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You might not think newborns and infants have any use for toys, but you’d be shocked by how much they enjoy them and can learn from them – especially when you buy suitable educational toys for babies!
It’s easy to think, “Nope, there’s no way I’m buying my six-month-old a bunch of toys,” but you might want to reconsider.
No, there’s no reason to overload their rooms with dozens of stuffed animals and useless crap, but a few curated baby toys for development are a great addition to baby’s nursery. Whether you’re hoping to fine-tune their motor skills or enhance their brain development, there are many awesome options on the market!
If you’re ready to start looking for the best educational toys for babies, you’re in the right place!
Can You Buy Educational Toys for Babies and Just Let Them Play?
To understand why educational toys for babies are necessary, it’s crucial to understand how babies learn in the first place.
Unlike older children, you can’t just plant a baby in a classroom and expect them to learn everything they need to know. A baby’s development starts at home with their parents, siblings, and other family members.
Babies learn primarily through play and their senses.
That’s why it’s essential to add baby toys for brain development and fine motor skills to your list of new baby must-haves.
Before you start assuming you can buy some electronic toy that claims to teach everything babies need to know and let them play with it, you should also understand that you can’t just hand an infant a toy and let them go at it alone–you’re going to need to jump in there and play, too!
Take balls, for example.
While you can certainly sit a 9-month-old down with a pile of balls and let them try free play, learning through toys works better when you’re playing with them.
You can put the balls in things and take them back out, hide them, count them, sort them by color, etc. Any of these options will thrill your baby and teach them vital skills they need for the future.
Is Free Play for Babies Still Important?
Sure, your baby will learn a lot by working with you, but that doesn’t mean free play, also known as unstructured play, doesn’t have a place in their routine.
Through free play, your little one will foster creativity and curiosity. This style of play is also great for advancing their cognitive development and problem-solving abilities.
Since there are no guidelines for the activities during unstructured play, babies have an opportunity for exploration, allowing them to figure things out independently.
Are There Any Baby Toys You Should Avoid?
One of the most abundant types of baby toys is electronic anything. You know, the ones with bright colors, loud noises, and annoying lights. These things are essentially the baby version of a nightclub pre-packaged in a plastic product.
Despite the prevalence of these, leave these off your list – at least most of them.
Sure, there are some “okay-ish” options, but as a general rule, most of these toys do little more than send our poor little ones into sensory overload.
Something else to steer clear of are baby toys that serve as nothing more than a tablet holder.
The World Health Organization (WHO) doesn’t recommend offering children under two any screen time at all.
While this isn’t always practical (I can’t be the only one who turned on the “Hot Dog Song” so I could take a 2-minute pee break!), starting your child on the tablet at such young ages will only create bad habits for the future.
Finding the Best Baby Toys: 0 – 6 Months
Now that we’ve covered why baby toys for development can be great, plus which ones you should leave at the store, it’s time to help you understand what products are the right choices.
Why not start by breaking down the best baby toys for 0 – 6 months?
As you’re shopping for newborn toys, there are a few guidelines you should keep in mind to help streamline your choices:
- Look for things they can hold and do something with, i.e., shake, suck on, or make noise with.
- Newborns love toys, books, and other things they can look at.
- Toys that play music are also a popular option (but forget the lights!).
As you’re getting ready for baby and setting up a baby registry or shopping list, consider adding a few of these educational toys for babies:
1. Sassy Tummy Time Mirror
Soft mirrors are a personal favorite option for new babies, and this Sassy Tummy Time Mirror is adorable.
Newborns and infants are so intrigued by looking at themselves in the mirror. This toy will help them learn to focus, but it’s also a great way to enhance their visual development.
Plus, it features a cute rotating bee and spinnable ladybug to encourage touch play.
2. Crocheted Animal Rattle from Etsy
Elephants, hippos, and giraffes – oh my! These precious crocheted animal rattles from Etsy are so cute I want one for myself!
Rattles are a great way to teach babies how to grab onto items. They also help them explore various movements, such as shaking, waving, lifting, and more.
Plus, when baby starts to teethe, they’re perfect for them to chew on.
3. Fisher-Price Soothe N’Snuggle Otter
Research shows that when babies listen to music often, their auditory and prefunctal cortexes look different. These are the areas of the brain responsible for developing music and speech skills. Plus, music produces endorphins in our brains, making us happier in the long run.
If you’re looking for an adorable and cozy way to expose your new baby to music, this Soothe N’Snuggle Otter is one of the best baby toys for 0 – 6 months on the list!
4. High Contrast Sensory Book from ParentiPacek
While not your typical book, this plush high contrast book on Etsy is a great educational toy for babies.
It can help enhance their overall vision and perception and decrease the risk of vision problems in the future.
Best Educational Toys for Babies Who Are 6 Months to 1-Year
Searching for baby toys for brain development is still crucial in 7 – 12 month old babies, but at this age range, items that help with movement and coordination will be a big hit.
Also, since little ones are beginning to figure out how to find items, identify names, place things in containers, and more, choosing toys that apply these skills is beneficial.
