27 Best Baby Toys To Boost Baby’s First Year Of Development

Author Image By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH •  Updated: 06/14/23 •  Development / Games & Toys

There are literally millions of baby toys on the market to choose from. But with so much to choose from… Where do we even begin when choosing the best baby toys for our little ones?

Well, I believe you should start with getting a few multi-purpose and staple baby toys first. Because, once you have an established toybox there’s nothing to stop you from collecting more baby toys that your child may show a preference for such as trucks, cooking sets or soft toys in the future.

Why Are Baby Toys Important?

Baby toys will help your child learn fundamental skills such as cognitive thinking and problem-solving, as well as help them to develop their imagination and creativity, all whilst having fun.

The best baby toys can also teach sharing, demonstrate cause and effect, as well as develop gross and fine motor skills.

You see… Making learning fun and its role in early child development is something I feel very passionate about. 

After all, play is the cornerstone of how we interact with our babies and every interaction is a potential learning opportunity.

Therefore, it is important that you have the right tools in your toybox to enable your baby to develop to their full potential.

So, when it comes to choosing the best baby toys, I am a firm believer that: having a few great toys is much better than having lots of pointless ones.

And so, here are my all-time favourite baby toys that every toy box should have to ensure your baby gets the most out of their playtime.

Best Baby Toys For Newborn Babies

From the moment your baby is born, their brain is primed for learning and even at this early stage, there are specific baby toys that can help with newborn development through unoccupied play.

Sensory baby toys that involve textures, bright colors and sounds are great choices for 0 to 3 months olds.

Your interaction with your baby is also vital as they will rely on you to provide the best toys and opportunities to allow them to reach their developmental milestones.

1. Black And White Baby Books

Up until the age of 3-4 months, your baby can only see 12-15 inches in front of them and can only distinguish black, white and grey tones. 

For this reason, some of the best baby toys for newborns are high-contrast toys.

Striking black and white toys will stimulate your baby’s vision which helps to develop cognitive abilities as well as gross motor skills

Newborn babies will also concentrate for longer periods of time on toys and objects that they find easier to interpret.

So in the early days, rattles, clutch balls, mobiles and books in black and white are all great sensory toys for baby to kick start their development in a fun way.

A Fantastic Choice For Newborns
Smart Owl Peek-A-Boo Cloth Stroller Book For 0-6 Month Old Babies

This high contrast black and white book is a perfect choice for newborns as its crinkly pages, bold design and a little mirror on the back will capture your little one's interest immediately!

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2. Crib Mobile

Crib mobiles are your baby’s first educational toy.

They provide movement and (sometimes) sound that can help your baby develop their sight and hearing senses.

Ideally, you want to ensure the hanging objects that are pointing down whenever possible. And it is best to get a mobile that can be removed at sleep time to avoid overstimulating your baby when they are trying to drift off.

Award-Winning Baby Crib Mobile
Manhattan Toy Wimmer-Ferguson Infant Mobile for Cribs

This award-winning crib mobile from the trusted Manhattan Toys range is perfect for entertaining your newborns without being overwhelming. It has 10 interchangeable cards that offer a range of simple high-contrast images to more complex coloured patterns and graphics to boost your little one's visual development!

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3. Tummy Time Mats

Contrary to popular belief, a lot of activity mats and baby gyms are very overstimulating for newborn babies so, at this stage, it is a good idea to remove overhead toys and use a tummy time mat instead.

Tummy time is an excellent developmental activity for babies and by having a safe and comfortable place to practise, you will help to make this activity much more enjoyable for them.

Baby's First Tummy Time Mat
Bright Starts Tummy Time Prop & Play Activity Mat - Polar Bear

With this cushioned tummy time mat, your little one will have the cosiest space to support all their wiggles and kicks. Including a cute prop-up pillow, plush seal, baby-safe mirror and silk tags, this adorable mat will help every newborn love tummy time!

