15 toys for baby’s first year

Is it not completely overwhelming how many toys are available for little babies?! How is a parent to know which ones are good and which ones are a waste of money? Yes, every baby has different likes and dislikes, so just because your little one goes ga-ga over a certain toy doesn’t mean mine necessarily will. But isn’t there a way to narrow down the choices?


As a mom who is nearing the end of baby’s first year and as an occupational therapist who is always looking for toys that will promote children’s overall development (specifically their fine motor, cognitive, gross motor, oral motor, self-help, and language skills), I decided to take a look at today’s popular toys and create a list for you.

Here were my criteria in making this list:
1. The toy must serve at least two different purposes. Toys are expensive and we want to get the most bang for our buck, right?
2. The toy must be relevant for at least 3 months of baby’s life. Babies go through phases in what catches their attention, so we want toys that will outlive those fleeting interests.
3. The list as a whole must cover all major developmental skills babies are expected to acquire in the first year of life. As a bonus, the list should also include some toys that can be used even after their first birthday. How’s that for money-saving?

It’s worth mentioning that babies often find objects around the home to be more fascinating than store-bought, professionally crafted toys. An empty water bottle filled with dry rice or your favorite set of plastic mixing bowls will likely strike their fancy far more than a rattle that was tested in Fisher Price’s toy lab. Unfortunately, you can’t add a homemade rattle to a baby registry, so check out the list below to find out which toys can follow your little one right up to their first birthday. This post contains referral links, which means if you click over and wind up making a purchase, Mama OT will receive a small commission to help keep this blog running, at no extra cost to you (thank you!). Read my full disclosure here.

Remember, too, that as great as toys are these days, YOU are your baby’s best teacher. Your interaction with baby is more valuable and life changing than any toy.  So don’t swap baby’s quality time with Mama or Daddy for time spent alone with the “perfect” toy. Engage and talk with your baby while he or she plays with and explores new toys, and watch how your bond with each other grows. It’s a win-win…got it?!

Alright, here we go!

15 toys for baby's first year! Covers all major areas of development in the first year of life.

1. Baby gym

You can literally use a baby gym from day one. Some are much more expensive than others, but you really don’t need a fancy one to serve your baby’s purposes. Ideally, you want a baby gym that has loops from which to hang plastic links and toys. Because newborns can really only see high contrast objects (particularly black & white) that are about a foot away, the baby gym should be bright, colorful, and high contrast. Make sure to place baby on her back, side, and tummy while in the gym (click here for tummy time tips). If your baby spits up a lot, the gym’s easy-to-wipe mat will make it a cinch to clean the spit-up without dirtying your floor, and you can disconnect the bottom and toss it in the wash whenever you want.

Add plastic links (toy #2) to hang toys closer to her eyes and hands so she can learn to reach and grasp. Put toys in various positions: placing them over the middle of the body encourages hands to come together at midline (a VERY important skill); placing toys to the side encourages rolling to the side and, eventually, rolling all the way to tummy. Don’t put the gym in storage once baby learns how to roll, sit up, and crawl — I guarantee you she will find new uses for this vertical play structure, some of which you never would have thought of on your own! Buy in most baby stores or find online here.

Developmental skills encouraged: tummy play, rolling, midline play on back or in sitting, reaching, grasping, hand-eye coordination, depth perception
Approximate age relevant: 0-12 months

2. Plastic Links

A set of plastic links is one of the most versatile toys for baby’s first year and only costs about five dollars. Add them to the baby gym as mentioned in Number One. Hang them from the overhead handle of baby’s car seat or stroller for on-the-go entertainment and to keep toys from flying out as baby gets older and begins to toss toys to the ground. Though these links aren’t soft like teething toys, babies love to put them in their mouths and explore the bumpy, wavy textures. These links are a must-have for both babies and their caregivers! Buy in-store at Target or online here.

Developmental skills encouraged: reaching, grasping, hand-eye coordination, oral exploration, oral discrimination, tactile exploration
Approximate age relevant: 0-12 months and beyond

3. Mirror

Some baby gyms include an unbreakable mirror, and you don’t necessarily have to buy a special baby mirror in order for your little one to develop a love of his own reflection. Use plastic links (toy #2) to hang a handheld mirror from the baby gym (toy #1)…see how all these pieces are starting to fit together? You can also place a full-length mirror on its side or place baby in front of a mirrored closet door to give him a chance to play with his reflection. Mirrors can also be used for motivation, distraction, or entertainment during tummy time and when learning to sit. Whatever kind of mirror you decide to use for your little one, just make sure it’s safe to use and is secured in a safe manner to protect both the mirror and the baby. Buy in most baby stores or online here.

