When it comes to buying baby toys, it can definitely feel overwhelming when you type into the search bar and an explosion of colorful rattling toys appear in the results. All of them boasting how they’re the best toy for your baby. It can definitely make your head spin.
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As a new mom, the world of toys was extremely foreign, they all looked the same, and I had no clue where to even begin. The good news is, most babies are content playing with anything, even something as simple as a wooden spoon or spatula. So when it comes to toys, don’t worry too much about which one will be the most entertaining.
The most important thing for me was to make sure my daughter was growing, developing and learning. So as much as she loves the wooden spoons and spatulas, I knew they weren’t providing a ton of benefits in terms of growth and development. So, to save you the headache of trial and error, I have come up with a list of the best toys for baby’s first year.
In this post, I’m going to break down which toys my sweet Hayvn has loved, and I will also break down each toy into age-appropriate groups based on the developmental stages. Starting with infancy all the way up to 12 months.
Before I get into it there are four important terms you must be familiar with because I will be talking about them a lot in terms of how each toy helps your baby grow and develop. The four terms are Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills, Fine Motor Skills, and Eye-Hand Coordination.
Motor Skills – An overall term for when a baby uses any of their muscles. Motor skills refer to your baby’s development as they learn to use each muscle group and refine their movements.
Gross Motor Skills – These are skills that develop muscles using larger movements such as crawling, walking, running, bouncing, crouching, etc.
Fine Motor Skills – These are skills that develop as your baby uses smaller movements and muscle groups, such as pinching, grasping, opening and closing their hands, etc.
Eye-Hand Coordination – The coordinated functions of hand movement and eye movement. This is when your baby uses the movement of their hands to accomplish what the eye is seeing, by using both their eyes and hands in sync with each other to accomplish a task.
Do Infants Need Toys?
I hear this question all the time, and I’ll admit, that I even wondered, do infants even need toys? The life of an infant (0-3 months) consists of sleeping, eating, and pooping. It doesn’t really go beyond that.
So, do they even need toys at this age? The short answer is no. But as we all know, every child is different. Typically, around the age of 3 months is when your baby will really start to “come alive” and this is the perfect time to offer them a toy.
Which brings me to the next question. What the heck do you buy a 3-month-old in terms of toys? They can’t tell you their preference. Well, it all depends on where your baby is at developmentally.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, a 3-month-old baby should be starting to stare or swipe at colorful dangling toys, and even open and shut their hands.
Dangling Mobile & Floor Mat
As a baby shower gift, we received an exersaucer (which I’ll discuss later in this post), which is essentially a stationary play pen, that a child can sit in and interact with various small toys. This is obviously for an older baby, however, the exersaucer we have, came with a detachable piece and play mat that doubled as a mobile intended for younger babies.
If you’re looking for something similar, but don’t want to buy the entire exersaucer, Bright Starts has a great option for the play mat only.
So for my daughter, we placed the mobile with dangling butterflies over her while she laid on the floor on her back and she loved it! She would watch them swing and she would talk to them, and eventually, she started to reach for them. For a 3-month-old, I would recommend something like this to help your baby develop sensory and motor skills.
A toy like this can help with motor skills such as reaching or grabbing for things, or opening and closing their hands. This can also help with eye-hand coordination.
It can also help with developing sensory skills, as the objects swing above your baby, they will try to follow them with their eyes.
Another type of toy I would recommend would be something colorful and noisy, like these Fisher Price rattles, to place in front of your baby during tummy time.
At this point in development, your baby is learning to work their gross motor skills. Movements, like moving their arms, legs, or even lifting their head and neck, are considered gross motor skills. So a great way to help your baby learn these skills is to stimulate their senses and help them look around.
If your baby’s hand is open, try placing the rattle in their palm and watch as their hand slowly closes around it. This is not a reflex, this is the development of their fine motor skills.
By using a colorful rattle (especially during tummy time) your baby will attempt to move their head towards the noise and once they find it, they will then examine the colors. It’s a great way to help your baby learn and grow and prepare for the next stage of development.
When Hayvn was 3 months old we would place her on a boppy pillow, on her tummy, and place a toy like this in front of her so she could see it. This helped her to learn the gross motor skill of lifting her head up and looking around, which led to pushing herself up with her arms and looking around.
At this age, you could even try slowly moving the rattle, side to side, inside your baby’s field of view, so that their eyes can follow the rattle and build more of those sensory skills.
By the time Hayvn was 4 months old, it was Christmas time and you can bet, she was showered with toys from grandma.
My mom spoils my daughter rotten and has given her many toys from the day she was born. As a mom of 5 kids, she knew what she was doing and of course, Hayvn loved all the toys my mom gave her.
As a new mom, I would have never known which toys would have been a success, especially at 4 months old. We were still getting acquainted at that point. So to save you the trouble and guesswork, these were fan-favorites when Hayvn was 4-6 months old.