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4. Musical Instruments

A baby’s hearing is one of the first senses to develop and musical instruments are brilliant developmental toys to help boost their cognitive abilities.

Babies will love to listen to a music box or a lullaby sung by you. And remember, music can have a calming effect on a newborn which is very useful when trying to settle them to sleep.

My Favourite Newborn Music Box
Hape Rotating Baby Mechanical Music Box

This music box is a wonderful choice for newborns as its gentle soothing music will encourage your child to explore music in a fun way. It is also made from sustainably sourced and child-safe painted wood and BPA-free plastic so it is a great choice for little hands to play with! (Just be sure to wind it up the right way to get the best results!)

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Best Baby Toys For 3 Month Olds

As your baby continues to grow and learn more about what their bodies are capable of, here are a few of my favourite toy ideas for 3-month-olds.

1. Play Gyms And Activity Mats

As your baby reaches 3 months you will notice that they are lifting their head higher and more steadily during tummy time and by the end of 3 months, they will begin to raise their shoulders as well. 

Your baby mat and baby gym will now come into their own as your baby kicks and attempts to roll over (even if only by accident).

So, you can now re-attach the overhead toys you removed when they were newborns to allow them to reach and grasp the dangling objects.

Our Pick
The Lovevery Play Gym | Stage-Based Developmental Activity Gym & Play Mat for Baby to Toddler

This play gym is designed by experts for baby's developing brain and body. Winner of multiple awards it includes everything you need in an activity gym-from batting to teething to learning to focus-for a whole year of play.

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2. Baby Rattles

Of course, rattles are still fantastic developmental toys for young children and there are so many to choose from. 

At this stage, your baby will rely on you to do the shaking… but it won’t be long before they can do it for themselves.

In fact, toys with different textures that crinkle and crackle when grasped are always great for 3 month old babies as they will stimulate our baby’s understanding of cause and effect.

My Top Pick For Newborn Rattles
iPlay, iLearn: 4x Plush Baby Soft Rattle Toys

Lightweight and easy to hold, these gentle rattles provide the perfect amount of sensory stimulation for tiny babies to play with. Durable, soft and washable, these rattles will definitely stand the test of time!

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3. Baby Safe Mirrors

Unbreakable baby mirrors are also great developmental toys for 3 month old babies as they can be fastened to the side of a crib so your baby can stare into it.

At this age, your baby will become increasingly fascinated by their own reflection but they will not realise it is themselves they are looking at.

Our Top Pick
HABA Rainbow Discovery Mirror

I am a great fan of Haba toys and this little mirror is no exception! Perfect for attaching to your baby's crib, this mirror has the added benefit of sensory tags and will continue to be a source of fun for your little one as they grow. Just watch baby's delight in seeing their own reflection and movements right before their eyes!

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Best Baby Toys For 4 to 5 Month Olds

Once your baby reaches the 4 to 5 month old mark, they will begin to coordinate their sight and touch and realise that their actions have an effect.

Tummy time will continue to be very important as your baby’s upper body strengthens even more in preparation for sitting and beginning to crawl.

And now that their eyesight is getting stronger they will become more interested in faces and circular designs such as spirals and circles.

1. Teething Toys

Even though teething usually begins at around 5 months, gum pain can start earlier and it is not unheard of for babies of 4 months to have an emerging tooth.

Therefore, it is a good idea to have some teething toys to hand at this point.

Whilst teething toys are not strictly developmental toys, they definitely are toys for their developing bodies. To learn more about my favourite teething toys, check out this post.

My Top Teething Toy Set
Haakaa Silicone Teething Toys for Babies: Freezer Safe & BPA Free for 3M+

I am always a fan of companies that are 100% committed to creating stylish, practical and sustainable products that are safe for both our children and our planet and Haakaa ticks all those boxes! I especially like that the integrated moulding of these teethers ensures that no parts can break off – making it super safe for your little one!

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2. Soft Toys

Some of the best developmental toys for 4-5 month old babies are soft, simple lightweight toys. 

