It can be overwhelming to think about all of the things you need to buy when you’re having a baby. Naturally, you need a crib and a safe place to change your baby’s diapers If you’re planning ahead, you’ll also have to get a high chair and a stroller, too. But perhaps most important are the toys. These are the things that will bring you and your baby joy as your child learns about the world and you rediscover it through your child’s eyes. From the best non-toxic play mat style to old favorites like blocks, check out this list of the best baby toys for your tot, from babyhood through the toddler years.
Developing a lifelong habit of reading begins in childhood, and there’s no better time than when your baby’s a newborn. Even reading a board book every night before bed, which takes less than two minutes, offers your child a chance to feel cuddled and loved. Babies also learn about words and language, and will eventually make the connection between the words and the books. If you read your child one book every night for the first three years of their life, they’ll start school having been read to more than 1,000 times — a pretty impressive feat!
Kids love blocks because they’re so versatile. When they’re young, babies can mouth them, and then as they grow, blocks become an important tool in development. They can be stacked, thrown, and knocked over. Consider themed blocks with colors, shapes, numbers or animals on them to enhance the play experience. As you play with your child, be sure to talk about the theme. Point out the colors, count dots, make barnyard animal sounds — all of these things help your baby learn more about the world and how it works.
Tummy time is super important for babies’ development but let’s face it, being placed belly-side down on the floor can be boring. It helps support babies’ head, neck, and chest muscles. Babies on tummy time can also practice their fine and gross motor skills like rolling over. By choosing a high-quality play mat, you can ensure your child feels supported on the hard floor while also providing them with an opportunity to learn and explore. A good play mat should be soft enough to provide some cushion from the floor. Some mats include their own toys but others are available as a mat only, and you provide your own toys. Having both is smart if that’s an option for you because it gives you choices
Dolls are available in an array of designs so there’s one that’s just right for your child. They can help kids understand and develop social skills at even the earliest ages. Select a doll that’s soft-bodied and safe for all ages. You can use the doll for hide and seek when your baby is very small; as your child grows, the games your child can play with the dolls evolve, too. It gives you a chance to introduce abstract concepts like sharing in a way that’s easily understood by small kids and prepares them for interacting successfully with others in everything from sharing to taking conflict resolution. Choose a soft doll that’s comfortable to hold and squeeze, and of course, avoid dolls with button eyes or similar parts that could cause a choking hazard to a small child.
As your child moves out of the infant stage and begins to desire some independence, a riding toy can provide the solution. These toys offer children the opportunity to develop gross motor skills as they practice swinging one leg over a riding toy and then propelling themselves forward with their feet. They learn greater spatial awareness as they take small steps to engage with the world on their own, separate from you. The top picks are convertible riding toys; these are toys that begin as walkers and can be adjusted to accommodate sitting and riding. They may include additional activities on-board, like shape sorters and noisemakers.
Having a baby is exciting, and while there’s lots to do to prepare, choosing the best baby toys is maybe the most important part. This is how your child will first learn to engage with the world around them. From the best non-toxic play mat to books, dolls, and riding toys, these are the things small kids use to figure out language, fine and gross motor skills. For babies, it’s not play but work, and getting the right tools for them to learn and grow matters.