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Developmentally Appropriate Toys for Infants and Toddlers

Children love playing, that’s a fact. Even in this age of technology, there is nothing better for your child’s development and entertainment than the classics (that would be toys – not tablets!). From alphabet cards to zooming cars, there are so many choices that it can feel overwhelming. What’s more, the wrong toy can make your child feel frustrated and upset and ruin the positive experience of playtime. Worst still, it may not be safe for your child to be playing with. That’s why its so important to make sure you choose developmentally appropriate toys for infants and toddlers to get the most out of play. That’s where this guide comes in.

We’ve done the research across the myriad of different toys options and narrowed down a selection of high-quality, durable and safe toys for each stage of a child’s development, categorized according to age. From stacking rings to musical instruments, so long as you pick toys that are suitable to your little one’s age, they will love them and be safe while they play!

Developmentally Appropriate Toys for Babies Up To 3 Months Old

It’s true that children this age have not fully developed their gross or fine motor skills. However, that does not mean they cannot interact with the items around them. In fact, it’s a good idea to stimulate them by providing different sounds, shapes, and colors for them to explore.

Here are our favorite toys suitable for newborns from 0 – 3 months of age:

Winner: Toe Time Infant Car Seat Toy

Developmentally Appropriate Toys for Babies Up To 3 Months Old

Traveling by car with an infant can be a nightmare, especially if they get bored easily. If they start crying and you have nothing to help them calm down, your ears will be ringing by the time you arrive at your destination. Is there any way to prevent this from happening? Sure! The Toe Time Infant Car Seat Toy can be an excellent choice to keep your baby entertained. Let’s take a look at some of the features of this interactive toy… 

If your child likes to kick, the toys that hang from the car seat will jingle and make pleasant, calming noises, which helps when your baby is upset and crying. In terms of design, this toy is quite unique. The velcro straps are convenient for adjusting various parts of the toy so nothing blocks your line of sight. You’ll be able to see your baby when you need to without obstruction. This toy also plays music, which can be entertaining and appealing to infants.   

Finally, the toy is a great learning tool for babies. They’ll kick the small hanging toys around and quickly realize their actions have consequences (i.e. the toys bounce around). This type of toy develops visual and auditory senses as well as hand-eye coordination. The pricing is very affordable for the benefits it provides. It makes a perfect addition to your boredom arsenal on long trips with your child!

Another Favorite: Fisher-Price Soothe & Glow Seahorse

If you’re looking for a bedtime buddy for your baby, this beautiful sea horse is an excellent choice! It’s soft, small, not too flashy, and helps calm down even the fussiest of babies. What makes this product unique is that it casts a comforting glow to soothe your child in the dark. 

In addition, it has 8 different song choices as well as ocean sounds to help children sleep better. It’s very easy to activate the sounds; all your child has to do is squeeze gently. You can regulate the volume and speed of the sounds/songs as well. As a nighttime companion for your little one, this toy can’t be beat! 

Developmentally Appropriate Toys for Babies 3-6 Months Old

Children start developing and growing very quickly. The 3-6 month period is characterized by tummy time and crawling. The following items are great for inspiring children to move out of their comfort zones. 

Winner: Baby Einstein Activity Station

The purpose of this interactive toy is to help your baby begin to figure out how the world around them works. It includes three methods of play and is very easy to use. Your baby just has to touch large colored buttons to hear different sounds. This toy can even be programmed in different languages, including French and Spanish.  

The most attractive feature of this toy is that it contains many of your baby’s favorite things, such as bright colors, flashing lights, animals, and music. As soon as they start tummy time, this toy will be a perfect addition to your growing collection. Place the toy a few steps away from your baby and watch them respond to the lights and sounds. Before long, your little one will be scooting across the floor to their new favorite toy!

