25 BEST Essential baby DEVELOPMENT toys for THE first year

best essential baby development toys for the first year

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Here’s a list of 25 best essential baby development toys for the first year. Toys that help support babies as they change and develop new skills.

ESSENTIAL BABY DEVELOPMENT TOYS FOR THE FIRST YEAR

This guide to the best developmental toys for babies is broken down by age. Babies need a range of toys that support them as they change and develop new interests and skills in their first year. 

Toys that will really engage babies imaginations and appeal to them at different stages of development during their first 12 months. 

GETTING THE MOST VALUE FROM BABY TOYS: TOYS TO SUPPORT EVERY DEVELOPMENTAL STAGE

There are toys that will be one month wonders and then there are toys that support the same skills that still appeal throughout the first year.

Then there are also toys that have an enduring appeal and still be being played with as babies move from their first year into toddlerhood and on into the pre-school years. 

You will get the most value out of toys that grow with your baby, so there are some toys that will have enduring appeal and will continue to be played with as your baby becomes a toddler and on into the preschool years. 

For example, your baby will initially only differentiate black and white patterns. But it is much better to buy a toy that has colored patterns as well, so the toy will continue to entertain as your baby grows. 

Before you dive into this big list of developmental baby toys, I wanted to let you know I’ve also just done another post on must-have toys for babies, where I’ve singled out one great toy that you can introduce to your baby every month for the first year.

25 DEVELOPMENTAL BABY TOYS FOR THE FIRST YEAR

FROM BIRTH

1. SOFT BALLS

Soft balls are great for babies to have right from a few weeks old. It’s in these early weeks that babies will vaguely squish the ball.

Then, through the ensuing months, the soft ball will be batted, squeezed, rattled, rolled and used to knock things down. Eventually, the ball will be kicked. 

Soft fabric balls with bells in and textured panels are great early on. Babies won’t be interested in tags at first, but they are likely to become obsessed with them later, so it is worth getting balls with tags on. 

My First Baby Multi-Textured Sensory Soft Balls

The six My First Baby multi-textured sensory soft balls come in bright colours and interesting textures to encourage sensory exploration. The My First Baby balls promote tactile development with different sizes, textures and shapes.

Age: From birth upwards

Manhattan Toy Bababall Sensory Sphere and Rattle

The Bababall sensory sphere and rattle has it all! In fact, it’s award-winning. Here’s the vital statistics of the ball:

  • Made from a series of fabric-covered bands made of different textures, vibrant colours, and patterns.
  • Thick satin ribbons attached to the outside for added tactile stimulation.
  • Small black and white patterned ball that rattles when shaken in the centre.

Manhattan Toy makes some of the loveliest, most educational baby toys around and the Bababall is no exception.

Age: From one month onwards

Edushape sensory ball

The Edushape ball is a soft-textured, easy-grip, easy-to-catch ball. Perfect for babies from six months old. The ball has a nubby texture, which promotes the development of fine and gross motor skills. You can even use the ball to massage your baby’s back and feet!

The Edushape sensory ball comes fully inflated. It is latex-free and BPA free.

Age: From six months old, but can be used on baby as a massager from a few weeks old.

 

2. SOFT MIRROR

Babies love mirrors from very early on and seeing and eventually recognising their reflection is really important in their emotional development.

Play mats and nests usually have a mirror but it’s nice to have a larger separate one that can be wherever your baby is.

BRIGHT STARTS SIT AND SEE FLOOR MIRROR

Bright Starts Sit and See Safari Floor Mirror, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

This is a great mirror, it’s made for tummy time and can be also used for sit and play. It folds flat, which makes it easy to take with you. 

3. SOFT BLOCKS

Soft blocks are initially great for squeezing and for babies to explore the texture of.

Then as soon as babies start batting they can have so much fun knocking down your towers, before later on in the year they start building their own towers.

I can remember my Galt soft baby building blocks from when I was a child.

Galt are still going strong with a range of different sets.

 

GALT SOFT BLOCKS

Galt Toys Baby Soft Blocks, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

4. SOFT BOOKS

In their first months babies will love the pictures and textures.

