The Best Toys for Your Baby
With the birth of our twins in January 2020, we have been back in the ‘baby bubble’ for the last few months. It has been a constant cycle of feeds, nappy changes, bottle washing and repeat. Now they are 4 months old and are really starting to take in their surroundings; we’ve changed the pram carrycots for seats so they can have a better view of the world, and retrieved the Jumperoo from the loft now that they have head control! I’ve had lots of baby toys over the years so I thought I’d share my ideas about what I’d consider my ‘top 10’.
Does Baby Need Toys?
I don’t think you need hundreds of toys for your baby! Though there have been a few toys over the years that have been loved and much used by all of our children and these are what I’ve included in the list.
Newborn babies spend much of their time just feeding and sleeping. Their sight isn’t fully developed, so if you are choosing a toy for a tiny baby to enjoy, try black and white toys or highly contrasting colours and shapes like spots and stripes. I noticed in the early days how much the babies stared at my stripy tops! The health visitor gave me a very simple booklet with black and white shape patterns in it to look at with baby – I think it’s the simple things like this that count the most.
As baby gets older, they will start to reach out and grab things, and inevitably start putting things in their mouths – at 4 months, this is where we are at with the twins. Choose toys that are safe to chew, and also consider noisy and ‘sensory’ toys that have different textures, shapes and sounds.
With all that in mind, I compiled my top 10. I’ve listed them in a rough order of the age I might start using each toy, from newborn to 6 months and beyond…There are so many toys to choose from and I welcome any new ideas for toys for babies under 1!
1. Lamaze Soft Toys
Lamaze soft toys are much loved in our house. I’ve had the pram activity spiral since my first son was born and it has lasted perfectly for 6 years. We’ve attached it to the pram seat bar, car seat, baby gym and bouncy chair, or simply held it for baby to grab hold of. Lamaze toys have high contrast colours and patterns, soft fabrics, crinkle sounds and different textures.
Lamaze toys are specifially designed with developmental experts to encourage age specific baby development, and shared play between parent and baby. The toys stimulate babies senses such as sight and hearing, as well as promoting motor skills by encouraging baby to reach and pull at the delightfully enticing characters!
There is such a lovely range of Lamaze toys to choose from, and for only around £10-20 they make a great gift for any newborn.
2. Black and White Baby Book
A newborn baby’s vision is quite different to ours. They will not see the world exactly like an adult until about 1 year old. At birth, they can see light, shape and movement. By 1-2 months they can fix on an object and follow it (you will probably get asked about this skill by your GP at the 6 week check). This might be about the time you start showing baby some toys or books, and black and white is a great place to start, as baby can see colour but not similar shades.
I love black and white baby books with strong shapes including spots and stripes, and there’s plenty to choose from for just a few pounds. A great way to spend a few precious moments with baby while they are awake!
3. Bouncy Chair
OK, not strictly a toy! But if you’re looking for ways to entertain baby, a bouncy, swinging or rocking chair is a top choice. Bouncy chairs do not have to be expensive. I got my first bouncy chair in Aldi for £14.99 and yes it was basic but it was a comfy place to sit and had a toy bar to give baby something to focus on. I found that having a baby semi-reclined in a chair was a comfy place after a feed rather than being completely flat (less spit-ups), and the rocking motion is good for settling them.
When we had the twins I was lent a BabyBjorn chair and it really is the nicest baby bouncer chair that we have had. The newer versions come in a range of stylish materials; cotton, mesh or 3D jersey, and a vareity of colourways. The rocking motion is really smooth, and the chair requires no batteries.
You could argue it looks a bit basic compared to some of the bouncy chairs with lots of bright colours and dangly toys (for example this Fisher Price rocker chair which is the most similar to the one I bought my daughter, and which I still love!). However they are sleek, stylish, and the back and forward rocking just seems to settle baby much better than the other chairs I’ve had. Plus, you can also add a BabyBjorn toy bar to the chair if you wish as they are available separately. Although a more expensive chair I’d definitely say it’s worth the money.
4. Baby Gym
Without a doubt one of the best purchases I made when oldest was around 6 weeks old, the baby gym/play mat has entertained all 5 babies for hundreds of cumulative hours! I chose one with bright, contrasting colours (yes it’s a bit lurid, and yes you can get them in all colours and designs to suit your home and taste!).
Look for a baby gym that will stimulate babies senses with colour, shape, textures and sounds. I also like this one because it has a great shaped little pillow for placing baby on their tummy. Short bursts of tummy time are important to prevent flat spots on babies head, promote neck muscle strength and motor skills development.
This safari gym play mat has a range of toys including a tiger chime, zebra ring and elephant. The arches are removable and the mat is machine washable – a must! The mats with these soft arches are easy to store away which again I find useful as baby paraphenalia really does take up space in the home. A great way to allow baby to stretch out their legs and encourage a bit of sensory play and devlopment.
