Updated: Nov 18, 2021
For so many of you, this will be your baby's first Christmas. It can be hard to know what toys to buy for your own baby or the other babies in your life, so I created this guide with all of my favorites! Remember, babies don't need a lot of toys and will actually play more creatively if they have fewer toys. It's all about quality over quantity and offering them toys that will support their development the best. Read on for more info about baby play milestones and my favorite developmental toys!
Major Play Milestones
Around 3 months old, a baby's eyesight starts to improve and they can now see primary colors, namely red and green, clearly and they will be able to see secondary colors clearly very soon. You still want to show them high contrast black and white images, but you want to also show them other bright colors because if you're showing them neutral colors they can't see yet, you aren't stimulating their brain.
At 3 months old, most babies can clutch toys firmly in their hands and by 4 months old, many babies begin to play independently. Your baby is likely exploring most objects with their mouth throughout the while 3-12 months stage and that should not be discouraged. Create a clean space for your baby to be able to put anything and everything that is not a choking hazard in their mouths. When you constantly tell your baby not to put things in their mouths, you are actually discouraging them from exploring the world around them. I am sure it will make most parents feel better to learn that kids who grow up in homes that are too clean are sick more often and have a lot more allergies, so make your home as clean as you can, but you don't need to go crazy.
At 8 months old, your baby develops something called object permanence which is an important developmental milestone. This means that your baby now realizes that even if they cannot see someone or something, that person or object still exists. Once a baby understands object permeance, they can know that it's okay for people or things to disappear sometimes because they can come back later. Object permanence can develop sooner than 8 months if you play lots of "peek a boo" and use some of the toys I have included in this list.
Throughout this whole period, you should be encouraging independent play as much as possible and buying toys that allow a baby to play independently. Many parents feel guilty if they are not their child's play partner 100% of their waking hours, but is is important that you give them lots of opportunities to play by themselves because it's great for developing their attention spans, their self-confidence, their problem solving skills, and their brains! Because I knew how beneficial it was, anytime Zoe was playing nicely by herself from the time she was 3 months old, I left her to her own devices for as long as possible. Now at 13 months old, she is great at playing on her own and can do it for up to an hour at a time.
High Contrast Bath Books $16
This set of 4 bath books in black, white, and primary colors will stimulate your baby's brain in and out of the tub.
Taf Toys Kick and Play Activity Center $36
This car seat safe toy is soft and attaches to the back of the seat. The bold colors are perfect for your baby's developing brain and will keep your baby busy and happy in the car.
Montessori Spinning Drum $28
This is a beautiful wooden toy has bright primary and secondary colors on each panel plus a mirror. The colors meld together when your baby spins it and it makes a rattling sound.
Play Keys $10
Babies love keys and I'm sure your little one is trying to get your key ring all the time. These are my favorite non-toxic baby keys because they have actual metal and interactive buttons. I find Zoe has zero interest in any play keys made of plastic because it's the metal part she really loves.
Fake Remote Control $13
Every baby I have ever taken care of was obsessed with the TV remote, so this is a great realistic looking remote that is safe because the batteries are only accessible with a screw.
Silicone and Wood Puzzle $20
Your baby will love exploring the 3D shapes with their hands and mouth and when they are toddlers, they will love putting the puzzle pieces on the board.
Visual Stimulus Cards $20
This is a great set of cards that you can use from the time a baby is a newborn to a toddler. Each set has increasingly complex colors and images to go along with your baby's growth.
Montessori Object Permanence Ball Drop $26
This toy is meant to help your baby learn the concept of object permanence that I talked about above. Zoe has one of these and she got really into it around 10 months and still loves to play with it.
Rainbow Silicone Stacking Puzzle
This is a great toy that your baby will love to chew on at first and will eventually use to stack into a rainbow and create other shapes. I know the neutral colored rainbows are very popular, but with babies under one you really want to be showing them primary and secondary colors. After one, their vision is much better and they can see all colors clearly.
Soft, Tactile Books $13-$18
These are some of my favorite soft books for reading and playing
Teether Toys $8-$14
Your baby is going to be doing a lot of teething over the next months and years, so here are some great teether toys to help ease your baby's pain and give them something to play with
I always like to be totally transparent so most of the links on my blog are affiliate links, but I don't pick items based on whether or not I have an affiliate link for them, I simply pick items that I love and use!