Let’s start this article with a huge caveat: Babies don’t always need toys. When they’re first born, they certainly can’t stay awake or focus long enough to care about the handcrafted, sustainable rattle you place in their curling tiny hands. And when they’re 9 months old, they are so much more interested in your shoelaces, a tuft of lint and your dog’s tail. But there are other times when you will be very happy, and so will they, that you have a selection of the right kind of baby toys.
By “right kind,” we don’t mean expensive and straight out of someone’s perfectly curated Instagram. We mean the toys that will help them along with the lightning-speed development that babies undergo in their first year of life. The toys that will stimulate those little minds, and that will also be completely safe for their brand-new bodies.
We enlisted the help of Dr. Navya Mysore, a family physician at One Medical in New York City, who also happens to be the mother of a 5-month-old son.
“I don’t think you need to go crazy and buy every single toy that websites suggest,” Mysore told SheKnows. There are some household items, like a bunch of Tupperware containers for stacking or a blanket for peek-a-boo, that work great as baby toys.
On the other hand, the advantage of toys made for babies is that they’re usually tested for safety. Sure, putting a bunch of pebbles or marbles in a sock makes a sound like a rattle.
“If that breaks, they can put the marbles in their mouth and there’s a choking hazard,” Mysore said. “You obviously want to have [toys] that are safe around the house.”
Mysore didn’t choose the toys listed here, but we’ve used her expertise to guide us in finding the best toys for babies, ages 0-12 months, in a variety of price ranges.
Our mission at SheKnows is to empower and inspire women, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.
Sigikid Dog Snuggly
Ever wonder why there are so many black-and-white toys for very young babies? “Babies can’t see colors for up until about 3 to 4 months old, so initially, all they’re seeing is contrast,” Mysore said. While they’re just sleeping and eating for the first days, after a couple of weeks they’re ready to hear, touch and see objects in their world.
Klappa Play Mat
Tummy time does seem like a bit of a chore at first, when babies complain about not being in your arms. Once they start registering this ocean-side view, it will get better.
Organic Wooden Baby Rattle
“Around three months is really a good time for a rattle,” Mysore said, because they’re starting to examine cause and effect. We love that this rattle is made from ethically harvested wood and is made in the USA.
Skip Hop Zoo Unicorn Phone
You can play more than just baby songs and lullabies for your kid — the music you love is fine for them too.
“That being said, they do notice when there’s targeted music coming from something. So they’ll understand, ‘If I push on this, the music will start,’ ” Mysore said. This musical toy is also more likely to get your baby hooked on unicorns than on phones.
Klappa Toy Ball
This plush ball from Ikea has the high contrast colors for younger babies. It’s also a great toy to place on the floor when they’re ready to start reaching for things during tummy time.
Lamaze Clip & Go Barnyard Bob the Rooster
Toys you can clip onto car seats and strollers are essential for two stages in a baby’s life: 1) When they can’t really hold anything but might still want to look at something cool, and 2) when they can hold things and all they want to do is experiment with gravity. Clip this guy on and you won’t have to stoop to pick it up quite so many times.
Fisher Price Kick & Play Piano Gym
This is a great investment, because it’s got bright objects for younger babies to admire from lying down on their backs, and then it doubles as a mat for tummy time. It also plays music when they kick. At first, they’ll do it accidentally, but then they’ll learn cause-and-effect and become little Mozarts.
“Around 3-4 months is a great time for any kind of activity mat that has a number of things that they can grasp onto,” Mysore said. “Things are starting to really come together in their sensory motor abilities.”
Tinkle Crinkle Hedgehog
To be sure, babies don’t really care how cute this hedgehog is. What they will enjoy is the crinkle sound it makes and the feel of its soft fur.
Melissa & Doug Whose Feet?
Mysore likes the way crinkly books fulfill a number of purposes for little ones. They can experience that cause-and-effect of sound, explore its colorful pages and then learn what books are. Plus, these machine-washable toys are totally fine to put in their mouths too. “Five months onwards, they’re usually wanting to understand everything through their mouth,” she said.
Pehr Pull Toys Quilted Blanket
If you don’t think of blankets as toys for babies, you’ve never played peek-a-boo. All those giggles of surprise are so rewarding, plus this is part of how your kiddo is learning about object permanence.
Tobbles Neo Stacking Toy
At around 6-8 months old, when babies are able to sit up, they’re also interested in stacking things. “It doesn’t even have to be anything fancy,” Mysore said, suggesting blocks or Tupperware. But we love the colors of these wobbly Tobbles.
‘Belly Button Book,’ by Sandra Boynton
Even when they’re a long way from reading, you can take the first step toward literacy by helping them love looking at books and hearing the cadence of your voice as you read to them. No children’s author is better at playing with that cadence than Sandra Boynton.
Baby Einstein Neighborhood Symphony Walker
When your baby is able to sit up, walkers and “exersaucers” are life-savers for parents, since they can keep your kids occupied in one place while you do other things. Mysore thinks they’re great … to a point. “It helps them to develop their standing skills, because it strengthens their core a little bit,” she said. After about 15-20 minutes, however, you should probably take them out and give them time to stretch out on a blanket.
Green Toys Tide Pool Bath Set
If your baby gets fussy in the water, Mysore suggests getting them to play a bit more, so they associate bath time with fun activities. We love that all of Green Toys are made from 100 percent recycled plastic. And they’re easily washed, so you can keep that bath-toy mold at bay
Babies start teething at different ages. Once they do, you can’t keep things out of their mouth. This teething ring can hook onto their stroller and stay relatively germ-free, but if it drops, it’s dishwasher safe.
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