Babies and young toddlers can be especially tough to shop for – it’s not like we can just ask them what they want. Plus, kids develop differently and at different rates at this age. Your best bet is to go for the tried-and-true toys that aim to build hand-eye coordination and fine and gross motor skills in an engaging but not over-stimulating way. Music is always good too.
Below you’ll find my top picks for babies and young toddlers. They’re not categorized like the other lists because they all cover a variety of developmental skills and ages but you should find plenty of options to make your baby or young toddler happy on Christmas morning!
Don’t forget – you can check out all 10 of our 2013 Gift Guides here!
Once again this year, I’m heading up each list with my favorites from all the picks – here, in no particular order, are my top 7 Developmental Toys for Babies & Young Toddlers (scroll down for full details on each):
- Lamaze Take Along Toys starting at $9.72 (0 – 2 years)
- Learn & Groove Musical Table $39.99 (3 months – 6 years)
- Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo $89.00 (babies able to hold their head up – walking)
- Caterpillar and Friends Play Gym $39.99 (0 – 2 years)
- Melissa & Doug Deluxe Bug Jug Fill & Spill Soft Baby Toy $18.43 (6 months – 4 years)
- Haul and Ride Truck $34.99 (1 – 3 years)
- Geometric Stacker $13.79 (18 months – 4 years)
Read on for 27 of my favorite developmental toys for babies & young toddlers, including:
- Floor Toys
- Riding & Walking toys
- Music Toys
- Toys for Developing Fine-Motor Control, Gross-Motor Control, Concentration and Hand-Eye Coordination
Special Note: In an effort to help you out as much as possible this year, I’ve included both prices and age recommendations for each item. Please take the age ranges as just that – recommendations – you know you’re child best after all!
Also, this time of year prices can fluctuate quite dramatically. So if you see something a little outside of your price range, it might not be a bad idea to click over and check it out anyway – you may get lucky and catch a sale.
Along those lines, I’m doing my best this year to keep our readers up-to-date on any sales I see on our gift guide items. To be in the loop, be sure to follow us on facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.
Ready for the big list? Here we go…
- Lamaze Take Along Toys starting at $9.72 (0 – 2 years) – These lamaze toys were all the rage in the mommy and baby class I attended with my son and it didn’t take us long to figure out why. They’re oversized, plush, and have lots of fun stuff for baby to pull and chew on. Plus they’re durable – all of ours lasted through both kids and are ready and waiting for the third. Along with Freddy the Firefly, our favorites were the moose and inchworm (which also plays music).
- Oval Xylophone $17.61 (1+ years) – Wood is always good when it comes to toys and the banging emphasis of this xylophone makes it the perfect way to introduce baby to music.
- Learn & Groove Musical Table $39.99 (3 months – 6 years) – This toy has lots of ways for baby to interact and I love that the legs allow babies to play while seated but later transition to a table they can use standing. This was a favorite of both of my kids once they started pulling up and it’s already waiting in the playroom for baby #3′s arrival.
- Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo $89.00 (babies able to hold their head up – walking) – With my son, we had both a jumper that hung in a doorway and a big hand-me-down toy he stood/sat in. He wasn’t a huge fan of either. With my daughter we replaced both with a jumperoo just like this and loved it (the one we actually got was recalled so I’m not recommending that one although we had no problems with it). It allowed her to bounce, spin, or just hang out and play with the toys as she pleased. A good multi-use toy is always a keeper in my book.
- Handled Cage Bells $7.10 (3 months – 5 years) – Our toddler group class has these bells and they’re always a big hit whenever they’re pulled out – easy and fun for baby to use and great to play with while singing together. Older brothers and sisters will enjoy getting in on the action too so it’s not a bad idea to buy 4 or so.
- Sophie the Giraffe Teether $19.95 (0-2 years) – If ever there was a quintessential baby toy of our generation, this is it. Almost every baby I know has, and loves, Sophie. She’s a wonderfully oversized and happy teether – super easy for baby to grasp and munch on. This toy has more awards and rave reviews than I can even mention.