Another Favorite: VTech Light and Move Learning Ball

This amazing crawl ball’s flashing lights and noises will draw your baby’s attention, beckoning them to pursue it around the room so they can push the buttons to hear the wonderful animal sounds it produces. These animals will soon become your baby’s best friends! The ball plays an impressive 45+ songs, sounds, phrases and melodies for your child to enjoy and imitate as well. 

The buttons are great for developing fine motor skills. Your child will also begin to recognize the sounds and shapes that correspond to the different animals. The flashing lights the balls has are a nice addition to this toy that will encourage children to interact with it. Stimulating a baby to crawl has never been easier! Not only will your baby move, but they’ll be developing language and motor skills as well!

Developmentally Appropriate Toys for Babies 6-9 Months Old

In this stage of their development, children start to imitate what others do around them. This is also the time when they begin standing and may take their first steps. As they grow, babies begin to discover cause and effect relationships between the things they do and what happens as a result of their actions. Let’s see how they can benefit from interacting with toys at this age.

Winner: Fisher Price Rock-a-Stack and Baby’s 1st Blocks Bundle

This set includes not one, but two toys to guarantee that your child will be entertained. This a perfect toy for a 6-month old baby! For this ultimate buying guide, we chose the stacking rings as our favorite in this set. There are 5 plastic rings of different colors and a rocking base that allows the child to stack them based on size. For very smart babies, parents have the option of buying a slightly more expensive package with 10+ additional rings. 

How is something so simple helpful for young children? Well, on the one hand, your baby’s hand-eye coordination will improve the more they play with this toy. They’ll also become more proficient at grasping and holding objects. Their problem-solving skills will improve as your child discovers that some rings don’t go well on top of others. This toy enhances their sense of discovery, for they’ll be able to grasp, shake, and hold these items without any danger.

These toys have been manufactured with great care, considering the highest safety standards based on your child’s age. This Rock-a-Stack by Fisher-Price is a great gift for smart babies who are just starting to discover the world around them. We have no doubt it will provide your child with hours of fun and entertainment!

Another Favorite: VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker

Another favorite from the wonderful minds at VTech, who produce great toys. If your goal is to encourage your baby to transition from crawling to walking, then you’ve found one of the best baby toys to help make that happen. This is an interactive baby walker that encourages toddlers to follow along, learning how to stand up and walk as they go. The piano keys produce music, and there are also spinning rollers to develop fine motor skills.

This multi-purpose toy plays more than 50 songs so your child can sing and develop their love for music while learning how to walk at the same time. The colors make it very appealing, and its ease of use and simple assembly is a blessing for those not-so-handy parents. Made of durable plastic, it’s quality is top-notch when compared to similar toys. 

Although this particular toy is one of the more pricey ones on our list, we feel it’s worth the investment. The only concern when your child first starts using this walker is that they may fall over if they lean on it too much. However, as they gain more confidence, they’ll be racing along with this toy in no time.  

Developmentally Appropriate Toys for Toddlers 9-18 Months Old

At this age, toddlers are very curious and want to know everything. To achieve this lofty goal, they touch, play, and move around a lot. Their fine motor skills are much more advanced, and they start drawing or coloring and pushing buttons and keys with ease. Here are some toys children this age will truly enjoy:

Winner: VTech Touch and Learn Activity Desk

When your child hits the toddler stage, their interests and needs will change a lot. For example, they’ll likely feel the need to explore new objects and begin putting things together to produce something else (such as stacking blocks to build a wall).

Drawing is one of the most appealing activities for toddlers, and that’s why an activity desk like this one would be beneficial for your child. This desk is 100% interactive and includes up to 5 learning pages to start unleashing your child’s imagination. The LED display is made of top-notch materials that ensure it will last for years to come.

If your child doesn’t feel like doing something tech-based, it’s possible to turn the item into a traditional desk. Using chalk, your little one can create as many drawings as they want. Moreover, the stool the package includes is comfortable and easy to transport. Another important feature is that it’s very simple to clean…just use a damp cloth to make the desk look flawless again.  