However, there comes a point when they master the wrist movement of opening a flap and they are then fascinated by that movement.

Which means they start to love all the “here it is – now it’s gone” peekaboo games they can play with the flaps.

Again, Galt is my suggested go-to for soft books.

I bought Galt soft books for all of my ante-natal group and they were a big baby hit.

Jelly Cat and Manhattan ToysEssential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies also do nice ones.

MANHATTAN TOY SOFT ACTIVITY BOOK

Manhattan Toy Soft Activity Book with Tethered Toy, Buzzing Through

This Manhattan Toy soft activity book has a tethered buzzy bee that works its way through the book. 

TINY LOVE WHERE DO I LIVE SOFT BOOK

Tiny Love "Where Do I Live, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

Watch the fish swim through this lovely Lamaze soft book

GALT TEETHER SOFT BOOK

Galt Toys Jungle Teether Soft Book, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

This Galt teether soft book has some lovely bright jungle creatures inside to amuse babies. 

5. SETS OF LOOPS

Sets of tangled loops can be used initially as a rattle. Later, as wrist development builds up, they can be twisted and turned in all sorts of directions. Loop sets also make great teethers.

NUBY LOTS A LOOPS TEETHING RING

Nuby Lots A Loops Teething Ring and Built-in Rattle Toy

This Lots A Loops teething ring by Nuby has a built-in rattle. 

FROM 2 MONTHS OLD

6. SQUISHY PUZZLES

Squishy puzzles – such as the deservedly popular skwishEssential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies from Manhattan Toy – allow even young babies to explore how structures respond to their squishing.

As babies grasping and wrist movements develop the puzzles provide endless fascination as they are turned round and round in their hands.

MANHATTAN TOY SKWISH CLASSIC RATTLE AND TEETHER

Manhattan Toy Skwish Classic Rattle and Teether Grasping Activity Toy, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

Skwish is a wooden clutching toy that helps build motor skills in babies from 0 months upwards. 

It is super easy for tiny baby hands to grasp while rattling the beads that slide back and forth. 

The wood is sustainable and painted in a non-toxic water-based finish. 

The Skwish has become a design classic over the 35 years it has been in existence. 

FROM 3 MONTHS OLD

7. TOY KEY SETS

Babies love keys. Fact!

So a set of toy keys is a good basic rattle for grasping and teething that can also be your baby’s first ‘one like mummy has’ toy. 

AMBI TOYS FIRST KEYS RATTLE

Ambi Toys First Keys Rattle, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

This is a set of four brightly coloured keys held together on a sturdy keyring. Great for rattling and teething.

B. TOYS FUNKEYS TOY

B. toys - FunKeys Toy - Funky Toy Keys for Toddlers and Babies - Toy Car Keys on a Keychain with Light and Sounds -100% Non-Toxic and BPA-Free

These keys are an upgrade on more old school key sets, they come complete with car-like key fob. 

 

8. BABY BOUNCER

Babies are bursting with physical energy from three to four months. This can lead to frustration in the pre-crawling phase when there isn’t a lot they can do with this energy. So this is the point at which babies need toys that enable them to move without crawling.

Baby bouncers are a great way for babies to really enjoy moving about for themselves.

I was sceptical of the benefits of those with activity centres attached but became a total convert after the pure pleasure I saw my daughter get from playing in a friend’s for a whole afternoon!

We bought the Fisher Price Jumperoo, which we got loads of use out of.

They aren’t the cheapest baby toy you’ll ever buy, but the resale value on them is high. 

Oh and they are also great sanity savers for tired parents. 

Honestly, buy one, you won’t regret it!

FISHER-PRICE ROARING RAINFOREST JUMPEROO

Fisher-Price CHM91 Roaring Rainforest Jumperoo, New-Born Baby Activity Centre with Music and Lights, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

FROM 4 MONTHS OLD

9. GEARS AND COGS

From about four months babies become fascinated by gears and cogs.

It the stage when they love moving something that makes another thing move.

