Providing an environment of safe, educational exploration for our babies is one of the big important tasks we all focus on as we become parents. Naturally, we all know that kids love toys – but the options are completely overwhelming! And to be honest, not all toys are created equal in terms of developmental appropriateness and educational value. Many of the toys stocked on retailers shelves appear over-packed with “learning opportunities” – think flashing lights, loud songs – but aren’t actually providing what children need in their natural developmental phases.
Babies don’t need many toys, especially in their first year of life. They learn so much through exploring their environment when literally anything can be a toy! Breaking down a baby’s first year into their developmental leaps, here are some suggestions for the best developmental toys for babies in each phase.
First Weeks of Life (under 10 weeks)
Tummy Time Playboard & Art Cards
High contrast black and white designs are wonderful to stimulate baby’s vision. Lay baby on the floor near this while you change their diaper and watch as they stare and study the designs! This can grow with them as they move into tummy time and can lay face on at the cards in their stand.
Handcrafted in Denmark and reminiscent of the simple and beautiful Montessori mobiles, this graceful design will engage your baby’s mind as they watch the gentle movement and relationship between the shapes.
Learning to Grasp (10 – 20 weeks)
Natural Wood Teether Rattle
Natural wood toys like rattles and rings are wonderful for young babies. They are simple, smooth, interesting to look at and feel and put into their mouths. As they learn to grasp this toy and put it to their mouths they are developing their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Amazing Baby Soft Book
Soft books are entertaining for babies for many months because as they grow, they discover new things they can do and see! This classic soft book has different textures to touch, crinkly and squeaky sounds to discover, rings to bite, and a mirror to see themselves!
Tiny Love Super Mat
This tummy time play mat is one of the largest of its kind (59×39 inches) and full of little features for baby to explore. Some of the favorite features include a little leaf teether, a mirror that stands on its side for tummy time viewing, and a squeaky area that is fun to kick!
Learning the Relationships of Things (20-27 weeks)
Montessori Object Permanence Box
This classic, simple toy is wonderful for teaching a variety of important skills! Baby learns how to
grab the ball and put it into the hole in the box, learns that the ball doesn’t disappear but that it comes out of the box through the other hole, and then the cause and effect of repeating the activity.
Little Learning Books
These tiny board books are great for baby to be able to grab onto on their own, to study the sweet simple illustrations, and for you to point to the pictures and say the words aloud to them. Regular sized books are important now, too, but these books are just for them to hold!
Sensory Ball Set
As baby learns to hit and grasp (and even throw!), balls make for a classic open ended toy. This set of 3 is great for sensory exploration because they all make different sounds and have different textures. Help baby learn to grab, transfer, roll, shake, bounce and toss!
Learning to Categorize & Sequence (27 – 47 weeks)
Pointing out new objects, animals, shapes, and colors to your baby will help build their vocabulary and help them to categorize objects and recall them again later! Books like this one offer clear visuals of very common objects, which makes it so easy to introduce your baby to a wide variety of new visuals and words!
This music is SO much fun to dance and sing along to with your baby! It is relatable, silly and fun for baby (well into the preschool years) but also sounds cool enough for parents to enjoy too. Although not a “toy” – the game of singing and dancing is crucial for baby’s development now!
Learning Daily Programs (our daily rituals) (47-55 weeks)
Green Toys Tea Set
Babies are really starting to study and mimic us and love to explore things that resemble (or actually ARE) everyday objects. Things like tea sets made for babies, and other household items that they can put into their hands and mouths is perfect for this age.
These little animals are fun for them to grab, sort, and explore. You can teach baby the name of each animal, line them up, and make animal noises together! As baby gets a bit older and starts doing more imaginative play, you can get creative with how you play with these!
Hape Block and Roll Push Toy
As baby reaches the big first birthday, walking will begin! All walking or nearly walking babies love to work their gross motor skills with things they can hold onto and push around. This push toy is great because it also comes with blocks! So baby can work their gross motor skills and their fine motor skills with one toy.
For more information and specifics on the amazing world of baby’s development, take a look at The Wonder Weeks and their corresponding app!