Here is an overview of our top toy categories for 0-6 month olds, with links to our favorite product picks within each section:
Also don’t miss our guide to buying safe/non-toxic toys.
At the very beginning, it will be more than enough just for baby to practice focusing on your face, but toward the end of this period, she may be ready to start engaging with some additional stimuli. Around two months, baby will be able to focus on objects that you pass in front of her field of vision. While her visual acuity is still developing and she remains unable to distinguish between similar colors, your best bet is to go with bold, black-and-white / high-contrast items that are most likely to hold her attention.
By two to three months, baby will begin staring quite intently at images and objects that she finds fascinating, and she’ll be able to grasp objects that you put in her hands — grasping toys are great for this stage. By three months, she’ll enjoy batting at toys (e.g. dangling from an activity gym overhead) for hours on end. Babies are starting to work on distinguishing colors during this period, so it’s appropriate to introduce toys with bright, primary colors (red is the first color your baby will be able to see, followed by oranges, yellows, greens, and lastly blue).
Your baby will be better at grabbing and holding objects, and also able to pick up larger objects, by this age. Large blocks and soft objects with fun textures are a good choice. Musical toys are also baby favorites. It’s also a good time to get an early start on reading with your baby, to start getting her accustomed to books. Soft books (as opposed to board books) often provide a great introduction because they’re soft to the touch and often feature multiple textures to engage the senses.
Any toys or objects featuring black-and-white or high-contrast color schemes are great for babies in their first few months, while their vision is still developing. Here are a few of our favorites:
These black-and-white art cards feature adorable graphics on thick, high-quality card stock. You can pass them in front of baby’s eyes to help him practice tracking, mount them to a mobile over the crib, or affix them to a wall in the nursery. Try putting them above baby’s changing table to keep him occupied during diaper changes!
This award-winning high-contrast mobile features stimulating images and colors for early visual and multi-sensory development. Start younger babies out with the black-and-white images, then flip to the color sides after the first couple of months. Clamps onto most cribs.
This double-sided mirror is a great product that grows with your baby. It’s reversible: in the first few months baby will love staring at the high-contrast images on the back side; then when he gets a little older you can flip to the mirror side and he can gaze narcissistically at his own reflection. The mirror is the best quality mirror we have found — the others on the market all seem to provide distorted reflections and/or are cluttered with objects all around the sides. Use it in the playroom, or use the ribbons to attach them to the side of the crib.
Look for small, lightweight toys that baby can easily grip in her hands. Bright or multi-colored objects will most easily hold baby’s attention.
We love this ring-and-link-set for its versatility. Attach the nine links to the large ring, and it’s an easy to transport rattle filled with different textures to explore. Remove the links, and baby can explore the textures on each link individually, or as part of a chain. You can hang the chain off another object (like a carseat), and even use it to link other toys! BPA free.
Rhino Toys Oball, $8
Your baby will delight in squeezing and manipulating the super flexible Oball. Lightweight and squishable, it’s very portable— great for the diaper bag. Often also available at Target for less. Made of silicone; vinyl, PVC and phthalate free.
Once you buy a high-quality wooden toy like this one from HABA, it’s a slippery slope and you may never go back! This wooden rattle and teething toy is made of beech wood, is colored with a non-toxic, water-based stain, and has a couple small attached rings to make a satisfying sound when shaken.
Sophie may not be the most original recommendation, but why mess with success? No baby’s toy box would be complete without Sophie. She’s fun to hold, squeak, and chew. Just take care not to get water inside the little air hole when washing her, or she’ll lose her squeak! Made of 100% natural rubber and food paint; phthalate and BPA free.
For youngest babies, hanging toys and arches are great for holding baby’s attention from afar and encouraging her to bat at them. Later on, to encourage grasping skills, look for small handheld toys.
These small soft blocks feature black-and-white and color sides (sporting patterns, images, letters, and numbers), and a number of textures and sounds (e.g. rattles, crinkles, clacks). They’re the perfect size for small hands and are great for developing gross motor skills. They are machine washable and are free of BPA, lead, phthalates, and flame retardants.
These deluxe plush hanging toys from Lamaze are fantastic — much higher quality than the hanging toys that come with most activity gyms. They are larger and infinitely better quality than the hanging toys that come with any of the activity gyms. They are colorful and feature lots of interesting textures, sounds, and mini-activities to engage baby. Attach them to your stroller, carseat, or activity gym. Freddie the Firefly seems to be the most popular, but we also love Jacques the Peacock and Mortimer the Moose.
Most of the car seat attachments we’ve seen feature obnoxious colors and lights. This car seat attachment from HABA is attractive and unobtrusive, while still providing plenty of stimulation for babya. It is soft, and features different textures a number of gentle noises and activities (e.g. bird has a rattle, leaves crinkle, snail squeaks, flower has a mini-mirror). In addition to putting it on your car seat handle, you can also wrap it around the top rail of your crib.
Pretty much anything that makes sounds or music is going to be a hit with babies at the later end of this age range. Bonus points for anything that makes music in response to an action from your baby (e.g. pressing a button, banging on something). And of course, the best musical toys are those that aren’t too annoying to Mom & Dad. Here are a few of our favorites:
We’ve never met a baby that did not absolutely LOVE this electronic music box*. It plays a range of not-too-irritating classical tunes (so you’ll be able to stand it too), and teaches Baby cause and effect. What are you doing still reading this? Don’t even think about it — just get it. 🙂
It’s never too early to start reading to your little one. Books with bright colors and characters and very simple storylines are best to start out. Of course, the most important thing is really that whoever is reading to the baby is motivated to read the material repeatedly with baby — so feel free to select whatever books you think the reader will most enjoy!
Look, Look!, $4
Look, Look! is our favorite black-and-white/high-contrast book for newborns. The illustrations are beautiful, and babies can’t help but stare raptly at the pages. It’s a board book, so you can read it to baby in the traditional way, or prop it up alongside him in the crib, etc.
This line of Lamaze cloth books is chock full of different colors, sounds, and textures for baby to explore. Panda’s Pals is chock full of high-contrast black-and-white and color images, while How Do I Feel? features more color and introduces basic emotions. These books are great for keeping baby occupied during tummy time or a car ride; also, because they are soft, you don’t need to worry about baby hurting herself with it.
Can’t get enough of the Skip Hop Treetop Friends line? Neither can we. This well made soft activity book features an owl that pops out of a felt egg, a leaf-shaped plastic bookmark/chew toy, and more.
Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
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