Whether you're excitedly expecting the arrival of your baby or are already delighting in their ever-changing capabilities, it's never too soon to check out toys that encourage language skills, creativity, and movement. After all, that's how babies and toddlers learn best—through playing. As your child's skills expand, they'll be ready for new types of engagement through various toys and activities. We've broken down some of our favorite types to get you through the first year.
Your little one is just starting to understand that they're part of a big, wide world in the first few months and, as a result, have limited capability when it comes to play. However, it's never too early to ignite imagination and curiosity. As your baby is becoming more alert and is able to see the world around them more clearly, you can introduce a soft book, wrist rattle, and mobile that plays gentle music. Your baby's nearsightedness, which typically means they can only see objects eight to 15 inches away during the first few months of life, means that they'll respond best to patterns within their line of vision. A great multipurpose toy is an activity gym, which provides a comfortable space for your baby to practice tummy time—building the head, arm and back strength that helps your baby learn to roll over. The gyms also often play music and have hanging toys, which will challenge your baby to grab at them and explore.
Between three and six months, it's a whole new world for your baby. For the first time, they understand the relationship between objects and people. (Around six months, separation anxiety can begin to emerge.) For play, your baby has discovered their hands and can now hold onto toys. They may show more interest in details like zippers and labels or begin to throw things to see what's inside or bang two toys together. A baby might start enjoying independent play in an activity station or jumper. These fun items provide a variety of sounds, textures, and colors for your child to enjoy while helping to strengthen their legs, preparing them for crawling and eventually walking. Your baby may also start to experience their first tooth coming through, so teethers, like the ever-popular Sophie the Giraffe, provide entertainment and comfort.
At this stage, your baby is ready to make their first move and may already be starting to crawl. Keep building their strength and coordination with toys like balls, building blocks, and stacking cups. Children at this stage are also starting to imitate facial expressions and sounds, making your daily routines more fun than ever. Pique that creativity with imagination and story time, using stuffed animals, dolls, puppets, and board books.
Whether they're crawling, cruising, or walking, your little one is officially on the move by the time they reach 12 months. To provide opportunities to practice these new skills, look for push toys that your child can move around the room, like cars and trucks. They're also much more engaged when playing, looking for chances to push buttons and make noise as they explore the world of cause and effect. This is a great time to introduce them to instruments, and giving them toy instruments to encourage them to make their own music. Mentally, they're starting to problem solve, making shape sorters and knob puzzles great choices to work on those skills.