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With back to school all abuzz, everyone is in an educational frame of mind-and that includes baby! In fact, they are learning every day and almost every second. Recognizing the sound of his mother's voice, or what that word "No!" really means, babies' brains are little sponges soaking in the world around them. That's why it's never too soon to introduce your baby to colors, letters, sounds and easily identifiable objects. You'd be surprised how much they can retain all the way from the womb through those early formative years.

A great way to welcome them to the world…and the world of learning…is with educational baby gifts. Regular play with educational toys not only provides needed physical activity, but becomes a portal through which they can develop their personality, emotional capability, social skills and other traits that will help them cope with their new-found surroundings. More than just play time, it develops their creativity, reading, thinking, problem solving, imagination, speech and motor skills.

The importance of getting baby off to a good start becomes increasingly important in our competitive world. Children must compete to get into the best schools, to obtain the best jobs all so that they can live the life their parents could only imagine. Therein lies the pressure to perform. It's hard to imagine that a child could be a "late bloomer" if he/she doesn't learn to read by 18 months, but that's where we're headed.

Sometimes, in a parent's zeal, they may overemphasize the "work" of learning but not the "fun" of learning. Especially as a child, learning can and should be fun! With the wide selection of educational toys on the market today, it's easy for your child to have the best of both worlds. Let's explore the toys by what they teach.

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Colors, Shapes and Sounds

Babies learn by touching, looking, smelling, tasting and listening. Everything seems to be an exploration that somehow ends up in the mouth. A full sensory experience, items must go through the entire five senses to be learned. In this way, they can begin learning the difference between colors and shapes. Mobiles, rattles, stacking toys, pop-up toys and picture books are excellent baby gifts that introduce color, shapes and sounds.

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Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills include the grasping and fine detail movements of our hands needed for drawing, writing, tying shoes, etc. To help develop those fine motor skills, encourage them to play with things such as Building Blocks, Puzzles, PlayDough and basic skill boards or dolls that have buttons to clasp, flaps to open and zippers to zip. All these activities can help in the development of your child's fine motor skills because tasks like these require hand and finger coordination.

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Cognitive Thought

Solving problems and the ability to think through a situation are desired skills for anyone to posses. Children can be well on their way to developing their problem-solving and comprehension skills with educational baby gifts. Using educational software for critical thinking and cognitive learning can begin at a very early age and can help give them a much needed boost when it's time for school. Whether it's something as simple as learning the alphabet or learning a foreign language, there are an array of entertaining and engaging programs to choose from.

But developing cognitive thought can be learned in many other ways than through the computer. Learning that there are consequences to the choices they make is a concept that can also be grasped during play. Whether it happens in subtle ways, like pressing a button for the toy to make a sound, or in more developmental ways, like figuring out which way to turn the block to get it through the square hole, they're leaning just the same.

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One thing that can be said for kids and toys back in the day is that they definitely encouraged imagination. They may not have had all the bells and whistles that today's electronic gadgets have, but kids sure could come up with 50 things to do with a ball. Rather than fostering imagination, many of today's toys strip it because it does the thinking for them. Create a sense of fantasy with pretend clothes, play kitchens, Lego sets and other items that cause them to think outside the box. Your child and her imaginary friend will thank you for it.