Rattle toys have been around for centuries, and for many of us, a rattle was our very first toy. It’s not surprising since rattles encourage many of the things that experts agree a good baby toy should: stimulation of the senses, fine motor skill development, and enhanced interaction between the infant and his or her caregiver. In addition to entertaining babies and stimulating their development, toys for babies should be made from durable materials that pose no risks. Baby rattle toys are most often made from plastic or wood. When it comes to these toys for newborns, a soft baby rattle is preferable. Today, organic baby rattles, those made with sustainably grown and harvested materials such as organic cotton, are an increasingly popular choice.
Benefits of a Rattle for Babies
For a newborn, one of the first ways they will interact with a rattle is when you hold it and shake it. This not only stimulates the senses of sight and sound, but it also encourages that very important bonding that happens when you or significant caregivers like grandparents talk and play with the baby.
You can use a rattle to help teach new skills to even very young infants like newborns. For example, as babies learn eye coordination, they start being able to track an object as it moves across their field of vision. You can help stimulate this ability by moving a rattle from side to side in front of your baby. If your baby loses interest, shaking the rattle will draw their attention back to the toy. This will help them form a connection between what they see and hear. Shaking the rattle also encourages the baby to learn to turn their head toward sounds.
Rattles offer even more developmental advantages once babies get to be about three months old and are able to grasp objects firmly. A baby rattler can help an infant learn about cause and effect. As they play with the rattle, the baby will discover that when they shake it, they're causing it to make a noise. If a fun, brightly colored rattle is left near the baby, it will motivate them to learn the very important skills of reaching and of coordinating their hands and eyes so that they can get to it.
Soft books and rattles are excellent during this period. Babies are exploring more via touch and taste and are starting to notice texture and the difference between hard and soft surfaces. Clutching a soft baby rattle can help soothe and comfort an infant, especially if it’s a familiar object the baby has bonded with since he or she was a newborn. This will happen more easily if the rattle’s shape has a bit more personality than a simple abstract form like an oval or a stick does. Rattles shaped like animals, foods, flowers, or plants can turn into characters in the stories your child will make up later on using their imagination.
Best Characteristics to Look for in a Baby Rattle
Before giving any toy to an infant, you should always make sure it’s developmentally appropriate. You want a baby to want to engage with the toy. If it’s too simple, it won’t hold the baby’s interest, but he or she is likely to feel frustration when presented with one that’s too advanced or complicated. Fortunately, rattles are age-appropriate right from the beginning of a baby’s life and can remain favorite playthings all the way through toddler-hood.
A baby will play with an infant rattle by looking at it, listening to it, grasping it, banging on surrounding surfaces with it, and, inevitably, sucking on it. It’s important then to choose rattles that will expose a baby to interesting colors, shapes, sounds, and textures. Having more than one rattle will help ensure a baby experiences a variety of these sensations. It will also allow parents to have backup toys in case a rattle is lost or forgotten on an outing in the city.
Another quality that you might want in a rattle toy is uniqueness. Many rattles are meant to resemble items that the baby will eventually have more contact with, such as animals that will be found in stories or foods that will be served in the home, but some rattles have more unusual shapes. If you’re picking a rattle as a baby shower gift for a newborn, you might choose to go with one that the parents will find pleasing or amusing. Many a picture has been posted on social media showing a small infant lifting a baby dumbbell rattle. The humor will be lost on the baby, but his or her parents will surely get a kick out of it.
It goes without saying that the rattle should be safe and fun to play with. You don’t want the toy’s sound to be too loud or harsh because it could rattle baby and end up scaring them or making them cry. A baby rattle shouldn’t have sharp edges or be too heavy. A soft baby rattle will ensure the baby doesn’t get hurt if he or she ends up banging it against himself or herself. To make sure a rattle toy is not a choking hazard, choose one whose diameter is no smaller than 2 inches.
Of course, you don’t want lead, chemicals, or toxic substances anywhere near a baby. That’s where organic baby rattles have the advantage.
Benefits of Organic Baby Rattles
A baby toy is considered organic when it’s manufactured using sustainable materials, such as bamboo and organic cotton, and is free of harsh chemicals and other substances known to be harmful to humans. So, the first and most obvious benefit of organic baby rattles is that they don’t endanger the health of the baby. You can rest easy when you hand a baby a soft rattle created from organic cotton materials.
Ideally, that cotton will be GOTS-certified, which means that it meets Global Organic Textile Standards. These standards specify that the cotton must be grown using organic farming methods, meaning no toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are used. During the textile production process, the cotton can’t be treated with chlorine bleach, toxic dyes, or chemicals. Furthermore, textile producers have to meet certain labor standards to ensure that workers are treated fairly and with respect.
The Difference Between Organic and Traditional Cotton
Conventional cotton production involves a lot of things that many people consider unnatural. Seeds can be genetically modified and treated with insecticides and fungicides. Synthetic fertilizers are sprayed on soil. Weeds are controlled using pesticides. Harvesters use chemicals to remove oils and seeds. Residues can linger on the cotton, and exposure to these chemicals isn’t good for the workers.
In contrast, cotton grown using organic methods uses untreated seeds. The soil where it’s grown is kept healthy with organic matter and through the use of crop rotation. Weeds are removed manually, and insects are controlled using natural methods. Organic cotton is usually harvested by hand. It’s bleached using safe peroxide and washed in hot water with gentle, nontoxic cleaners. The final product is cotton that doesn’t have any residue on it from pesticides or chemicals.
Organic Baby Rattles Are Environmentally Friendly
The second benefit of organic baby rattles is that they are far more eco-friendly than other types of rattle toys. This is especially true of rattles made with plastic, which, of course, doesn’t decompose and is notoriously difficult to recycle. Plastic also releases harmful chemicals into our soil and water, and it poses a significant hazard to wildlife.
Baby toys made with organic materials promote sustainable agricultural practices. Despite the fact that cotton is only grown on a little over 2% of the world’s crop land, conventional cotton farming accounts for 11% of global pesticide sales and 24% of global insecticide sales. The fewer of these that growers use, the better for our environment.
Organic practices also cut down exposure to toxic substances for laborers and farm families. Workers benefit in other ways because the manufacturers that produce organic cotton fabrics follow standards that ensure a living wage and a safe, fair workplace for their employees.
Reflecting the modern sensibility that you no longer need to look for a baby girl or a baby boy rattle, our handmade rattles for newborns come in gender-neutral shapes and figures. Made with GOTS-certified organic cotton, they exemplify the spirit of the Estella collection they’re a part of. Our New York Collection, for example, features items inspired by sights with which all New Yorkers are familiar, such as taxis, hot dogs, pretzels, and metro cards. Other collections are organized around the themes of food, sports, animals, and the beach.
Our award-winning rattles make wonderful, unique baby shower gifts for both first-time parents and those who already have kids. Bestow a rattle on a little darling and watch it become one of their most cherished toys.