What are the best baby toys?
What makes a good baby toy?
Babies love lots of different toys, but sometimes it’s hard to decide the most appropriate ones for their age and development. The best toys are engaging and help grow a baby’s attention span. They stimulate question/answer activities to develop simple problem-solving skills. Though babies don’t yet think in words, some of their thought processes while playing could be translated like this:
“What happens when I shake this?”
“What happens when I hit this button?”
“Can this block fit in this hole?”
“What does this feel/taste like when I chew it?”
“This toy makes me happy,” or conversely, “I don’t like this toy. It scares me or feels bad.”
When looking for the right baby toys, look for these criteria:
- Versatile – can be played with in several ways
- Adds an age-appropriate challenge to encourage thinking, movement, and feeling
- Adds to development of physical, social, emotional and mental skills
- Has bright or pleasing colors, textures, shapes, or sounds
- Can fit in baby’s hands or is easily accessible to babies depending on level of mobility
- Most importantly – it’s safe to chew on and has no chipped paint, cracks, or loose parts that could be choking hazards!
How can I be sure a toy is safe for my baby?
Though nothing is 100% guaranteed, there are many ways to ensure your baby’s toys are the safest for her. In 1995, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) mandated that any toys made in or imported into the US must comply with their safety standards.
Keep these guidelines in mind when looking for baby toys:
- Any fabric should be flame resistant or retardant (check label)
- Stuffed toys should be machine washable
- Any painted parts should be lead-free
- Art materials like finger paint and crayons should always be labeled non-toxic (conforms to ASTM D-4236)
Other things to keep in mind are the noise level. Loud rattles, squeaks, or music can not only scare a baby but can contribute to hearing loss.
Also be very careful with older toys handed down from friends and family or those bought at yard sales and consignment shops. They may not meet modern safety standards, plus they could have worn parts that could break and become choking hazards. They might even have lead paint if they were manufactured before 1995.
What toys are appropriate for different age groups?
The best toys are those that are easy to play with and handle while still providing interest and a challenge for each stage of babyhood. As babies grow and develop mobility and motor skills, their toy needs will change too.
You can often go by the manufacturer’s recommended age. Keep in mind that some babies may be ahead of the curve while some with developmental disabilities should stick with toys meant for younger babies for a while longer. That is up to you to decide since you know your baby best.
First of all, be aware of how babies play. For the first 3 months of life, your baby’s vision is still blurry. She can’t crawl or turn over and is learning to hold her head up with some quality tummy time. For this age, they love bright colors and bold patterns.
Floor activity mats are lots of fun. Some have kick-activated buttons that turn on lights and sound that fit her natural kicking instincts.
During tummy time, shatterproof mirrors are loads of fun. They’ll be amazed seeing their own reflection, which begins to develop a sense of self.
When baby can hold things, rattles, plastic rings, and stuffed animals or dolls are fun and develop their dexterity. Many activity mats are convertible so baby can still play with it when she can sit up on her own.
They’ll love experiencing different sounds and textures and will begin learning how objects interact with their environments. Stacking rings, puzzle cubes, and balls are great toys for sitters and crawlers.
Ready to do some shopping? Here are our top 10 choices for the best baby toys:
Your baby will love this musical activity mat. There are 4 ways to play – on her back, tummy, sitting up or riding in a car. Chewable toys are colorful and fun for her to grasp and shake. A mirror at the top engages baby with her own reflection. The piano is removable to provide on-the-go entertainment.
Affordably priced, this play mat will be something your baby could enjoy for several months. Some reviewers have noted the base isn’t heavy enough to stay in place when on an open floor. So baby might kick it out of reach. Putting it up against a wall or couch could help keep it in kicking distance.
- Can provide entertainment for several months
- Phthalate, latex, lead and BPA free
- Several options for play
- Some babies may lose interest quickly
- Baby may kick it out of reach
When looking for baby toys, simple is often the best. By the time baby is learning to grasp things, she’ll soon be figuring out what to do with them. These stacking cups are colorful and provide several ways to play. Baby can stack them, turn them over, hide things under them, etc.
Large numbers on the bottom help with number recognition as your baby grows. Some customers have noted they are a lot smaller than they look and some of the number cutouts might have rough edges. Examine these before use.
- Encourages number and color recognition
- BPA free
- Dishwasher safe
- Smaller than they appear
- Some may have rough edges
Babies love to play with cause and effect toys. This pop-up toy rewards baby with colorful critters while they develop motor skills with an easy-to-grasp lever, key, beeper, and switches. The handle lets young walkers carry it anywhere.
Some reviewers have found the buttons can be hard to activate for some babies, and some were not happy that it has no other sounds but the pop-up clicks. But it’s a good option if you want fewer toys that require batteries.
- Encourages cause & effect play
- No batteries required
- Doesn’t make electronic sounds
- Some buttons may be difficult to operate
- A little expensive compared to similar toys
This award-winning toy is great for small infants. They can shake, rattle and chew on it to their heart’s content. Plus it encourages two-handed play. It can be put in the freezer for teething comfort. It’s light and flexible, so you can easily pop it into your diaper bag for traveling. I know my kiddos loved these things when they were babies.
A few people have noted that it is not dishwasher safe and may sometimes leak the non-toxic teething fluid. But these are few and far between. Be sure to always inspect your baby’s toys before every playtime to make sure all the parts are secure.
- Encourages two-handed play
- No batteries required
- Light, flexible, portable
- Not dishwasher safe
- Teething fluid may leak
Isn’t this guy cute? This eye-catching toy has 8 soft legs to encourage pulling, squeezing, etc. Each tentacle actually plays a different note when squeezed, and it doesn’t even require batteries. All fabric construction means baby won’t bonk herself (or you) in the head with a hard surface.
