Cognitive SkillsBefore your baby is born, you probably spent a good deal of time wondering about the future. Will your baby be a girl or a boy? What color hair/eyes/ skin will s/he have? And most of all, will s/he be “smart”?

All parents want their baby to be smart. And the infant product market is flooded with toys, books, and music that will guarantee you a “smart” child. But is there such a thing as a “smart” baby?”

Infants and toddlers are expected to reach developmental milestones. These are expected behaviors or skill sets that begin to develop at a certain age; such as following objects with their eyes at six weeks, starting to babble, coo, and smile, and reach for objects with their hands by three months. These are developmental milestones, and yes, they are critical to baby’s development and are even an indicator of future success.

While there is no measurable way to determine if your baby is “smart” reaching significant cognitive milestones is a good way to start your child off right. Here are a few toys I recommend to get the cogs rolling in little minds.

Smile, Baby! 2-in-1 Crib and Floor Mirror

Birth +

Baby-proof mirror with a soft, attractive frame allows baby to focus her gaze on her face! Perfect for tummy time, baby’s head-lifting will be rewarded with a beautiful face smiling at her, her own!

Playskool Busy Poppin’ Pals

9 Months +

Children learn cause and effect concepts while exercising fine motor skills. This toy invites your tot to operate a push button, lever, turn key, flip switch, and side switch. Operate the switches right, and cute critters pop out! Then slam the door shut and start again!

Small World Toys Egg Shape Sorter

12 Months +

A cute, totally movable carton filled with six eggs. Open the eggs to reveal a colored match-up task where shapes must be inserted correctly to create a whole egg. This toy doubles well as a pretend play activity, and is the perfect addition to your little chef’s play kitchen!

The First Years Stacking Up Cups

9 months +

Boldly colored cups that can stack or nest for problem-solving play. A more elaborate toy with the same concept is Melissa and Doug’s Alphabet Stacking and Nesting Blocks ($25). These feature the same stacking/nesting activity, as well as bold illustrations on each side, each featuring a letter of the alphabet, in order. This toy grows with your baby, and you can use it to introduce language, vocabulary, and letter-recognition skills right into the pre-school years.

Melissa and Doug Vehicles Maze

2 Years +

Melissa and Doug have so many fantastic products, but I just love this maze. It combines a puzzle task with an additional problem solving cognitive skill: your child will need to return each of the nine vehicles to its proper place, so the police car goes to the police station, the school bus to the school, the ambulance to the hospital, etc.! The puzzle is a great way to introduce your child to thematic concepts and a great springboard for discussions about vehicles and communities.

By Chaya Glatt