Your baby’s first years are a special time in which they will grow and develop in many ways. As parents we all want to provide our babies with the necessary tools for their development. There are numerous toys to choose from, which can make it difficult to know what your baby will benefit from and enjoy the most. Of course, each child is different and what one may like may not be the same for another. Here are 10 toys that my own children enjoyed during their first years and were worth every penny spent.
Teething Toy (0 months+)
Just about every baby I see has Sophie the Giraffe teether, and it’s no wonder. Made of 100% natural rubber and food paint it has numerous parts to chew and play safely. This has been a favorite teether with all 3 of my babies. In fact, it’s the only toy we’ve ever bought 3 of (after losing the first 2). It may seem a bit pricey for just a teething toy, however, in my experience, it’s well worth the money! Sophie is a perfect first toy that stimulates all of baby’s senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell) and is easy for baby to grip. You can read Sophie’s full story here.
Board Books (0 months+)
Since the time my firstborn was a baby and even now with my other two, they have all loved books. I Love You Through and Through is one of our favorite books to read together. This is an adorable rhyming story filled with cute illustrations of a toddler and his teddy bear celebrating the unconditional love a parent has for their child. Its sturdy pages, padded cover and rounded corners make it a safe book for little ones to handle. Here are other books by Caroline Jayne Church which are also wonderful for little ones.
Bath Toys (3 months+)
My little ones love bath time and playing in the water. The first bath toy that almost every child plays with is the classic rubber ducky. The problem with this type of squirt toy is that mold and bacteria can grow if they aren’t cleaned and dried properly (as I’ve learned from experience). I’ve thrown away several bath toys after discovering some very “yucky” stuff inside. I now, however, have found some useful tips on how to clean and prevent mold in the bath toys instead of throwing money down the drain. Here’s a great tip from Des Moines Parent on how to keep bath toys mold-free and here are additional tips from The Maids on how to clean bath toys.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the squirt toys, CaaOcho toys are a great option. Made of 100% pure natural rubber and completely non-toxic, these toys have a sealed design which prevents water from getting inside eliminating the accumulation of bacteria, mold and dirt. These can help give you peace of mind while your little one enjoys bathtime.
Activity Center (4-6 months+)
Once your baby is able to sit up unassisted (usually between 4 to 6 months) she can start using an activity center. This will quickly become her favorite place to play and provides a safe place to entertain baby while you as the parent/caregiver make dinner, fold laundry, or whatever else nearby. There are many models to choose from, each varying in the activities provided and price range. My 3 babies really loved the Safety 1st Bouncin’ Baby Play Place which also converts to a car track for toddlers. Unfortunately, it’s been discontinued, but there are many others on the market today with all the bells and whistles imaginable.
Looking at some of the newer models available today, I really like the Little Superstar Step N’ Play Piano from Fisher-Price. “Not only does [it] have toys to keep baby’s hands busy, it also rewards baby’s feet with every step on the keys…It starts out as a musical activity station for baby with plenty of toys to help entertain and develop skills. It’s also a self-contained walker with a seat that lets baby walk back and forth and spin all around in one safe area. As baby grows into a toddler, you can remove the seat to create a fun musical play space for your little superstar to perform!”
The Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Love to Play Puppy is a great interactive toy for baby. Baby can learn A-B-Cs, 1-2-3’s and parts of the body, plus sing along to ten fun songs and games. This adorable plush puppy is still a favorite in my house and one which my little ones enjoy even beyond babyhood.
Although the battery-operated plush toys with all the sounds and music provide a lot of entertainment, sometimes a simple stuffed animal for your baby to cuddle with, like a classic teddy bear, is all baby needs. In fact, my youngest at 16 months can often be seen carrying a stuffed animal through the house.
Ring Stacker (6 months+)
The ring stacker is a classic toy that babies have been playing with for over 50 years. It’s a simple toy that teaches colors and helps develop eye and hand coordination.
Shape Sorter (6 months+)
The shape sorter is another classic toy that’s an all time favorite. This is a fun and affordable toy which provides a lot of stimulation as babies learn to insert the correct shape into the matching hole.
Sit-to-Stand Toy (12 months+)
A sit-to-stand toy like the Vtech Alphabet Train is a fantastic toy for all stages from sitting to walking. This is one toy that lasts not just months, but years. It’s also a great teaching tool, introducing baby to numbers, letters, colors, songs, stories, and more. The adaptable train can be used alone for floor play, pushed along as a walker, or baby can ride on the train. The recommended age is 12-36 months, however, my babies enjoyed playing with this as young as 6 months old during floor playtime.
Little People (12 months+)
All 3 of my children have spent many hours playing with Little People. It’s a joy watching and listening to them as they play and use their wonderful imaginations with these playsets. Little People come in a variety of collections which appeal to each baby’s interest (e.g. farm, house, preschool, garden, palace, airplane, and more).
Ride On Vehicle (18 months+)
My 3 children love playing outside and riding their Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. We have 2 which were given to them second hand. Although they are both faded and squeaky from being used so much, my little ones have enjoyed these cars immensely. I highly recommend this for either a boy or girl. The suggested age is 18 months and older, however, my youngest was walking at 14 months and started using it before that (with close supervision). Here are a variety of other vehicles in the Little Tikes line.
No matter what toys you choose for your little one in their first years, have fun with them and enjoy those first years together! In fact, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. Look for simple ways to make beautiful memories. I like how Abigail Van Buren put it: “If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money.”
Happy Baby Years!