If you’re shopping for a crib, one of the first things you’ll notice is what looks like a baby chandelier: a bunch of toys hanging from a plastic or wooden arm attached to the crib frame. It’s adorable, but it’s not just nursery décor—it’s a mobile, and one of the best ways to stimulate your baby’s development.
Mobiles are toys that you attach to the crib, playpen or stroller that are meant to be close enough to be seen, but are out of reach. The mobile helps strengthen your baby’s eyesight, and provides gentle stimulation so he can be entertained (or soothed) even when he’s alone.
In this article, we’ll talk about how a mobile can help your baby, including tips on how to pick one that provides the best benefits for you and your child.
Table of Contents
- Mobiles help visual development
- Mobiles encourage muscle development and coordination
- Mobiles develop spatial awareness
- Mobiles help develop a sense of “body space”
- Mobiles can help your baby learn to soothe and entertain himself
- Mobiles can be part of a bedtime routine
- Tips for picking a baby mobile
- Mobiles: Not just for Décor, but Development
Mobiles help visual development
Newborns are very nearsighted, and can only see objects that are 8 to 12 inches away (which is the distance of your face when you’re holding him in your arms). Everything else is a fuzzy blur.
So the first few months are critical for visual development: strengthening the eye muscles, and learning skills like focus and visual tracking (or the ability to follow an object as it moves). The mobile gives your baby plenty of practice—especially if you get one that rotates or gently bounces when the wind hits it.
Mobiles encourage muscle development and coordination
As your baby turns his head to observe the mobile, he is actually strengthening his neck muscles and learning coordination.
He may also kick his feet and move his arms in excitement, or reach out his hand to attempt to “catch” what he sees. This actually engages his core muscles too, which will maintain balance as he moves his limbs. So, you can say that the mobile is helping him get a full body workout!
Mobiles develop spatial awareness
Spatial awareness is the ability to understand distance. As your baby’s eyesight develops, he is able to see both far away objects like the mobile, nearby objects like toys in his crib.
His brain will also start making connections as he sees the mobile from different perspective, such as when you pick him up and hold him near it, so he can touch the toys and see these up close.
He will soon see that the same object can look different depending on how far away he is from it—which is a big milestone for cognitive development.
Mobiles help develop a sense of “body space”
Babies don’t have a sense of their own body, which is why they often look surprised when they see their hands and feet—they’re still figuring out that they’re seeing themselves, and not another person or toy.
By encouraging your baby to move his hands and feet, while providing a “point of distance” for them to compare their body versus something from afar, mobiles actually help develop an intricate cognitive function that involves the eyes, the body, and the brain.
Mobiles can help your baby learn to soothe and entertain himself
After a few weeks of taking care of your baby, you’ll learn to detect differences between his cries: the sharp cry of hunger, the whimpers asking for comfort, and the “bored” cry—he’s actually fine, but doesn’t feel like lying down with nothing to do.
While it’s important to respond to cries, since that builds your bond and helps your baby trust the environment and feel secure, it’s not healthy to come running even when he’s just bored or restless. You’ll get exhausted, and your baby will never learn to soothe or entertain himself.
Mobiles provide stimulation so your baby doesn’t get bored right away. You can even get mobiles that play music, or allow you to change the attached toys, so there’s always something new to grab his attention.
Mobiles can be part of a bedtime routine
Babies need routine, because it establishes a sense of security and helps them settle down. This is especially important for bedtime, because—like adults—it can be hard to go to sleep when you’re wired from a long day of interaction and work (and learning about the world is a lot of work!).
The mobile can become one of the ways to prepare baby for bed. After a bath or a cuddle, put him down in the crib, dim the lights, and then turn on the mobile. It should be the only thing your baby sees and hears in the room, allowing him to slowly “tune out” the environment and eventually fall asleep.
Tips for picking a baby mobile
- Avoid light pastels. Newborns can only see black, red and white and other high contrast colors. Some mobiles have soft tones that look pretty in the nursery, but can’t actually be seen.
- Look for simple patterns and objects. Newborns will prefer mobiles that have simple shapes and designs. Remember that their eyes can’t really pick out a lot of detail, and too many embellishments may actually end up being “visual clutter” for them.
- Think of how it will look like from the crib. Are the toys positioned to point towards the baby? It’s counter-productive to get very stimulating toys that the baby can only see from the underside.
- Go for “soft stimulation.” Babies don’t like bright lights and loud music, and it can be jarring if the speaker is right next to the baby’s ear!
- Follow safety precautions. The mobile should be high enough so your baby can’t grab it. Check the construction: is it durable, or will it accidentally fall off? Is it made of toxin-free materials? Can any of the attachments be choking hazards?
- Look for added value. If you can afford it, look for features like timers, the ability to change the attachments or connect the mobile to a music playlist, or attach the mobile to the ceiling when your baby is older.
- Consider your
Mobiles: Not just for Décor, but Development
Mobiles can help your baby’s development and improve your bedtime routine. Just remember to pick one that can actually provide the right stimulation, and doesn’t just match your nursery theme.