They are great for learning as they provide opportunities for your baby to grip and understand cause and effect from the tags and flaps on the toy.

Soft developmental toys can be round, square, brightly coloured, black and white, make a noise and can even be stackable.

My Top Choice
Galt Toys Soft Blocks (Set of 6)

These lovely soft blocks from reputable toymakers, Galt, are perfect starting building blocks for your baby. They are easy to stack, soft and safe for young babies to use. Their bright colours will also mean these blocks will never get boring and can be used in a multitude of ways as your baby grows up!

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Best Baby Toys For 6 Month Olds

Now that your baby can effectively reach and grasp, they will begin to learn to sit and crawl and soon they will want to touch everything and put it all into their mouths.

Therefore, make sure that the developmental toys you purchase for 6 month old babies are non-toxic and BPA free.

1. Stacking Toys And Building Blocks

As far as developmental toys for 6 month old babies go, you can never go wrong with a good set of stacking toys and wooden building blocks.

Stacking rings and nesting cups help babies to learn fine and gross motor skills as well as develop hand-eye coordination.

And a good set of coloured wooden building blocks for building towers to knock down will never lose its appeal.

These developmental toys will become a playbox staple for many years and will provide your child with endless hours of fun and learning.

My All-Time Favourite Building Block Set
Melissa & Doug Wooden 100 Pcs Building Blocks Set

No nursery is complete without wooden blocks. They provide hours of fun and education through play from honing fine motor skills, improving problem-solving, developing creativity and teaching colours and shapes. My favourite is this colourful set from Melissa and Doug.

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2. Soft Cloth Books

Although you will have hopefully introduced your little one to baby books from early on, your baby is now in a position to hold soft cloth books and board books on their own.

Books that are textured and that make noises are perfect for this age group.

One of the best forms of developmental play there is, reading books to your baby has the ability to be educational as well as teach your little one about life, emotions and new experiences as they get older.

Soft Baby Cloth Books By Beiens

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3. Small Balls

When it comes to choosing developmental activity toys for 6 month old babies, small textured, sensory balls are always a win.

They will help to develop your baby’s fine motor and coordination skills as they watch a ball roll away from them when they let it go and see it return back to them from you.

Our Top Pick
Edushape Set of 6 Textured Sensory Balls 6M+

Edushape do a wonderful range of balls for young children and this one, in particular, is fantastic for 6 months and up. Being just the right size for little hands, these brightly coloured textured and easy to clean balls are ideal for developing motor and cognitive skills as well as being BPA and Phthalate free!

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4. Bright, Colourful And Noisy Toys

For this age group toys that are colourful and able to produce sounds will definitely get your baby’s attention.

These toys will stimulate your baby’s visual senses as well as their hearing ability and will help to encourage them to try to move after it developing their gross motor skills.

My One Exception!
VTech Baby Lil' Critters Moosical Beads

I am not usually a fan of baby toys that require batteries... but this one is an exception! Little ones will love this cute toy with light-up buttons and spinners that help to teach them about colours, shapes and animal sounds in a fun way. Plus, this toy has the added bonus of volume control!

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Best Baby Toys For 9 Month Olds

The period between 9-12 months is one of rapid development for your growing baby.

Their improved ability to move around will open up a whole new world for them, so it is vital that you offer them a safe and nourishing play environment in which to flourish.

During this solitary play stage, they will also start to use memory recall and begin to understand simple instructions. 

And as with all age groups, there are certain toys you can introduce to help them make the most of this stage in their learning. 

1. Learning Activity Cubes

Learning cubes are great interactive baby toys that you can offer your child at around 9 months old.

Activity cubes will encourage fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination and babies will learn to push buttons in order to get a reaction be it either a noise, pop up or a familiar tune.

As with other baby toys, this is one that will grow with your child’s developmental abilities too (so it’s worth the investment).

