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Toys, toys everywhere — but which ones should you choose? Some have bright lights and music, others are colorful and super sensory, and the options go on (and on).
If you take a trip down the toy aisles at your local big box store, you may be totally and understandably overwhelmed. While many packages detail ages and stages, you may still wonder what’s truly best for the little ones in your life.
Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief. We’ve got you covered from toys that suit the youngest babies to ones that will grow with your child as they move and groove into their toddler years.
Choosing the absolute “best” toys for babies is definitely a subjective topic. And new toys are hitting the market each and every day. Above all else, it’s important to pick things that are safe (avoid choking hazards), age appropriate (because babies change so much in the first year), and — of course — fun (they’re toys, after all!).
For this list, we consulted readers on Facebook, asked our staff for their top picks, examined best-selling items, considered guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and weighed overall value and customer reviews.
Keep in mind that the price ranges listed below are only estimates — exact prices can change depending on the time of year, sales, and other promotions.
- $ = under $20
- $$ = $20-$50
- $$$ = over $50
Newborns don’t really need toys. They’re too busy adjusting to the world around them and cuddling with mom and dad. With any objects at this age, it’s important to foster safe sleep habits, so remember — along with placing baby on their back, there should be no stuffed animals or blankets in the crib during nap times or nights.
Every baby needs a lovey — and, once you find the right one, maybe a backup just in case! These Jellycat cuties come in a variety of animal shapes, from bunnies to reindeer, complete with an attached, super soft 18- by 13-inch blanket. This means they’re small enough to stash in a diaper bag when you’re traveling and baby needs a reminder of home.
Tummy time is of utmost importance with young babies up to 3 months. But laying on a plain blanket may be less than inspiring. Consider getting your baby a play gym to provide interesting things to look at.
You may also want to find some standalone visuals, like books or cards. Babies of this age respond well to bold, contrasting images — anything in black and white.
This colorful play gym by Yookidoo has plenty of black-and-white contrast to keep babies satisfied. It features a whopping 20 developmental activities, including things like a large mirror for gazing (many parents share that their babies love mirrors), rattles, a moving car for tracking, and adorable plush robot figures.
This gym grows with your child, with three playing modes: lay and play, tummy and play, and sit and play. The mat folds for easy storage or travel and can be used with or without music (requires batteries).
These beautiful black-and-white art cards by Wee Gallery come in a variety of animal prints and are suitable to share with your baby from birth. In fact, they were created with baby’s developing sight range — about 8 to 10 inches at this age — in mind.
Each of the six cards in a set is made from board book material, so they won’t rip when your baby starts exploring the world with their mouth. For added intrigue, one side is a white background with black image and the flip side is a black background with white image.
Your little one may start rolling over, reaching and grabbing, and babbling sometime between 4 and 6 months. Toys for this age should support these milestones, as well as other developing motor skills, like improved hand-eye coordination and — a biggie! — being able to sit upright unassisted (which may happen around their 6-month birthday, just FYI).
Colors are also more important at this age. Experts share that by 5 months, your baby should have developed good color vision.
Safe to use from birth, this smart little rattle helps your baby hone their grasping and visual tracking skills with a light-up smiley face on one end and a mirror on the other. The rest of the body is bumpy for tactile stimulation and contrasting black and white.
It was designed by a mom and early intervention specialist and comes with a booklet describing different ways to use it throughout your baby’s first year.
While this toy says it’s for ages 6 months and up, babies slightly younger are getting the hang of grasping things as well. (They grow fast, right?)
The cool thing about this ball set is that each one is a different color, shape, and texture. This excites your baby’s tactile senses and keeps them going back for more play. These BPA-free balls are great as your baby gets a bit older and starts chomping on everything during teething.
This musical cube is just the right play height (just under 6 inches) for babies who are learning to sit upright. It features instrument sounds of the harp, French horn, piano, flute, and violin in combination to make eight Mozart compositions. The cube is bright colors, like yellow, green, and purple, and the side lights can also make the tempo faster.
Babies tend to get their first teeth sometime between 6 and 12 months, so chewable toys are definitely on the list at this stage. Otherwise, they’re hitting milestones like playing peekaboo, picking up objects with their thumb and pointer finger, and looking for hidden objects.
Oh, yeah. They’re also on the move, so get ready for it!
Made from natural rubber, Sophie has been the gold standard of teething toys for more than 55 years. Her iconic shape, texture, and squeak lets little ones satisfy their urge to chew.
And no need to fret about this giraffe’s ears and hooves being all up in your child’s mouth: She’s BPA free, phthalates free, and made using natural food paint (so, she may fade a bit over time).
A best seller for babies 10 months and older, Dimpl is a sensory toy that lets your little one push and poke different colored silicone “bubbles” to their heart’s content.
The construction is BPA free and made from food-grade silicone. This toy helps to engage your baby’s fine motor skills and provides an introduction to cause and effect.
Many 7- to 9-month-old babies can roll over in both directions. And as time goes on, they move on from sitting to crawling to standing to cruising (not necessarily in that order — all kids are different). Toys for crawling help your baby get used to this new skill and give them something to chase after.
A gold winner of the 2018 Made for Mums Toy Awards, this cute toy will keep your baby smiling and crawling all over the place. You can set it to pre-crawling, beginner crawler, and advanced crawler modes — each with different music, lights, and movement (like wobbling or circular pattern).