Developmental skills encouraged: tummy play, head control, social emotional skills, self-awareness
Approximate age relevant:
0-12 months and beyond

4. Oball with rattle

I love the rattle OBall. Rattle and ball, all in one. It is amazingly diverse and somehow appeals to babies of all ages. It’s webbed design makes it easy for new babies to hold (thanks to the grasp reflex in the first couple months), and you can even hang it from the baby gym with a few plastic links so baby can bat it around and make it rattle. The fact that it is fairly symmetrical and doesn’t have another ball in the middle of it (like some other brands) means it’s easy to roll and bounce with your baby as she gets old enough to sit up and play with it…did you know that learning to roll a ball back and forth with an adult is a great way for babies to learn about the back-and-forth dynamics of communication? “Ball” is even a common first word for many new talkers. You can also hide the ball under a blanket and shake the rattles as baby learns that objects still exist even when she can’t see them (called “object permanence”). Additionally, the OBall’s flexible material makes it easy for a teething baby to chew on without hurting her gums or existing teeth (as opposed to some harder balls of similar design). This ball is bendable, easy to clean, and virtually indestructible. But the best part is its price: it’s less than five dollars and can be used for well beyond baby’s first year. What a deal! Buy in-store at Target or online here.

Developmental skills encouraged: grasping, midline play, transferring between hands, hand-eye coordination, oral exploration, auditory localization, object permanence, give-and-take interaction, joint attention, eye contact, pointing when rolls away, crawling
Approximate age relevant:
0-12 months and beyond

5. Sophie the Giraffe

Sophie is so hot right now. This miniature rubber giraffe is all the rage with today’s teething babies and after owning her for several months, I can see why. She is marketed as a toy that appeals to all the senses. Really, she’s a rubbery toy that is easy for babies to hold, squeaks when squeezed, and is a delight to chew. The thing Sophie has going for her over traditional teething toys is the fact that her legs are perfectly tailored for chomping with the back sides of the mouth as babies spend months preparing to pop out their one-year molars. But she’s also great for chewing with the front of the mouth as well. There aren’t many teething toys as diverse as Sophie. Not only that, but baby can announce your arrival in a public place by chewing on her surprisingly loud, squeaky haunches as you push the stroller through the grocery store and politely say to the people around you, “Sorry…he’s teething.” Because of her squeaky nature, Sophie can also be used as an interactive toy as you hide her under a blanket and squeak her hindquarters or as you squeak her in an effort to motivate your almost-crawling baby. Sophie runs a little on the pricier side, but, PLEASE, don’t be scared away by the price. Sophie is well worth it, especially for when baby is in full-fledged teething mode. Buy in specialized baby stores or online here.

Developmental skills encouraged: grasping, hand-mouth connection, oral exploration, sound localization, object permanence, midline play, transferring between hands
Approximate age relevant:
0-12 months and beyond

6. Set of small bath squeeze toys

Many baby development websites will tell you to buy or make finger puppets and “perform” for your newborn baby in the first weeks of her life to help engage her and develop her senses of sight and sound. Finger puppets? Really? I don’t even know where to buy finger puppets. A set of bath toys, however, gives you instant access to an entire cast of characters (and voices). They will be useful not only for making a fool of yourself during those bleary-eyed newborn days of sleep deprivation, but also for engaging your little one during bath time as she sits in the tub and attempts to pick them up while they bob and float around evasively. Once she gets a hold of them, she’ll probably definitely want to put them in her mouth. Yep! They work great as teething toys too, especially Mr. Octopus with those long tentacles and that squishy head (maybe he and Ms. Sophie should hang out sometime). And, of course, bath toys can be used well beyond the first year as kids learn how to squeeze and squirt water with those all-important hand muscles.

