Gift Guide 2015: Best Toys for Babies & Young Toddlers
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 baby happy!
Don’t forget – you can check out all 10 of our 2015 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)
- Lamaze Cloth Books $13.99 (0-2 years)
- Fisher-Price Discover ‘n Grow Kick and Play Piano Gym $44.94 (0-2 years)
- Melissa & Doug Deluxe Bug Jug Fill & Spill Soft Baby Toy $18.43 (6 months – 4 years)
- VTech Sit to Stand Learning Walker $28.01 (9 months – 3 years)
- Mega Bloks First Builders Big Building Bag, 80-Piece (Classic) $14.59 (1 – 2 1/2 years)
- Haul and Ride Truck $34.99 (1 – 3 years)
- Little Tikes First Slide $31.60 (18 months – 4 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 $65.99 (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 at 7 months, baby M is already playing on it while standing with assistance or while sitting on his own on the floor.
- VTech Sit to Stand Learning Walker $28.01 (9 months – 3 years) – Similar to the Learn & Groove table, this also can be played with first on the floor and then grows with baby. The added advantage to this one is that it turns into a walker when your child is ready so it’s a nice multi-use toy for a great price.
- 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.
- Fisher-Price Discover ‘n Grow Kick and Play Piano Gym $44.94 (0-2 years) – If you want to go for the premium model play gym, this is it. Along with the standard baby gym hanging toys and mirrors, this one also has a super cool kick piano that baby starts out playing with his feet when she’s small, and then graduates to sitting up and playing as she gets big. I’m loving the multiple ways to use this, and I’m not alone – this gym has over 1,000 reviews on Amazon and averages 4.5 stars out of 5.
- 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.
- Lamaze Cloth Books $13.99 (0-2 years) – Baby’s love soft books because in the beginning all they do is mouth them. These books (there are 7 to chose from), with it’s bold and beautiful illustrations and built-in peek-a-boo game is a parent favorite and provides a great multi-textural sensory experience. Two or three of them packaged together is one of my go-to gifts for parents who have just welcomed a new baby.
- Soap Soax (0 – 3 years) – These adorable stuffed animals are antimicrobial and made of terry cloth so they’re the perfect bathtime friend and bath sponge. You simply place your soap of choice inside the stuffed animal, then dunk it in the tub and squeeze for soapy, bubbly fun. This is the perfect gift for the baby who has everything as well as any little one that’s developed a fear of bathtime. I first saw these on shark tank and was super impressed by the creator, who came up with the idea through his work with young kids who had been removed from dangerous home environments.
- Constellation Night Light, Sea Turtle $33.95 - This guy literally shoots stars onto the walls and ceilings of your little one’s room while she falls asleep (it automatically turns off after 45 minutes). We picked him up for C on his pediatrician’s recommendation. We were having trouble with him night wandering and she suggested setting up a routine where he wakes up, turns this on, and goes back to bed (as opposed to a routine where he wakes up and roams around the house). It worked instantly and there’s something so magical to C about falling asleep under the stars. This would be a great gift for a child of any age and it now comes in some other really sweet animals if you’re not into turtles like a lamb, pig, fox and ladybug.
Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Love to Play Puppy (9 months – 4 years) – We got this guy as a hand-me down from friends whose kids had outgrown him. The puppy’s a cuddly and engaging first friend. He has two modes – learning and musical and identifies body parts, colors and sings lots of fun songs when various body parts are pushed. All three of our kids have loved him (even 7 month M already) and we whole-heartedly agree with one reviewer who wrote, “For $20, he is very interactive and elaborate…. he counts, names body parts and colors, has funny sayings, and sings many songs (ENTIRE songs). He’s funnier, more educational (and cuter) than “Tickle-Me-Elmo”–minus the annoying voice.”
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.
- First 100 Words $4.76 (9 months – 3 years) – This quintessential first book for babies is uber popular, and with good reason. It’s a sturdy board book with a lightly padded cover that’s easy for baby to hold (and, let’s be honest, mouth) and it’s full of bold, beautiful pictures. Words are grouped together into categories making this a great tool for vocabulary building and shared reading time between mom/dad and baby (who pediatricians now recommend reading to at least 15 minutes a day from birth!)
- 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.
