Are you feeling lucky,
Punk Parent? Because you’re about to partake in the annual gambling festival of shopping for the smartest baby toys!
Let’s just admit something upfront.
Toy shopping for older kids is actually fun. They create their cute little “Santa Lists” and you go through with the red-pen-of-death and decide which requests are reasonable (e.g. “a Lego playset”) and which earn a chuckle and a cross-out (e.g. “a pet tiger, ” “different sibling”).
How to Pick Out the Smartest Baby Toys
Toy shopping for a baby or toddler, though…that’s a gamble. After all, he can’t tell you, “Mom, I’d really enjoy a Nubble Rumbler.” You have to guess.
The good news is that even if you guess wrong, your baby will enjoy tearing off the paper and playing with the box. The bad news is that if that happens, you’ve just flushed $30 down the toilet and earned an extra errand to Goodwill.
The secret is to match those toys with the skills you know your baby is interested in tackling right now.
What are those skills, you may ask? Let me tell you!
It can often feel silly purchasing toys for newborns. After all, it doesn’t seem like there’s much going on in those short spurts of wakefulness.
Au contraire mon frère!
There is a TON of neuron activity going on at this age. (Which is part of the reason your baby sleep so much!) Here are some of the skills he’ll be practicing at this age:
- Tracking objects with both eyes
- Opening his fist and gripping objects
- Lifting head to strengthen the neck
- Mimicking facial expressions
- Showing interest in black and white patterns
- Learning how to self-soothe
Here are some award-winning toys that will help him practice these important milestone skills!
The Smartest Baby Toys for 0-3 Months
Somewhere between three and six months you’re going to see the newborn fade to the background and the baby to giggle towards the front. This is such a fun age of exploration!
Here are the skills your child will be working on at this age. Match them with the toys below and you’re guaranteed a toy winner!
- Moving her head side to side while on tummy
- Swiping at objects with her hands
- Reaching out and grabbing things
- Bouncing when sitting
- Moving objects from one hand to the other
The Smartest Baby Toys for 3-6 Months
This is around the age where your baby really starts to get more active. There’s a whole world out there for him to explore!
- Pretend play (dolls, trucks, etc.)
- Slithering on the tummy or crawling
- Grasping things firmly on his own (like which way the binky goes)
- Making noises by banging objects together
- Turning pages and lifting flaps
Let him improve his fine motor skills (think finger grasps) and the gross motor skills (think arms and legs) with award-winning toys like these.
The Smartest Baby Toys for 6-9 Months
Your little one is getting close to that iconic first birthday! Here are the skills that she will love practicing the most!
- Putting things inside other things (and taking them out again)
- Stacking objects (and then knocking them down)
- Opening and shutting things
- Cruising around the furniture
- Clapping and dancing
- Mimicking Mom and Dad
If you want to get the most for your hard-earned buck, choose toys that will give her ample opportunity to practice. Toys like these.
The Smartest Baby Toys for 9-12 Months
The first birthday party is over and your baby is quickly moving toward toddlerdom. Isn’t amazing how much she’s changed! Let’s keep that healthy growth going with toys that sneak her into learning.
- Throwing balls
- Scribbling with large crayons
- Walking and pushing (or pulling) things
- Pointing at objects in books
- Cause and effect (put the ball here…it rolls there!)
Here are the toys that will best fit that developmental bill.
The Smartest Baby Toys for 12-24 Months
Two Ways to Hedge Your Baby Toy Shopping Bets
Trust Me: Ignore “Recommended Age”
I’ve found the “recommended age” to be too vague to be practically helpful. Even if it says for 6+ months, some five-month-olds may be skillfully ready for that toy. (If you don’t know what skills your baby’s brain is working on, The Milestone Marker can help!)
The one age-phrase I ALWAYS listen to is the “not for children under three”. That means there are small parts in the toy that can be choked on. Never purchase a toy with small parts for a young child. If you have older kids in the house, create “baby-free” zones so your older kids can enjoy those toys without endangering your little explorer.
By letting your baby’s current development (and not a box label) be your guide, you’re more likely to find a good toy match.
They Win Awards for a Reason
Another great smart-shopping technique is to look for those toys who have been given awards and highly rated by other parents. These are the “tells” of a good purchase.
I take several weeks to do all kinds of toy research and uncover the award-winners and highly-rated parent toys that greatly increase your chances of selecting a winner.
The Smartest Baby Toys are the Ones That Get Used
I know there’s a lot of pressure out there to pick the right toy for your baby, but I’m here to say (as a mother of older children) that your decision here isn’t going to determine whether or not an Ivy League College comes knocking.
That expensive wooden toy is worthless if your baby refuses to play with it.
On the other hand, that expensive tech toy is worthless if you end up throwing it against the wall because it won’t. stop. beeping.
So resist the temptation to follow trends and choose the toys that you think your child will actually play with. Those are going to be the smartest baby toys. Trust me, that baby brain is going to find ways to grow!
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