Developmental skills encouraged: visual tracking, reaching, grasping, midline play, transferring between hands, banging together, oral exploration, oral discrimination, hand strengthening
Approximate age relevant:
0-12 months and beyond

7. Set of small rattle balls

You can’t go wrong with these because, again, they are super diverse. The best, in my opinion, are the ones that all make different sounds (e.g., bell, rattle, coins), because babies can begin to learn the differences between them. They are small enough for babies to hold in one hand by the time they are sitting up, but large enough for them to slobber all over before they are able to sit up, without posing a choking hazard. The various balls can be used as motivators when learning to roll and crawl, and they are also lots of fun to put into (and under) cups and bowls once baby is old enough to use both hands to play with containers. Buy online here.

Developmental skills encouraged: reaching, grasping, midline play, transferring between hands, banging together, sound localization, sound discrimination, object permanence, visual tracking, joint attention, pointing when rolls away, crawling
Approximate age relevant:
0-12 months and beyond

8. Busy ball drop

Yes, this toy includes more rattle balls and, no, baby won’t be operating the ball tower from birth. These balls are smaller than the ones in the previous point, which makes them easier for younger babies to hold. However, all three balls sound the same, which is why I still feel the variety set in Number 7 is important. They can be used similarly to the earlier rattle balls but, once baby can sit up and play with both hands at the same time…watch out. She will be working on her ball dropping skills all day long as she figures out how to intentionally release the balls down the ramp and watches them go down, down, down, down, down. You can make the tower as short as you want in order to accommodate the beginner, or you can place it on higher surfaces (like the couch or coffee table) to provide an increased challenge for babies who are practicing their standing, squatting, cruising, walking, and kneeling skills as they retrieve balls that fall to the floor. Buy in most baby stores for as little as $5 (K-Mart) or buy online here.

Developmental skills encouraged: tummy play, grasping, reaching, releasing, hand-eye coordination, depth perception, midline play, transferring between hands, banging together, sound localization, visual tracking, sitting, standing, cruising, squatting, kneeling, walking
Approximate age relevant:
0-12 months and beyond

9. Board books

I cannot overstate the importance of introducing books to children early on. Lay on your back next to your newborn baby and flip through a board book filled with highly contrasting colors and shapes about a foot from his eyes. Prop the book open so he can look at it while laying on each of his sides. Engage him with a book during tummy time. Use books as part of pre-nap or pre-bedtime routines. Try books that have a sing-songy rhythm, a phrase that’s repeated over and over, or that aren’t too visually overwhelming. As baby becomes comfortable sitting with you to read and look through books, help him develop fine motor skills by encouraging him to assist you in turning pages and opening flaps. The key here is to make sure you enjoy (or at least tolerate) the books you read together because you will be reading them A LOT. A few fun ones include I Went WalkingBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?Goodnight Moon; and Where is Baby’s Belly Button. Don’t forget to check your local library or garage sales for free or almost-free books before you go spending big bucks on something baby is probably going to bite a chunk out of before the end of year one.

Developmental skills encouraged: tummy play, midline play, sitting, reaching, visual scanning, turning pages, joint attention, pointing
Approximate age relevant:
0-12 months and beyond

10. High chair suction toy

Let’s face it, babies are crazy about putting things in their mouths. Sometimes it seems the only way you will be able to get them to use their hands rather than their mouths is by gluing their toys to the table. Well, thankfully, toy companies have got your back. I’m a big fan of these spinning suction toys that rattle and play music every time they’re spun. You can detach the suction base and hang the toy from a baby gym so younger babies can stare at them like a mobile or develop their understanding of cause and effect as they bat at it and activate music while laying on their backs. You can keep it detached and take it along as entertainment for the stroller or car seat. Or you can keep it all together and suction it to the high chair tray to help baby learn how to use something other than her mouth to play with toys. One tip: moisten the bottom of the suction cup in order to help it stick better and not go flying across the room after being aggressively smacked by an excited baby…I speak from experience on this one. Find these toys in-store at Babies R Us, Target, or online here.

Developmental skills encouraged: depth perception, reaching, hand-eye coordination, cause and effect, midline play
Approximate age relevant:
0-12 months and beyond

11. Soft, crinkly blocks

You’d be surprised at how early on babies get into these things. The colors and crinkly sounds are enticing to them (kind of like the sound of a potato chip bag being wrinkled) and their soft texture makes them easy for even a new baby to grab onto. Some blocks even have little bells in them for additional stimulation. Use them as motivation during play on the tummy, sides, and in sitting. As babies get older they can safely bite, chew, and slobber all over these blocks without a care in the world. Stack them up and let baby knock them over again and again until, one day, she learns how to stack one on top of the other all by herself. Buy them in-store at Babies R Us or online here.

