12 MUST-HAVE TOYS FOR BABIES first year

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In my experience as a mom, I’ve learned there are several important qualities that make a toy a must-have. They need to be age-appropriate, support a baby’s development and learning, encourage some level of physical activity and most importantly, they need to be engaging and FUN!!! I’ve put together a list of absolute must-have toys for babies, one toy for each month of a baby’s first year.

TRUE MUST-HAVE BABY TOYS

It’s very easy to either go for toys that look super cute and are the toy of the moment or to go all out for toys that the makers profess will turn your baby into a genius.  But toys that tend to be worth their weight in gold are the ones that your baby LOVES to play with.

One good rule of thumb is to introduce age-appropriate toys as your baby goes through their first months. Babies don’t need a ton of toys, they just need a few well-chosen toys that they will actually engage and play with.

Give a child an age-appropriate developmental toy and you will usually find it captures their attention, plus it has the added benefit of developing some or all of their skills, like their gross motor skills, fine motor skills, cognitive skills, language skills or social skills.

The majority of the toys that I’ve included on this list of must-haves have sensory qualities to them. Toys that stimulate some of all of your baby’s five senses. They have bright contrasting colors, interesting textures and sounds.

Ultimately, babies learn through play, so the more stimulating, interesting and appealing the toys are that we give to our babies, the more they will develop and hone their skills and senses and have a great deal of fun doing so.

So, here is my list of must-have toys for babies first year, one for every month that is appropriate for the milestones they are reaching and the life skills they are learning. It’s inspired by the toys that I found my daughter and her friends loved and got the most fun out of in the first 12 months of her life. I hope you find some future gems for your baby on this list.

MUST-HAVES AT A GLANCE:

12 MUST-HAVE TOYS FOR BABIES: ONE FOR EVERY MONTH OF THEIR FIRST YEAR

1. MUST-HAVE NEWBORN BABY TOY: WRIST RATTLES AND FOOT FINDERS

BUTTERFLIES AND LADYBUGS WRIST RATTLES AND FOOT FINDERS

Babies spend their first few weeks learning to turn towards sound, follow stuff with their eyes and strengthening their neck muscles. They aren’t exactly ready for toys, but there are toys that are super useful for helping them develop all these skills.

One of the best toys you could buy for a newborn is a set of wrist rattles and foot finders. My daughter had this exact set with bright friendly bugs on. I’d sit with her propped in the crook of my lap, with the rattles on her wrists and foot finders on her tiny feet and watch her face light up as she followed the sights and sounds as her hands and feet fidgeted.

2. BEST TOY FOR TWO MONTH OLD: FLOOR MIRROR

BRIGHT STARTS FLOOR MIRROR

Around two months is when you will really start to notice your baby staying awake for longer stretches – especially if you are finding it hard to stay awake yourself!! So it’s great to have toys to hand that can mesmerise a baby and keep them occupied… enter the floor mirror!! 

A two-month-old won’t recognise themselves yet, but they will find their own reflection fascinating. This Bright Starts Floor Mirror is perfect to introduce during tummy-time (something it is important to do with your baby from the day they are born) to let your baby discover their face in, plus I love that the mirror is surrounded by fabric that crinkles – oh and I love that it folds flat, great for popping in your baby bag for when you’re outside your home. 

3. MUST-HAVE TOY FOR THREE-MONTH-OLD: BABY GYM

FISHER-PRICE RAINFOREST MUSIC & LIGHTS DELUXE GYM

Whilst a three-month-old baby won’t make full use of a baby gym, it is a great time to introduce one. A lot of parents have them from birth, but it is easy to over-stimulate very young babies, so I think it is worth waiting until your baby is around three months to get the best from it.

Look for a gym like this Rainforest Deluxe Gym by Fisher-Price (which my daughter had and LOVED) that has hanging activity toys, lights and sounds to give your baby a sensory experience that encourages them to push up during tummy time. 

This particular mat is great because you can move the hanging toys to different heights, dependent on what stage your baby is at. The mat itself makes crinkle sounds when the baby is on certain parts of it and has a lovely satiny border, which is a sensory delight for babies.

4. BEST TOY FOR A FOUR-MONTH-OLD: GRABBABLE TOY

MANHATTAN TOY WINKEL RATTLE & SENSORY TEETHER

By four months old a baby can usually raise their arms up when they’re on their tummy, it’s also around this age that babies are able to roll over fully by themselves and reach for objects. This is a great time to introduce a squishy, grabbable ball-shaped toy like the Winkel Rattle and Sensory Teether from Manhattan Toy Company

The intertwined soft tubes of the brightly colored Winkel make it grabbable (great for motor-skills), chewable (great for teething, which can start as young as four months old, oh and it is BPA-free) and easy to shake (the rattle has a lovely satisfying rattling sound). This is yet another Manhattan Toy that has won a ton of awards, including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Blue Chip Award. In short, it’s a design classic that any four-month-old baby will love.

5. MUST-HAVE TOY FOR FIVE-MONTH-OLD: ACTIVITY CENTER

FISHER-PRICE 3-IN-1 SIT TO STAND ACTIVITY CENTER

Whilst it’s super important to spend plenty of time each day playing with your baby, stimulating them, encouraging their motor-skill development and more, it’s at this point that you will also value having somewhere that your baby can play safely and amuse themselves for short bursts of time, you know, so you can get stuff done. 

Many many parents will go for a Jumperoo, indeed I have mentioned it on Mums Make Lists, but I’m including the Fisher-Price 3-in-1 Activity Center as my must-have tip for a five-month-old. I think it’s great because it converts from something babies sit and play in, to something that they can cruise around and play with. So, you will actually get more use out of it.