TOYVENTIVE Wooden Kids Montessori Activity Cube

Once your little one can sit they will love an activity cube to play with. I really like this Montessori inspired wooden cube with its bright colours. Not overwhelming as some cubes can be but just the right amount of stimulating activities to keep your little one engaged. Made with non-toxic paints, it is sturdy, just the right size and versatile too.

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2. Shape Sorters

Shape sorters are also great baby toys as they encourage your child to have patience, learn about shapes and help to develop their hand-eye coordination.

Wooden shape sorters are always my recommended products as babies will put the pieces in their mouths and you want to make sure the pieces won’t break and are robust enough to have longevity.

Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube - Classic Wooden Toy With 12 Shapes

As shape sorters go you can't go wrong with this sturdy staple from Melissa and Doug. It does exactly what is says on the tin is easy for little hands to handle and will be a great addition to the toy box.

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3. Push And Go Toys

Push and go baby toys that zoom across the floor when pushed or released are a great hit with 9 month olds as they start to really understand cause and effect. 

The need to chase after the toy to repeat the action will give your baby plenty of opportunities to refine their crawling skills and build up their body strength too.

My All-Time Favourite Push and Go Toy
Amy & Benton: Push-and-Go Toddler Toy Cartoon Car Set

I cannot express how much I love these push and go toys! Their ingenious simple-to-use design means they're very baby-friendly and do not require batteries! Their bright colours, eye-catching characters and super speed will also provide hours of entertainment for your little one as they zoom along!

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4. Activity Tables

As they learn to pull themselves to standing and cruise around furniture, activity tables provide your baby with the opportunity to play in a standing position.

Activity tables come with lots of buttons, levers in bright colors and wheels and make lots of different noises.

Pulling from all aspects of your baby’s development, you cannot go wrong with a solid activity table in your baby’s play space.

Also, for babies that are not quite ready for standing, the legs for these tables are usually removable so they can play with them while sitting (if needed).

Our Top Pick
Baby Einstein: Clever Composer Wooden Activity Tune Table with Magic Touch Technology

This award-winning company has produced a truly unique musical activity table. It has removable legs so can be used on the floor or elevated depending on baby's development and using clever Magic Touch technology, this table will allow your child to create music all in one place! Providing hours of fun and exploration into the world of music for your little one!

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5. The Safe Kitchen Cupboard

Whilst not strictly a ‘baby toy’… Babies of the 9-12 month age group love to explore everyday items.

And they will love banging a wooden spoon in a saucepan or putting smaller objects inside larger ones.

So, if you are able to dedicate a low kitchen cupboard and fill it with safe and interesting everyday items, there is nothing your mobile baby will love to do than open it up, take things out and explore.

If you don’t have a kitchen cupboard spare, you can use a recycled box and fill it with a mixture of fun items such as wooden spoons, silicone spatulas, tup-a-ware and baby-safe cutlery.

Silicone Cooking Utensils Set - 446°F Heat Resistant - Dishwasher Safe (BPA Free)

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6. Bath Toys

Bath time is now becoming much more fun for you and your baby as they are strong enough to sit up in the bath for longer periods of time and engage in all sorts of play.

Most babies of this age will enjoy splashing and there are some fun educational toys on the market that squirt, float and make bubbles.

Water wheels that you can attach to the side of the bath and small watering cans are great for this age group as they will never tire of watching how the water flows. (It also means you can keep them occupied whilst you give them a clean.)

My Top Bath Time Toy
GOODLOGO: Bathtub Wall Toy for Toddlers - Fill, Spin and Flow

This bath toy from GOODLOGO will captivate your little one's imagination and teach them about cause and effect in the process. It is brightly coloured, has good suction cups, includes colanders, spinning aspects and fun waterfalls too! All in all, it is the perfect early bath toy!

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Best Baby Toys For 12 Month Olds

By now, your 1 year old baby is getting very curious and their newfound mobility will enable them to explore everything and anything.

This can be quite an exhausting age for you as they are always on the go and have no real sense of danger so making your home toddler-safe is a must.

