You’d think that with a vast selection of toys at our disposal, it would be easier to find some toys your baby would actually play with!
There’s no doubt, buying toys for babies is hard. There are so many factors at play: age, mental development, personality types, safety concerns, and, of course, cost.
So, don’t feel bad if you’re feeling a little out of your game. When my daughter was a baby I wasted so much money on toys she didn’t even look twice at. My goal is to help you avoid that situation altogether.
In this post, we’re going to talk about the best toys for babies under 1 and list out a few infant toys to avoid (because trust me, that’s just as important!). These toys are pretty awesome because not only are they entertaining, but they are also great tools to improve your baby’s development.
By the time you reach the end of this post, you’ll feel pretty confident that you’re buying the best baby toys for your little one.
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What Are the Best Toys for Infant Development?
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of the links I will make a small commission at no charge to you. I only recommend what I trust. Blunders in Babyland does not diagnose, treat, or give out any professional advice for any medical conditions
As adults, our motor and sensory functions are fully developed. I think we take for granted just how fresh and new everything is to babies.
Take a hairbrush, for example. We pick up a hairbrush, run it through our hair, look over the finished product, and go on our way.
A baby, on the other hand, might grasp that hair brush, become amazed that her fingers can actually hold it, revel at its texture and the bristles coming out of it, wonder how it would feel in her mouth or think about what to do with it. If she manages to swipe the hairbrush across her head, she’ll be absolutely wowed by that new sensation, and then become ridiculously excited about the sound it makes when it hits the floor after she figures out how to let go of it.
Everything is new to babies. Everything is wonderful.
So, when you’re searching for infant toys, remember to slow down and try to get into your baby’s brain a little. What things naturally hold his interest? What overstimulates him (for the toys to avoid).
This is just a rough guideline, but here are a few things you want to consider when buying the best baby toys:
- Sensory: You want to stimulate your baby’s senses, especially sight and touch.
- Safety: This is probably basic knowledge, but it’s worth mentioning. As your baby grows, you’ll find that he will put everything in his mouth. Make sure toys aren’t choke hazards and that the material is kid-friendly (containing no harsh chemicals).
- Cost Effective: Don’t feel bad for buying an inexpensive toy or going resale.
- Developmentally Appropriate: Buying a rattle for your 9 month old just isn’t going to cut it. Likewise, buying a baby laptop for a 3 month old is going to be overwhelming. Don’t worry, I’ll help you figure out what’s right for your baby.
Baby Toys to Avoid
Before we dive into the best baby toys of 2019, we should really take a moment to discuss what shouldn’t be on your shopping list.
In 2017, Amazon’s sold over $650 million dollars worth of infant toys. Parents are spending a lot of money on toys for their babies and, honestly, it doesn’t always pay off. Many toys are marketed to parents as tools that are necessary to boost their baby’s mental or physical development. So, loving parents jump in and are disappointed by the results.
I really want to help you avoid this situation so you can use your hard-earned money on worthwhile investments.
Now, the toys below are not the worst things ever. Having said that, most won’t do your baby any favors developmentally, are expensive, and are typically WILDLY popular (so everyone is probably telling you to buy them).
My goal is to help you decide what toys are appropriate for your kid. So, take the next bit of information with a grain of salt and keep it in mind while you’re toy shopping.
Toys with Bright, Flashing Lights
You’ve probably already heard that electronic toys are not good for babies. However, I don’t think the problem is that the toy is electric, so much as it contains components that may be detrimental for your baby.
Let’s start with bright lights.
Remember that your baby is taking in a lot of new information at once. Toys with bright lights force your baby to adjust to not only colors, shapes, and light at the same time, but also changing elements as well.
Bright, flashing lights on electronic toys can very quickly lead to overstimulation.
If you’re totally new to the concept of overstimulation, it’s a sensory overload that causes your baby to disconnect, become very fussy, and can even temporarily ruin his sleep.
Aside from this, bright lights really don’t have any developmental benefits.
Babies are extremely susceptible to hearing damage.
That’s not a worry-wart, new mom fear either. A baby’s ear canal is under-developed and much narrower than an adult’s. So, any loud noise that might be damaging to an adult, is doubly so for an infant.
We are actually suffering from a child hearing loss epidemic right now. Research indicates that children are suffering from permanent hearing loss due to household items, including toys. What’s more concerning, The Sight and Hearing Association found out that the most damaging toys were actually infant toys!
All that to say, when you’re shopping for toys, try putting it next to your ear. Babies love putting their heads next to toys (which increases the decibels entering their ear canal and their risk). If the toy is overwhelmingly loud for your ears, it’s not a good fit for your baby.
Also keep in mind that loud toys can cause overstimulation.
At this age, babies need tactile stimulation and parental interaction. Several studies have found that any screen time (ANY) is not only unbeneficial to a baby’s language and mental development, but can actually be detrimental until about 18 months. At this point, up to an hour of screen time is considered okay.
