Wait! Don’t purchase any toys for the newborn or toddler in your life until you’ve read our guide to the best learning toys for babies.
The first few years of life are the most important developmental period for the child in your life. Toy manufacturers produce a seemingly endless array of toys all designed to provide your child with the framework they need for success.
But, how do you find the best learning toys for babies and infants with so many options to choose from? We’ll cover the best picks for these toys, and fill you in on what to look for in other learning toys that are available.
Related: Best Playmats for Babies
Table of Contents
- Our Recommendations
- Baby Cognitive Development By Age
- On What to Pay Attention to When Choosing Your Baby Educational Toy
While there are many incredible toys on the market that will benefit your child, these picks are our top choices for the best learning toys for babies and toddlers
Best Interactive Toys for 0-6 Months Old – Life-Tandy Lay and Play 3 in 1 Activity Center
This interactive activity center from Life-Tandy is a great way to cultivate a love for music from a very early age, and it’s one of the best toys for 3 months old, but it’s also fun and exciting for infants and toddlers as well.
There’s a ton of different elements and features going on with this toy. The Lay and Play features a colorful, cushioned play mat which is attached to a rainbow arch with five colorful hanging toys. Each toy is detachable for independent play. Rounding out this toy is a footboard with four piano keys that play different tones.
This activity center is made of durable, non-toxic ABS plastic, and the fabric that covers parts of the toy are 100% cotton. The cushioned play mat is removable and machine washable.
Perhaps most importantly, this toy is a great way to promote muscle development. As your baby kicks at the piano keys and reaches for the hanging pendants, they’ll be getting the exercise their arms and legs need.
While this toy is perfectly suited to newborns, it provides new and exciting opportunities for play as your baby learns to sit up and crawl; allowing you to get more use from the toy.
Each of the colorful ring toys features an adorable monkey character with 3 colorful spinning charms inside each pendant. These toys are a great way to teach babies about shapes and colors, and they provide newborns with an exciting sensory experience.
As your baby learns to sit up, they can also learn about hand-eye coordination, as they reach for each hanging toy. They’ll also learn to coordinate their feet to kick the different colorful piano keys.
With so many different opportunities for play, and the ability to adapt as your baby grows to become an infant, it’s no wonder why this toy from Life-Tandy tops our list as the best learning toy for babies.
Things We Like
- Multiple opportunities for play
- Cultivates a love for music while teaching cognitive skills
- Bright and colorful design
- Hanging toys are removable for play on the go
Things We Don’t Like
- Strong kickers may be able to kick the piano off the stand
- The toy’s color is randomized so it can be hard to personalize for a boy or girl
Best Educational Toy For 6-9 Months Old – Manhattan Toy Baby Whoozit
When it comes to toys, few brands have a reputation for making the best infant toys available. Manhattan toys have been making some of the best since 1978, and their adorable and educational creations have made it into some of the most famous stores in the world, including Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales and the gift shop of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Their award-winning collection of “Whoozit” toys is a favorite of parents everywhere, and it’s easy to see why. Manhattan Toy has received the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award and Dr. Toys Best Classic Toy Award for their Whoozit toys.
Each toy packs tons of opportunities for learning and fun, which is particularly impressive considering it’s small enough to pack inside a diaper bag, purse or coat pocket. Each Whoozit toy features a rainbow of bright colors and plenty of ways to keep busy hands occupied.
At its core, the Whoozit features a large, colorful smiling face. Boldly patterned rays extend away from the face, and each one includes a different colorful shape at the end. Although it’s easy to stow away, the toy features a large 10” diameter, perfect for small hands.
Inside, you’ll find a self-discovery mirror under the nose which helps to teach babies about self-recognition, and hidden noise makers like rattles, squeakers, and crinkle paper.
Whoozit’s also features a hook and loop clasp at the top, which allows parents to attach the toy to a crib or stroller to create an entirely different sensory experience for the baby.
Since there’s so much to do, and it’s so easy to stow the Whoozit away, this toy is one of the best baby toys for 6 month old children, and it’s favorite toy of babies and parents alike.
Things We Like
- Several different ways to play and interact with the toy
- Interactive hidden self-discovery mirror
- Noisemakers in each arm
Things We Don’t Like
- While they’re still well made, many parents complain that the Whoozit toys don’t feature the same construction they used to
Best Educational Toy for Toddlers – VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker
When it comes to learning toys for toddlers, VTech has a long-standing reputation as one of the best manufacturers of fun and educational toys.
With the Sit-to-Stand Walker, you’ll be able to provide your child with a useful, fun, and educational toy that they’ll be able to grow with for well over a year. Very few toys remain as fun or useful to a child as they grow, which is why this option from VTech is so popular.
