Toys are an integral part of the development of children. But choosing the right ones that are suitable for babies can be a real challenge. To help you out, here’s our list of the best toys for babies ages 0-12 months.
There are hundreds of thousands of children’s toys in the Australian market, making it difficult to choose which ones to buy – more so if you are buying for a baby. You have to consider not only the age but their developmental stage as well. Meaning, that you have to factor in your child’s needs, capabilities, behaviour, and skills as this will affect your child’s way of interacting or enjoying a toy.
Sounds complicated, we know. So to help you out, our resident toy design experts spent many hours looking through several toy retailers in Australia, including Boon, Rugabub, Wee Gallery, and Manhattan Toy Company. We also scoured through leading online marketplaces like Amazon, Catch.com.au, eBay, and Etsy to put together a list of the best toys for sensory play, building neck/core strength, developing vision, motor skills, and tummy time.
The toys included in this list are all guaranteed suitable for babies 0-12 months old. We have carefully chosen each product based on its usefulness and effectiveness in helping babies as they go through different developmental stages in their first year of life – of course, while making sure they have lots of fun.
The Best Toys for Your Baby
- Best for Cause and Effect: Boon Cogs Water Gears
- Best for Building Neck/Core Strength: Foam Reversible Playmat
- Best for Developing Vision: Colourful Baby Beads
- Best for Visual Development: Soft Book
- Best for Motor Skills: Foam Ball Pit
- Best for Tummy Time: Waterfilled Playmat
1. Best for Critical Thinking: Boon Cogs Water Gears
The Boon Cogs Water Gears is the perfect toy for your baby to develop their vision, hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and motor skills – all while having fun during bath time. It includes 5 colourful cogs in different sizes, which can be used individually or linked together to create a chain of spinning gears.
This toy is recommended for ages 12 months old and up. However, it’s also suitable for 9-month-old babies or those that can already sit steadily without support for long periods of time while taking a bath. For older children, consider getting the Boon Cogs Water Gears with the Boon Pipes and Tubes as it will be more enjoyable as they build more extensive and complex variations.
We highly recommend this toy to parents who want to make bath times more fun while introducing their babies to mechanics and fluid dynamics. Yep, it is never too early for STEM learning. It supports fine and gross motor skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving. It is also great for their creativity.
Even better, this toy is affordable, durable, and perfectly safe. So make sure to check it out!
2. Best for Building Neck/Core Strength: Foam Reversible Playmat
The Foam Reversible Playmat by Rugabub provides your little one with a safe space to lie down, explore, and play while developing their neck and core strength. It also gives them cushioning during tummy time, practicing crawling, rolling, standing up, and eventually when they become more mobile. This makes those falls, bumps, and oopsies easier for your baby.
A playmat is recommended for babies 3 months old or when they start spending time on their tummies. Since this is the kind of toy that grows with a child, it can also be used even after your baby learns to sit up and walk. It is reversible (double-sided) and one of its sides has a minimal road map design that older kids can play with using their toy cars.
If you are looking for a play mat for your baby, we can’t recommend this product enough. It is made of 100% non-toxic material and perfectly safe for babies.
The best part is, that not only can the Foam Reversible Playmat help with your little one’s essential skill development, but it is incredibly stylish as well. Its other side has a warm, neutral two-tone weave design that goes well with your home decor! Order now and see it for yourself.
3. Best for Developing Vision: Colourful Baby Beads
The Classic Baby Beads by Manhattan Toy is a great sensory toy that captures a child’s attention through its vibrant and contrasting colours. It stimulates their visual interest while at the same time developing their motor skills and hand-eye coordination as they try to manipulate it in different configurations.
This toy is suitable for babies 3 months and up, which is just about the time they can grasp and reach. It is made with all-natural rubberwood beads and treated with baby-safe water-based acrylics, so it is also great for babies who started chewing.
We highly recommend this toy for helping babies improve their grasping, pulling, twisting, and more. It’s also perfect for letting your little one experience cause and effect.
We like that this toy is very well made. It is resistant to chipping and splintering, making it as safe and durable as every toy for babies should be. So if you are looking for a quality and functional toy for your little one, make sure to check it out!
