Dossier: Our baby

Toys: risk-free play

Chemical-free, no small parts, made of wood or brightly coloured: Which toys are best for babies?

Text: Helwi Braunmiller; photo: Sanitas

A small shelf with neatly arranged contents, a favourite cuddly toy, one or two rattles, perhaps a pretty mobile over the changing table. This is not the scene in most children’s bedrooms! Even shortly after birth there are usually boxes and baskets overflowing with toys and playthings often gifted by well-meaning friends and family. In actual fact babies don’t need much in the first few months.

Quality over quantity

Babies are brutally honest. Anything that bores or overtaxes them is left lying. So, it’s better to invest in a few quality toys. If babies have too much choice, they often feel overwhelmed and no longer want to play. In fact, babies often prefer to play with the same things over and over again for weeks.

The following criteria can help you choose:

  • Toys should have the CE marking. However, this is not assessed by any independent body.
  • Toys shouldn’t contain any toxic substances. The GS mark (stands for “geprüfte Sicherheit” or tested safety) is awarded by reputable test centres and is a good quality criterion. As a rule of thumb, toys that smell strong or unpleasant or feel strange have no place in a child’s room. In particular, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), nickel, phthalates (plasticisers), and paints containing lead or phthalates are best avoided.
  • “spiel gut” good toy design: Toys with this label are tested for both health safety and their fun factor.
  • The recommended age on a product indicates when it's safe for a child, for example if small parts could be swallowed or inhaled. Babies change very quickly in the first year. In the first few weeks they're both short-sighted and far-sighted, which is why they’re initially fascinated by things that happen 20 to 25 cm in front of their face with strong colour contrasts, such as a mobile. From the age of three months, babies see sharply at a distance of up to 2.5 metres on both sides and begin to reach for things. Then, for example, they might find an activity arch exciting or start to show more of an interest in rattles. Generally speaking, age recommendations are usually kept very low, so you need to judge for yourself how far along your child is and what might interest them.
  • Babies also love to put toys in their mouths, so they especially enjoy things like material or board books or teething rings.
  • When babies start to discover the world, they like anything that makes a noise or has an effect they can feel, so rattles, wooden spoons and saucepans, newspaper to tear, bells on an activity arch, etc., are ideal.