Developmental skills encouraged: midline play, tummy play, sitting, reaching, grasping, transferring between hands, releasing, hand-eye coordination, cause and effect, object permanence, oral exploration, sound localization, sound discrimination, depth perception
Approximate age relevant:
0-12 months and beyond

12. Ring stacker

A classic. You may be skeptical about how much fun this simple stack of rings can be for a 0-12 month old…I was too. But a new baby is fully capable of holding onto one of those rings with one hand (remember that grasp reflex?), and the red ring on top also doubles as a rattle. The circular shape encourages him to learn to hold with two hands in midline and, yes, they are also the perfect size for placing in the mouth. And remember this: babies learn new skills through repetition, repetition, repetition. Once they can use their hands to play while sitting up, they will figure out how to take the rings off one by one and, as soon as you replace them, they’ll take them off again…and again…and again. Similarly, they will steadfastly practice their new love of placing rings on the stick by taking off, putting on, taking off, putting on, taking off, putting on. Increase gross motor challenge by placing the toy on a raised surface. I’m telling you, this toy is a goldmine of fun, just you wait and see. Buy in most baby stores or online here..

Developmental skills encouraged: tummy play, midline play, transferring between hands, banging together, reaching, grasping, hand-eye coordination, depth perception, cause and effect, beginning understanding of size
Approximate age relevant:
0-12 months and beyond

13. Play table with removable legs

Play tables are a fairly recent invention in baby land, and the key here is to get one with removable legs. You can then detach all legs to make it a flat-on-the-ground toy for the baby who rolls and plays in tummy time, or you can only remove two legs (that are on the same side of the table) in order to make it slanted at a 45-degree angle for the sitting, crawling, and kneeling baby. Once baby is ready to practice pulling to a stand, add in those last two legs and you’ve got yourself one diverse, long-lasting toy (learn more ways to use a baby play table by clicking here). This toys encourages not only gross motor development, but also many different kinds of hand skills (reaching, pushing, sliding) and key words as well (like open/close, up/down, basic colors, and ABC/123). Buy in most baby stores or online here.

Developmental skills encouraged: tummy play, reaching, midline play, cause and effect, sitting, kneeling, standing, squatting, pulling to stand, cruising, turning pages
Approximate age relevant:
4-12 months and beyond

14. Baby tool bench

I know, this one seems ridiculous. Why would a baby possibly need one of these, right? Well, here’s the deal. When babies are learning to sit up by themselves, it’s helpful to put something in front of them that holds their attention so they can fix their gaze on it as they develop their balance. This particular toy has many different settings that allow for that. If baby isn’t sitting up yet, they can still interact with this toy while laying on her side or engaging during tummy time. But this toy is good for more than just baby’s viewing pleasure. It also includes levers, sliders, and spinners that reward baby for activating them. The specific terms used upon activation are actually ideal pre-academic keywords: up, down (important for pre-handwriting), turn and slide (important for pre-math). The best part, though, is the hammer! Though little babies won’t be using it until well after their first birthday, it is a great resource to have as they experiment with tool use (utensils and pencils are tools, you know) and gain stability in their wrists in order to become superstar writers! Buy in-store at Babies R Us or online here.

Developmental skills encouraged: tummy play, midline play, reaching, cause and effect, sitting, kneeling, sound discrimination
Approximate age relevant:
4-12 months and beyond

15. Push toy for sitting, standing, and walking

To be honest, I like this toy best for what it offers the pre-walking baby. As long as you prop the toy against a reliable surface so it doesn’t roll away, it’s great for the baby who can sit well or is experimenting with kneeling and standing. We OTs love getting kids to work on vertical surfaces (think: easel or chalkboard) because of how it forces them to bend their wrists back (called “extension”) as they play, something that is critical for good handwriting skills. Well, think of this toy as baby’s first easel. And when he’s tired of sitting to play, he can transition to a kneeling or standing position to engage with the buttons. However, it’s best NOT for babies to walk with this toy until they’re able to walk on their own, because it can teach them bad habits when it comes to balance and body awareness. Just make sure you keep your hands on your newly walking baby with this toy because it rolls pretty fast. Buy in most baby stores or online here.