This toy even has a smart sensor to help it avoid obstacles. (Now, if only it would vacuum up all those Cheerios while it moves along the floor!)
There are lots of play tunnels you can find in many shapes and colors that will entertain your baby through the preschool years. This one by Lovevery is made from organic cotton and is just under 4 feet long, making it more suitable for younger kids (many are 6 or more feet).
Your crawler will love moving through the tunnel again and again. And crawling is still important for motor development even after your baby has started walking. Bonus: This tunnel collapses into a handy carrying case for travel or storage.
That’s right! Your little one may very well take their first steps before their first birthday. There’s a lot going on in the latter half of your baby’s first year, that’s for sure!
Keep in mind the American Academy of Pediatrics does not support the use of walkers for babies due to the risk of serious injury from such devices.
There are lots of push toys on the market. What sets this one apart is its uniquely basic entertainment features for your new walker. Wooden alligators chomp as your baby pushes this cart along. There are also brightly colored fish on the wheels and butterfly and ladybug beads to keep your baby engaged.
While this toy doesn’t require batteries and doesn’t have any flashing parts, it makes an irresistible clacking sound when it’s moved forward and back.
Your baby’s desire to play doesn’t necessarily wane when you’re out and about. Try finding portable toys that stash easily into a diaper bag and clip onto car seats, strollers, or high chairs so they’re not constantly falling on the ground. (And if you’re worried about germs, you can get these handy all-purpose wipes to quick cleaning sans sink.)
Mortimer the Moose is a favorite the world over. He hooks onto whatever you need him to and has a ton of sensory features in a very small package. His tummy squeaks, his antlers are soft for chewing and teething, and his knotted legs crinkle and jingle. He’s basically your baby’s best friend because you can take him anywhere you need to be.
Water is a particularly fun sensory experience, so play often continues when it’s time for a bath. Toys for tub play can be super simple, like a plastic cup for scooping and pouring, or super basic, like a floating rubber duck. Save more complicated stuff for the toddler years.
This set of five small buckets features different colors and animal designs with handles for grasping. They can scoop water and then sprinkle it with different speeds (each has a unique set of holes in the bottom). You can even stack them away for easy storage. The manufacturer recommends these buckets for ages 9 months and up.
This yellow friend is small enough for babies to pick up and float around (or, you know, chew). It also includes an added feature: a disk on the base of the duck that reveals the word “hot” in white if the water is too toasty for baby. Rubber ducks may be the most classic bath toy there is.
Speaking of classics, there are some toys that truly stand the test of time. Think streamlined toys that don’t have extra bells and whistles. The benefit of these longtime favorites is that they promote open-ended play that kids have loved for generations.
Large square wooden blocks are a hit in the baby world. They’re easy to handle, have letters on them for budding recognition, and can stack to build and support different stages development beyond the baby years.
Made of sustainable Michigan basswood, Uncle Goose blocks are particularly giftable because their alphabet print (with non-toxic paint) has a timeless heirloom quality.
The Skwish has been a favorite toy for more than 30 years. It’s made for grasping, rattling, and teething. The elastic ties that hold it together allow baby to squish it down and have it return to its original shape.
The classic version of this toy has a nontoxic, water-based color finish featuring primary colors but also comes in natural wood and other finishes to match your home’s decor.
While this toy says it’s for ages 2 and up, babies may enjoy playing with a shape sorter with the help of older siblings and caregivers. Placing the shapes into their corresponding holes speaks to the object permanence that babies start working on between ages 4 to 7 months and continue to develop over the first year.
The AAP encourages parents and caregivers to “go back to the basics” when it comes to toys for babies. Flashing screens and digital gadgets may seem like the coolest new thing, but they may not be good for your baby’s developing brain and body.
- Try choosing toys that promote imagination and interaction. Added points if you can find toys that help your child work on things like fine motor or gross motor skills.
- Understand that one of the biggest dangers with toys is choking hazards. Things that are choking hazards for babies include coins, marbles, toys that can be compressed by a baby’s mouth, small balls, button batteries, beads, and balloons.
- No toys, particularly soft toys and blankets, should be placed in a sleep space with baby. The AAP says to keep soft objects and bedding out of baby’s crib until they are at least 1 year old.
- Check packaging or descriptions for age ranges on toys. Most will give you a general guideline for the ages it’s intended to suit. Beyond that, try using common sense. (Like, that toy drone you put in your cart may be more for you than for your 5-month-old baby.)
- Remember that babies put pretty much everything in their mouths. So, double check to make sure whatever you’re buying is made from natural materials whenever possible and is free from BPA and other questionable materials.
- Don’t be too concerned with toys marketed for educational purposes. The goal for babies isn’t to drill them with ABCs or facts. Instead, it’s to give opportunities for interaction and bonding.
- Include plenty of books with toys to help with building imagination and thought.
- Keep an eye out for toys that may promote stereotypes, whether related to gender or race.
While there are many toys on this list, rest assured that your baby doesn’t need every gadget and gizmo to be happy and healthy.
Toys can certainly aid in development and make life fun, but resist getting lured by flashy features or marketing promises (for example, your baby likely won’t be recognizing letters or numbers in the first year). Sometimes the simplest toys are the best choices and the most loved by children.
Beyond that, toys are built for bonding. So, get down on the ground and start playing!