The twisting movement involved in turning gears and cogs also helps wrist development.

There are all sorts of gear and cog toys from puzzles to activity cubes and centres.

MELISSA & DOUG RAINBOW CATERPILLAR GEARS TOY

This Melissa & Doug rainbow caterpillar gear toy has six brightly coloured interchangeable gears

Melissa & Doug Rainbow Caterpillar Gear Toy With 6 Interchangeable Gears

LE TOY VAN – PETILOU WOODEN GEARS & COGS TOY

Le Toy Van Petilou Busy Bee Learning Gear and Cog Set

Le Toy Van make the most beautiful wooden toys and this Petilou cogs and gears moving puzzle is no exception. 

10. TWISTING TOYS

Twisting toys with moving parts that move in different directions serve to support wrist development. 

This wooden twisty caterpillar from Toy My Toy was massive hit with my daughter and we still have it because we can’t bear to part with it! 

TOYMYTOY TWISTY CATERPILLAR

TOYMYTOY 2Pcs Kids Wooden Twist Caterpillars Creative Colored Insects Education Toys for Baby Toddler Children as Gift, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

FROM 6 MONTHS OLD

11. TOY PHONE

It goes without saying that babies love your stuff and particularly anything you obviously love!

So a copy cat phone with buttons that make noises can be very popular and may stop your phone from being stolen and chewed.

We had this Vtech phone with its light up bleeping buttons. 

A smile still crosses my face every time I remember the ‘conversations’ my daughter used to have on this phone. 

VTECH TINY TOUCH PHONE

Vtech Tiny Touch Phone, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

12. MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

It’s at around six months that babies really appreciate being able to use things to make fun noises. 

So this is the time to invest in some baby friendly musical instruments. 

Basic maracas, tambourines and rain shakers for accompanying nursery rhyme sing alongs and just randomly shaking and bashing make great first musical instruments.

Rain shakers are particularly great as babies love watching the moving sprinkles.

You do need a bit of caution with instruments as they can whack themselves and others with them but really not sufficiently to do any harm.

EARLY LEARNING CENTER RAINMAKER

Early Learning Centre 147750 Rain Maker

13. A FRAME WALKER

Babies start pulling themselves up, cruising and walking at such different ages.

Some will be starting as early as six months and it’s then worth investing in an A Frame Walker.  

I love the traditional walkers with bricks but they are not as stable when babies are this young.

I confess I hated the look of the plastic walkers but was converted by the opportunity to play with someone else’s.

We had the V Tech walker which worked absolutely brilliantly for us.

It is an award winning baby toy, most recently winning the Infant / Pre-school Toy of the Year Award ATA. 

The walker has textured wheels, an easy grip handle and it’s got a really durable design. It’s super sturdy to give babies all the support they need as they take their first steps supported by it. 

I love that the activity panel on the front can also be removed so that your baby can sit down and play with it when they’re done walking. 

It’s also got some really bright, cheery music and some friendly phrases. 

I have to say it looks like it should cost far more money than it does, it really is a very well priced toy for all that you get from it. 

VTECH BABY WALKER

Vtech First Steps Baby Walker, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

 

14. STACKING CUPS

Who doesn’t love a stacking cup set?!!

I promise you, that you will get more play out of this simple toy that you can pick up so cheaply than you will out of many more fancy ones.

Stacking cups can be chewed, bashed, rolled, knocked down, used to hide things, slotted in side each other, built into towers, filled with water, filled with sand, used as a tea set … the list is endless.

Our stacking cups set ended up living in the bath for years. 

BABY STACK UP CUPS

Baby Stack Up Cups 9 Cups Toy Develop Bath Play Time 12m+ Colourful Teach Learn

15. STACKING HOOPS

We got almost as much play out of our stacking hoops as we did out of stacking cups.

They are really valuable in hand eye co-ordination skills and later in size sorting and the rings make great rollers.

There are some lovely wooden ones out there but we actually got most play out of a very cheap plastic set from our local toy shop.

It had a round bottom so could be knocked over to add to the fun and because it was plastic could go in the bath and the sand.

