Almost every child’s toy collection will have a baby rattle in there somewhere. So, why is the baby rattle such a popular toy and how does it help your child’s development?:
Baby Rattles and Vision:
In the first weeks of her life your baby’s vision is poor. Her visual world can be compared to a street scene at night where there are no streetlights just the distant glow from the houses; she sees a fuzzy picture but can sense movement in the dim light. Her ears, however, are more mature so as her vision is developing she finds it easier to focus on things that make a noise or move. If you put a rattle in her hand she will shake it because your baby will naturally wave her arms when she is excited. Noise and movement will excite her and, as well as you, her baby rattle will be a favourite toy for this.
What does she learn from her baby rattle?
* To look for things and to start to use her eyes to find things.
* To realise she can look for things- she had no reason to learn this in the womb.
* And if when she looks at the rattle you reward her with a little shake, she realises she can make something happen (she doesn’t know why the rattle makes a noise- she just knows when she looks at it, it starts to move and make a noise). She is beginning to learn I can do it!
Baby Rattles and Body Movement:
Your newborn baby has very little control over her body because, like her vision, she has little need for this in the womb so it doesn’t mature until after she is born. The essential parts of her brain have developed, such as those that control her heartbeat, blood circulation, breathing, digestion and feeding, yet the other parts are constrained until after birth so that her head is small enough to pass through the birth canal.
The development of her body control moves down from her head and out from her centre. As such, she can control her head before her arms and she will have a reflex handgrip that helps her hold and grab until she develops finger control.
Her baby rattle teaches her that her hand belongs to her! As you give her the baby rattle she waves her arms and makes a noise with it, she looks and sees it shaking and her sensors tell her that her limbs are moving and, when she feels her arm stop, so too does the noise and the movement. She will keep tying this again and again and, slowly but surely, she starts to realise that she can make something happen.
Once she realises she can make her baby rattle move around and make a noise she will play with it with much more interest! She will start to watch the baby rattle under more scrutiny and, at this stage, you should hold out the baby rattle and encourage her to reach for and grab it. As she does this she is developing more control and her confidence in her ability gets another boost!
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.