What are the best baby toys? Spoiler alert: they aren’t necessarily the ones with batteries… This list is a complete gift guide to the simple, open-ended toys for babies to play with as they grow.
What are the best baby toys?
Toys are important.
They’re important for toddlers, and preschoolers, and big kids, and babies.
Yes, toys are important for babies too.
We know that play is the work of childhood (thanks to scholar Jean Piaget), but here’s what I’d like you to consider:
Have you ever considered that toys are the best tools for this job?
Toys are the tools for play.
Our babies deserve the best tools.
Note: Best toys/tools doesn’t mean the most expensive tools. The quality of a toy for a child is not decided or defined by the price tag.
Can babies play independently?
Start by knowing this: babies can play independently. The foundation for future play begins now.
When a baby is looking contentedly out a window…
When a baby is staring at a mobile…
When a baby is engaging with their play mat…
That baby is starting to play independently. It may not look like the blocks building, fire fighting, dragon slaying play of older children, but these moments are rich with self-entertainment and curiosity aka the absolute beginnings of a future career in play.
How do we start babies on the right play path?
We do this with open-ended baby toys that let the baby do the thinking, learning, experimenting, and playing.
Consider this: When a baby sits at a toy with flashing lights, music prompts, and buttons that make noises, the toy is entertaining the child. The toy is doing the play work.
Now consider this: When a baby is holding a ball, shaking it, rolling it, bouncing it… the child is entertaining themselves. The child is doing the play work and the toy is a tool.
We want to look for toys that allow the child to entertain their brain and do their play work. This will look different for all babies, and all toys will function differently based on the baby and the baby’s needs.
Keep remembering that even babies can begin playing independently – this is not just a skill for big kids.
Can baby toys become big kid toys?
“Baby toys” do not need to be exclusively for babies – in fact, the mark of a great toy is one that grows with the child.
Most often, a “one and done toy” (large, flashy, of the moment toys) isn’t a toy that’s going to be equally engaging at 2 years old as it was at 6 months.
Always remember: toys don’t have a gender
This list is GENDER NEUTRAL (as all toys are). Everything on this list is fantastic for both BOYS and GIRLS, and equally loved and used by all.
For example: dolls build empathy skills in children. Having the option to choose a doll in play is beneficial for all children.
The best baby toys list revealed
These are the best toys for babies (and toys will keep loving, and using, and playing with far into the future). This list is not just for babies! Because these toys grow with your child, many of these items are loved by children years older.
Two tips to takeaway messages:
- Toys are a big deal even for babies. This is where the foundation for independent play start.
- You don’t have to own a lot of toys for baby to have a lot of fun, but a few specifically selected toys can make all the difference.
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We’ve had this exact cube since my oldest was 9 months old – it was his one and only Christmas gift in 2013. These are pricey but worth it (in my opinion). Seven years, two more kids later, one neighbor borrowed as a hand-me-down, and this cube is STILL loved.
If your baby doesn’t have something similar to this yet, this is a great, inexpensive, and long-lasting toy to gift them.
A GREAT gift for baby – load this up with photos before they “open” it. It’s such a wonderful, inexpensive, personalized gift.
Such a favorite of my son’s in his baby-days – this STILL lives in his room and he’s nearly 6…
A different kind of sorting box: this is great for babies up through the preschool years. The box is easy for baby to hold and the shapes are fun on their own. This is an absolute home run toy for babies.
Hide n’ Seek Beehive
When I say “baby toys can grow with kids”, this is a prime example. We received this toy as a baby gift for our third born (when his sister was 20 months old). Between the two of them, they have never stopped playing with this.
Baby Musical Toy
Yes, it lights up and has batteries, but also: this toy is a living legend. The songs are lovely and won’t annoy you. The melodies are classical music that is engaging. I often give this as a baby shower gift because it’s how I was able to pee without a crying baby in the background. This is a soothing superstar.
My go-to baby gift: you can’t overlook balls with babies and you really can’t overlook these. The friendly faces and soft sounds (jingles and crinkles) are intoxicating to baby.
Remember that toys are gender neutral. Girls need vehicles just as much as boys. I love this one because of the size and the handle. It’s perfect for babies.
This might be the only toy on any of my lists with batteries, lights, and sounds, but it’s not without cause. There is a reason this has 80k reviews on Amazon. This is a classic.
**Biggest plus for this one over wooden versions is that the face comes off and can be set on the ground. It has a much longer lifespan than others.
These suction cup rattles are fantastic (and a great gift). They can be used in baby’s hands or suctioned to a surface, like a high chair. They’re well made and adorable.
The.Best.Ball. Little hands can do so much with this ball – and 8 years after I got one, we still have it to help little kids learn to play catch.
Remember, toys for babies can also be functional. These gel teethers are great for playing and soothing.
Farm Tails Crinkle Book
Our favorite baby book – babies can hold this, it makes different noises from different textures and it is a massive hit. It’s part book/part toy.
High Chair Toy
This is NOT intended for babies… but it’s an amazing high chair toy. Some parts are small so choose the largest pieces of this set and save the rest for when they are older. These suction onto flat surfaces – the big pieces are so fun for baby to try to pull off the high chair tray. Again, not a baby toy – use best judgment with this one.
What a fun toy for baby and toddler – and how great that you can zip it up easily and store it. Plus, as they grow, those balls will come in handy…
These can be used in the bath OR on dry land. They’re the right size, they make great sounds, they’re a 10/10.
Farm animal toys give babies a great chance to play and learn at the same time. We don’t learn about animals with flashcards! These ones are still in my daughter’s (7 years old) room as part of her farm set up.
There’s something to be said about simple stacking and nesting toys. Don’t overlook them – and keep a set in the car too.
Babies need blocks too! Block play helps develop hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness. These blocks have the added bonus of being sensory blocks too.
There’s a reason these have been around since the dawn of baby time. They are a classic, the best, you need a good set of stacking rings for baby.
Pull and Tug Toys
This is about as close to a baby “one of done” toy as I’ll buy but these kinds are priceless for little ones. My kids loved tugging and chewing and pulling and experimenting with these kinds of toys.
These animals are one of my favorite baby toys – something just right for their hands. REMINDER: Use a hot glue gun to plug the holes. They’re still float, but they won’t mold.
Keep growing that collection – books make GREAT gifts for babies. Check out my list of favorites.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here’s what babies need: Babies need safe, engaging materials to interact with. Sometimes, this might be a household items (like a spatula), and sometimes it’s nice to lean into something specifically designed for a baby’s developmental capabilities (like a rattle).
From birth on – toys are appropriate for babies of all ages. What’s important to remember is the play may look different than traditional play. Holding, staring, sucking, chewing on toys: these are all forms of independent play (self-entertainment) that begin at the newborn stage.
Look for toys that a well-made, non toxic, and with absolutely no dangerous pieces or parts they could choke on. Be mindful of ages ranges on toy box – these often indicate whether there are hazards for baby.
For specific types of toys, have a variety of toys so babies can explore many different skills. Look for toys in each of the following categories: toys that make noise when shaken, toys with cause and effect, toys the rolls, and toys that can build.
Check out other gift guides
Don’t miss my other gift guides which may also work for your family. Many of the toys on this list and others have been enjoyed by my three kids from baby age to elementary school.
Susie Allison, M. Ed
Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 2 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.
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