For some of us, this isn’t easy to hear. I mean, I get it. You have multiple kids, you’re running around the house just trying to get dinner ready, and the television keeps your kids somewhat occupied.
Life happens. This advice isn’t meant to mom-shame. Just keep in mind that, for now, hand-held devices or any screen time is not a good use of your money and won’t do your baby any favors.
Toys Containing BPA
BPA is becoming a serious concern, especially with infant toys when the damage could be long-term and very dangerous.
Let’s back up.
BPA stands for bisphenol A. It’s a chemical that is used to create resins and plastics. It’s found in basically everything now. Water-bottles, cups, food containers…everything. Even infant toys.
Scientists have linked BPA with hormonal and neurological problems, child obesity, and even cancer.
Many, many infant toys are now BPA-FREE (manufacturers almost always post this on the packaging). The biggest culprits you’ll want to look for are household goods you let your baby play with (such as water bottles) and cheap toys.
Once again, this guideline isn’t meant to scare you or make you think that toys containing BPA are awful. Simply keep this in mind and try to keep objects with BPA out of your baby’s mouth.
Saucer or Mobile Bouncers
Baby bouncer/saucers/walkers are wildly popular. In fact, that’s my baby in the picture above. I used the bouncer to keep my daughter entertained while I showered, cooked, or cleaned.
Having said that, research has also found that extended use of these toys can actually lead to hip dysplasia and can hinder your baby’s ability to learn how to walk. If you decide to use a baby saucer, just try to limit your baby’s use.
Did you know that there is a CLASS that teaches about the best toys and activities to help your baby develop important skills? I recently took the BabyCenter Meeting Milestones Through Play online class and I loved the fun ideas it taught! If you’d like to learn more, check it out here. You can also read my full review here!
Best Baby Toys for 0-6 Months
Okay, so let’s talk age-appropriate toys you can buy.
One of my favorite baby development books of all time is the Wonder Weeks. The Wonder Weeks, explains your baby’s current developments and activities you can try to help him along (if you don’t have this book and their app, you NEED to. It explains so much!).
The Wonder Weeks says that, during your baby’s first 3-4 months, he probably won’t be too interested in toys. After all, the world is completely new. He’s probably more interested in just getting adjusted to to that.
After the 4 month mark, your baby will probably show some more interest. Look for toys that gently stimulate his developing senses, especially sight, taste, and basic motor skills. Focus on patterns, gentle noises, and interesting textures.
Your baby is still pretty young, so you’ll want to take it slow. A simple toy goes a long way.
Babies love soft books. They love the texture, bright patterns, and while they still can’t flip pages yet, they love grabbing on to the pages and gnawing on them. It also familiarizes babies with the concept of reading.
Following the same concept, sensory balls are one of the best baby toys you can buy. Not only does it help your baby explore his sense of touch, but it can help him understand cause and effect (he drops the ball, it bounces), and shapes.
Any ball that has a decent amount of texture, large enough that it won’t be a choke hazard, and made from BPA-materials will do.
The Boppy Pillow
If you’re a breastfeeding mama, I hope you have a boppy in your home. It is truly one of the best investments you can make.
Not only is the boppy a must-have for breastfeeding, but it’s an awesome tool to assist with tummy time, sitting up, and even a few playtime activities.
An activity mat will probably be your baby’s first real toy.
Not only will it provide a safe, clean surface for your baby to practice tummy time, but its usually loaded with dangling goodies for your baby to play with. Don’t worry about getting one that has a net to “keep your baby in.” Most likely by the time your baby can roll and crawl, he’ll be over activity mats anyway.
Note: Activity mats are another great item you can check your local resale shop for!
Rattles are honestly a staple of babyhood and there’s a reason why! Babies are completely fascinated by the sound they make, plus the right rattle can be a perfect teether.
This particular rattle really checks off all the boxes. It’s cheap, has a clear case so your baby can watch the pebbles toss around, BPA-free, and makes a perfect teether.
You really can’t go wrong with a mirror. It’s just completely fascinating! Your baby has no clue that the other cutie-pie he’s seeing is actually him.
The only suggestion I can make is to get a non-breakable one, just in case.
Two-Handed Teethers or Grasping Toys
Somewhere between 2-4 months, your baby will realize that he can control his hands. When this exciting time hits, two-handed toys will completely fascinate him.
Selecting grasping toys is pretty easy; you’re following the same concept as rattles here. You want it to make gentle noises, be bright and colorful or somehow visually engaging, and safe for baby to gnaw on.
Best Baby Toys for 6-12 Months
By this point, your baby has pivoted from a primarily internal focus to exploring the world around him. Not only that, but he’s probably mobile! You’ll want to find toys or objects that stimulate these new skills.
Toys at this age should be a little more complex, but still not overwhelming. And most of all, these toys should stimulate maximum interaction–your baby’s and yours. Let your baby explore, but interact and comment on his discoveries.
Push Button Toys
Push button toys help teach cause and effect. The concept is similar to a baby cell phone or laptop (when baby pushes the button, it lights up), but a push button toy is more engaging because it has physical results (like a puppy popping up out of nowhere).