- Kidoozie Little Tuffies Trucks $13.91 (6 months – 4 years) – We bought these trucks nearly 5 years ago for our very first (of many) sensory bins and couldn’t have been happier. They’re the perfect thing for shoveling, scooping, dumping, mixing, and driving over all sorts of sensory materials from sand to colored rice and the price can’t be beat. We’ve loved these trucks so much that they’ve been worn out and we will be buying a new set for 9 month old M this Christmas.
Mega Bloks First Builders Big Building Bag, 80-Piece (Classic) $14.59 (1 – 2 1/2 years) – I still remember my son receiving his first set of award-winning Megabloks for his first birthday. It took him a little while to figure out (kids typically grasp block building somewhere between 12 and 18 months), but once he did he started building like a mad man and never looked back! All my mom friends and I love Mega Bloks for our youngest kiddos, even more than the classic LEGO duplos (although we did use both!). The locking mechanism is just a little bit easier for beginners to put together and pull apart. Plus the colors are beautiful and the zippered bag is very handy.
Little Tikes First Slide $31.60 (18 months – 4 years) – A few years ago when we had a 20 month old and a brand new baby, we bought an indoor slide and put it in the upstairs landing between the kids’ bedrooms and it was one of the best things we ever did! A sturdy plastic slide used inside can be a life-saver when the weather is bad and the kiddos are restless. This particular slide – highly rated for durability and usability for kiddos young and old – also serves double duty outside as an excellent safe place for toddlers to play on while their big siblings scale taller play equipment.
Fisher-Price Little People Lil’ Movers Airplane $17.99 (1 – 3 years) – Like the entire line of Little Peoples Movers, the stocky size of this airplane is perfect for little hands still developing their fine-motor skills. This plane, which lights up and plays multiple sounds gets tons of rave reviews from parents for it’s durability as well as how many ways there are to play. Complete with a pilot, two passengers, a piece of luggage, a door that opens, six windows, including the pilot’s windshield, a handle over the cut-out top, and working wheels (which make the pilot and passengers go up and down as if encountering turbulence). Push down on the pilot in her seat for flashing lights, a tune, flight attendant commentary, and swooshing airplane sounds.
Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn “Say Please” Tea Set $14.39 (6 months – 4 years) – Toddlers and preschoolers naturally love anything that allows them to pour water over and over again. Add in a level of pretend play with the “tea time” experience plus voice prompts, sounds and songs teaching about numbers, shapes, opposites, manners, greetings and more – and you’ve got a winning toy guaranteed to provide hours of fun. With over 800 reviews averaging 4.5 out of 5 stars, parents agree.
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.
- Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Piggy Bank $18.69 (6 months – 3 years) – This is one of the few plastic, noisy toys that my kids truly loved when they were tots. It seems all young kids love dropping things into slots and taking them out again, so that part was a guaranteed hit, but my littles also took to the songs and prompts encouraging counting along, comparing big and small and (new to this model) discovering mommy and baby animals. This is another one with a huge amount of positive reviews on Amazon.
- 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 age 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.
- Little Tikes Gas ‘n Go Mower Toy $20.99 (walking – 5 years) – This toy is great for taking dramatic play outdoors and, honestly, it’s totally worth getting just for the adorable pictures you’ll get of the kids following around Dad (or Mom) while they mow the lawn. Seriously, this toy is a real winner – it has lots of parts to interact with (pull cord, vrooming engine, push throttle, turning key and more) but doesn’t require batteries. It will ignite the kids imagination and get them moving at the same time.
- ALEX® Toys – Early Learning Button Art $13.00 (2 – 3 years) – As I said, finding engaging toys that build fine motor skills and concentration skills for this age group is HARD. They aren’t interested in the baby toys anymore but a lot of the more advanced toys are still too hard. This pegboard set seems to be especially designed for the curious two year old. The pieces are the right size for them to easily manipulate and the colorful puzzles are interesting enough to keep their attention but not so hard that they become frustrating. This one gets great reviews from parents of two year olds looking for that elusive perfect toy.
- Quercetti Geokid Daisy Maxi $23.95 (1 – 3 years) – Another toy that’s exactly in the 2 year old’s wheelhouse, but will also extend to a little younger and a little older age groups), this is the introduction to stacking, sorting and building fun. The oversized pegs that join the blocks together are perfect for young toddlers and ensure less frustration when building. This is one of my go-to gifts for two year olds
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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 2015 Gift Guides here.
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