Your baby was learning from the minute she was born, taking in the sights and sounds of the world around her. Most of this learning happens through play, and having age-appropriate toys is an important part of her development. One toy that will help your infant's cognitive development in several ways is a baby rattle. This simple tool can have make a big impact on your baby's learning.
During the first few months of life, your baby will begin to learn to track objects with his eyes as they move across his field of vision. A rattle can be a helpful tool in learning this skill as you play tracking games with him. Slowly move a rattle in front of his face and see how far he can follow it with his eyes. At first you will notice that he may lose focus on it as it moves. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org, however, by 2 months old your infant's eyes are more coordinated and can work together to move and focus, helping him be able to watch an object move across an entire half-circle in front of him. For the early months, choose a brightly colored rattle or one that has a sharply contrasting pattern, as those are the toys that will attract his attention.
Cause and Effect
Around 4 months old, your infant will discover the concept of cause and effect. This usually happens by accident as she shakes her rattle and discovers that it makes an interesting sound. At this age, her memory is increasing so she will remember that she was the cause of that reaction, and she will experiment with ways to make it happen again. HealthyChildren.org states that between 4 and 7 months, your baby will discover that some things make noises when they are shaken or banged. During this time you will notice her banging her rattle on the table or dropping it from her highchair just to watch the response. It is just her way of experimenting with the effects she has on the environment around her.
As your infant approaches 8 months old, he will begin to develop the concept of object permanence, which is the ability to understand that an object still exists even when it is out of sight. Try hiding his rattle under a blanket, and he will lift the blanket to find it. At 8 months, if you hide it while he is not looking, he may not understand where it has gone. Shake the rattle under the blanket to give him a clue, and he will look for it. However, according to HealthyChildren.org, by 10 months old, your baby will have a better understanding of object permanence and will know that the hidden rattle still exists and will look for it even when he is not sure of the location.
When your baby is nearing her first birthday, you will notice that she begins to imitate you and the way you use certain objects. Instead of simply shaking or chewing on her rattle, she may begin to hold it to her ear pretending it is a phone because she's seen you do the same. At this age, look for rattles that resemble real life objects like phones, keys or a toy hammer. Imitating the actions she sees around her will be her first attempts at pretend play.