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List of Best Educational Learning Toys for Babies in the First Year

Updated on May 30, 2017

Best baby educational toys for the first year

Do babies need toys? My husband doesn't think so. After all, babies can't and don't seem to do much besides eating, sleeping and wetting diapers, do they?

Well, of course babies don't need toys the way they need food, love, protection and attention. Obviously, babies under one year old don't play with toys the way a three-year-old does, but that doesn't mean that babies this age don't enjoy or aren't intellectually stimulated by educational or learning toys. As a matter of fact, I believe that appropriate toys for babies in this age group are beneficial to and can help aid their development.

There is one important thing I would like to emphasize at this point: the absolute best "toy" for any baby is the parent. No developmental or educational toy can beat time spent cuddling, singing to, and playing with your baby. That said, developmental toys, when chosen wisely, do offer intellectual, social and physical stimulation for babies.

Baby is learning

Choosing and Maintaining Baby Toys

Choosing the right toy

One can easily get overwhelmed when trying to choose the right toys from literally thousands of toys available in the market today.  Most toys today are battery (sold separately)-operated, complex gadgets, all touted as educational, learning toys.  So how do you choose? 

I think parents can start with buying just one or two toys from each type of toys I have listed below.  A collection of toys from the list should meet most of your baby's developmental needs and provide hours of active play and fun-based learning.  In addition, when shopping for the right toy, there are a few things to look for.  For newborns whose eyesight and focus aren't yet very well developed, choose high contrast colors such as black, white and red.  For older babies, look for bold, primary colors.  Some people may prefer natural materials such as fabric and wood as opposed to plastic.  Perhaps the most important factor to consider is safety.  Make sure that toys for this age group contain no small parts, strings, and lead paint or other toxic materials.  Read the box and make sure the toy is for your baby's age group.  Check for sturdiness and durability and inspect toys from time to time after purchase.

Note: For the sake of convenience, the masculine pronoun is used throughout this article.


A mobile provides visual and auditory stimulation to babies.  Most mobiles come with a music box that plays a soft lullaby that can soothe a baby and lull him to sleep.  Babies are also enthralled and entertained by the movement of the mobile and will later enjoy reaching for and batting at the moving mobile.


For infants who cannot yet hold a rattle, a wrist and/or ankle rattle works best as stimulating sounds are made with the baby's own movements.  A regular rattle is an inexpensive and useful learning toy that parents can use to play and interact with the baby.  Try holding a rattle in front of the baby and move it from side to side.  The baby will try to track it with his eyes.  Shake it for the baby and he will try to reach for it.  Great fun!

Never can have too many of these

Cloth books

It is never too early to begin reading to your baby.   In fact, you really should read to your baby from day one.  "Taggie" books offer different textured ribbons and loopy tags around the edges for babies to touch and explore.   Many cloth books are highly interactive with Velcro, zipper, squeaker, peek-a-boo flaps and such to keep curious little hands and minds busy.

Baby mirror

Babies love faces! They love your face and are fascinated by their own reflections in a mirror. Touch and name your baby's facial features to help your baby understand that who he or she is seeing in the mirror is him or herself! Mirrors can serve as a social tool as babies learn to make silly faces or practice their smiles. Make sure the mirror is unbreakable.

Nesting and stacking cups

This, in my opinion, is a highly educational toy.  Babies practice their fine motor skills trying to stack up the cups and have even more fun knocking them down.  Turn the cups upside down for nesting.  Babies get to experiment and discover that bigger cups don't fit into smaller cups and so forth.  Additionally, since the cups come in varying sizes, babies can learn to differentiate and sort the cups from biggest to smallest (or vice versa), which is a basic pre-math skill.

Play mats, Activity centers and Baby gyms

As the baby grows and becomes more mobile and active, play mats, activity centers and baby gyms are excellent toys to have.  Play mats are wonderful for tummy time when babies get to explore fun things at the ground level.  Baby gyms and activity centers have all kinds of colorful, dangling toys to encourage babies to practice their kicks and swats and reward successful kicks with lights and music, which at this age, is also great for introducing the concept of cause and effect.

Soft, textured plush animals or dolls

Plush and dolls can often serve as a lovey or as psychologists call them, "transitional objects".  Not only are dolls cute, cuddly and comforting, but also they can be instructional when parents use them to role-play appropriate behaviors such as gently and lovingly patting the doll or pretending to feed the doll veggies.


Balls should also be a basic staple in a baby's toy collection. Balls can be bounced, kicked, rolled, and tossed. Have fun playing catch with your baby!

The list above, I believe, is the bare minimum. There are many other excellent toys parents can buy that are developmentally appropriate for this age group such as baby blocks, push and pull toys, and sorters. I am repeating myself, but this cannot be emphasized enough -- whatever toy you decide to buy for your precious ones, in the end, you, the parent, spending time playing with your baby will help your baby with his or her intellectual, social, and emotional development more than any toy from any manufacturer can.


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    • profile image

      Donna 6 years ago

      In the picture above (baby with a purple and pink toy in his/her mouth, the other toy in the pictures is what I've been searching for a long while. It's a very well sewn toy with tags all over in bright colors. Does anyone know the maker of the toy, or where I can get one just like it? Thanks in advance.

    • milenaamr profile image

      milenaamr 7 years ago

      Nice hub. Very informative. My boy prefer the remote control over the mobile. It is strange that all kids want to play with the forbidden objects. Thanks for the hub.

    • Anolinde profile image

      Anolinde 8 years ago

      Thanks for your comment, Journey. Cloth books are great! My daughter really liked playing with and chewing them when she was a baby :)

    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou MPH 8 years ago from USA

      I like the idea of the cloth books. I never thought of getting those before. This is a great article. Thanks for the info.