MELISSA & DOUG RAINBOW STACKER CLASSIC TOY

Melissa & Doug Rainbow Stacker Classic Toy (Developmental Toys, Superior Craftsmanship, 8 Smooth Rings, Solid Wood Base), Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

FROM 7 MONTHS OLD

16. PULL ALONG TOYS

Balls are obviously great rolling toys but little wooden pull-alongs are also wonderful once babies start to crawl or shuffle around.

I like the wooden ones rather than the plastic, as the wooden ones make that delightful ‘clackety-clack’ noise as they move.

This BRIO duck was my daughter’s favourite. In fact she still has it now, though it’s more ornament than toy as she’s nine!

BRIO DUCK PULL-ALONG TOY

BRIO Infant & Toddler - Pull-along Duck - White, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

LITTLE SNOOPY CLASSIC FISHER PRICE PULL-ALONG DOG

Fisher-Price Classics Little Snoopy Toy, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

This is a Fisher-Price design classic, modelled on the original Little Snoopy pull along toy from yesteryear. 

BRIO PULL-ALONG DASCHUND TOY

BRIO Infant & Toddler - Pull-along Dachshund Dog

Dachshunds are the dog of the moment in the UK! Not got the energy for a real one? This gorgeous dachshund pull-along will make a great pet instead!!

PLAN TOYS DANCING ALLIGATOR

Plan Toys 5105 Dancing Alligator, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

Not a fan of dogs? How about this brightly coloured alligator instead? 

17. Push alongs

The next step on from pull alongs are basic push alongs.

All babies seem to adore vehicles and there are many types to choose from.

Go for push alongs small enough that they can be grasped and pushed with one tiny hand. 

Hape, Plan Toys and Brio all have some lovely wooden ones.

BRIO INFANT & TODDLER MINI PUSH ALONG BUMBLEBEE

BRIO Infant & Toddler - Mini Push Along Bumblebee, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

JUMINI WOODEN PUSH ALONG FARM TRAIN

Childrens Wooden Toy Push Along Farm Train with Animals by jumini ®

 

18. BEAD MAZE

Lots of babies and toddlers love bead mazes.

Bead mazes support the development of pincer, wrist turning and problem solving skills.

We had some very simple bead mazes that were targeted at rising one year olds, but they weren’t great fun. 

So what I would recommend is getting a more complicated bead maze that will hold a child’s attention until they are two years plus. 

MELISSA & DOUG CLASSIC BEAD MAZE

FROM 8 MONTHS OLD

19. Grabbing tags

At a certain point as babies start to master a fine pincer movement and they become absolutely obsessed with tags of all sorts.

The tinier the label on their clothes the more fascinating it is is to grab between finger and thumb.

It’s worth buying their first soft balls and blocks with tags on, even though they won’t be interested initially, as this way the early toys will support the later stage of development.

It’s also a good idea to keep your eyes open for any inventive toys around that will support this interest and skill.

TAGGIES LITTLE LEAF ELEPHANT LOVEY SOFT TOY

 

20. MAGNETIC TOYS

Even young babies understand gravity and they take enormous delight in knowing that if they drop something it falls.

So they are also equally delighted by the discovery that magnets can act against gravity.

It may seem very young, but I promise you that they will really enjoy exploring magnetism even at this early age.

The trick is to buy – if you can find them – creatures or fun objects that are magnetic rather than a big horse shoe magnet.  

We had some brilliant Lamaze stacking bugs which we still use for all magnetism experiments.

 

BRIO WORLD MAGNETIC BLOCKS

BRIO Infant & Toddler - Magnetic Blocks, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies
Manhattan Toy Brilliant Bear Magnetic Stack-up, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies
Tidlo Wooden Magnetic Wobbly Stacker, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

FROM 9 MONTHS OLD

21. Pop up toys

Galt has been making the classic pop up for years.

I had one as a child – and there are now all sorts of pop up toys based on their model of you pressing something down and something else popping up.