Developmental skills encouraged: sitting, reaching, cause and effect, kneeling, squatting, standing
Approximate age relevant:
5-12 months and beyond

So there it is! Your list of 15 toys for baby’s first year. Riveting, isn’t it? The only major first year developmental skill missing is the pincer grasp (using thumb and index finger to pick up small objects), and I will let self-feeding take care of that one. Keep in mind that many of these toys can be found in any number of discount locations: used toy stores, garage sales, Craigslist, etc. Don’t pay full price if you don’t have to, especially if you don’t end up receiving them as baby shower gifts.

Remember that every baby has unique interests and will respond differently to various toys. I’m not saying your baby has to like all the toys in this list, and I’m not even saying you have to agree with me about how great any of these items are. You or someone you know probably have some favorites that didn’t make it on here. Glad you found something that works! But hopefully you now have a better idea of what kinds of purchases to make when choosing toys for your curious little bundle of joy.

Do your best to enjoy those bleary-eyed baby days and, remember, play is a child’s most important work!

Next up:
7 of the Best Toys for Toddlers
10 of the Best Toys and Games for Preschoolers

Want more handy tips and tricks to help the kids in your life? Then subscribe to Mama OT by clicking "Subscribe!" on the homepage so you can receive new posts via email. And be sure to keep up with all of Mama OT's tips and info shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Mama OTIn addition to being mama to two sweet little boys and wife to a crazy awesome husband, Christie is a Registered & Licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR/L). She holds a B.A. in Psychology with a Minor in Education from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA...Go Bruins!), and an M.A. in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern California (USC OT). She has experience working as a pediatric OT in early intervention (birth to 3), clinic-based, and school-based settings. Her mission with MamaOT.com is to encourage, educate, and empower those who care for children. Christie loves that she gets to PLAY when she goes to work, is hopelessly addicted to Kettle Corn, and is known for being able to turn virtually anything into a therapeutic tool or activity, from empty food containers to laundry and everything in between. Learn more about Christie and what inspired her to become an OT.

Occupational therapy (OT) is a holistic profession that helps people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities, also known as “occupations”. Some OTs help people diagnosed with disability, injury, or disease. Others help prevent disability, injury, or disease. Because of occupational therapy, people of all ages are able to say, "I can!" no matter what their struggle. Isn't that amazing?!

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Please provide appropriate supervision to the child in your care when completing any activities from this site. You as the grown-up will need to decide what types of products/activities on this list will be safe for your child. If you’re not sure, check with your child’s occupational therapist or pediatrician. Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when implementing any ideas or activities from this site, particularly if there is any risk of injury (e.g., falling, crashing), choking (e.g., small parts), drowning (e.g., water play), or allergic/adverse reaction (e.g., materials/ingredients). The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site. 
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91 thoughts on “15 toys for baby’s first year

  1. What a great post – I’m a new fan of your blog! It IS really hard to choose from the masses of toys out there, and I like the practicality of your “rules”. Is tomorrow a list for 1-2 year olds?? :o)

    • Thank you! Yes, check back in later this week. I’ll be offering goodies for kids all the way through preschool!

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  4. Great list! Already have and love about half these items 🙂

    Do you remember where you bought the bath toy animals? Or what brand they are?

  5. Great site! I’m a fellow OT and work with the neuro population but have never worked in peds. My first baby is due next month and I have loved reading all your tips! Thanks!

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  7. This is a great list. My son is about to turn 1 and we had everything on this list except the ball drop. And all where used well. My only addition would be stacking cups…those have been a source of endless entertainment since he was 6 months old!

    • Stacking cups are great! I didn’t add them on this list because stacking was already addressed by the blocks and they are a little more versatile for the newborn baby as well. Stacking and understanding of size are really important skills for the 1-2 year old and we were so grateful to receive some at our little one’s first birthday part this past summer. Thanks for the addition!

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  12. My twins are two and a half months old, and I’m finding this list to be really helpful. I have some of the items already, but it’s nice to know what skills I should be encouraging with these toys.

    • Susan, thanks for your comment, I’m glad it’s been helpful. Congrats on your twins, you certainly have your hands full!

