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Smartest Baby Toys: How to Hedge Your Bets and Purchase a Winner

Are you feeling lucky, Punk Parent? Because you’re about to partake in the annual gambling festival of toy shopping!

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.”my own room,” “a pet tiger, ” “different sibling”).

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.

At the bottom of this article, I’ve provided two ways to help you hedge your baby toy shopping bets.

But first, let me show some of the award-winning, innovative, and highly-parent-rated baby toys that increase the odds of opening up a “play until it wears out” winner.

Smartest Baby Toys for 0-3 Month Olds

1.  Obie Rollie Rattles by Mary Meyer
2.  B Hug Links by Toysmith
3.  Treetop Friends Activity Mat by SkipHop
4.  Bandana Buddies by SkipHop
5.  Firefly Frog by Cloudb
6.  Big Red Rocket by Uncle Milton; Pretty Rainbow, Happy Moon, Sunny Smiles
7. Nogginsticks by SmartNoggin
8. Sit-Me-Up Floor Seat by Fisher Price
9.  Babyplay Tummy Time Mat by Mamas and Papas
10.  Sunny Day Activity Book by Manhattan Toy

Smartest Baby Toys for 3-6 Month Olds

1.  Flapping Fish by Melissa and Doug
2.  Baby Snug and Activity Tray by Mamas and Papas
3.  Color Flap Mirror by Melissa and Doug
4.  Crumble Bear Lovey by Mamas and Papas
5. Squeakers by Liliputiens
6.  Hide and Spin Monkey by Bright Starts
7.  Owl, Fox, or Racoon Wobble Toys by O Kid
8.  Amazing Animals Whirling Round Squirt by Fisher Price
9.  Little Superstar Step ‘n Play Piano by Fisher Price
10.  In My Tree Boardbook

Smartest Baby Toys for 6-9 Month Olds

1.  pipSquigz by Fat Brain Toys
2.  Snuggle Pod by Manhattan Toys
3.  Laugh & Learn Storytime Rhymes Book by Fisher Price
4.  Cosmic Bead Activity Toy by Manhattan Toys
5.  Tale of Sir Prance-a-Lot Cloth Book by Lamaze
6.  Eric Carle’s Stackable Blocks by Kids Preferred
7.  Ball Track Roll ‘n Roll ‘n Roll by Haba
8.  Earthworms by Begin Again
9.  Tree Top Adventure by Manhattan Toys
10.  Dino Nubble Rumblers by Begin Again

Smartest Baby Toys for 9-12 Month Olds

1.  Forest Friends Shape Sorter by Early Years
2.  Skwish Stix by Manhattan Toys
3.  Float and Play Bubbles by Munchkin
4.  Turtle Shape Sorter Pull Toy by Hape
5.  Pop Pop Piano by Mirari
6.  Franky the Hanky Whale by Tomy
7.  Lift the Flap Board Books
8.  Bounce, Ride, and Stride Elephant by Fisher Price
9.  Wooden Building Blocks by Boikido’s
10.  Slide and Seek Safari by Melissa and Doug

Smartest Baby Toys for 12-24 Month Olds

1.  Zig-Zag Xylo Train by Mirari
2.  Ride-On by Spherovelo
3.  My First Pyramid Stacker by Fisher Price
4.  Everywhere Play Mat City by Prince Lionheart
5.  Smart Wheels Spinning Spiral Tower Playset by Vtech
6.  Bouncy Bop Shape Sorter by Mirari
7.  Princess Rosalina Play Tent by Haba, Pirate’s Treasure Play Tent
8.  Amazing Roller Derby Rolling Maze by Hape
9.  The Balance Boat:  Endangered Animals Game by Begin Again
10.  Zoo Faces:  A Book of Masks

 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.

Have you tried any of these toys? What did your baby think of them?

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7 thoughts on “Smartest Baby Toys: How to Hedge Your Bets and Purchase a Winner

  1. I am a grandmother of a two year old little girl. I find she likes speak and spell, learning tables, and plush  learning toys.

  2. We got Screamy Smurf the Noggin Stick last Christmas when he was 4 months. He still carries it around at 15 months. There has been something for every stage of development. Batteries are a little pricey, but worth it in the long run. In fact, we love it so much that we sometimes buy them for the children’s hospitals & peds units in our area.

    1. That’s awesome TJ! Not only that it’s still a favorite toy – but that you can share his favorite toy with other kids who could use some encouragement and playful distraction. Bless you!

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