Baby & Toddler Toys: Highlights from our Holiday Gift Guide
Unlike shopping for older kids, shopping for babies and toddlers comes with one built-in problem: they can’t TELL you what they want. Luckily, as long as you select a gift for the right developmental stage, they’ll almost certainly enjoy it (and will learn key skills through play, as well). Here’s a brief cheat sheet to what to get for the newest kids on the block this holiday, divvied up by stage.
At this stage, your baby is just adjusting to the world outside of Mom. Initially, she won’t be able to focus on anything farther than 8-12 inches away; faces will intrigue her, as will high-contrast black-and-white patterns. She’ll also enjoy swiping at and trying to reach and grab dangling items. Tummy time will also be key for muscular development, helping to exercise baby’s head, neck, and shoulder muscles.
The Skip Hop Explore & More Amazing Baby Arch merges a few of these activities together: it has dangling toys to grab, a mirror for baby to gaze at herself in, and an adjustable arch that positions activities right in front of your baby to keep her amused during tummy time. Coolest of all, there’s a pocket to stick in your phone and record baby’s expression, or let her “converse” with a friend or relative.
Other great gift ideas: Manhattan Toy Mind-Shapes utilize the power of black-and-white contrast to entertain your baby, and each shape fascinates babies by making a different sound (jingles, rattles, crinkles); the classic Manhattan Toy Winkel rewards your baby’s attempts at grabbing by being easy to grasp, and will be irresistible to chew when her teeth start coming in (you can even refrigerate it!); and the Lamaze Flip-Flap Dragon will keep her entertained on the go with sensory stimulation.
By this point, tummy time exercise is paying off, and she can lift her head and chest, shake toys, and babble in imitation of you. Cute!
Reading her board books will be a fun way to bond, and the repetition of early-reader books helps to reinforce early understanding of language. Plus, lots of board books, like the Jellycat If I Were A Puppy book, have fun tactile and role-playing elements – along with tactile panels, this book has a wagging tail!
She’s also getting better at manipulating objects, and toys like the Skip Hop Bandana Buddies Activity Animals will be plenty of fun, with textures, rattles, crinkles, and patterns to explore. When her teeth start coming in, the removable “bandana” teether is removable and will come in very handy!
By six months, you’ll be amazed at how fast she’s picking up skills; she can hold her head up, roll over, and sit up, and she’ll be learning to pivot to reach items that interest her. It’s about time to start scooting, and then crawling, and by the end of this stage, she’ll be starting to learn how to feed herself. Her first words will be on their way as well.
Being a little higher off the ground makes it the perfect time for her to start her first experiments with stacking, and the Earlyears Squeak ‘n Stack Blocks will capture your baby’s attention with bright colors and embossed pictures. The Earlyears My First Construction Set is also a great pick for this age: babies will love dumping all of the items out of the storage bag and sticking them back in again, and each item rewards further experimentation with sound effects, mirrors, squeakers, and more.
The Haba Magica Clutching Toy will also be super-fun for her to grasp and gnaw on, and the tough natural finish is made to withstand teeny teeth.
Ok, now your baby is really moving: she can stand and walk, push and pull, and snuggle a doll, and she’s going to begin to enjoy mimicking you (which makes it a great idea to substitute a Mirari MyPhone Play Phone for the real thing). She’ll enjoy scooting along a Kid O Go Car, and will enjoy pounding activities like the Educo Early Melodies Pound and Tap Bench, which rewards her efforts in pounding balls through holes with a musical salute! There are plenty of other ways for curious toddlers to play with this toy, too: they can experiment with notes on the xylophone, roll and chew on the balls, and, when they’re ready, begin sorting by color and counting.
The HaPe Walk Along Snail Shape Sorter is another fave for this stage of toddlerhood: early walkers will love how when they pull their little snail pal along, his eyes wiggle and his shells rattle. And the Snail doubles as a shape-sorter, allowing the wooden shapes to be inserted vertically or horizontally.
Your fully-fledged toddler is now ready to play alone for limited periods of time, and will love immersing herself in pretend-play with dolls and stuffed pals; dolls like the Kidoozie Cozy Cutie will make great companions and encourage realistic imitative play (she wants to be just like you!). Since stacking is still definitely on the agenda, the Djeco Topanifarm set is also a great pick – each block comes with an animal friend, for pretend-play as well as stacking play!
This is also a great stage for early ride-ons: a Rody Ride-On Inflatable Horse looks super-festive next to a Christmas tree, and will result in many hours of incredible cuteness!
You’ll find all of these items and many more great gifts on the shelves of every Magic Beans store, and if you’re not sure which one is the right fit for a precious loved one, ask us! Christmas is almost here, but we can still do last-minute consultations to help you zoom through your last few emergency gifts. Finally, for gift-buying tips any time of year, consult our Toys for All Ages & Stages Buying Guide – it’s a great cheat sheet for friends, grandparents, aunts n’ uncles, and other folks who want to outfit a beloved child with a gift they’ll love.
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