Another Favorite: TOP BRIGHT Race Track

Most children enjoy playing with cars. This race track toy is constructed of wood, which makes it durable for even the most rambunctious toddlers. It’s decorated with non-toxic paint to ensure this is one of the safest toys for your one-year old. Both the vehicles and the track have been tested following the highest standards, so you don’t have to worry about the safety. To reduce the risk of choking, the package includes no small items or pieces that can fall apart. 

The size and weight make this toy a very nice gift. It’s convenient to transport and easy to set up! All you have to do to is put the removable parking lot on top, and it’s ready for your child to play! In addition to all these benefits, this wonderful track will give your child the opportunity to interact with others. Taking turns and playing together are skills that should be encouraged in the early stages of development, and this toy provides a good start. Your child will have countless hours of fun with this well-built ramp racer!

Yet Another Option: Hape Pound and Tap Bench with Xylophone

If your baby loves music, this xylophone is a great option to keep them busy, while also providing opportunity for learning and entertainment. Whenever they pound on the xylophone, the balls fly up in the air where your child can catch them. This is a great exercise to develop fine motor skills and coordination (eyes, hands, and arms). Also, children learn that their actions have an effect on the xylophone and act accordingly. 

The more your child plays with this toy, the more sounds they will begin to recognize. Your baby may even combine sounds to produce their own music. You don’t have to worry about safety with this toy, either. This product has been manufactured to last, using high quality materials that are safe for young children. For example, the paint is water based, so it harm your child even if they decide to put the xylophone into their mouth.

Another remarkable feature of this toy is the endless possibilities it offers for games. Apart from exploring the many combinations of sounds and music the instrument offers, your child will also want to chase down the colorful balls as they fly about for even more fun! Start educating your child in the wonderful world of music today!

Some Advice When Selecting Developmentally Appropriate Toys for Infants and Toddlers

Children are known to put whatever object that falls into their hands in their mouths. This is something you should watch out for, particularly with small toys. Many parents overlook this crucial aspect, and in doing so inadvertently jeopardize their child’s safety. Choking on small toys is not uncommon for babies and toddlers. Also, be careful that the toy is not easy to dismantle. Many toys are big enough, but they have small parts that can easily be removed. These can be as dangerous as any other small toy. Manufacturers are aware of this and try to avoid including these parts. However, for the toys that do include them, there is usually a sign indicating the appropriate age group. Some additional tips to take into account include: 

  • Pay close attention to all the information that is written on the box and in the instructions. 
  • The materials a toy is constructed from are usually mentioned on the box label or the instructions. If your child still puts toys in their mouth, make sure the toy does not have any toxic paint. 
  • Avoid products that are made for older children. That label is there for a reason!
  • Small Legos or toys with magnets are particularly dangerous for babies. Make sure to avoid them until your child is old enough to know not to put things in their mouth.

Raising awareness about toy safety to your family and friends is important. Even if you follow these tips, some of them may not. If a friend or relative gives your child a toy that’s not appropriate for them, it’s often difficult to take that toy away from the child without initiating a tantrum. It’s much better to just avoid the situation altogether by letting your loved ones know about your concerns and decision-making process when it comes to toy safety. 

So if you’re giving a gift, please be careful of this! If you choose from these developmentally appropriate toys for infants and toddlers, you should be fine!

That's A Wrap!

Toys are certainly important for your baby’s development. From walkers to xylophones, all these items can provide endless hours of fun, education, and exercise, but it’s important to choose the right toys for your child based on their age and needs. Luckily, all of the options we presented above come highly recommended so you can buy with confidence. 

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Still not sure what to get?

Don’t worry, we’ll find you something! There’s loads more ideas here, you’re bound to find the perfect gift!

If you’re still lost, why not go back to basics with our Definitive Guide to the Best Toys for Babies. Here, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to get those creative juices flowing and help you find the perfect baby toy.