The designer’s mini-guide to understanding babies
(0-12 months)

Understanding your consumer is key to designing great products. If you are making products for babies, it can be helpful to understand the stages of development. This gives you valuable insight into:

  • What babies are able to do at each age
  • What might be tricky for them to do
  • What’s likely to capture their attention
  • What will benefit their development
  • What a parent might value in a product

 

For example, what’s the best colour for a baby toy? Can a baby use buttons or levers? What else will a parent be juggling while trying to use your product?

This is particularly useful if you don’t have experience with babies yourself, but are looking to design products parents will love.

So here is a quick guide to understanding babies under 12 months. If you’d like to know more about the ages and stages of child development or would like to upskill your team, get in touch!

Birth to six months

Starting from birth, babies begin to learn and absorb information. Therefore, playing with babies is not just an engaging activity for the caregiver and the child – it also massively contributes to building the foundations for their physical, social and emotional, and cognitive skills. 

Babies at this stage have very loose muscles, but they will develop rapidly. We recommend using objects that have high contrast patterns (the colour is less important  – black and white will do the trick), mirrors, movement, and sounds to encourage babies to lift their heads. This helps strengthen their neck muscles and promotes attention skills.

‘Tummy time’ is another important way to support core muscle development. This is recommended by experts as a way to vary the position a baby is in, to avoid the back of their head from becoming flat. It also strengthens the muscles needed to start rolling over and crawling. 

Babies aren’t always a huge fan of tummy time, but toys can offer a distraction. Comfy playmats with eye-catching patterns can also help hold a baby’s attention for a little while, so they’re not just facing the floor!

Additionally, playing music to babies is a great way to facilitate language development at this early stage as rhythms are similar to the sounds in speech. This can support listening skills and it also helps the baby to relax.

Six to twelve months

From six months onwards babies will start reaching for objects and exploring their surroundings with their hands and mouths, as both mobility and curiosity increase. Toys that are brightly coloured and sound-making can provide them with a safe, enjoyable play experience. 

Once they can sit up, babies will be able to use their hands to play with their toys a lot more easily. Balls and wheeled toys can then be used to encourage crawling, helping to strengthen their gross motor skills (the big arm and leg muscles).

They may be starting to experiment with cause and effect, such as knocking over a tower of blocks just to observe what will happen. Therefore, toys that contain buttons to press or things to pull are great materials for this age group. However, keep in mind that their fine motor control (the small hand and finger muscles) are not yet refined, so buttons will need to be big, chunky, and easy to push. 

Babies will also be learning how to hold smaller objects, moving from using their whole hand to hold objects, to being able to pinch things between their thumb and fingers. This means they can start using tools such as crayons to scribble, or sticks to bash a drum

Summary

Babies develop rapidly and at different rates, so parents appreciate products that will grow with their child, to give them the greatest value for money possible. For example, a set of musical instruments could include toys that can be shaken and bashed with the hands, as well as instruments such as a drum or xylophone that can be hit with a stick when the baby has improved their fine motor skills.

To find out how our research, consultancy, and training services can help you develop quality toys with great play value, get in touch with the team today.