FatBrain TwistAnimals – Octagon Bunny
Her favorite Christmas present right off the bat was an octagon shaped bunny by FatBrain Toys. The legs, head, and tail all swivel around and have cushy padded paws and facial features. I will say this toy is made of hard plastic and is actually recommended for kids ages 12 months+ but Hayvn loved this toy at 4 months old and still carries it around!
Between the ages of 4-6 months, the development of fine motor skills is crucial. Fine motor skills involve smaller movements such as hands fingers and wrists. Your baby will now reach for specific toys and transfer them from hand-to-hand.
I think that is why Hayvn liked this bunny so much, because of the swiveling and moving parts, as well as the different tactile contrast between the cushy paws and the surrounding hard plastic parts.
In fact, she loved this toy so much, it’s how we encouraged her to roll over. We placed it to the side of her just barely out of reach and she wanted it so bad, she rolled over to grab it!
When Hayvn hit 5 months old, she began to teeth, so began the era of teething toys. She had three favorite toys that she just absolutely loved when her teeth were breaking through.
Sophie the Giraffe
Sophie is a rubber squeaky toy giraffe that is very popular among teething babies, and for good reason! This toy is soft, with a ribbed mane for added texture on sore gums. This is definitely one of the best toys for baby’s first year, because Hayvn still loves her Sophie Giraffe, even months later!
The Nuby Silicone Teething Ring
This never left Hayvn’s side while she was teething, the texture was perfect for her sore gums. Made of silicone with a patch of poky ribbed edges, this was Hayvn’s kryptonite. She would chew on it all day while she was teething.
A Rubber Bead Necklace
Of course, I never placed this around Hayvn’s neck, but it has a clasp that opens and closes, so I would place this over her car seat handle and she would pull on it and chew on it anytime we were in the car. It’s a great teething toy for traveling.
You can even wear this around your neck to give your baby something to chew on while you hold them.
By the time Hayvn was 6 months, I noticed she was a really curious and observant child. She liked to know how things worked. So to help develop her sensory and motor skills, I got her some linking toys. These little linkable toys come in a set of 24 and can link around carts, strollers, car seats, cribs, and more!
They’re perfect for sensory development because they rattle and shake when your baby swings them around, and they are also great for motor skill development and your baby grips each link in the palm of their tiny hand. Each linkable piece is small enough that your baby can get a good grip around it and develop those tiny muscles in their fingers, hands, and wrists.
This is also great for sensory development because around 6 months your baby will start to explore toys with both hands. The great thing about these links is that you can create a chain that they can hold from end to end in each hand. These are a great toy, even now that Hayvn is 11 months old. She still loves to play and learn with these links.
7 – 9 Months
Around the time Hayvn was 6-7 months she sat up unassisted and began to crawl around. She could now sit up and look down on toys, which gave her a new perspective. I could see that she was beginning to explore toys and household items differently than before. Once this phase of exploration began I knew we needed to stretch and exercise her mind with toys that were a little more eccentric and advanced.
The Klickity Toy
Thats when I found the Klickity Toy by FatBrain Toys. As you can see this toy is obviously bright, colorful and a little wacky. But it’s great for sensory development with all the different bells and whistles.
The bright contrasting colors stimulate the eyes and help with sensory development, as well as little rattles and sounds to stimulate the ears.
Along with sensory development, this toy teaches cause an effect:
- push the pink ball and the blue Ball is pushed out, in a see-saw motion
- the green and purple knobs click in and out
- the orange and teal ball on top spins around and around, making a rattling noise as it spins
It is designed with soft rubber tops and vivid textures and each ball can spin and is filled with rattling beads. As you can see, this toy is a great educational asset that will help your baby advance developmentally as well as keeping them entertained for long periods of time.
LalaBoom Snap Beads
Another toy that Hayvn became fascinated with between 7 and 9 months were her LalaBoom snap beads. These toys are labeled for 10 months+ but Hayvn was drawn to them around this time. They are perfectly safe, however, the pack does come with a plastic needle and thread which I just took out for safety reasons.
Other than that, this pack is filled with 48 colorful textured ball-like pieces that interconnect through a knob. You can mix and match and stack them high in a chain. The colors and textures help with sensory development and the stacking and pulling apart help with motor skills.
We often find parts of this toy throughout our house because Hayvn loves to carry them around with her. We think it’s because of the bright colors and texture. Either way, she loves them and we are happy that it’s helping her grow and learn.
I mentioned the exersaucer at the beginning of this post. I received it as a gift from family, and I am so happy we have this. Hayvn loves it, and it keeps her entertained as well as stationary when I’m performing tasks like cleaning the house, when I need her to stay put for a while.
If you aren’t familiar with what an exersaucer is, I will do my best to explain it. It’s essentially a circular playpen that resembles a table with a seat cut out in the middle.
The seat swivels and has the ability to spin and move in a circle as your child twists, turns, and explores. Around the top of the outer part of the “table” section are various toys. They all have different features such as lights, noises, songs, and textures.
This toy helps build gross motor skills like strengthening the legs and arms by standing and reaching, as well as sensory skills due to the stimulation of the eyes and ears.