4. Best for Visual Development: Soft Book
The Wee Gallery Friendly Faces In The Wild Cloth Book is the perfect first book for your baby as it encourages vision development. While it may look simple for adults, its black and white images can help develop their optic nerves and cognitive skills without making them feel over-stimulated.
This soft book is a great way to introduce your baby to books and reading. It’s ideal for babies 0-4 months old. Then as your child grows older, it will be easier for you to start introducing them to books with stories and more colours.
It’s never too early to expose your baby to their first book and if you’re looking for the right one, we can’t recommend this enough. Its beautiful illustrations of a bear, toucan, elephant, tiger, lion, and crocodile are designed especially to aid your baby’s visual development.
The best part? This toy is long-lasting and gives you an excellent opportunity to bond and interact with your precious little one. By showing the pictures and describing what you see, you can help them develop their social and language skills during those early weeks of their life. So buy it now!
5. Best for Motor Skills: Foam Ball Pit
This Foam Ball Pit from Amazon provides a soft, safe, and comfortable area for your baby to play with hundreds of balls while at the same time helping them develop their skills. It encourages movement, improving their hand-eye coordination, motor skills, and vision.
We recommend this toy for babies ages 0 months and up. You can start with fewer balls at first and add more as they grow. For older children, you can put as many as 500 balls inside. You can also set up a slide or an obstacle course with it to promote their skills even more.
Foam ball pits can help develop your baby’s hands, fingers, and wrists in coordination with their eyes. Not only that, but it also exposes them to a unique sensory experience, allowing them to throw, roll, grab, and catch. Soon, they will also start to count and sort the balls as they play.
But the best part about foam ball pits is that they are incredibly fun and can be enjoyed by your whole family. So make sure to check it out!
6. Best for Tummy Time: Waterfilled Playmat
A Waterfilled Playmat is perfect for your baby’s tummy time, which is vital to their development. It can help strengthen the muscles on their backs and chest as well as their arms and legs, preparing them for crawling and rolling over.
This toy is recommended for babies between 3-12 months. However, it’s still plenty of fun for kids older than this as they try to capture 6 of the floating toys inside.
We highly recommend getting a waterfilled playmat for your baby since it not only strengthens their muscles but it can also enhance their motor, cognitive, and sensory skills. It is visually fascinating with colorful shapes and images. Plus, it helps develop their hand-eye coordination while they’re trying to catch or hold the little animals inside the mat.
To top it all off, this toy is 100% safe and suitable for babies. It is lead-free, BPA-free, phthalate-free, and non-toxic. So order it today and make your baby’s tummy time more fun and entertaining.
How We Researched the Best Toys for Your Baby
We draw on our extensive toy design experience along with scientific studies and guides on toy safety and selection to make sure we are shortlisting only the very best toys you can find in Australia.
That said, we scoured big and small toy retailers in the country to find the best baby toys in the market. We then made a list of all those we think babies can benefit most from and determine which of them is at the top in their category.
Aside from their educational value, we also considered the functionality, quality, material, design and aesthetics, value for money, and versatility. But most all, since we’re looking for the best toys for babies, we gave high importance to their safety.
For this list, we initially identified over 43 different toys from 20 retailers. After much consideration, we were then able to cut it down to the final 6 you see on the list.
So all the toys we’ve included are truly the best for your baby.
What to Look for When Buying Toys for Your Baby
When buying toys, especially for babies, safety should be your priority. Since they tend to put everything they touch in their mouths, you want to make sure that the toys you will be getting are large enough to be swallowed. Skip anything smaller than your baby’s mouth as it can be a choking hazard. You should also avoid toys that have small detachable pieces like batteries or magnets.
Aside from the size, you should also look at the materials used and always check the labels or manuals. According to a study, toys made up of cloth or wood are better choices. Moreover, choose toys with no sharp edges or projections.
Many toys can help with children’s development. However, not all of them are appropriate for your child’s age.
Getting your child a toy that’s not suitable for their age can make them feel overwhelmed, or in the case of babies, over-stimulated. This is because they can be too advanced for their current developmental stage. They may also not show interest in the toy as it is beyond the age recommendation.
If you are having trouble determining whether a toy is suitable for your child, you can first check the manufacturer’s age recommendation. You can also read this research, which helps parents evaluate age-appropriate toys for their children.
