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There are a lot of baby items that require a ton of research and cost big bucks (let our baby monitor guide help you navigate one tricky area of parenting). Thankfully, for the most part, the best baby toys are less expensive than monitors, cribs, car seats and strollers. But when it comes to picking a gift for a new parent or figuring out which toy your little one will actually engage with and what will help their development, the number of baby toys available feels overwhelming.
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Babies don’t need a lot of toys but can benefit from a few well-chosen items that encourage learning and help with milestones. “Babies will always be excited to engage with toys that meet a developmental need. Parents can pick toys based on the fun new skills they notice their babies demonstrating,” says Stacy Keane, Head of the Learning Team at Monti Kids. “When they see that their baby is pushing off the floor with their toes, as if to scoot forward on their belly, they can offer a toy that encourages that next milestone, something that will move a little or wobble on the floor. A toy whose movement is activated by the baby, not by a button, shows them cause and effect, supporting a growth mindset.”
Alec Kessler is Spin Master’s VP of Marketing, and Global Business Lead for GUND and talked to SPY about the benefits of using soft toys that are safe for babies. “Plush toys can be beneficial to the social and emotional development of babies, offering soft, safe, and tactile play,” says Kessler. “Look for items that will inspire imagination and promote interaction.”
We’ve included our top toy picks for General Play Area, Teething, Bath Time and Travel. We chose these items based on personal use with our own little ones, as well as items that were recommended by experts and have been highly rated by customers. If you’re still unsure of which toy to buy for your baby, here are a few more tips.
Look for toys that can grow with little ones, especially when it comes to pricier items.
Many toys can be used at different times, helping parents get more bang for their buck. We’ve indicated some toys that work for general play, bath time and travel.
Household items also make for great toys, but if you’re unsure if an item is safe for baby, avoid it. All the toys on our list have passed rigorous tests to be deemed safe for babies.
Don’t be discouraged if your baby doesn’t take to a toy immediately. You haven’t wasted your time or money! Try reintroducing the toy at another date. Some babies will take a few exposures to a toy before they are ready to engage.
For more ideas on which toys will be a hit with the crib club, check out our roundup of the best baby toys below.
Best Baby General Play Area
Nurseries and playrooms don’t need to be filled to the brim with the best baby toys. Instead, opt for a few multi-use toys that provide a safe and secure place for little ones to learn and get their wiggles out. If possible, switching out toys every few days can help babies (and toddlers) get excited about ‘new’ items they haven’t played with for a while.
The Play Gym by Lovevery
If you can only buy one of the best baby toys for your little one, a play mat is a must. There are several styles and price points of playmats and most hit the important features — they have soft padding for baby to lay on, they have items the baby can grab and they include a mirror for the baby to see themselves. The Play Gym by Lovevery is one of our favorite play mats because it goes above and beyond, with teething toys, various fabrics for sensory play, interchangeable cards, noisemakers and a sheet that turns the play mat into a cozy fort that baby will love playing in as they grow.
Montessori Newborn Kit
BEST FOR MONTESSORI LEARNING
Start your little one on the road to learning from day one with the Montessori Newborn Kit from Monti Kids. Designed by child development experts, the kit includes several safe baby toys that will help little ones reach their first milestones, including grasping, visual tracking and preparing to crawl. All the items in the kit, including a rattle, flashcards and a mirror that is great for tummy time, are made with baby-safe wood, non-toxic ink and food-grade silicone.
GUND Baby My First Baking Plush Playset
“GUND’s new My First Baking Set is a fun and modern way for future little bakers to safely bake their first set of make-believe cookies,” says Kessler. “The five-piece playset features high-quality plush accessories that rattle, crinkle and squeak with baby’s interaction exposing them to sensory-stimulating play.” And all of that aside, this is one of the best baby toys because it’s just darn cute. Though your little one will certainly chew on the stove before pretending to make cookies, it’s cute nonetheless.
Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack and Baby’s First Blocks Bundle
One of the first activities that babies can engage in on their own is sorting and stacking, which is why the Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack and Baby’s First Blocks Bundle continues to be a nursery staple. The set helps little ones strengthen their grip, work on dexterity, improve hand-eye coordination and learn shapes and colors.
Fisher-Price Animal Wonders Jumperoo
Like the Play Gym by Lovevery, the Fisher-Price Animal Wonders Jumperoo is another space where baby can safely play independently, giving parents and caregivers the chance to sit and watch their little one while enjoying a cup of coffee with TWO hands (what is this, a spa vacation?). The Jumperoo is a great space for older babies to exert some energy and it includes music, teething toys and toys placed above the baby to encourage little ones to look up and stretch out those neck muscles. We also like that the cushion is removable and machine washable.
iPlay, iLearn 3 in 1 Baby Walker
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again — baby toys that can grow with your baby are the best baby toys. That’s why we like the iPlay, iLearn 3 in 1 Baby Walker, which little ones can start using as young as six months and enjoy well into toddlerhood. Babies who can sit with or without assistance will have fun playing with the Baby Walker as an activity table, which includes lights, sounds, and plenty of knobs, buttons and even a steering wheel to engage with. As babies grow, the Baby Walker can help them take their first steps and later turns into a drawing table for budding artists.
Wee Gallery Jungle Soft Block
If you’re new to the world of babies, here’s how to become an instant rock star in your little one’s eyes — get them a toy that crinkles. Babies. Love. Crinkle. The Wee Gallery Jungle Soft Block has a lot going for it, including different textures, plenty of soft teething pieces, colors that help babies develop their vision and yeah, crinkle.
Best Baby Teething Toys
Teething can last for years, with babies going through cycles of painful days and nights as new teeth fight to break through their gums. There are plenty of the best teething toys that can help bring some relief but finding one that your baby will use can take some trial and error. That’s why we’ve included teethers that double as the best baby toys, thus helping to extend their usefulness.
Sophie La Girafe
My first baby could not have cared less about her Sophie teething toy. My second screams like I just spoiled the ending to Encanto if Sophie isn’t in his hand, or more specifically, in his mouth. I honestly don’t know why Sophie is so popular and so beloved by millions of kids since it only has a 50 percent rating in my house, but it remains *the* teething toy to have. It’s made from 100% natural rubber, it’s easy to clean and it arrives in an attractive gift box that makes it a great gift. Parenting hack — use a pacifier clip and fit the loop over Sophie’s head, attaching the clip to your little one to keep Sophie from falling on the ground.
Manhattan Toy Winkel Rattle & Sensory Teether Toy
Another toy that helps quiet the screaming during especially bad teething days in my house is the Manhattan Toy Winkel Rattle & Sensory Teether Toy. The Winkel is easy for babies to grab onto and the soft BPA-free teething tubes feel good on their sore gums. The middle of the Winkel has a concealed bell for a gentle noise baby will enjoy, and we like that the tubes can easily connect to a strap or carabiner and be secured to a diaper bag or car seat since 85% of parenting in the early months is keeping teething toys off the floor.
HABA Discovery Animal Elephant
HABA makes many toys for babies that we are fans of and that includes their latest release, the Discovery Animal Elephant. The multi-use toy is a stuffie, a sensory toy, a cushion for tummy time and it has a squeaker and crinkle material. For babies who are teething, every toy around them should be safe for going in their mouth and that includes the Discovery Animal Elephant, which features a teething ring and the elephant’s nose. That is definitely getting chomped on. As with all HABA stuffies, the Elephant is machine washable.
MAM Mini Cooler Teether with Clip
Okay, so admittedly the MAM Mini Cooler Teether with Clip doesn’t really have a ‘toy’ element, but for parents and caregivers struggling through teething with their little one, we hear you, we see you and we recommend something cool for your little one’s gums.
Best Baby Bath Time Toys
While bath toys may seem like an item only older kids are interested in, they can go a long way in keeping little ones entertained in the tub. Plus, for baby boys, bath toys provide something else to grab onto. IYKYK.