Oh, and if you buy the Activity Center for a baby younger than five months, it can also be converted into a playmat. So it really is a great multi-functional piece of kit.

6. MUST-HAVE TOY FOR SIX-MONTH-OLD BABY: STACKING TOYS

LAMAZE RAINBOW STACKING RINGS

Six-month-old babies are super keen to interact with the world around them. Things they can generally do at this age include sitting up with support, beginning to push up to a crawling position and picking up an object and pass it from one hand to another. They are also rapidly ticking off cognitive milestones, this is the time when everything they grab goes to their mouths to try and make sense of it, they will reach for anything and everything and they move in the direction they want to go.  

So I think that six-months is the perfect age to introduce your baby to stacking toys. They can be blocks, cups or boxes, but my must-have suggestion for six-month-olds is to get a set of Lamaze Rainbow Stacking Rings because they are lovely and soft ( no accidental ouch moments!!) and are supremely grabbable. Babies won’t be able to stack by themselves at this age, but they will have lots of fun grabbing them, watching you stack them for them and of course, knocking them down, which will undoubtedly bring on a bout of giggles. 

You can also use stacking toys to start tuning your baby’s ear to counting as you stack and you can also use them to start teaching your baby how to take turns.

7. MUST-HAVE TOY FOR SEVEN-MONTH-OLD: ACTIVITY CUBE

ALEX TOYS DISCOVER MY BUSY TOWN WOODEN ACTIVITY CUBE

When my daughter got to around seven months I started to focus more on helping her to play independently, which is great for a baby’s development. You can’t really expect independent play to last more than ten minutes at this stage, but it really does help to develop their confidence and independence. 

I found that one of the best toys to keep by then baby daughter engaged, and therefore my must-have suggestion for a seven-month-old, is an activity cube. Now I love a wooden activity cube, they just look and feel so much nicer than plastic ones. The Alex Toys Discover My Busy Town wooden activity cube gets over 2,100 reviews from happy parents on Amazon and is an ‘Amazon Choice’ item. Oh and it’s won a prestigious Oppenheim toy portfolio gold seal award winner.

The great thing about activity cubes is that babies, toddlers and preschoolers all love them – that’s why they can often be found in doctor surgery waiting rooms and the like!! So they are great value for money.

8. BEST TOY FOR 8-MONTH-OLD BABY: PULL TOY

VTECH PULL AND SING PUPPY

Most babies will be crawling by 8 months, they are keen to explore and have great little imaginations. This is a great age to introduce a pull toy, which will encourage them to move around, hone fine motor skills (grasping the string) and teach them cause and effect, especially if the toy has sounds and extra things moving on it when it is pulled. 

We had a classic wooden pull toy, but I absolutely love this VTEch Pull and Sing Puppy and can totally understand why it is a huge seller on Amazon, with over 10,000 super positive reviews. The puppy plays music when it is pushed or pulled – it’s little nose lights up with the music, which is so cute. The puppy has buttons to push and really encourages interactivity and imaginary play.

9. MUST-HAVE TOY FOR NINE-MONTH-OLD: PUSH WALKER

VTech SIT-TO-STAND LEARNING WALKER

At nine-months babies are well and truly into the cruising stage, pulling themselves up, cruising around holding onto furniture and whatever they can find. So I think a must-have is a push walker.

You’ll want one that is both sturdy and that your baby can get a good grip on. I’d also suggest you go for one that does more than just allow your baby to push it around, like this absolute Amazon best-seller, the VTech Sit to Stand Learning Walker, which encourages interactive play and imitative play with its fun gadgets (which baby doesn’t love a phone to imitate their parents?!) music and lights. There is a very good reason why there are over 23,000 Amazon reviews that give this walker close to a full five-star rating.

10. MUST-HAVE TOY FOR TEN-MONTH-OLD: FIDGET TOY

FISHER-PRICE MY FIRST FIDGET CUBE

Ten month old babies are usually sitting upright, crawling, standing up and cruising, making sounds oh and they will put ANYTHING in their mouth!! Ten-months is a great time to encourage your baby to play with toys that help a combination of their fine motor skills and cognitive skills. 

The great thing about the Fisher-Price My First Fidget Cube is that it is great for chucking in your bag as something to entertain your baby when you’re out. The cube has got different activities on each of its sides, things to click things to toggle, things to press, in short, lots of things to keep give your baby’s fine motor skills a workout alongside giving their cognitive skills a boost. There are sounds that accompany all the activities, so this is a thoroughly entertaining toy for a ten-month-old.

11. MUST-HAVE TOY FOR ELEVEN-MONTH-OLD: SHAPE SORTER

GREEN TOYS SHAPE SORTER

By eleven months babies are usually able to pick up small objects using their thumb and forefinger, this is a great time to introduce a sorting toy like this Green Toys Shape Sorter, it will help stimulate your baby’s fine motor skills and cognitive skills as they try to fit the shapes through the correct shaped holes. I particularly love Green Toys because they use 100% recycled plastic in their toys.

12. MUST-HAVE TOY FOR TWELVE-MONTH-OLD: MUSICAL INSTRUMENT

BABY EINSTEIN MAGIC TOUCH WOODEN PIANO 

Wow, we’re at 12 months, a whole year old!! It’s amazing to think how much a baby changes and grows in their first year of life. One of our daughter’s favorite and most-used first birthday gifts was a little red piano. I can’t say we always loved the sounds that came from her efforts, but oh my she had fun!!

So yes, 12 months is a great age to introduce a musical toy like this absolutely wonderful – and really quite magical – Baby Einstein Magic Touch Piano Wooden. The great thing about it is that babies can either create their own music or play along to classic tunes. And a big plus is that it has a special LOW VOLUME for when you need a little quiet in the house and a HIGH VOLUME for big performances!!!!

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