  13. As a PT, I can recognize the benefits of all these toys, but I just wish they weren’t all plastic and toxic….can’t anything be made that won’t make our children ingest toxic chemicals everytime they play with something. I’m expecting my first child at the end of the month and just wish there were other options than plastic, plastic and more plastic. 🙁

    • I feel ya, Jennifer. I do know Sophie the Giraffe (teething toy) is made of all natural materials and food-based paint, which you can look into more if you’re interested. We parents sure do have to put in a lot more effort into finding non-toxic options for our babies nowadays. Best wishes to you and your new little one, and please don’t hesitate to send me an email at mamaotblog [at] gmail [dot] com if you have any questions about anything mommy related in those early days!!

    • Google natural wood baby toys! There are a lot of great options out there. Amazon is a great way to get some ideas. They are a bit pricier, but it seems worth it. Good luck!

  14. I am registering for baby stuff right now and as a new mom to be I had no idea what toys babies actually like or are good for their development. Thanks for this list with the links and the descriptions of how it helps baby develop!

  15. I was disappointed that everything on your list is plastic and likely made in China. There are countless eco-friendly toys that serve the same purpose and are better for baby and the environment. The exception, as you mention above, is Sophie. Plastic toys break easier and tend to end up in the junk pile quicker than you’d like. Wooden toys last longer and can be passed down to younger siblings or recycled in good condition.

    • Thank you for your feedback, I would love to hear your ideas for alternative toys that serve similar developmental purposes. I experimented with wooden toys (such as blocks) with my son during his first year and he actually bit chunks out of the wood and got splinters in his mouth due to his extremely oral nature. I don’t know that I can recommend wooden toys for babies because of that very fact…for toddlers who are past the oral stage, certainly! We are in a tough spot for sure! Please be sure to share your insight so we can all learn, thanks!

      • You should not include squeeze water toys either, as they collect mold inside of them.

      • I was worried about that, too, Kimberly. We recently cut open one of our bath squeeze toys (which have been used in the bath for almost a year now) so we could check to see what the inside looked like, and it was completely mold free! We always make sure to squeeze ours out all the way as we put them back in the storage bag after bath time, so that probably helps. But, yes, parents should definitely be aware of the fact that mold can grow on the inside if moisture remains. Thanks for the reminder.

  16. Thank you so much for this list. My first baby is due in August, and we are on a bit of a budget (I’m also somewhat of a minimalist anyway) so it’s SO helpful to know what is really useful and what is just “stuff” marketed to new moms!

    • You’re welcome! Garage sales and Craigslist are also fantastic resources for some of the big ticket items like baby play tables, bouncers, and other toys that can be easily washed or sanitized. Have fun and I hope your pregnancy is treating you well.

  17. Great list…. I was curious to see if most or all OTs think alike… So far we do.
    I completely agree about sophie. My oldest has even passed it down to my second. With a nice cleaning of course.

  18. As a pediatric PT, I have to disagree with push toy use prior to walking. When used to encourage walking, they can actually lead to walking with their Center of Mass forward versus back where it should be. They should initiate walking with moving their lower leg/foot forward not leaning their chest forward into a toy and their legs trailing behind them. They can play with an activity table or other stationary items to pull to stand, squat, or cruise.
    You can introduce the push toy once your baby starts to walk.
    I love and use all the other toys you mentioned in therapy daily. This is a great list.

    • Thank you for your feedback, Katie! As you can see in the post, I definitely like the push toy more for using while babies are learning to sit, so I’m glad you offered some clarification. I’ve added a sentence that section of the post to clarify that babies shouldn’t use it prior to learning to walk, so hopefully that clears things up. And, yes, play/activity tables are one of my favorite things for pulling to stand, squatting, and cruising (#13 in the list)! Here is a fairly recent post I wrote with 8 ways to use a baby play table, would love if you checked it out and offered any additional tips as well: http://mamaot.com/2012/10/31/8ways-to-use-a-baby-play-table/. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Thanks, excellent suggestions! There are so many great developmental toys out there that it’s hard to keep it to a short list without repeating developmental areas with multiple toys. Most under-one-year-olds I’ve known weren’t quite ready for those til after their first birthday, but I’m sure there are many who are, so a good suggestion for caregivers looking to keep up with their little one’s development.

  19. Love this list! My 14 month old Calvin loved his gym/play mat for the first 5 or 6 months, now he loves the music table and the lawn mower that he pushes around. He got the busy ball drop for Christmas and loves it. He sometimes just like to shake the rattle balls that came with it. He loves his books as well.

