are great for encouraging coordination and activity gyms with lots to explore - squeakers, shapes and textures - are brilliant for developing dexterity. And when your little one makes the move to the kitchen table a highchair suction toy makes for contented mealtimes.
6-12 months is the time that the noise begins. Unleash the mayhem with a wooden spoon and a saucepan, a Rock Star Guitar or My First Piano.
Babies love to rock. Add a Ladybird or Bumble Bee rocking chair to your toy portfolio and you have one happy baby. They're great investment toys too – when baby outgrows them stash them in the loft for the next generation!
It's never too soon to encourage a love of books – as babies near their first birthday they'll love turning the pages of buggy books, musical nursery rhyme books and bath books.
A good old-fashioned soft ball or activity ball is a sure-fire route to getting sitters on the move.
Little legs are go! Toddlers are a bundle of energy and curiosity; miniature explorers loving their newfound freedom. Introducing chunky crayons to your little Picasso, indulge them with their first dressing up outfit and encourage outdoor play whenever possible.
Make believe toys
Your toddler will love copying you and playing 'grown up'. Encourage role play with a phone or My First Camera… let's play make believe!
Not quite as dry as they sound. Shape sorters, stacking cups and building blocks are great for developing little ones' problem-solving and thinking skills.
And splash! Distract them from the business of shampooing with rubber ducks and all manner of bath toys from pirate ships to sea turtles.
Toddler activity toys
Smaller wheeled toys are huge fun for toddlers too particularly pull along caterpillars and penguins and push-and-go tortoises and cows. Check out the brilliant Buzzing Brains range of activity toys.
Ride on toys
Whether it's a sit-on Wheelybug (tiger, cow or bee – your call), a climb-in coupe car, a motorbike or a fire truck, if it's got wheels, it's a winner.
From 2-4 years, teaching and learning go hand-in-hand; by introducing fun educational games with numbers and letters you're paving the way for the transition to big school. Don't forget the creative play too – what 3 year old doesn't love getting down and dirty with paints and modeling clay?
On a warm day there are few finer pleasures than getting messy with a Sand and Water Play Sets. Add some hoops, balls, small swings and slides and a Balance Bike to the mix: the perfect recipe for good healthy fun.
Games & puzzles
Keep it simple, keep it fun with lotto, flash cards, games and puzzles like a giant A-Z floor puzzle. They're all brilliant for developing early learning skills and your little one will love it when you shower them with praise for a job well done.
Role play toys
A kitchen a cash register and a play house – tried and tested and guaranteed to give little people (and their friends) hours of make-believe pleasure.
Introduce your little ones to building and construction toys Now stand back and witness the joy of construction and destruction!
We're guessing that your little one has already got to grips with your smartphone so the next logical leap is their first laptop