Some general rules for toy shopping during this time frame include:
- Babies are starting to build at this age, so blocks are a great option.
- This is when your little one will start “playing pretend.” Look for items like dolls, play kitchens, cars, etc.
- Any items they can sort, stack, or build with are good ideas.
- Advance their movements with push, pull, and walking toys.
Some of our favorite baby toys for development in babies over six months and under a year include:
1. Oaktown Supply Building Blocks and Wagon
I can’t write a list of the best baby toys for development without including these adorable wooden alphabet blocks.
My girls have a set of these, and I can confidently tell you we’ve gotten our money’s worth out of them. These blocks will carry your kids through their childhood, from building and stacking to learning letters.
However, what’s great about this set is that it also comes with a cute wagon your baby can pull around the house.
So, whether you’re looking to increase motor skills or support brain development, this is a must-have in any home.
2. Custom Name Puzzle from Etsy
Around six to eight months, many babies will have the coordination to start working simple puzzles. In fact, wooden peg puzzles are some of our favorite Montessori toys for 1-year olds and babies.
Peg puzzles will help your little one master their pincer hold, and they’re a fantastic baby toy for brain development because they assist in forming neural connections in the brain, which support short-term memory.
If you’re shopping for a cute option, this custom name puzzle would make an excellent baby shower gift or first birthday present.
3. Baby Einstein Curiosity Table
We might not have had this exact model, but when our girls were learning to pull up and cruise, we had a standing activity table they both loved!
This Baby Einstein Curiosity Table helps fine-tune motor skills and prepares your baby for walking.
It also has tons of gears and areas for drawing so that they can exercise creativity and exploration.
4. Wooden Dinosaur Toys
When we’re talking about educational toys for babies, anything that allows for creative free play will be a gold standard.
I’m obsessed with these cute wooden dinosaurs that allow babies to work on pushing and pulling motions and pretend play.
5. Mushie Stacking Cups
With almost 11,000 reviews on Amazon, it’s a no-brainer to say these Mushie Stacking Cups are one of the best baby toys for development.
Stacking cups offer a diverse range of developmental benefits. Not only will they prepare your little one for more challenging tasks later on, like holding a pencil, getting dressed, etc., but they also improve their organizational skills.
You’ll also love that these cups have holes on the bottom, making them ideal for water play!
Popular Baby Learning Toys for 1 Year and Up
With baby’s first birthday quickly approaching, this is the perfect time to add some baby toys for development to their collection.
But which items are the best option when you’re looking for baby learning toys after 1 year? Experts suggest looking for developmental toys like these:
- Toys to boost artistic creativity, such as drawing pads, coloring books, and crayons
- Board books with simple pictures or photographs
- Building toys that are smaller than those preferred for younger children
- Toys that exercise fine motor skills
We’ve polled our community and found the top educational toys for this age group. These include:
1. Ball Pit with Multi-Color Balls
I’m not sure I’ve ever met a child who didn’t get a thrill from tossing around plastic balls. Why not give your little one the space to do just that?
This mesh ball pit can hold hundreds of balls and offers endless fun and entertainment for HOURS. It even includes a little basket, which will help with your child’s coordination and fine motor skills.
Please keep in mind that you’ll have to order the balls separately. We suggest these!
2. Step 2 Splash Pond Water Table
When we would set up our water table for our girls, we could almost guarantee at least an hour or two of fun, outdoor excitement. This Splash Pond Water Table from Step 2 is one of the best options available.
Any product that offers sensory play is going to provide a wide range of advantages to your baby.
Some of these include language development, increased nerve connections in the brain, problem-solving skills, and many more.
3. Crayola Palm Grip Crayons
If we’re talking about baby toys for brain development and fine motor skills, palm grip crayons will do both.
They’re made to work with a young toddler’s grasp, and they make it easy for them to create an artistic masterpiece you’ll want to hold onto forever.
4. Rolimate Hammering and Pounding Toy
Okay, bear with me here – I know buying a hammering and pounding toy for your little one probably feels like a headache waiting to happen, but the developmental benefits are hard to deny. So if you want the Cadillac of options, the Rolimate is where it’s at!
Equal parts shape sorter, musical instrument, and pounding toy, this 4-in1 product offers an exciting collection of uses your baby is guaranteed to enjoy.
This is an especially great choice if you’re looking for Montessori toys for 1-year olds.
Let Your Little One Learn Through Play with These Baby Toys for Development
You probably won’t consider every toy on the market a great baby toy for brain development or fine motor skills, but if there’s one thing this article proves, there are tons of top-notch options out there.
We also hope you know that you can take simple toys like balls or rattles and turn them into educational toys with a little help from yourself! Playing with your baby is a GREAT way to foster development without spending any money–what’s better than that?
Whether you choose to intentionally spend a little money on some educational toys for your infant, or you’re committed to using toys you already have,the most important thing to remember is the benefits your baby will reap from playing.
Whether your baby receives these benefits from free play or interacting with you and their other loved ones, some of the best lessons they’ll receive will come directly from the toys you offer them!
Have you purchased any of these educational toys for babies? What types are your favorites?
Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.