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Here’s a list of the 25 best baby development toys for the first year. These are the essential baby toys that help support babies as they change and develop new skills. I’ve included a roundup of the best of each type of developmental toy to help you easily stock up.
ESSENTIAL BABY DEVELOPMENT TOYS FOR 0-12 MONTHS
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.
I’ve put together a quick buy list, but keep scrolling if you want more in-depth information on each toy and why they are great for a particular developmental milestone.
QUICK BUY LIST
FROM BIRTH (0-2 MONTHS)
- Soft balls – Manhattan Toy Bababall Sensory Sphere and Rattle
- Soft mirror- Bright Starts Sit And See Floor Mirror
- Soft blocks – Galt Soft Blocks
- Soft books – Galt Teether Soft Book
- Sets of loops – Nuby Lots A Loops Teething Ring
FROM 2 MONTHS OLD
- Squishy puzzles – Manhattan Toy Skwish Classic Rattle And Teether
FROM 3 MONTHS OLD
FROM 4 MONTHS OLD
- Gears and cogs – Melissa & Doug Rainbow Caterpillar Gear Toy
- Twisting toys – Berry President Twisty Caterpillar
FROM 6 MONTHS OLD
- Toy phone – Vtech Swipe & Discover phone
- Musical instruments – Funtime Rainmaker
- A Frame walker – V Baby Tech walker
- Stacking cups – Lamaze Pile and Play Stacking Cups
- Stacking hoops – Melissa & Doug Rainbow Stacker
FROM 7 MONTHS OLD
- Pull along toys – BRIO Pull Along Duck
- Push along toys – Jumini Wooden Push Along Farm Train
- Bead maze – Jacoo Toys Toddler Bead Maze
FROM 8 MONTHS OLD
FROM 9 MONTHS OLD
- Pop up toys – Galt Wooden Pop Up
- Shape sorters – Melissa & Doug, the shape sorter cube
- Walker with bricks – Tidlo Wooden Baby Walker With Bricks
FROM 10 MONTHS OLD
GUIDE TO THE 25 BEST TYPES OF BABY DEVELOPMENT TOYS FOR 0 – 12 MONTHS
GETTING THE MOST VALUE FROM BABY TOYS: TOYS TO SUPPORT EVERY DEVELOPMENTAL STAGE
There are baby toys that will be one-month wonders, and then there are baby toys that support the same skills that still appeal throughout the first year.
Then there are also toys that have an enduring appeal and are still being played with as babies move from their first year into toddlerhood and 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 coloured patterns as well, so the toy will continue to entertain as your baby grows.
25 DEVELOPMENTAL BABY TOYS FOR THE FIRST YEAR
FROM BIRTH (0-2 MONTHS)
Softballs are great baby development toys 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 softball will be batted, squeezed, rattled, rolled and used to knock things down. Eventually, the ball will be kicked.
Soft fabric balls with bells and textured panels are great early on. Babies won’t be interested in tags at first, but they will likely become obsessed with them later, so getting balls with tags on is worth it.
I recommend choosing from one of the three following softballs for babies:
The six My First Baby multi-textured sensory softballs come in bright colours and interesting textures to encourage sensory exploration. The balls promote tactile development with different sizes, textures and shapes.
The Manhattan Toy Bababall Sensory Sphere and Rattle has it all! In fact, this wonderful soft baby ball is award-winning. Here are 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.
- A 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.
My daughter had one of these balls and we didn't hand it down to another baby until she was close to three years old, so in my opinion, the Manhattan Toy Bababall Sensory Sphere and Rattle really is a great value for money baby development toy.
The Edushape sensory ball is a soft-textured, easy-grip, easy-to-catch ball. Now this ball is perfect for babies from six months old as a toy, as it has a nubby texture, promoting fine motor development.
However, this is a great developmental toy to buy early on because you can also use the ball to massage your baby's back and feet from when they're a couple of weeks old.
The Edushape sensory ball comes fully inflated. It is latex-free and BPA-free.
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.
Use the Bright Starts Sit And See Floor Mirror to hold in front of your baby in their first couple of months, then progress to using it for tummy time once your baby has reached that wonderful developmental milestone.
The mirror can also be used for sit-and-play once your baby is capable of sitting up. Oh, and it folds flat, making it easy to take with you. Find out more about the Bright Starts Sit And See Floor Mirror.
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.
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 are then fascinated by that movement.
This means they start to love all the ‘here it is – now it’s gone’ peekaboo games they can play with the flaps.
There are some beautiful soft books for babies out there. Here is a couple that I think are really gorgeous
This Manhattan Toy Soft Activity Book has a tethered buzzy bee that works its way through the book.
5. SETS OF LOOPS
Sets of tangled loops like this lovely squishy Nuby Lots A Loops Teething Ring can initially be used by young babies 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 for older babies.
So loops make great all-round baby development toys to buy and are really good value for money.
The Nuby Loops have a built-in rattle, an added bonus for sensory development and baby enjoyment!