    As far as an addition, it isn’t really a commercial “toy” but tupperware containers are such a hit. He loves to take the lids off and on and put things inside of it. He especially loves the big container we keep the play food in. Dump it out, put it all back in, repeat.

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  21. I love your list! I have 16 month old twins and have lots of similar toys that you mentioned. I also sell Discovery Toys which are wonderful toys that grow with my kids and I love them too.

  22. Great List! My daughter refuses Sophie though. 🙁 She is highly suspicious of toys that squeak for some reason-haha. She loves nearly everything on this list, but that busy ball drop-that keeps her busy for hours. She’s now learned to take it apart which is funny. She also really loves her Shape Sorter-we got her the Ohio Shape Sorter house http://www.amazon.com/Ohio-Art-Shape-Sorter-House/dp/B0062TN884/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1364094636&sr=8-12&keywords=shape+sorter+house which is great because it comes with three different version of all shapes.

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  25. An excellent list; though my experience varies (as all does).

    The play gym is the toy with the most bang for the buck for its life span, and I’d been so reluctant to buy one! (I ended up with one off of Craig’s list.) It was fantastic from 2 months until nearly 7 months. Unfortunately, the toy is not compatible with a baby who is pulling up.

    No matter how hard I tried, I could never get the suction cup high chair toys to stick to the high chair tray. They did become fantastic distraction toys from about 6 months to beyond 12 months. My baby liked all the independent movement and small things to explore on them.

    Around 2 months baby liked high contrast board books (e.g. “Hello, Tiger”) . Thereafter he liked feely books with adult supervision (e.g. “That’s Not My” series). He showed no further interest in books until just after 12 months when I found him a book about his favorite subject: dogs.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful feedback, Kay.

      Yes, the play gym definitely gives you the best bang for the buck. Like you, we took a break from it once baby started pulling up because we didn’t want him to try and pull up or support himself on the flimsy material. Once he was comfortable standing on his own, we found he actually really liked the baby gym again because now he could interact with hanging toys from a whole new perspective. Maybe he enjoyed feeling like a giant 🙂

      The suction cup high chair toy worked best for us if we made sure it wasn’t placed over any debris (i.e., leftover food that was stuck to the tray) and if the suction cup was slightly moistened before being placed on the tray. I also had friends who took these types of toys out on the town with them and suctioned them to the stroller snack tray for entertainment on-the-go. Worked great for them.

      As for board books, there are so many to choose from and high contrast colors are definitely an ideal place to start. Now that our little guy is a toddler, he LOVES the “That’s Not My…” series of feely books. He really had no interest in feely books or toys until after his first birthday. As a 6-12 month baby, he loved lift-the-flap books and books with sound buttons on the side that matched pictures in the book.

      You’re right, every baby and family finds different things that work for them. Glad you’ve found some, and thanks again for your comment!

  26. Pingback: 15 toys for baby’s first year – Mama OT | Smart Moms - Clever Babies

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  29. Glad to know I had most of these toys for my 19 month old in her first year 🙂
    I do disagree with the bath squirts because they get moldy and gross on the inside. Even though I think squirters aren’t a good idea, little ones do need washable toys in the bathtub to grab at. I would suggest small, age appropriate pool toys like sponge balls that can be tossed in the wash

    • Thanks for your feedback, and great suggestion! I have cut open our bath squirts before and they have been pleasantly mold-free. But it takes diligence to squirt them all out after every bath and they definitely should be replaced once in a while for a fresh start. Thanks again for your comment!

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  34. I just found your site and I’ve been devouring all of your posts — fantastic! I’m a developmental child psychologist, so I work often with 2-6 year olds, but I’m finding that I didn’t always know the best developmental toys for my almost 4 month old! This list is wonderful. We have many of these things … but I’m going to add a few to the list of things for his Easter basket 🙂 He loves the Oball rattle right now … it’s one of the first things he really enjoyed playing with…which is so fun to watch! Thanks again for your thoughtful and developmentally appropriate posts. I’m loving your blog!

  35. I just looked at the recommended Oball on amazon and it says not for children under 3 years due to choking hazard. Thoughts?

