Everything you need for baby and nothing you don't
See also A Word on Toys
The first interactive toys that will probably catch your baby’s attention are ones that make a small cause-and-effect noise, like a rattle or a crinkle.
As previously noted, I’m not a big fan of noisy colors and patterns, but Astrid convinced me that primary colors were the way to go by only responding to them and not the tasteful shades of taupe and blue that surrounded her in our apartment. Off to Ark Toys we went to seek out the ultimate colorful rattle.
On that first trip, I found a couple of great rattles that we still have (see below), but let me skip ahead a month to the next Ark visit. It’s a slow Saturday. It strikes me that morning that Astrid is looking a little bored with her limited selection of things to play with and stare at while on her back. I head back to Ark ’cause I’m in the neighborhood, and a light shines down from the heavens and behold: the Lamaze Garden Bug Wrist Rattle/Foot Finder Set.
Well, it wasn’t exactly like that, but holy God did Astrid love these rattles. They were, by far, the #1 thing she responded to and played with in her first six months. There are two bugs on soft fabric that Velcro around baby’s wrists and two black and white striped socks with similar bugs. The wrist bugs weren’t such a hit, but those socks delighted her. My take: they’re the perfect combination of black-and-white patterns + primary colors + little noises + a little effort and interaction to reach her feet + just her size (unlike larger, heavier rattles). Best. Rattles. Ever.
OK, so back to regular rattles. Manhattan Toys makes some good basic ones out of soft, light plastic that will catch in your baby’s tiny fingers, letting her inadvertently rattle them herself. The Skwish Classic, the Winkel, or Rhino Toys’ Oball Rattle are all great. (They all come in two different color options.) Because they’re flexible, you can also squash them down to fit into your diaper bag to take along – added bonus!
After seeing another baby loving him at a play group, I bought Astrid Freddie the Firefly as well. Freddie is one of several “animal” rattles/activity objects. He has crinkly wings, a tiny mirror, antennae to chew on, a rattle inside, silky and plush textures, a ring to pull on, a bit of teething plastic on a leash that tucks into a pocket on one of the wings, and so on. I thought he would bridge the distance from “simple rattle” to “actual toy.” He kind of did. I can’t say I thought Astrid loved him. He’s a little heavy for a small baby and her playing at that stage remained pretty accidental and short, but I felt better taking along essentially a tiny version of her multi-featured playmat when we went out, so yes, he was probably worth $12.