Nightingale Night Nurses Angela Roberts Photography playing

Toys for babies

Today we’re going to break down toys for babies in the first year. What you need and what you don’t! Most parents I run into fall into one of two categories. Either they don’t have anything for their infant because they are waiting for them to be ready to “play” with said toys. Or they have a house completely bursting at the seams with toys!

Below are some toys for babies recommendations. These are all products that we love and honestly stand behind!

Toys for Infants [0-3m]:

Infants only really need things to look at. They aren’t grasping or grabbing yet but they can absolutely benefit from learning and exploring with their eyes. You have to remember, your baby went from seeing dark to this bright new world. Literally EVERYTHING is new! Your face will be their favorite thing, but sometimes your face needs to go do dishes or go to the bathroom. Our top recommended item is a playmat/playgym. It will be a soft clean [washable!] surface that baby can lay on and look at different objects hanging from above. Almost every play gym has links with openings that you can hook almost any toy or object onto. You can get creative here- a kitchen whisk, a pretty scarf, measuring spoons. Anything that can be securely attached your baby will love to look at [and later play with].You can also flip them to do tummytime on their mat. Most gyms will have different patterns that babies can look at.

The second recommended type of product is contrast cards/books and baby books. Contrast books like this one here, are perfect for developing your new baby’s sight. It’s interesting to them because it’s in colors that they can actually see! As for books, starting literacy early has been linked to love of reading later on! It’s never too early to get in the habit. Also sometimes it’s helpful for the parents to break up the day.

We love the lovevery play gym. It has 5 different sensory stations on the bottom for baby to play with or look at during tummytime. It also has a plastic window where contrast cards can be placed. So it’s pretty much the best of both worlds! It also comes with a tent canopy that attaches so bigger babies are still enticed to play in their own special cozy space. We love this gym so much we reached out for a code. It’s Nightingale10 for 10% off any lovevery product!

Toys for 3-6 months:

Your baby is grabbing and rolling! The play gym will still be their main haunt, but instead of passively looking they are going to start interacting with it! They are going to start batting at the objects, and then begin to bring them to their mouths. You can get plastic links like these to make the toys hang closer to your baby so they can reach them.

At this age you can give them toys that they can grasp and put in their mouths too. Again- household objects can be great for this. Your baby wants to explore everything in their world with their mouths. So if you’re okay with them licking the soup ladle, it’s just as much of an experience to them as them licking the rattle you spend $20 on.

Three toys that are very easy for babies to grasp onto and mouth are the winkle  the oball and the skwish [link]. They all have holes for little fingers and different textures for their mouths to explore. Remember babies are learning through putting things in their mouth. Don’t discourage this, but rather replace something unsafe/unclean with something you would rather them lick!

We also love the sensor play kit from lovevery. They make a play kit for every other month of life. And the 5-6 month has some really fun, developmentally appropriate toys for your baby to begin to explore. Use Nightingale10 for 10% off!

Teethers! Your baby may or may not be popping some pearly whites but babies love to gum on things just the same. We love these fruit teethers, these classic keys teethers and this funky teether.

Toys for 6-12 months:

Your baby is starting to require a bit more than rattles.

They are starting to sit, and will then be crawling and even cruising. I can’t stress enough that babies are often HAPPIER with household objects. Most of us have fond memories of banging a metal spoon on pots and pans.

Examples of household play things:

  • Measuring cups that nest
  • Amazon boxes
  • Scarves and bits of fabric you always mean to make into something
  • Old wipes containers [peekaboo?]
  • A bottom kitchen cabinet that is just theirs to pull out safe things
  • Anything in your recycling bin
  • Activity- take smaller clean items [yogurt containers, water bottles] and fill up a box with them. Smaller babies can stick their hands in and make noises. Older babies can dump the box and repeat!

As for actual toys, focus on child-led toys where they can engage both physically and mentally. Exersaucers are fine for short stints when you need them contained, but babies learn best on the floor without restriction of movement. I strongly prefer toys that don’t take batteries. Active toys make passive kids. We want to look for toys that your baby has to use her brain power to play with. The benefits are that they simple toys are cheaper, and your baby interacts with them for longer! A piano that plays a whole song with the press of a button is entertaining. But a piano that plays one note encourages the child to keep trying out different keys and explore the options.

*Play is how your baby learns. And your baby is setting up a brain structure that will last a lifetime!*

Babies also don’t need a lot. Toddlers and children don’t need a lot either. Research clearly tells us that children learn and play better when they have less toys!

Toys to have for babies:

  • blocks [at least 1 inch so not a choking risk]
  • Books [don’t forget about these! Your baby can start to turn pages and look on her own!]
  • Soft baby doll
  • A toy car
  • Stackable cups [great bath toy for forever]
  • Walker
  • Beginner puzzles

Generalizations: People are going to buy you stuff. Loud stuff. Big stuff. It’s okay to say no thank you, or ask for a gift receipt. [Target will accept up to $100 a year of items without a receipt.] That’s $100 from you, and $100 from your spouse.

If you have a small home or are going for a certain aesthetic, tell people early on. Put out the message loud and clear that you appreciate the love but are only accepting quiet, child led toys. Or that you aren’t accepting toys at all but would love books or experiences. Books are easy to store and easy to donate later on. Experiences can mean swim class, a museum membership, or a family trip to the zoo. [Better yet, grandma can take him to the zoo and give you the day off!]

If you choose to have battery operated toys, try to give your child some time during the day to play with more classic toys. [early morning and before bed are great times for this.] And if you find yourself up to your neck in toys for babies, throw some in bins in the basement and do a toy rotation! Best of both worlds.

Other tips on what to do with your baby!

Karina McCarthy

A Rhode Island native who has babies in her blood. A mom to a beautiful daughter and a lover of yoga and long naps.