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Best Toys for 8-12 month-old babies

Updated on August 18, 2011

Every parent knows that some toys are simply better than others. They are constructed better, they hold the babies interest longer, they provide more stimulation. Until they are about 6-8 months old, a baby's toys are pretty straightforward. Simple, elegant, makes a bit of noise, the baby likes it (I might recommend a few Baby Einstein toys is pretty much all you need). But, once they get a bit older and more aware, more able to manipulate objects and experience them, toy choice becomes a bit more complex. However, there are so many different kinds of toys out there, that if you’re not careful, you could be overrun by cheap-plastic, furry animals, and blinking lights, 90% of which your baby doesn’t even touch. If you could only buy 5 toys, the below list could keep your baby occupied for the majority of his/her play time. Seriously, there’s no need to be over-run with baby toys, just choose diversity, simplicity, and wisely. Plus, it's better for the environment to have less plastic clutter. Of course, others will disagree, and have many other things to add to the list, but hopefully this top 5 will be helpful for novices to baby-toy purchases.

1. Stacking cups. It’s amazing that such a simple toy with simple design can keep babies interested. But, it works. Our little boy was mesmerized by these for months. Took them everywhere he went, would sit for hours playing with them, either by himself or with others. The have cool colors, are great for stacking, can make loud noises. You name it, these little stacking cups can do it all! A particular favorite seems to be the Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Stack & Roll Cups. They have the added bonus of not only stacking, but can be formed into cool balls to roll around and throw.

2. Baby Jumper. Two of the most popular seem to be the many various types of Jumperoo’s by Fisher-Price or the Musical Motion Activity Jumper by Baby Einstein. There are several other brands as well. Frankly, it probably doesn’t matter which one you get as long as it is sturdy, is height-adjustable, and has some cool stuff to play with while jumping around. Most of the details of what it looks and sounds like are probably more for the adults than for the babies. Just make sure there’s lots of great stuff to grab and pull on, and bounces well, and you’re set.

3. Baby Einstein Take-Along-Tunes. This is one where I think a specific product is the best, even though there are others in the genre. There are lots of little hand-hold electronic noise-makers marketed to babies, but this seems to be among the best for babies and their parents alike. Although it’s fine for babies as young as a few months, it seems to just get more-and-more popular as the baby gets older and better able to interact with his/her environment. As a huge bonus, the music it plays doesn’t seem to get old (and rotates through several classic tunes) despite constant play, which is much more than can be said for most electronic noise making baby toys.

4. Stuffed animals. Of course, this is an obvious one, and I’m sure most babies have way more than they’ll ever play with (seems to be a very common gift). The world of stuffed toys is huge, but the LeapFrog my pals (Scout and Violet) are popular, provide both the comfort of a stuff animal and the sounds and stimulation of a more active toy. Certainly, the ability of these animals to learn your child’s name, favorite food, and color—via a USB cord attached to your computer ——is a nice, if not totally necessary, touch.

5. Whatever you happen to have on hand that can’t be swallowed or broken. Babies love to play with whatever you have. For example, if you’re in the kitchen cooking, give them a spatula and pot to play with; if you’re in a restaurant, the ketchup bottle is always a fun toy (be careful with the glass ones). One of our baby’s favorite toys is my iPhone. Of course, if you’re going to do this, an Otter-box is pretty useful at keeping out most of the drool. And, as an added bonus, a cranky baby is often subdued by watching Baby Einstein videos on YouTube or iTunes.

Of course, it might be nice to have a few other things around. Perhaps some bath toys, outdoor toys, and the like. But, seriously, there’s just no need for hundreds of dollars of baby toys lying around, most of which will simply gather dust. A few toys—diverse, stimulating to the senses (touch, sound, sight), and simple—is all that is needed for a happy, smart, and healthy baby.


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