When a baby comes into the world it can not really do much. A baby can not lift its hand to touch its nose, a baby can not focus on small objects. As the infant develops in the first year it will require different types of toys to stimulate and encourage the development of many skills.
The good thing is that most baby toys on the market are in and of themselves educational toys. Toys to teach things like sound, vision, auditory and physical sensations. These toys work to build on the baby's very small collection of references and contexts.
To begin with, a baby's first skill would be sight. A baby does not see the world as we do, they are still developing their ocular muscles and their brain has got no points of reference or ways to understand what they are seeing.
There is debate as to what a baby can see, some experts mention they can only see black and white, and some say they can see bold primary colours as well. Either way, a good place to start is books with big bold lines with heavy contrast and big on colour. Fine lines, water colours and muddy images will be of no help to a baby, they need simple images that are easy to focus on.
As they move closer to turning one, they will become fascinated with mirrors and will more easily be able to make use of board books with bright colours.
Toys with strong colours will appeal as will mobiles and wall stickers.
A baby can hear most sounds, in fact they can probably hear more than most adults because over time we lose the ability to hear certain frequencies. So babies are often frightened by loud noises and delighted by unusual noises in toys. Rattles containing a little bell are great for baby. Telling stories and singing to baby is a wonderful way to engage them. There are some great toys available that provide a whole selection of noises for baby to experiment with such as crinkly, clicking, tinkling and swishing.
Introducing music to babies is also a wonderful way to introduce them to the beauty of sound. Classical music and nursery rhymes on CD will be handy at bedtime while sing-a-long CDs are a great alternative to TV.
As baby gets a little older, there are some wonderful musical instruments you can introduce such as drums, shakers, tambourines and xylophones.
A baby is learning that his fingers are ways to assess the world. Things are hot, cold or soft and rough. There are many toys available that will introduce your baby to the world textures.
As baby gets older you can build on your toy collection by having a range of toys that feel different. Some might be hard like wooden blocks or smooth plastic like shapes and moulded toys, some might be spongy and soft others will be fluffy like stuffed toys.
Babies are often fascinated with simple items from around the home such a foil packaging, wooden spoons and any other thing within their grasp.
There are many baby learning toys available these days that combine all of these elements into one handy item. Play mats are great for babies to practice tummy time, a very valuable skill they must develop. Play mats will have texture pads, bells, mirrors, squeaky toys and so much more.
Whatever toys you chose for your infant, once you are satisfied of it's safety, will no doubt provide your baby with many hours of educational entertainment.