Newborns begin learning right after they're born.

Toys for Emotional Development in Newborns

by Eliza Martinez

Emotional development encompasses your newborn's social interactions and how he regulates and expresses his feelings. This begins at birth, even if it doesn't seem like your little one does much other than sleep and eat. While he won't be able to sit up and grab toys to play with, appropriate choices that he can look at when he's awake help foster his emotional development as he grows.


No, your newborn isn't going to pick up a novel and start reading, but age-appropriate board books are an ideal toy for babies. You'll have to hold the book and turn the pages, but your little one will enjoy staring at the pictures. Newborns enjoy looking at faces, so choose board books that display a variety of people. Point to and name their emotions as you look through the book. Putting together a photo album with pictures of family and friends helps your little one recognize important people in her life, but seeing the array of facial features and emotions in the photos boosts his emotional development too.


Newborn mirrors, which are generally made with reflective plastic rather than breakable glass, allow babies to gaze at their own image. This gives your little one the opportunity to make facial expressions at herself and mimic those she sees you making too. Hang a mirror in your baby's crib or prop one up near her as she plays on a blanket. Take your baby into the bathroom with you and hold her up in front of the full length mirror on the back of the door. Mirrors enhance emotional development because they allow your baby to see first-hand what different feelings look like. For example, she can see herself crying and connect it to being upset or angry.

Stuffed Animals

While you don't want to keep stuffed animals in your newborn's sleeping space, due to the risk of SIDS, that doesn't mean they aren't a good toy during his waking hours. Playing with and looking at stuffed animals allows your newborn to interact with them in his own way. Prop several stuffed friends up near your baby and watch as he coos, gurgles and even smiles at them. As your newborn gets older, he'll start reaching for and grabbing the animals as he plays with them.

Musical Toys

Part of emotional development involves helping your newborn feel content and secure. Toys that play soothing music can boost these skills. Hang a mobile above your little one's crib and turn on the music and lights as he falls asleep. Show your newborn toys that make music when he's awake and alert too. Toys that play soothing noises or gentle music are also ideal for blocking outside noise when it's nap time or bedtime or when your newborn is upset and you're trying to calm him down. For safety reasons, remove toys from your baby's crib once he reaches about 5 months of age.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

Photo Credits

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