Fat Brain Toys Suction Kupz
Cups and small pails are popular toys for babies who are playing with water and that includes in the tub. The age range for the Suction Kupz is technically ‘toddler,’ but we also like them for babies because the soft silicone is gentle on baby’s gums, which is important since every toy eventually ends up in baby’s mouth. These cups, which are dishwasher safe (angels singing), are great for playing with in and out of the water and the suction bottoms also make them a great toy for travel since parents can stick them to airplane trays.
Munchkin 36 Bath Letters and Numbers
Another tub toy that will grow with babies into toddlerhood is the Munchkin 36 Bath Letters and Numbers. The soft foam is durable and non-toxic (aka can be chomped) and the colors, letters and numbers provide a fun way for babies and toddlers to learn while they soak. The foam pieces can stick to the side of the tub when wet, which provides entertainment for little ones.
Baby Einstein – Rainbow Bath!
For babies who hate tub time, a bath book is a great way to distract them while they splash in the tub. Baby Einstein makes several bath books that are constructed out of soft, washable plastic that floats. This title includes several brightly colored animals that little ones will enjoy. Parenting hack — encourage baby to ‘wash’ the animals on the page with their own washcloth as a fun activity to pass the time.
Munchkin Ocean Squirts Bath Toy
Okay, so that thing about not all babies liking the same baby toy? It’s true except for one caveat — all babies seem to love getting squirted with water. The Munchkin Ocean Squirts Bath Toy all have a gentle squirting function that babies and their older siblings will love. Plus, the brightly colored animals are fun to play with, easy for babies to grab and they are affordable, which means it’s easy to replace them if they get a little gross inside (don’t panic about mold, parents).
Best Baby Travel Toys
Many of the smaller baby toys already included on our list can double as travel toys, including items like the Fat Brain Toys Suction Kupz, iPlay, iLearn 10pcs Baby Rattles Toys Set and Munchkin Ocean Squirts Bath Toy. These items can easily fit in a diaper bag and be used indoors or outdoors. The travel-specific toys on our list below are lightweight, which makes them perfect for taking on the go, and in some cases can easily attach to a diaper bag, stroller, or car seat. Having toys that are only used when traveling can be a great way to engage little ones with items that don’t typically see at home during their daily playtime.
Indestructibles: Things That Go!
Okay, so books aren’t technically a baby toy, but they are great to have on hand for keeping little ones engaged and entertained while traveling. If you’re looking for the most travel-friendly book for babies and toddlers, it doesn’t get much better than the Indestructibles series. There are dozens of titles to choose from and they are all fun and educational, brightly colored and (drumroll) chew-proof, rip-proof and waterproof. Plus, they are sooooo light. You will not even notice these in your diaper bag. We have used Indestructibles for years and they are the only book that sees the inside of our diaper bag.
Melissa & Doug K’s Kids Take-Along Shape Sorter Baby Toy
For one of the best baby toys that is larger and heavier than the Indestructibles books, but still extremely convenient for travel, there’s the Melissa & Doug K’s Kids Take-Along Shape Sorter Baby Toy. Great for playing with at home, on an airplane, taking to the park or to grandma’s house, this activity set is double-sided for two types of play, has crinkly flaps (yay crinkles!) and acts as its own carrying case.
Infantino Spiral Activity Toy
Baby toys that connect to strollers or car seats offer independent play and can be a great way to soothe a fussy baby when parents and caregivers are busy pushing/driving. The Infantino Spiral Activity Toy winds around handles and features several teething toys and a small mirror for babies to check out their cute little mugs.
Etta Loves Sensory Strip
Create a play mat experience wherever you are using the ultra-light, ultra-portable Etta Loves Sensory Strip. Made with organic cotton, the double-sided strip includes a black and white pattern that younger babies will love and a colorful pattern for older babies (5 months and up). The machine-washable strip helps support baby’s visual and cognitive development. SPY received a sample of the strip and we loved how soft and lightweight the material was, making it easy to toss in the diaper bag and use for tummy time at the park or hold up to little ones while in the car seat or stroller.
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