Here is an overview of our top toy categories for 6-12 month olds, with links to picks in each section:
See also our guide to buying safe/non-toxic toys.
This is a critical time for basic gross development skills — between six and 12 months, baby will learn to sit up, crawl, pull up to stand, cruise, and possibly even take her first steps. Thus it’s a great time to buy developmentally-focused toys that will help to encourage, challenge, and entertain baby in these new positions: for example, toys (like drums) that she can bang on while sitting up, and objects that she can chase, pull, or push across the floor
Baby’s fine motor skills are also developing. She’s working on her hand dexterity — grasping, shaking, and banging objects to explore them, and (by the end of the stage) starting to use the pincer grasp (thumb and forefinger) to pick up small objects. Small graspable objects with intricate flaps and pieces can help to support this growth.
Baby’s brain is also developing at a rapid rate. Her awareness of the world is growing, her speech development skills (both receptive and expressive) are burgeoning, and she’ll be able to mimic and initiate gestures in games like “peek-a-boo.” At some point, she’ll also enter an “organizing” stage where she’ll get indescribable delight out of nesting and stacking containers, taking objects in and out of containers, etc.
Look for any lightweight cups or other objects that baby can stack and nest and use as containers to take objects in and out of. A couple top picks:
These simple, non-toxic stacking/nesting cups store up compactly and double as great bath toys (they have holes in the bottoms). Made of polypropylene; BPA, PVC, and phthalate free.
Handmade in Germany, these wonderful Waldorf-inspired rainbow stacking and nesting bowls can be stacked, nested, filled with little objects, or used as play dishes or cups. Made from alder wood; non-toxic, water-based stains.
Any medium-sized blocks or other toys that baby can grasp, squeeze, drop, and pass from hand to hand are great. Here are some of our top picks:
These soft, squishy blocks are our favorite first blocks set for baby — we’ve never met a baby who didn’t love chewing on and squeaking these. Just take care not to get water inside the squeak hole when washing them. Phthalate and BPA free.
The Skwish is the toy that all the babies are trying to steal away from one another at playgroup! Vaguely reminiscent of high school chemistry class, it captivates adults too. It flexes in lots of different directions, and is surprisingly sturdy. Made from renewable rubberwood; non-toxic, water-based paint.
B. FunKeys, $13
The most realistic set of play car keys we’ve found feature four fun (and not-too-annoying) car sound effects and a push-button flashlight. Make no mistake, your baby will still prefer your real keys, but these may just be sufficient to distract him or her while you hide yours. Plastic and stainless steel; phthalate, BPA, and lead free.
For babies pulling up to stand, cruising, or starting to walk, walkers are great for providing stability and encouraging them to walk.
This great walking-aid-cum-ride-on-toy grows with your child as he develops his motor skills. From approximately ages eight to 12 months, your baby can stand in front of it, hold on to the handlebars, and use it as a walking aid. Its wheels move freely on all four directions (rather than just moving rigidly either forward or backward), making it more challenging for a baby just starting to pull up to stand to use, but making it a much better aid for actually learning how to walk a couple of months later. Then after your baby grows and develops a better sense of balance, it’s a classic ride-on toy.
This is our favorite push wagon for younger babies (from seven to 10 months) who are just learning how to stand and cruise. The wheels only move in two directions (backwardsa and forwards), making this wagon difficult to turn, bt extremely stable. Not only will your baby love pushing this cart around, but she’ll also love being pushed around by you!
Activity tables are great not only for keeping baby entertained, but also getting her to practice pulling up to stand and cruising without even realizing it!
Made by one of the leaders in electronic learning toys, this activity table is the time-tested gold standard in the category. Yes, it will take up a reasonable chunk of floor space, but your baby will love and get tons of use out of this (giving you some much needed breaks!). The removable legs grow with your baby: use it flat on the floor (with no legs) when your baby starts pushing up, use it with two legs when your baby starts sitting up, and use it with four legs when your baby starts pulling up to stand.
Musical toys are great not only for keeping baby entertained, but also for introducing rhythm and basic music. Here are some of our favorites:
It’s loud and plasticky, but this electronic musical drum is invariably a baby favorite. Baby will be mesmerized as his banging turns into music — teaching him cause-and-effect. When placed on its side, it also rolls, providing a fun musical object for crawlers to chase.
Even the most serious baby won’t be able to help but dance to this cute little musical turtle. It features two fun modes to grow with your child: early on (6-12 months), it will reward baby banging on any button with music, and later (12-18+ months) baby can use “composer” mode to add and subtract instruments. And we are pleased to report that the music is actually enjoyable rather than annoying. Phthalate, BPA, and lead free.
B. Toys has another winner in this excellent value multi-piece music set. It includes a drum (which doubles as storage container), drumsticks, tambourine, bells, large shaker, and two egg shakers.
Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
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