It is best to wait until your child can sit unassisted to place your baby in an exersaucer. Around 8 months is what is typically recommended.
Although Hayvn never had one of these, my nieces both did and they absolutely loved them. I will definitely be getting one of these for my next baby because if they’re anything like Hayvn, and they’re super active, these are a great way to get their wiggles out.
A Jumperoo is similar to the Exersaucer, in the fact that it’s a stationary seat surrounded by toys, However the major difference being, of course, the bouncing seat. Unlike the exersaucer, the Jumperoo table and seat are attached to bungee-like chords that allow your baby to bounce up and down, while the toys rattle and shake.
It’s amazing for helping build those leg muscles and develop those gross motor skills.
10 -12 Months
Once Hayvn reached 10 months of age she began pulling herself up to a standing position and walking around the edge of furniture and other objects. This brought her a whole new perspective. She could now watch her dad play video games and look around at the remotes that were sitting on the couch.
Being her curious little self, she would always reach for these items on the couch, so we thought we might as well get her some toys of her own that she can explore and stimulate her senses and muscles even further.
Around 10-12 months your baby will start to explore things in a different way. Until now, you may have noticed your baby would pick toys up and put them to their mouth.
Now your baby has taken that a step further and is working on their fine motor skills such as dexterity and finger movements. You may have noticed your baby tries to pick things up using their index finger and thumb. This means they’re developing!
You may also notice your baby has developed some new dance moves. If this is the case it’s because they are working on sensory development through sounds and music. Around this time your baby will start to be drawn towards toys that sing, light up and talk or make noise.
So to appease these new skills and curiosities, get your baby a toy to help them explore with all of their senses as well as helping them fine-tune their dexterity. For us, we knew Hayvn liked remotes and controllers. So we found the cutest game controller by Fisher-Price and she absolutely loves it!
It surprisingly resembles an actual game controller pretty closely, and it helps a ton with progressing fine motor skills. With all the knobs and buttons, it will exercise those tiny finger muscles to help them have better dexterity.
With all the lights, songs, and sounds, this will help further development of the senses as well with all the stimulation to the eyes and ears.
It has multiple different knobs and buttons that light up and play different songs and noises, including counting and numbers, shapes, and colors.
To appeal to mothers and anyone else around, this toy also comes with the three different volume levels! Hallelujah – this was a big bonus for me after hearing the same song 25,000 times in a row I set the volume on the lowest level lol.
VTech TV Remote
Much like the game controller, this VTech remote is shaped like an actual TV remote and has all types of buttons, that when pressed, either say a number or play a song and light up.
This toy helps in progressing sensory development with the sounds and lights, as well as fine motor skills with all the different buttons to press, as well as simply holding the remote in both hands.
I feel that this is one of the best toys for baby’s first year because my daughter absolutely loves it. She feels all grown up because she has a remote just like mommy and daddy. We like it because it keeps her distracted from grabbing the real TV remotes as well as helping her to grow and develop her fine motor skills and senses.
Yes, we are going way back here, mommas. We have all seen this toy 1000 times. The stackable ring is an oldie but a goodie. It’s a classic for a reason. And that reason is eye-hand coordination!
Around this age is the perfect time to start introducing toys that will help develop that skill of eye-hand coordination. After all these months of developing those motor skills, it’s time to take it a step further and help them use those skills to develop eye-hand coordination.
By gripping the ring in their hand (fine motor skill) and placing it over the cone, your baby is exercising eye-hand coordination. Now, this also utilizes gross motor skills by raising their arms to place the ring over the cone or using their legs to crouch down and place the ring over the cone.
Overall, this toy is a great piece to have to further your child’s development.
This toy is also great for teaching and developing eye-hand coordination as your baby studies each shape and it’s matching station as to where it will fit.
This skill is a bit more advanced but is still age appropriate for 10-12 months. I would recommend introducing it around 11-12 months old when your baby can fully grasp the idea of matching and pairing. That being said, you can still work on this skill even at 10 months and guide them as to where each shape fits properly.
It is important to also narrate as you teach and guide them with this toy. For example, place a shape in their hand and tell them the color and the shape, for example, “yellow star” and point to where it needs to go.
Ask them to place the yellow star in the correct slot and celebrate when they get it right. This is a great way to also help your baby’s development of speech, language, and simple math.
Work Hard, Play Hard
When it comes to buying toys for your baby, it can seem so overwhelming. You don’t know which toys your child will be drawn to, you see all the advertising and claims that this toy is the best for this reason. I know the feeling. It’s daunting.
However, it doesn’t have to be, thanks to this list of the best toys for baby’s first year. As your baby plays, they are really learning and taking in every new experience, committing it to memory. Make your child’s playtime valuable and help them grow and develop as they have fun.
With each stage of development, your baby is making huge leaps. With this list you can find the perfect toy, fit for each stage of development.
Thanks for reading! I hope you found this list helpful. Did/Does your baby have a favorite toy?
If you have any questions or comments, even personal experience, I would love to hear it all! I love hearing from my mommas. Please leave them in the comments below.