They can provide hours of entertainment and help babies develop an understanding of cause and effect and interdependence of separate objects.

Galt Toys Classic Pop-Up Toy, Multi-Coloured, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

 

22. Shape Sorter

Shape sorters combine babies’ increasing fascination with “posting” things through slots and the start of their ability to match shapes. 

There are all sorts of different shape sorters out there in all sorts of different forms from balls to cubes to buses.

To make it last, my advice would be to get one with as many different shapes as possible.

Plus one that has multiple sides that can be easily turned over so that babies and toddlers develop the idea that when they can’t match it one side they look on another.

Here’s a selection of shape sorter toys

The Wooden Toy Factory - Shape Sorting Truck, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies
NimNik Wooden Shape Sorter Cube Toys - Classic Early Learning Toy for Toddlers Birthday Gifts, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies
Melissa & Doug Match and Roll Shape Sorter - Classic Wooden Toy

 

23. Walker with bricks

Classic walkers with bricks are great for once babies are cruising quite confidently, as they don’t tend to be as stable as the A frame walkers.

The brilliant thing about brick walkers is that you aren’t just getting a walker.

You’re getting a set of bricks just as your baby start to develop their building skills.

Plus you are also getting a ‘delivery cart’ which can be used to transport things and transporting things is something all babies love!

We had this brick walker from PintoyEssential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies which we got loads and loads of use out of. 

Pintoy Walker And Alphabet Blocks

 

FROM 10 MONTHS OLD

24. Play tea set

By the end of their first year babies are starting to get into imaginative play and love making cups of tea for you.

You can get all sorts of fancy tea sets with buttons and whizzy lights and noises but I would go for a more classic set every time. 

Here are some gorgeous play tea sets

Melissa & Doug Wooden Steep & Serve Tea Set (Pretend Play, All-Wood Tea Service, Brightly coloured Tags, 30.48 cm H x 38.1 cm W x 8.89 cm L), Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies
Le Toy Van Honeybake Wooden Tea Set, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies
Sass & Belle - Woodland Friends - Tin Tea Set, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

25. Peg jigsaw puzzles

Peg puzzles are incredibly good for shape recognition, which is a really important foundation for later reading skills.

However you won’t get that many months’ play out of peg puzzles as babies tend to quickly move on to more complex shapes.

So even though 10 months is early to be playing with them I would recommend getting a peg puzzle from now so you get the most possible play out of it.

Here are some brilliant peg puzzles

Very Hungry Caterpillar HC0931 Peg Puzzle, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies
Melissa & Doug Farm Chunky Puzzle (Preschool, Chunky Wooden Pieces, Full-colour Pictures, 8 Pieces)
Bigjigs Toys My First Safari Wooden Peg Puzzle, Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies, gift ideas for babies, Christmas baby gift ideas, gifts for babies

SHARE THE TOY BUYING!

Babies can be very expensive!

But luckily for many of us there are many lovely friends and family members who are keen to buy our babies gifts. 

This list will hopefully prove a very useful accompaniment to your baby essentials shopping list and also as a baby toy gift list to share whenever there’s an opportunity to give a doting grandparent or fairy godmother ideas for what to buy your baby. 

So there you have it, all the essential baby toys you will need for your baby’s first year. 

The first 12 months of a baby’s life are incredible, so it’s lovely be able to support their development with toys that they will love. 

This list of essential toys is also a great baby gift list to be able to share with friends, grandparents and other family wanting to buy Christmas and other gifts for your baby. 

MORE BABY & NEW MUM POSTS

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Essential baby toys, toys for every developmental stage, baby toys, must have baby toys, the best toys for babies

7 thoughts on “25 BEST Essential baby DEVELOPMENT toys for THE first year”

  1. What a great list!! It is wonderful that they are not the flashy and loud toys (loud made by a machine and not a child). Thank you for sharing on Sharing Saturday!

  2. Thanks for linking this to Tuesday Tots. Just letting you know that I’ve featured it this week on Learn with Play at home. You’re welcome to grab a featured button if you like. Hope to see more from you next week. 🙂

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