    • It’s funny how many products will be marketed for babies, but then contain a warning saying it is not suitable for children under 3 years. The first warning is misleading — it says this is a small ball and is not meant for babies, however, it is 4″ x 4″ x 4″, which is not small enough to pose a hazard. The other warning says it contains small parts so is not for children under age 3 — the rattles are embedded in the ball, so my guess is the website must provide that warning because of that. However, the ball does not have any loose parts and is designed specifically for babies. I have not had any concerns about the safety of the OBall in my 3 years of owning mine and using it with both my own children and my therapy clients. If you feel you want the ball but do not want the embedded rattle option (which is the part of the OBall that makes it so versatile!), you can simply purchase the regular OBall which does not have any rattles in it. The rattle and non-rattle versions can be found almost anywhere baby toys are sold — Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, Toys/Babies R Us, etc. I hope this helps!

      • Thanks so much! I actually just got one and I agree that it seems unlikely that those little balls will come loose.

  36. I am so thankful to have stumbled across your blog! I found this post, as well as others, so helpful and share it with expectant friends and family!

    But I have two questions. Will a shape sorter work in place of the O Ball? I just bought it from a grand called green toys and now I’m worried about my 6 month-old chewing on them, since you mentioned that the O Ball was great for teething. The shape sorter has the little holes that he can grab onto with the shapes (star, circle, triangle) that he can put inside like a puzzle.

    And since you don’t endorse the exersaucer/jumperoo, what is your advice on keeping a demanding little one entertained, if you have to whip up a quick dinner or take a fast shower?

  37. And reading your post makes me feel like I’m doing something right. I already had the soft, crinkly blocks as a hand-me-down, received a play gym as a gift and bought the rattle balls before reading your recommendation! We actually take the toys and mirror off the play gym and scatter them around and let him scoot around to play with them or just pack it in our diaper bag to keep him busy in the car or on a stroll! The simplest toys are best!

    Thanks for the reminder to keep the play gym handy at least until the crawl and sit up. I was just about to pack it away, since he rolls off of it and away!

  38. Oh and we love board books but also get him those soft cloth books that have different textures and mirrors inside with lots to chew and grab onto. I wished all these things were machine washable, though!

  39. Great selection. We have 6 kids in our house with the youngest at 2 months. So as a mom and a physical therapist I love this list especially 1,2,3,9 and 12. My kids didn’t love Sophie the giraffe like all other kids seem to although I love to look at that toy (so nostalgic). I would add one more must have – nesting cups. We have used them in the tub, in sensory bins and just for stacking. Nice cheap classic toy!

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  44. Found your blog today and have already spent lots of time reading through all of your posts. It was nice to see a lot of what I’m already doing with my four month old is the same as what you are recommending as an OT. Also, I’ve gathered lots of new ideas of activities and exercises we can do and new toys to be on the lookout for as he continues to grow. Fantastic site, thanks for sharing your expertise!

  45. This is such a helpful article! I’m so glad I found your site through my niece. These are the kind of articles that a new mother needs and for anyone working with infants. Thank You! I will be sharing this one!

  46. Great Great List! I have shared about this article and included a link back here on today’s on the B for Betula blog post. I also provided UK online links to shop the full list of products.

    Thank you

  47. As a new mom and a new OTR,L (what a great combo, huh?), I appreciate your suggestions! I am in the martket for some new toys as my little one is sitting up, rolling over and grabbing everything in sight. He is 7 months old today! Thank you for writing and advocating for our profession.

  48. Thankyou so much for this list! My little babe is 4 months old and I was feeling a little overwhelmed in terms of what toys to buy without overloading and buying things that she didn’t “need”

    I had a few things on this list, like a play mat, links, sophie.

    I have just gone out today to buy a few things off the list! Love them and so does my little Babe!!

    Will be passing this list on to everyone I know!!

    xx Alix

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  51. Thanks so much for this list! As a new momma I’m constantly searching and reading to make sure that I’m setting my little darling up for good developmental skills. Definitely appreciate this insight.

    • You’re welcome, Crystal. It can definitely be a challenge to sift through which toys are good developmentally and which are mostly driven by marketing.

    • I wouldn’t say there is a required age. Once baby loses interest, it would be a good time to put it away. That may occur before or a few months after they begin walking independently. Every baby will engage differently.

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  53. Love your list its the most thoughtful and thorough one I have found including plentiful educational/ developmental items and its without being excessive or unaffordable. Thank you for posting.

So, whadya think?