Play time is crucial for a baby’s development as it allows them to explore the world around them in a fun way that encourages them to keep trying new things. It also allows them to make sense of the world, and begin to connect that their actions have an impact on people and objects in their environment. If you have read my article ‘How To Play With A Newborn‘, you will have read of some nice simple strategies that I had tried to help develop my bond with my daughter. But as they continue to grow, we inevitably get to a point where we want some toys to help us play with baby, and hopefully where baby is able to play on their own for a bit.
While there are a lot of great toys out there that support with development, I have created a list of 5 of the most common, and arguably the best, educational baby toys that support your babies development, in the first 0-12 months, and allow for your continued interaction with them.
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases through their affiliate links. For further information on affiliate links please check out my Disclaimer page.
There are lots of different baby play mats out there, which is a testament to how much of a staple toy they are in peoples homes. Baby play mats are great for newborns for them to lay down on and look up at the world around them, or for practicing tummy time. You can also lay down next to them, interact with them or just simply watch them (and hopefully get a couple of minutes of rest!). Baby play mats are all about bonding in the early weeks, encouraging baby to reach out and grasp the toys, and developing trunk strength through tummy time.
Baby play mats come in all different shapes, sizes and designs, but some key features I found useful with the play mats we used was:
- Soft, cushion like base was useful on tile floors (similar to this mat here). Not too soft however to prevent suffocation risk during tummy time.
- Colourful base helps engage baby and develop their senses during tummy time.
- Removable overhead toys allowed for more direct interaction between my daughter and I, but also allowed me to change up the toys to keep the play mat fresh and interesting
- We also bought a travel play mat for when we went out and about.
Baby play mats are particularly useful from birth until your baby is able to sit. I found that with my daughter, once she was able to sit she became bored of the mats and that’s when we packed them away (although some of the toys stayed out as she would like to reach out and grasp them or chew them.
Check out the large range of Baby Play Mats on Amazon here!
Teether rings were something that we had for my daughter early on, and something that she still continues to use today. The great thing about teether rings is that not only are they great to chew on but they can help baby to develop their grasp and coordination, and getting rings of different textures and designs helps baby to learn about how things can feel different.
Teething rings are pretty basic in design, but some key features that I found useful:
- Teething rings that could be chained together (like these ones here) were useful as they would make noise when my daughter moved them around, and provide a different feel as she grasped multiple.
- Different shaped and textured rings were always more interesting to my daughter.
My daughter is 11 months as of writing this post, and she still likes playing with the rings. Before she could sit she would mostly grasp the rings and chew them. Once she could sit up she began to shake them around when linked in a chain (occasionally whipping herself in the face), and as her fine motor skills continue to develop she can start to link and unlink them.
Check out the large range of teether rings on Amazon here!
You can’t ever go wrong with blocks, we got a whole bunch of different types of blocks for our daughter (probably because of my own fond memories of playing with blocks). When she was able to start sitting, we had the big, soft fluffy blocks with flaps/edges that she was able to grasp and hold. Once she got a bit bigger and was crawling, we bought some alphabet wooden blocks, and then at about 10 months we got her first baby Lego set. Blocks are not only great for building things later on, but they are great for grasping and for developing ’cause and effect’ by knocking them over. One thing to be wary of with the wooden blocks (and wooden toys in general) – my daughter has a strong bite, and if she gets the right angle has been able to chip the wooden blocks. So if you are concerned about this then stick with plastic or foam blocks for now.
Blocks once again come in all shapes and sizes, but some key features that I found useful:
- Having a variety of different sized and different textured blocks is useful. We had the big soft ones from a young age, and some of these made noises (like a rattle) and had mirrors. With each block having it’s own uniqueness, baby starts to learn that different blocks do different things.
- An obvious one is that you can stack them! Babies love knocking block towers over, so sing a song as you build the tower and let baby have all the fun of knocking them over.
- Now that she is close to turning one, you can’t go past building blocks. Although my daughter can’t quite put them together just yet on her own, she loves seeing the blocks being put together and taken apart!
Blocks are for all ages! Since I loved blocks as a kid, I also find it really fun to build things with my daughter and then let her knock them over.
Check out the large range of baby play blocks on Amazon here!
Toys that stack on top of or inside one another are great, as this supports development of fine motor skills and coordination in babies, and can also help develop the understanding of cause and effect. We used plastic baby bowls and let our daughter play with them, and she would find it amazing that there were different coloured bowls inside one another. After learning how to unstack the bowls, she then began to stack the bowls and try to hold them all in one hand!
Once again, a pretty straightforward toy, so the key features you want from this toy are:
- Make sure they stack and unstack! Block’s could technically fall into this category too, but they are so much more so they deserved their own shout out (I’m not bias at all, am I!)
- If they stack inside one another (like these), then that is amazing! As babies begin to develop the idea of ‘object permanence’, they will be amazed that the object ‘disappears’ inside one another, and will be keen to unstack the object to find it again!
- Different colours are always helpful, and you may find your baby gravitating towards certain colours.
Once baby is able to sit, they will be able to begin to use these toys, but might not do much more other than hold and bite them. After 6-7 months of age, you’ll find that they will begin to start playing with these toys more as they start to understand the idea of object permanence.
Check out the large range of stackable toys for babies on Amazon here!
Another classic toy that had to be on this list, and one that serves so many more functions than just bouncing and throwing. My daughter has some of different colours, sizes and textures, and they are great for developing grasping skills, feeling different textures, grasping with two hands and for throwing. They also help develop cause and effect, and that different types of balls do different things.
Not so much key features this time (I mean, a ball is a ball, not much to it), but some things that I have found useful:
- Have different sizes (that are baby friendly). We have ones that are textured and able to be grasped by one hand, we have larger bouncy balls that she is able to throw, and then even larger ones that she grasps with 2 hands and then throws. She also likes trying to play with my exercise ball, but I wouldn’t encourage this without supervision!
- Different colours is always beneficial.
Once baby is beginning to grasp objects and can sit, you will find that they will get more use out of balls, and before you know it they will begin learning to throw, learning to roll and learning to catch the balls!
Check out the large range of balls for babies on Amazon here!
All in all, a pretty classic list of toys, some of which I’m sure we remember from our own childhood. But there is a reason that these are so classic, and it’s simply to do with how they help babies develop their skills as they continue to grow. Even with the rise of technology and new devices and toys coming out, you really only need your basic toys to keep baby interested, support you with play time and bonding, and to help them reach their potential!
Any other toys that you like using to aid with baby’s development? Leave them in the comments below!