But now is the ideal time to provide your baby with toys that make noises, move and mimic the world they live in.

Many of the baby toys we have mentioned so far will still be very beneficial to your child’s ongoing development as they learn to do more creative things with them, but here are some extra baby toys that will go down brilliantly with your 12 month old:

1. Toy Phone

A toy phone is a great way to encourage your 12 month old to develop speech as they chat away like their parents.

This baby toy also helps to develop an early interest in role-play and offers the perfect opportunity to model new words and practice language skills.

Our Pick
LeapFrog Chat and Count Emoji Phone For Toddlers

I do not advocate young children playing with regular cell phones but when they see you on your phone, they will naturally want one too! Therefore, giving them a TOY phone that looks like yours, but with no dangerous stuff and only educational aspects, is the perfect solution. This phone from LeapFrog does exactly that and its easy to use interface will still allow your little one to practice using a phone in an age-appropriate and highly entertaining way!

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2. Push Walkers

A brilliant toy essential for this age group is a baby walker. These come in many shapes and sizes from basic wooden ones that hold your building blocks to more activity-based ones. 

I personally prefer the wooden blocks baby walker as this has greater longevity for play over the age groups and will have better balance when helping your baby walk with the trolley.

Our Top Pick
Le Toy Van - Petilou Wooden Walker Toy for Toddlers and Babies

Another toy staple is the baby walker and there are a lot out there to choose from. I really like this one from Le Toy Van. It is eco friendly, safe and sturdy and will be a firm favourite with your toddler before, during and after they learn to walk independently!

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3. Pull Along Baby Toys

Classic pull along toys are also great for your baby.

Pull along toys will improve your baby’s fine and gross motor skills as they navigate their way around the house and getting a toy that makes a noise or lights up when pulled will encourage them to keep going.

Hape Wooden Award Winning Pull Along Toy

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4. Simple Puzzles

Puzzles are great educational and developmental toys for 12 month old babies. 

Their fine motor skills will have developed to a point where they are able to manipulate the pieces without becoming too frustrated but a simple wooden puzzle will teach shape recognition, help with concentration, goal setting and patience. 

Twisting and turning the puzzle pieces to make them fit will also strengthen their fingers and develop hand-eye coordination.

Wooden Toddler Puzzles By MAGIFIRE - Eco & Montessori Friendly

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Best Outdoor Baby Toys

Once your baby is 12 months old and more steady on their feet, it is the perfect time to start to introduce more challenging outdoor toys to help with their development and to mix playtime up.

This can include getting a mini slide, which is wonderful for developing gross motor skills as they climb the slide and balance when coming down.

A small sandpit or a mini paddling pool (to always be emptied when not in use) to explore in.

And even a tricycle as they approach their second birthday.

Outdoor play is essential to every child’s well being and teaches them to embrace and enjoy physical exercise.

And if you are on a tight budget (or not), a simple walk is always a golden opportunity to teach your child about the world around them and should become a part of your daily routine that is never missed.

The opportunities for outdoor play are limitless so once your child is mobile make the most of them.

My Top Climber and Slide
Step2: 3-in-1 Game Time Sports Climber and Slide

A slide, basketball hoop and soccer goal all in one, this great outdoor toy for toddlers is strong, durable, versatile and kid-friendly! With a hoop, crawl space and moulded steps for climbing up to the top of the slide, your little one will have hours of outdoor fun!

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Things To Remember About Baby Toys

The important thing to remember when choosing the best baby toys for your little one is that: at any stage of your child’s development, keep things simple and move at your child’s pace.

Make sure the learning opportunities and toys you are offering them are age-appropriate and that you offer them in a non-pressurised way. 

If your baby or toddler does not really like a certain toy or activity… do not force it, there are plenty of alternatives available. 

Simply put the toy away for now and maybe try it again in the future. If they really dislike it, resell it or give the toy away to another family.

So whatever toy or activity you choose remember this is learning through play… And play should be fun!

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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