While it’s high on the cute and soft scale, this little guy is pretty expensive, as many of the Lamaze brand toys tend to be. Reviewers have noted that the large size isn’t easy to handle for very young babies. So the age label may not be accurate. Others have noted that the sounds are more like squeaks and are hard for the baby to activate.
- Encourages squeezing and pulling
- Plays musical notes
- Requires no batteries
- Might be too big and heavy for young babies
- Sounds may be difficult for baby to operate
This play gym from Baby Einstein has a super colorful, nautical theme. Removable sea critters can be attached to most cribs and carriers. Music and lights can be baby-activated or played on automatic for over 20 minutes. It has a mirror, a rattle, bead chaser, teether and even flash cards with real pictures of sea life. This comfy little play mat has it all and even makes me want to play with it.
While it does have a lot going for it, this mat is pretty darn pricey. Some reviewers have noted the starfish toy is difficult to attach and may fall on the baby. Others have noted it’s not comfortable enough on hard floors without a blanket under it. Also, there may be stickers on some of the toys that could come off if chewed. Always inspect your baby’s toys thoroughly before first use and remove any product stickers, loose parts, etc.
- Can be played either sitting or lying
- Encourages sea life recognition
- Baby-activated or automatic music and lights
- May not be cushioned enough on hard floors
Another Baby Einstein offering, this cute caterpillar “radio” is easy for small hands to hold while playing 7 pieces of classical music from Chopin, Mozart, and more. It lights up along with the melodies, and you may notice older babies dancing along with the beat. Great for promoting sound and visual perception, this affordable little sound machine keeps those little fingers busy with sliding beads. Great for on the go tunes as well (provided it doesn’t drive you crazy in the car).
A few reviewers noted bad sound quality or no sound at all, however, these were a small minority. Since this isn’t a soft toy, supervise younger babies who may hit or drop it on themselves (and you).
- 7 pieces of classical music w/ lights
- Easy for small hands to hold
- Small chance of no sound or bad sound quality
- Hard surface could hurt if dropped or hit
This cuddly little sheep could become your baby’s favorite bedtime buddy. Two sleep timer options (23 & 45 minutes) bring soothing sounds of mom’s heartbeat, rain, ocean, whale song and classic lullaby melodies. You can attach it to the side of the crib with a velcro tab closure so there’s no risk of suffocation. Of course, the baby can snuggle up to it during playtime and older babies can cuddle with it at night. It’s also machine washable, just remember to remove the sound box first.
It’s surprisingly expensive, but many reviewers said it’s well worth the price. A few noted sound quality issues, but the majority of users loved it.
- Soft and cuddly
- Attaches to crib
- Removable sound box
- Machine washable
- Might have bad sound quality
Bathtime is a great time to play! Most bath toys are designed for babies over a year old, but these little guys are perfect for the little ones. They float in the bathwater with adorable little characters that roll and spin inside the balls. Baby’s sight, touch and hearing are all engaged while you’re getting her squeaky clean.
They’re easy for little hands to grasp and make a fun first bath toy. Super easy to dry and solid so mold doesn’t grow inside. They are hard plastic, so might not be great for babies who like to throw toys around in the tub. A few reviewers said they only received 2 balls instead of the 4 pictured, but for such an affordable price, you’re not out much money at all.
- Great bath toy for small babies
- Mildew-free design
- Hard surface not good for throwing
- May receive fewer than what is shown
This convertible toy from VTech entertains babies from the crawling to walking stage. The activity panel is removable for on-the-floor playtime or for travel. Talk about entertainment – this thing has a piano, plays 70 sing-along songs and other fun sounds, spinning gears, rollers, lighted shape sorters and even a telephone. Designed to grow with your baby for continued motor skills and mobility development, she will also be learning about colors, shapes, and animals.
While it may not support the weight of heavier babies, the wheels have rubber grips to keep it from sliding, plus a locking mechanism to prevent it from going too fast. Some reviewers have noted that the phone is not attached, therefore can be lost easily. All in all, though, there’s a lot to love about this toy.
- Lots of visual, audio and tactile stimulation
- Converts from sitting to walking stage
- Removable activity panel
- May not support heavier babies’ weight
- Phone not attached & may get lost
The best toy of all
There’s no comparison here, and you can’t find it at any store. The very best baby toy of all is…YOU. Baby likes nothing better than to see your face and hear your voice as you play with her. You can help her learn how toys work and can begin teaching vocabulary, shapes, and colors from the start. So whatever you buy, don’t forget to be part of her playtime.
Here’s a quick comparison chart of the top 10 best baby toys:
|Product||Photo||Customer Rating||Requires Batteries||Age Range||Cost|
|Fisher-Price Kick &|
Play Piano Gym
|The First Years Stacking Up Cups||★★★★||No||6m+||$|
|Playskool Play Favorites Busy Poppin' Pals||★★||No||9m+||$$|
|Manhattan Toy Winkel Rattle & Teether**EDITOR'S CHOICE**||★★★★||No||0-24m||$|
|Baby Einstein Play Gym, Nautical Friends||★★||Yes||0m+||$$$|
|Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes Musical Toy||★★★||Yes||3-36m||$|
|Cloud B Sleep sheep||★★★★||Yes||0m+||$$$|
|Munchkin Float and Play Bath Toy||★★★||No||4m+||$|
|VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker||★★★★||Yes||9-36m||$$|