- Floor & Crib Mirror $11.78 (0 – 18 months) - My son was NOT a fan of tummy time, my daughter was pretty neutral on it, but they would both play longer on their tummies when they had a fun floor mirror like this one to look at themselves.
- Caterpillar and Friends Play Gym $39.99 (0 – 2 years) – A floor play gym is an absolute must for pre-moving babies. The musical star with blinking lights at the top of this one was completely mesmerizing for months to both of my kiddos. So much so, that when it broke after having it for 2 1/2 years we went through quite a bit of trouble to find another on on craig’s list.
- Go Car $10.85 (1 – 4 years) – Easily pushable and graspable = the perfect first car for baby. I especially like all the fun colors it comes in.
- Tobbles $24.26 (babies and young toddlers) – These weighted spheres prove that babies can be builders too. They’re fun to stack, tilt, spin, and wobble.
- International Playthings Flash Beat Drum $21.10 (1 – 2 years) – My kids were fascinated with this drum from an early age. They were captivated by the multiple ways to play – you can bang on it like a drum, or roll it back and forth to watch the colors and sounds change. There are settings to play music and silly sounds as well.
- Munchkin Mozart Magic Cube (9 months – 3 years) $19.96 – We received this as a hand-me-down and both the kids and I were pretty impressed by what it could do. It’s essentially an orchestra in a cube. Press the sides representing different musical instruments (harp, french horn, piano, flute and violin) and hear 8 of Mozart’s masterpieces played by any combination of instruments you prefer. Babies and young toddlers enjoy experimenting with adding in and taking away the different instruments and, of course, each side also lights up along with the music.
- Radio Flyer 4-in-1 Trike $95.41 (9 months – 5 years) – I never got one of these but always wanted one (probably because I see them EVERYWHERE at the park and on the playground). The clever 4-in-1 design easily converts from a stroller to a steering trike, learning-to-ride-trike, and finally a classic trike. That means you have something fun for your little one to ride around in from the time they need to be pushed until they are ready to pedal all by themselves. The height adjustable handle and seat along with the removable canopy and tray allows for a lot of flexibility. Baby #3 may be the perfect excuse to finally pick one of these up for our family!
- Fisher-Price Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza $48.12 (6 months – 3 years) - This massive toy is definitely not a must-have… but it sure looks fun, doesn’t it? When the kids were babies they had a smaller toy that consisted of some colorful balls and a tube they slid down. This award-winner is basically that on some serious steroids. This version allows sitting babies to drop balls in the lower ramps or crawl through the gate or arch while standing babies can drop balls in the top and watch them zoom down the ramps. It also encourages physical development (in the form of some super cute baby bopping) with music and dancing lights. I like that this toy grows with baby but most of all I just think it would be super fun to have around for play-dates with your mommy friends.
- Melissa & Doug Deluxe Bug Jug Fill & Spill Soft Baby Toy $18.43 (6 months – 4 years) – It’s truly mystifying how endlessly entertaining putting things in and taking them out again is to babies. On top of that, these bugs provide lots of opportunities for sensory exploration. They’re multi-textured and rattle, jingle, squeak and crinkle in little hands. All those textures and grip-able legs help develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, plus the self-storing set is great for travel.
- Pewi Ybike Ride On Toy and Walking Buddy $54.99 (1 – 3 years) – This may look like some kind of crazy walker the Jettsons would have but the innovative design is actually perfectly suited to transition with babies from the beginning walking to riding stages. With traditional walkers a child does not learn to fall as he or she typically just sits or hangs in the unit. (Plus my physical therapist mother-in-law says they’re really bad for baby’s hips.) In contrast, the Ybike allows freedom of movement at a young age that has proven to stimulate body in space awareness, a key for balance and motor skill development. Once baby is a little older and ready to ride, the multi direction caster wheels allow a child to ride and easily control the Pewi in any direction. Plus, non-marking rubber wheels won’t mark floors making it equally suitable for use for indoors or outdoors on smooth play surfaces.
- Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes $9.01 (0 – 1 year) - You know those lovely early months when many babies scream just about the ENTIRE time they’re in the car? This musical toy that’s easy to hold and has button big enough for baby to push on his own was the only thing that ever got my kids to stop – it was worth it’s weight in gold I tell ya. It was also great for getting my babies’ attention in times of non-stress.
- Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Click ‘n Learn Remote $9.74 (6 months – 3 years) - This looks like it serves a similar function as the Take Along Tunes and also gets great reviews. With this one, baby can learn about numbers, opposites, colors, greetings and first words. Buy one of each and keep one in mom’s car and the other in dad’s just to mix it up. You won’t be sorry.
- Recycling Truck $19.59 (1 – 10 years) – Little girls and boys alike are drawn to things that go vroom. This Green Toy truck is truly green in every sense of the word. Made in the USA from 100% milk jugs, it is free of BPA, PVC, and phthalates plus it’s a recycling truck instead of the classic garbage truck. I also love that it has moving parts and is a bigger size – easy for young toddlers to manipulate.
- Geometric Stacker $13.79 (18 months – 4 years)- I find the young toddler age range of 18-24 months particularly hard to shop for. But this Melissa & Doug stacker is always a good fit. Kids this age are just compelled to stack… over and over and over.
- No Spill Big Bubble Bucket $19.99 (all ages) - Kids dig bubbles, almost universally. This bucket is great because it prevents messes and the wands are easier for little hands to hold on their own. You’ll have to help kids younger than 2 or 3 blow bubbles but this is a great set for getting older siblings involved in helping to entertain baby.
- Sensory Ball Mega Pack $24.99 (all ages) – Balls are excellent for open-ended play and motor development for babies and younger toddlers. The texture, colors, and varying sizes of the balls in this pack make them extra great.
- Haul and Ride Truck $34.99 (1 – 3 years) – This has been arguably the best toy our family has ever owned. My son got it for his 1st birthday and for three years he played with it almost daily until the steering wheel finally snapped off. Both he and my daughter loved to ride it, fill it up with stuff, tow with it, pull it, and push it all over the house.
- Rock, Roll ‘n Ride Trike $49.00 (18 months – 5 years) – Tricycles are an excellent way to introduce little ones to the concept of bike riding. This one is extra special because it comes with a detachable piece that not only allows parents to push the trike, but also turns it into a riding horse (how cool is that?!).
- Shape Sorting Cube $14.22 (18 months – 4 years) – Shape sorters are great for fine motor development. This one has lots of play opportunities so kids don’t quickly conquer the task and become bored. Plus it’s wood, not plastic, which is always a nice bonus.
- Melissa & Doug Deluxe Pound and Roll Tower $16.99 (18 months – 4 years) – Like the geometric stacker and shaper sorter, this one’s a total classic. (My daughter has gotten months of enjoyment out of smacking away on these balls). Together these are the three top toys for kids in the young toddler agge range.
- Band in a Box $20.87 (18 months+ ) – This is a really wonderful collection of easily manipulated instruments and a great introduction to playing music. Both my kids love our set.
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If you like these recommendations, I encourage you to pin or bookmark them for later when you’re ready to start shopping. I would also love it if you forwarded the list on to your parenting friends or shared it on facebook – trust me, your friends will thank you for the help and you get to be the cool mom (or dad) with all the best resources. It’s a win-win.
P.S. See all 10 of our 2013 Gift Guides here.
P.P.S. If you’re really looking to have the holidays in the bag early this year. Check out our new eBook, Hands-On Holidays, packed with low-prep and low-stress ideas for make memories crafting, cooking, reading and adventuring with the kids!