In my opinion, this is one of the best baby toys you could ever buy. Early on, your baby will be fascinated with simply stacking the blocks (she may not be able to interlock them yet) or moving them from one container to another.
As she grows, they can be multifunctional educational tools. In fact, I purchased some baby building blocks around 6 months and now we are using them to build cool structures, learn about colors and numbers.
Touch and Feel Books
So, touch and feel books kind of offer the same concept as soft books, but on a whole other level.
Touch and feel books usually depicts animals with life-like fur or other textures. At this point, your baby may have enough control over his little fingers to actually turn the pages. These books improve vocabulary, language skills, and offer a unique bonding experience for you both. In fact, my daughter (now 2) and I read feely books together almost every day. They are well worth the investment.
Note: I bought a few feely books on Amazon, but I scored the best deals at my local Goodwill and consignment sales.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one solution, get yourself an activity cube. I love activity cubes because they can teach your baby so many different skills and really grow with your baby. Activity cubes typically focus on tactile sensations, creating noises, and helping your baby explore different cause and effect scenarios.
Having said that, I do have a couple gripes about activity cubes: 1. They can be very expensive. If you happen to be reading this near Black Friday, you might catch one for a great price. Usually, though, they can be pricey. And 2, most activity cubes are stationary. For the adventurous mobile baby, this can translate to boredom real quick.
Honestly, water toys are kind of a necessity. When your baby starts taking baths, the water and your enthusiasm will be enough to entertain him. Soon though, he’ll want to explore.
Water toys help him experiment with the texture and movement of water and how objects interact with water (such as floating vs sinking). You don’t have to get fancy here, just focus on toys that allow him to experiment with these elements, such as cups, strainers, squirters, fans, and boats.
If your baby is young, you might also try bath finger puppets. They will really appreciate the texture and colors!
Miniature musical instruments can help improve your baby’s motor functions, hand-eye coordination, and sound recognition. Plus it can bring out the virtuoso in just about any baby.
Anything that makes cool noises (pianos, xylephones, tamberines, chimes) are a good fit for babies as long as they are made from safe materials, not a choke hazard, and aren’t too loud.
I absolutely love this slide out xylophone set because it’s ridiculously multipurpose, well-made, and allows your baby to experiment with sound without having to worry about his ear drums bursting.
Okay, full disclosure, I have a love-hate relationship with baby puzzles and this is why: if used correctly (and selected wisely), a baby puzzle can be one of the best baby toys you purchase. If not, it can be a total waste of money.
I am not a fan of basic alphabet puzzles. They are difficult for babies to use and babies grow bored of them quickly. I do, however, like the puzzles that include bulkier objects that either include a letter or number and a helpful picture (like the one pictured above). Right now, these puzzles will help your baby explore his hand-eye coordination skills and help with shape recognition. Later, it can be a powerful tool to teach your toddler the alphabet or his numbers.
Push and Pull Toys
Remember how I said that walkers can be one of those dangerous toys you should avoid? Well, they can also be a really fun toy as well, if you find the right one. We bought my daughter this walker when she was around 11 months and she still uses it to this day (I think it’s the perfect combination of an interactive and electronic toy).
I would only recommend these toys if your baby is already walking or if you’re nearby and available to assist.
The Best Baby Toys: Before You Buy, Consider DIY
When you’re looking at the best toys for babies, you’ll find the best results with the simple objects that stimulate their curiosity.
That’s why some of the best, most stimulating toys you can try are actually household items. When your baby sees you “playing” with these items, that naturally piques his curiosity. Also, unlike toys that have a specific function, your baby can explore household items and exercise her creativity.
Obviously, when you use household items as toys, make sure they are age-appropriate and safe. Here are just a few items you can try:
- Tissue paper
- Pots and Pans
- Laundry Basket
- Baby wipes container (put a washcloths inside and you’re good to go!)
- Measuring Cups/Drinking Cups
- Kitchen Utensils
Alternatively, if you’re extra crafty, you can try making your own toys, like in the video below.
In Conclusion: Buy the Best Baby Toys for Your Baby’s Unique Interests
Okay! Hopefully now you’re feeling pretty confident with your selection of toys. You know the best toys for 0-3 months and the best baby toys for 6-12 months. Most of all, you know why you need to focus on these toys and how important it is to cater to your baby’s rapidly expanding development.
Once again, while these toys are awesome and will definitely keep your baby entertained, keep in mind that interaction with you is the best developmental tool. So, verbalize what he’s doing. “Oh, when you push this button a kitty comes out!” and encourage him to explore how he wants to, not necessarily how the toy is supposed to be used.
Did you like the toys on this list? Is there a specific toy you’ve been thinking about purchasing but aren’t quite too sure about? Let me know below!
Don’t forget! Black Friday is coming up. This sale can make or break your wallet. I highly suggest reading my articles below and downloading your free Black Friday Shopping Planner to ensure that you actually get the best deals 😉