As a parent, it’s understandable that you’d want toys that can help your baby meet their milestones, something that can help in their development. But you should also make sure that you’re not choosing something too advanced and challenging. So once you’ve determined the milestones your child needs to meet, it will be easier for you to find toys that are right for your child based on their age.
A toy’s features are one of the most important things you should look for as they will have the biggest effect on the development of your child’s abilities and skills. For instance, toys with features that encourage hand movements can help with their motor skills. Colourful toys can also help with their vision and different textures with their senses.
Another important thing to look for in toys for babies is their simplicity. Generally, the simpler the toy, the longer it can last. This is because it has fewer parts, thus, fewer things that could get damaged or destroyed. This also makes it safer, since there will be no small parts that your child can accidentally swallow.
Aside from being more durable, simple toys offer more versatility. The classic colourful beads, for example, can start as a toy your child holds. In the next month, it can be something they throw and soon, something that they can use for make-believe play.
Grows with Your Baby
Surely, you don’t want to end up with a toy that your baby will play with for one to two days and never touch again, right? So as much as possible, try to look for toys that your child can still enjoy at different developmental stages.
For instance, a ball pit is incredibly fun for kids of all ages. You can just add balls or other features such as a slide or obstacle course to make it more fun and challenging as your child grows. Another example is a playmat. Not only is it great for tummy time for babies, but it’s perfect for playtime as well when they grow a little older.
Benefits of Babies Playing with Toys
From a study, “The basic function of plays is to facilitate children’s adaptation to the world. Children can understand the real world by playing.” So rather than reading, listening, and understanding, it is through playing that children learn the most. It’s also said to contribute to their creativity, personality development, mental health, moral development, and problem solving.
By allowing your child to play with toys, you can help them experience the world, practice new skills, and internalize new ideas. Moreover, you are exposing them to a continuous and expanding process of learning.
Fine and Gross Motor Skills
While it may look simple for adults, a toy can assist your baby in progressing through the many phases of their physical growth. When kids grab and hold a toy, they are honing their fine and gross motor skills while improving their hand-eye coordination. They can practice various fundamental movements and develop their muscles when they try raising, navigating, or manipulating a toy.
Why is it important to buy toys that help with motor skills? Well, according to a study, early motor training has lasting effects on a child’s exploration and attention skills. And by encouraging early motor skills in infants, you can influence their subsequent development and learning later on.
Toys offer many opportunities for children to practice different thinking skills or their ability to process information to understand how the world works, says a special education teacher expert. This includes cause and effect, imitation, symbolic thinking, and problem-solving.
When you roll a ball, for instance, it’s highly likely that your child will imitate you and learn to roll the ball on their own. And pretty soon, they will be able to discover a ball’s other abilities and the different things they can do to it, such as tossing, bouncing, and kicking.
Physical activity and exercise are vital for kids. Yes, even for babies. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, daily physical activity should be promoted from birth. It promotes gross motor development, cardiovascular health, and healthy bone development. It also improves fitness, sleep, mood, and sense of well-being.
One of your baby’s first workouts, and the most important, is tummy time. It helps them build the muscles on their head, neck, arm, back, and chest. This then prepares them for rolling over, crawling, and sitting up. Unfortunately, many babies don’t particularly like to lie on their stomachs.
The good news is, that you can still encourage physical activity and exercise for your little one through the help of some carefully selected toys, such as the waterfilled playmat and soft books. These toys can make tummy time more fun and enjoyable for your little one.
Toys and books are one of the most useful and effective ways to stimulating your little one’s vision development – which plays a vital role in the development of their brains. See, it is through their eyes that children interact with the world. It helps them interpret their surroundings and establish bonds with the people around them. Not only that, but it is also through sight that children can develop their balance and motor skills.
For infants or those between 0 to 4 months, soft books like the Wee Gallery Friendly Faces In The Wild Cloth Book are great for stimulating their vision. The reason for this is that black and white pictures with contrasting patterns or images are easier for them to focus on, according to experts.
Even with all the research and benefits of toys for babies, it’s important to remember that no toy can take the place of interacting and spending time with your child – which is why we considered toys that you can use and play with together.