This interactive baby walker has a removable play panel that comes complete with plenty of opportunities for learning and play. It features two spinning rollers as well as three shape sorters with light-up buttons that help develop motor skills. You’ll also find animal characters, and a pretend telephone with mechanical buttons which makes role-playing fun and exciting for your baby.
This toy also features more than 70 different sing-along songs, music, phrases and sound effects designed for babies from nine months to three years. It even includes the batteries you need to power it, so you won’t have to worry about purchasing anything else to make the toy work.
Once baby is ready to walk, the play panel easily attaches to the walker, which provides your baby with the stability they need as they take their first steps. The wheels of the walker are large and roll smoothly over hard floors as well as carpeting.
With so many different opportunities for cognitive development, and an ability to adapt as the child’s needs change, it’s no wonder that this VTech is regarded as one of the best toys for 1 year old kids as well as 2 and 3 year olds.
Things We Like
- Ideal for infants and toddlers alike
- Several different toys to aid in cognitive development
- Integrated walker provides new walkers with the stability they need
- Includes batteries
Things We Don’t Like
- May provide too much stimulation for your baby
- The songs and sound effects may become a bit annoying for parents
Baby Cognitive Development By Age
Babies develop at an extremely rapid rate from birth throughout their first few years of life. Here’s an idea of some of the skills your baby or toddler will develop.
From birth to age one, your baby will learn a variety of critical cognitive skills including:
Typically, by age three months, babies will begin to anticipate certain actions. At this age, your child will be able to anticipate what will happen next based on past experience.
For example, let’s say you raise your hands up like claws and then begin tickling your baby. Eventually, your baby will anticipate that they’re about to be tickled when they see you raise your hands.
Sensory integration is the process by which we’re able to process, organize and act on the things that our senses perceive. Most babies show signs of sensory integration within the first 6 to 9 months of life.
Another skill babies will begin to pick up is recognition. By age six months, most babies will be able to recognize familiar objects and people.
Object permanence is a significant milestone in a baby’s cognitive development, and it’s marked by the child’s ability to recognize that an object exists even when you can’t see it. Early evidence of object permanence is usually seen in babies from 6-12 months, and this skill continues to develop as the baby grows to a toddler.
As your child develops, they’ll be able to observe the behaviors of others and begin to interpret them.
As your baby continues to develop, these are some other behaviors and milestones to look for.
Usually, around your baby’s first birthday, they’ll begin to learn how to engage with their toys in new ways, and they’ll develop skills like stacking blocks on top of each other to make new structures and shapes.
Putting Words Together
Around age 1, your baby will begin to speak. As they get closer to their second birthday, they’ll learn to put multiple words together and start to form short sentences.
Follow 2 Step Directions
Between age 1 and 2, your baby will learn how to follow simple directions as well. The ability to follow instructions involves the use of multiple cognitive skills which they’ve developed through the course of their life so far.
On What to Pay Attention to When Choosing Your Baby Educational Toy
When it comes to choosing an educational toy for your baby, there are several different criteria to consider. These criteria will help you select a toy that’s appropriate, enriching, and fun for the child.
A toy that isn’t age appropriate for the child is going to create several different issues.
In the case of a toy which is designed for older children, it may be unsafe for a younger child to play with as well.
By finding toys that are age-appropriate, you can ensure that the toy was designed especially for the needs and interests of that specific age group.
Safety, of course, is a primary concern when it comes to selecting new children’s toys. Be sure to choose toys which are well made, constructed from non-toxic materials, and don’t include any small parts or materials which can separate from the toy and present a choking hazard.
The material the toy is made from is also worth considering. For younger children, textured materials can provide opportunities for sensory enrichment and may help to hold children’s attention longer.
When it comes to selecting toys for any age child, you’ll want to go for heavy-duty natural materials wherever possible. This will help to ensure that the material is safe and that the toy will be able to stand up to prolonged use.
With so many toys on the market, you’re sure to encounter toys that sacrifice quality to meet a lower price point. If possible, avoid these toys. Poor quality toys are more likely to break or become damaged, and they present a much greater risk to your child’s safety than a higher quality toy.
Eventually, your child will be able to decide on the styles and colors that they like best. Until then, you may want to stick with the colors and styles that reflect the child’s gender as a baby and infant.
When shopping for toys, you’ll notice that many popular options come in one color and style for girls, and another for boys.
The first few years of a baby’s life are critical regarding their cognitive and behavioral development. Toys are a great way to facilitate this development. But, it’s easy to get lost in the endless array of products on the market.
Following the tips we’ve discussed above will help you ensure that you’re choosing a great toy that’s appropriate and most importantly, fun and educational for the child.