It feels like an understatement to say creating a baby registry can be overwhelming. The options seem never-ending, and it’s hard for first-time parents to know exactly what their new baby will need. As a pediatric physical therapist, I often receive questions about which products are necessary and which can be passed up.
When thinking about what to add to your baby registry, I advise keeping things minimal. While I’m not a mother myself, I work with babies daily, and the reality is they need so few items to promote development! The following are recommendations to add to your baby registry to promote general motor development. As far as tips for middle-of-the-night feedings or the best cure for cradle cap, I’d defer to your pediatrician and mama friends.
Pediatric PT-Approved Baby Registry Items
As a pediatric PT, I love to promote tummy time and floor play. The floor is the best play location for your baby’s development, so a play mat will provide your baby with a flat, firm surface to explore how his or her body moves. The sooner your baby is comfortable being left (supervised) on the floor, the easier your child will achieve gross motor milestones.
Play Pen/Pack ‘n Play
Once your baby is moving and grooving, they’ll still need floor time but will likely also need some containment for safety. A play pen or Pack ‘n Play will help with this.
Similar to how a play mat can promote your baby’s comfort with being on the floor, a play gym can provide entertainment while encouraging independent floor play. It also encourages exploration using both hands and legs.
Tummy Time Mirror
I mention tummy time more times in any given day than I’d like to admit, but it really is so important for babies! And babies love looking at themselves, so a tummy time mirror can provide distraction during a sometimes-difficult activity.
High Chair with Foot Rest (That Promotes Upright Sitting)
Many high chairs are reclined and promote a rounded posture. It’s important that the chair you put on your registry has an upright back with a footrest to promote improved posture.
Feeding Chair (that promotes upright sitting)
Similar to the above, it’s also important to find a feeding chair that’s upright rather than reclined.
Baby Wrap & Baby Carrier
These are a great way to hold your baby while keeping your arms free. They promote the swaddled position that comforts babies so well, and you can accomplish other tasks while your baby stays close to you.
Baby Shusher/Sound Machine
Babies love to be soothed with rocking, patting, and shushing. So many of our babies in the hospital use shushers and sound machines multiple times a day, and I find them very useful well into childhood.
Your child’s vision will begin to develop at around 2 months of age, at which point they’ll be interested in low-stimuli pictures. These vision cards are great for promoting visual development.
Your baby won’t be able to purposefully grasp at or reach toward objects until 5-6 months, but these Oballs are helpful for when your baby gets frustrated that they haven’t quite perfected their grasp. They’re soft and have multiple spots for fingers to get haphazardly “stuck” for successful exploration.
Cause and Effect Toys
These are great for promoting entertainment as your child begins to understand cause and effect.
Crinkle toys promote environmental and sensory exploration.
These socks can be motivating for reaching hands to feet, an important gross motor skill that engages the abdominals and is one of the precursors to independent rolling.
Use a simple toy like this to encourage head rotation in all directions.
Our PT locations are filled with activity tables, which encourage independent standing and cruising.
Our #1 Toy for Pediatric PT: Squigz
My co-workers and I often talk about what we would choose as our number-one toy for physical therapy treatment sessions. Squigz are always a popular answer; they stick to everything and the entertainment they provide seems never-ending. We frequently use them to promote overhead reaching and pulling to stand.
Baby Registry Items to Use Sparingly
The four items below are helpful for when you need to safely contain your baby to get stuff done around the home or to just take a breather. However, these items can have negative effects on your child’s development. All of these items hold your baby in a cradled position (one of the reasons they’re so soothing and comforting for babies). However, this cradling limits your baby from being able to look in all directions and move their arms and legs about their environment. They’re great for short periods of supervised time, but using them for prolonged periods of time can contribute to head rotation and postural preferences.
I recommend using these items in short spurts and always with supervision. If your baby is comfortable being on the floor without being contained in one of these similar items, I highly recommend the promotion of floor time.
People frequently use positioning pillows or "boppies" to encourage tummy time or provide back support for sitting. However, tummy time is best performed on a flat, firm surface, and sitting is best promoted by leaning forward to encourage prop sitting rather than leaning back into a support pillow. But when you need a little support for feeding or when your baby refuses to do tummy time any other way, these can be very useful!
Registry Items to Avoid
The following promote poor postural development and delayed gross motor development, despite what they may advertise. As a pediatric physical therapist, I highly discourage babies from using the following items:
- Push Toys
- Bumbos and other contained chairs