THE BABY’S SURROUNDINGS
A new baby can often be so full of intense sense impressions from inside his body; breathing and growing, learning to digest, that he has little energy left to meet the outside world. Giving the baby a gentle start in life allows him to awaken to the world in his own time, with ready ability, and not be rushed in dealing with sense impressions he is not yet ready for or not equipped to deal with. When sense impressions are consistently overwhelming, the baby is less able rest well and less able to concentrate on what his current learning task is, and is likely to become de-sensitized to his surroundings.
If a baby is not de-sensitized to his environment, he is able to be open to it and be interested in finding out more about it. If he is able to learn something in his own time, if he is able to discover the world and his body's abilities by himself, it encourages self-motivation to learn, and interest in the world. Having the space to come into the world slowly, in a protected, gentle, loving environment gives a solid, strong foundation of self-trust and confidence that is invaluable for learning and growth. Studies have shown that early experiences and positive interactions with adults and other children are far more important for brain development than previously realized. 
What surrounds the baby and what she is exposed to have a profound effect on her ability to learn, on how she learns and how she will learn later on. It is important that the baby' s senses not be overloaded to be able to focus on what she must learn. A visually simple and restful environment, gentle colours, natural light, without blinking, noisy toys and TV, are an ideal setting for learning. Cartoon carachters, whether in image, doll or plush form, are deformations of people and animals and are more appropriate for older children (after seven) who already understand and know the world a little bit.
Many studies have shown that noisy environments have a detrimental effect, especially on younger children when language and discrimination skills are forming. Best is a quiet place with natural, human sounds, sounds of nature, real speaking and singing voices, gentle musical instruments, avoiding recorded voices or recorded music. This last point may seem a bit extreme, but if you're interested, see The negative effects of media below.
"Especially in the first year of life, a child is totally incapable of shutting out the external world; her entire body is highly sensitive and is forced to participate the all the impressions that affect it. [...] As much as possible, babies should be spared mechanical noises and "accoustic bombardment" with media such as radio, television, videos and recorded music."
Michael Glöckler and Wolfgang Goebel 
 Maxwell, Dr. Lorraine E. and Dr. Gary W. Evans. Design of Child Care Centers and Effects of Noise on Young Children. Cornell University, researched July 2009 <http://www.designshare.com/research/lmaxwell/noisechildren.htm>
 Glöckler, Michaela and Wolfgang Goebel. Guide to Child Health. Floris Books, Edinburgh and Anthropsophic Press, Hudson, New York 1990, Page 201
Holy family with the adoration of the child
by Charles le Brun
Mother and child miniature