FROM 2 MONTHS OLD
6. SQUISHY PUZZLES
Squishy puzzles - such as the deservedly popular Manhattan Toy Skwish 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.
The 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.
Needless to say, I had to have one for my daughter when she was a baby and it didn't disappoint. In fact it's one of the few baby toys I couldn't bear to give away, so it's always here for when a guest baby comes to visit!!
FROM 3 MONTHS OLD
7. TOY KEY SETS
Babies love keys. Fact!
But you really don’t want to let your baby play with your own keys because it’s not the most hygienic way to entertain your baby and also, you might just find you lose your keys!
So a set of toy keys is a good bet as a great developmental toy for a baby from the age of three months.
Toy keys make a good basic rattle for grasping and teething that can also be your baby’s first ‘one like mummy has’ toy.
There are a couple of baby toy key sets worth taking a look at.
My daughter had a set of these and loved playing with them from a few months old, but loved them even more once she realised that she had something that was the same as something mummy had!!
The B. Toys FunKeys 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, so are a really great item to have in your baby development toys armoury.
I was sceptical of the benefits of those with activity centres attached but became a total convert after I saw the pure pleasure my daughter got from playing in my friend’s baby son’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 their resale value is high.
Oh, and they are also great sanity savers for tired parents.
Honestly, buy one. You won't regret it!
FROM 4 MONTHS OLD
9. GEARS AND COGS
Babies become fascinated by gears and cogs from about four months old.
It is 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.
There are a couple of great cog and gear toys I can recommend.
10. TWISTING TOYS
Twisting toys with moving parts that move in different directions serve to support wrist development.
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.
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.
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 for my daughter to play with someone else’s. Next thing I knew, I’d bought one for our daughter and it was a huge hit with her!
We had the V Baby Tech walker, which worked absolutely brilliantly for us.
The walker has textured wheels and 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 also has some really bright, cheery music and friendly phrases.
I have to say it looks like it should cost far more money than it does. It is a very well-priced toy for all you get from it.
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.
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.
That said, I love a wooden baby toy, so I wholeheartedly recommend this gorgeous hoop stacker from Melissa & Doug.
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.
17. PUSH ALONGS
The next step on from pull alongs is basic push along toys.
All babies seem to adore vehicles and there are many types to choose from.
Go for push alongs that are small enough that they can be grasped and pushed with one tiny hand.
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.
This Jacques of London Bead Maze perfectly meets the brief of a bead maze that will engage older babies and still keep them interested as they become toddlers. The maze has a roller coaster with colourful animal shapes.
As an aside, I also love the Jacques of London packaging, which makes for great gift-giving!
FROM 8 MONTHS OLD
19. GRABBING TAGS
At a certain point, as babies start to master a fine pincer movement, 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.
There are so many taggie toys to choose from, in all manner of animal shapes as well as classic taggie comforter blankets. It’s well worth having a look and finding one your baby will love.
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 stacking blocks which we still use for all magnetism experiments.
Magformers' developmental toys have funky and chunky magnetic building blocks with hidden rotating magnets that connect easily, perfect for little hands.
The Stick-O set includes magnetic blocks in the shapes of sticks and balls, accessories to create various models, and teaches colour and shape recognition, dexterity, and fine motor skills.
Magformers Stick-O Forest Friends is a super cute, animal-themed set of magnetic toys. With chunky pieces that are easy for little hands to hold, the bright crayon-coloured pieces and cute faces offer hours of happy play and fun while promoting roleplay and creative thinking.
I love that all t he Stick-O sets are interchangeable, so you can build up a big collection if your child really loves playing with them.
FROM 9 MONTHS OLD
21. POP UP TOYS
Galt has been making classic pop up baby and toddler toys 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.
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.
Another classic baby and toddler toy here from Jacques of London. The shape sorter cube was a great favourite of my daughter, and it's another one of the small selection of toys we keep to hand for visiting babies.
As with all Jacques of London toys, it comes in a box that looks like a gift, so it makes a perfect gift!!
23. WALKER WITH BRICKS
Classic baby push 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!
Tidlo is another great toymaker, and the Tidlo Wooden Baby Walker With Bricks is a great value-for-money developmental toy.
Your baby can have fun pushing it forward to cruise along with, they can also sort and stack the bricks, and you can sit and use the bricks to get started early with the alphabet and counting numbers.
FROM 10 MONTHS OLD
24. PLAY TEA SET
Towards 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.
I absolutely love this Melissa & Doug wooden tea set, it encourages creativity and imaginative play whilst also looking super cute!! Tea sets are great for solo or social play. The set has a teapot with a lid, 2 cups, 2 spoons, a sugar bowl, a milk pitcher, 6 assorted teas in a tea caddy, 2 biscuits, and a dry-erase card. Hours of fun for an aspiring little café owner!
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.
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.
And I also 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.
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Hello, I’m Luci, founder of Mums Make Lists (Est. 2011). Over the last decade or so, I have combined my experience as a mum, journalist and shopping editor to create useful guides and lists of ideas and inspiration to make it easier for busy parents to plan and host kids’ parties and find great gifts. Read more.