Why do babies need black and white toys?
And what are the best black and white toys to give to your baby?
You may have noticed that there are a lot of black and white, high contrast and monochrome baby toys now available on the market and it’s not because monochrome is the latest nursery trend (although monochrome nurseries do look amazing) but because there is a whole heap of research now available that suggests that new born babies benefit developmentally from black and white sensory toys and stimulation.
When babies are born, they do not see the world quite like we do as their retina is not yet fully developed. You may have noticed that your baby loves and responds to being close to you and this is because they can only see around 10-12 inches. A baby’s retina at birth can only detect large contrasts between black and white, so, if you have a beautiful pastel or colourful nursery, at this stage, it will do nothing visually for your baby as they may only see them as one shade all merged.
Over the next few months your baby’s brain will develop rapidly, which is why it is important to include visual stimulation. Research suggests that black and white contrasting shapes and patterns register the strongest on a baby’s retina which sends stronger signals to their brain. Stronger signals mean more brain growth and faster visual development. Your baby’s retina and brain may benefit when providing them with continuous visual sensory stimulation through simple black and white, light, and dark pictures and bold, contrasting shapes and patterns.
We spoke with Optometrist Emma Davies BSc MCOptom, to get her expert opinion based on the use of black and white resources and newborn visual stimulation, here is what Emma had to say:
“When we are born, despite the fact that our eyes start to develop early in the womb from week 4 of pregnancy, infants have very poor sight and limited colour vision. They will gaze into the mid distance and often the eyes will not coordinate well together. Over the initial few weeks of life infants will only be able to see items that are distinguishable by a distinct contrast in colour, the optimum combination being black and white. When presented with such a target the baby’s visual pathway will be stimulated and the brain can work towards matching the images seen by each eye, in turn teaching the eyes to coordinate with one another. The more the eyes learn to coordinate, the more accurate the eye movements become and by default the more detail the eye and brain can detect, thus providing a continuous feedback and improvement system. Infants will start to detect colours a couple of months later starting with red and they will be able to see the full spectrum of colours by 5 months of age.”
So now you now WHY black and white toys for babies can be beneficial, but what are the best type of high contrast baby sensory toys to buy to support your baby’s development and encourage visual stimulation?
Emma suggests that:
“Black and white toys are an excellent way to engage, interact and bond with your baby in the early days. The high contrast stimulates their vision and provides a target of interest to enable exploration and ‘play’ at a very young age.”
In all honesty, you do not need an all singing or all dancing fancy or expensive baby toy or gadget, in fact, the simplest of toys and resources are always the best. You may already have some high contrast items, monochrome toys, or black and white pictures around your home – even something as simple as wearing a black and white top can be effective for a baby, especially when enjoying snuggles. You could even have a go at making your own DIY sensory toys (Pinterest is full of great ideas for this).
However, here are our best buys for our favourite black and white baby toys:
The Baby’s First Year Subscription Package
Did you know that the first box, The Newborn Sensory Box, in our award-winning Baby’s First Year Subscription focuses entirely on high contrast and encouraging your baby’s visual stimulation? The box features 6 different black and white baby toys and resources to introduce you to sensory play activities, from black and white visual cards, board books, to an eco-friendly baby rattle and organic printed muslin.
The box is part of a quarterly series of four baby development play boxes, carefully curated to provide all the toys and resources needed to stimulate your baby's senses from 0-12 months and beyond.
The Little Black & White Book Project
Ok – so we couldn't just choose one product from this range because we absolutely LOVE them all so we will share all of them.
The Little Black & White Book Project, created by mum Ruth Bradford, offers a wide range of black and white baby toys and products from beautifully illustrated board books, to flash cards and baby muslins. Their range is not just stunning, but each of their products have a specific use in helping new born development and educating children as they go through multiple early development stages. They really do, as we say, “grow with your child”.
The Little Black & White Book Project also donate 25% of their profits back to wildlife charities – how amazing is that! Not only will they stimulate your baby’s development, but it will also help in supporting our planet too!
You can check out the beautiful range here on our site: https://www.thelittlesensorybox.com/collections/the-little-black-and-white-book-project
Alternatively, you can also shop directly from The Little Black & White Book Project here: https://blackandwhitebookproject.com/
Block Sensory Decals
Why do we love Block Sensory?
Well… because these award-winning high contrast sensory decals have been very cleverly designed by mum Rebecca Wox and offer a unique way to explore sensory development with your baby.
The Block Sensory Decals have been designed in such a way that they never lose their stickiness or leave any marks or residues on your walls or surfaces - meaning that they can be re-used and enjoyed again and again from breakfast to bedtime and even those tricky 2am feeds!
Our Newborn box features 2 exclusively designed decals by Block Sensory that you will not find anywhere else or cannot be purchased separately. However, you can check out their unique sensory stickers by visiting their website here:
While & Wonder Babies First Sensory Water Mat
What’s not to love about this water mat?
Not only is it visually beautiful, but it’s also going to support your baby’s visual development whilst enhancing tummy time!
The perfect high contrast tummy time activity mat to enhance visual and physical development for your little one.
Design led engaging illustrations, to help with learning through play, using high contrasting shapes and images to entice and engage your baby, uniquely designed by While & Wonder.
Those are our top picks for our favourite black and white baby toys, however if you want to add to your collection, then you can also view a wider selection here:
Let us know if you found this blog useful and don’t forget to tag us on social media @thelittlesensorybox if you use any of our recommendations.
Dr Bill Sears
Emma Davies Optometrist BSc MCOptom