6 Months and Up
Having a Ball
Round and bouncy, a ball is the toy that keeps on giving.
What Babies Learn: A ball is one of the best toys for babies because it's something to see, touch, and interact with, and it's the epitome of surprise because it never does the same thing twice. Rolling and, later, throwing and catching a ball help develop hand-eye coordination. Children also enjoy the give-and-take of playing ball with others. "They don't get tired of playing with a ball because their skills with it continue to grow -- even into adulthood," Goldberg says.
Game Plan: Textured or plush balls will be easiest for younger babies to manhandle. Chime balls that tip back and forth and make a tinkling sound when tapped will fascinate them, too. When your baby reaches 6 months, start rolling a large ball on the floor to him, with your legs spread out so the ball stays in bounds. At first, he may just slap at it. But soon he'll learn to swat it back in your direction. By the time your baby is walking, you can try a classic game of fetch: Throw the ball and have your toddler chase it down and bring it back. Also, have him toss a ball to you, then hand it back to him for another round of target practice. (Toddlers tend to be better at throwing than at catching.)