ROCHEL’S FAVORITE TOY
Although technically not a baby rattle, this teether which doubles as a squeeze toy is Rochel’s favorite. It is made by Vuilli, the same company that manufactures Sophie the giraffe teether that many babies adore. Like Sophie, this alien cousin is made of natural rubber and colored with vegetable dyes. Unlike Sophie, it makes a delightful squeaking sound when you squeeze it. The babies laugh and smile when they hear it!
FINE MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
Because the construction is so soft and filled with air, babies need to use their fingers quite precisely to squeeze it. Up until now, babies created sound with rattles by moving their arm up and down. As Rochel demonstrates in the above video, this baby rattle requires use of the fingers in a complex manner. She squeezes the toy by bending her fingers at many joint locations and at various speeds. Sometimes she squeezes the toy slowly and discovers a slow “Squeeeeeeeak,” and other times she squeezes it quickly and hears an abrupt “Squeak, squeak!” She may squeeze with just her thumbs, just her fingers, or with both thumbs and fingers. This develops fine motor skill – specifically manual dexterity which is the skilled use of the fingers and hands. This is an essential developmental milestone for handwriting and operating computers when she eventually starts school.
Observe Rochel play with the squeaky baby rattle for awhile and then spot a green bottle cap on the floor. It captures her interest. She picks it up and notices that it is not nearly as interesting. It can not be squeezed, it does not make sound, and, therefore, it is not as interesting. So, Rochel puts it down and resumes playing with her favorite toy.
This toy is highly recommended for babies 9-12 months of age. You can find it on the “Best Baby Gear” listmania list under “TOOLS FOR PARENTS,” which is located at the top in the right-hand margin of the home page.
We love this toy because it is:
- doubles as a teether
- develops manual dexterity
Most of all babies love it too!
Baby Rattle Options, from 2-3 months (far left) to 8+ months (far right).
One of the most popular baby shower gifts is a baby rattle. They come in all shapes, sizes, materials, colors, weights, and sounds. Why? Because these varying features of the rattles are extremely important for the development of a baby. Previously, we discussed the importance of sound variations in rattles. This post is about the importance of the diameter and material of the handle on the baby rattle.
BABY RATTLE HANDLES: SIZE MATTERS
At the age of two or three months it is fairly easy to introduce baby to a rattle. At that age her hand and fingers are so tiny that she needs a baby rattle with a tiny diameter to hold on to. The rattle should fit like a stick, very deep in the palm of her hand. Many mothers-to-be receive rattles as baby shower gifts there are far too large for baby to hold onto until she is close to one year old. The above photo illustrates the available range in handle diameters. The diameter of the rattle handles in the above photo are about 1/4 ” (first three from the left), 1/2 ” (fourth and fifth from the left), and 3/4″ (far right). The younger babies benefit from the rattles with the smaller diameter for the first few of months, eventually adding to their rattle collection some bigger rattles with larger diameter handles.
BABY RATTLE MATERIALS: WOOD, PLASTIC, OR SILVER
The material of the baby rattle is important for developing proprioception of the hand and fingers. The firmness of the material gives baby a clearer feeling of her hand and fingers. When she feels them clearly she can use them more easily. The silver and pewter rattles have more weight to them which also develops strength. Plush rattles are too soft for developing the proprioception deep in the palm of the hand, but can be a nice addition to a collection of baby rattles since they provide a different tactile experience.
BABY RATTLES DEVELOP FINE MOTOR SKILLS
By giving baby a rattle which she can hold onto easily, it makes it possible for her to play with it. Rattles are important for fine motor skill development, and she needs to be able to shake the toy, take it to her mouth, transfer it from one hand to the other, let go of it and pick it up again. This exploration develops hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity, the building blocks of her future in school and on the playground.
PROPRIOCEPTION TIPS: Rattles and Sound Variations
IVAN’S STORY- THE NORTH STAR
Ivan, the first of our stellar caterpillars, is our “North Star.” Ivan received his first lesson at four weeks of age and continued lessons until he walked on his own at twelve months. At six weeks Ivan learned to hold and shake a rattle. This tiny yellow maraca swishing around made its quick sounds from grains of sand inside. Swish-swish-swish, a smile grew bigger on Ivan’s face, swish-swish-swish. At each successive lesson, when Ivan began to cry, his attention could quickly be recaptured by shaking a rattle with an interesting sound. We played with several different rattles: one made the swish of grains of sand, another the ding of a bell, yet another the jingle of several bells, and one the percussive chop of wood.
Babies and Sound
Babies respond to novelty, especially with sound. Think “new, different, unusual” when choosing rattles. The variations stimulate their curiosity and catch their attention. And, when they shake the rattle, they enjoy the feeling that they can create this unusual sound that they hear! The sound also helps the baby to learn where his hand is in space. The ability to know and feel “Now my hand is close to my face,” or “Now my hand is close to my chest,” is facilitated by the sound of the object and the feeling of the object touching his face or chest. This skill is called proprioception. Proprioception is defined as the ability to sense oneself in space, or to feel a part of the body in space. This can be the location, position, movement, and orientation of the body as a whole, or of the body part. In this example we are talking about the baby learning proprioception of his arm and hand. The baby both hears and feels his hand is close to his face when he simultaneously hears the bell jingle and the feels the bop on his nose. A rattle that makes a sound offers a very important clue to the baby as he is learning this coordination.
Ivan’s curiosity with sound continues today as he taps around on his first drum set, or on the drums of another musician. Recently, while attending a wedding with his parents, Ivan caught sight of the drummer and walked up very close to him and stood, carefully watching him play. Soon, the drummer stepped aside and let Ivan “sit in” on the next song. Ivan moved his drumstick from one drum to the next to the cymbal….exploring how many different sounds he could make! Our North Star leads the way!