5. Inflatable Water Mat
I first came across a water mat at my local playgroup, and decided it would be a nice toy for the twins to enjoy – I only bought it as they approached 4 months as their little heads were still a bit wobbly and they didn’t much enjoy tummy time. A water mat adds another dimension to tummy time with its underwater theme and floating sea creatures! The mat comes folded and you just need to add water to the middle and air round the outside, they are easy to fill and it means they can be emptied and stored for travel etc. The mat I’ve shown is made from BPA-free PVC and is recommended from 3 months of age. An inexpensive baby toy that would make a great gift, my babies love it!
6. Sophie La Giraffe Teething Toy
Most babies will start teething around 6 months, but some may be earlier or later. Once they start grasping and holding toys, baby might like something they can chew on! I’ve bought plenty of teething toys over the years but once we discovered Sophie she was an instant hit. I love the smell of the soft natural rubber, it really is very pleasant! Sophie also has a squeaker, so as well as being a teething chew toy, shes a great sensory toy too, especially with her spots!
She’s just a nice toy for little hands to hold, and chew her ears and toes!
I remember buying our Jumperoo for our eldest’s first Christmas! He was approaching 6 months old (though we started using it for subsequent babies a bit earlier – all babies are different!). The Jumperoo was a game changer! Baby gyms are great for babies who can’t yet hold their heads up, and I’d say the Jumperoo is the next step for when they can. It’s a great way to spend some of baby’s awake time – which is of course a lot longer now. At first my babies enjoyed reaching out and grasping the toys around the seat, and later they realised they could make it bounce!
The original Jumperoo that I purchased has evolved somewhat, and now there is a much greater vareity of styles to choose from. I’ve shown you another Fisher Price Jumperoo because it is most similar to what we have. It has the same 360degree spinning seat so that baby can access all the fun features, is height adjustable as baby grows, and is within its own frame so not requiring door hanging (we tried a door hanging bouncer but it wasn’t a hit with the door frame or baby!). The Jumperoo also features a two-mode music player – baby activated or continuous, with lights, songs, music and other interactive toys to stimulate baby.
I don’t doubt that one of these toys will become a firm favourite, and when you’re done, it folds away for easy storage.
8. Sit Up Seat
Once they can hold their own head up, but before they can sit unaided, I wanted something I could help ‘prop’ baby up so they could sit and play. If baby isn’t in the jumperoo then we might be sitting playing with other toys like rattles, musical instruments, books etc. It was actually Daddy who bought baby no.2 a sit up seat for his first Christmas, and I really liked the idea of it.
An inflatable ring within a plush fabric provided a stable little backrest for baby to sit and lean against, it was a great little aid for that period of time where baby could not quite sit by themself but enjoyed being upright. This version from Mamas and Papas isn’t the exact one we had; as with the Jumperoo, times have changed rapidly in the 5 years since we bought ours! There is so much more choice even in that relatively short period.
I like this one because of the detachable play tray, which means baby is completely encircled. The tray has some attached toys to provide sensory stimulation; a mirror, hanging cloud, penguin toy and star, with features such as crinkle noises. In neutral grey and cream, it has a nice modern design that would complement my grey walls somewhat better than our old one!
9. Bath Toys
Bath toys are relatively inexpensive, great for gifting, and I most often find the ones I like in the supermarkets! We’ve had plenty, and what I’ve learned is keep it simple! Battery operated bath toys like bubble makers or underwater swimming fish didn’t last long, but stacking cups with different sized holes, watering cans and simple squirty toys are always a hit. Currently the kids enjoy showing the babies the Nuby Seahorse, but in my quest to find it online, I found this really fab little collection of toys which features all our favourite bath toys from over the years.
Pour water into the ‘flower shower’ (how cute!) using the watering can, and watch it spin the wheels as it makes its way to the spout. The toy set also comes with 4 stacking cups, so I’d say its a great bath toy set and a perfect gift for any baby.
10. VTech Crawl and Learn Ball
Finally, one toy which has served all of my children and been enjoyed by all, is this VTech Crawl and Learn Activity Ball. Designed to support development between 6 months and 3 years, it has a rolling feature to encourage baby when starting to crawl. It has different colours, numbers, and animals, as well as lights and sounds.
This version of the ball features 12 melodies and 4 sing-along songs, to keep baby entertained even if they don’t fancy chasing after it on all fours! As only one of my babies crawled for any amount of time, we didn’t necessarily see them playing with it for its intended purpose, but my 4 month old twins currently love watching it while they’re having tummy time, and it was enjoyed by my other children far beyond the crawling stage. A robust toy that has stood the test of time.
There we have it! My list is not exhaustive! However it is a list of useful toys and gift ideas for babies in their first year. Babies don’t need much, but these items have formed my ‘essentials’ in that first important year of life and beyond, and are what I have used time and time again.
If you have any other recommendations for baby toys or gifts, I’d love to hear from you! The twins’ first Christmas will no doubt be upon us in no time at all – and we are always trying to think of new ideas!