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Best Fun and Educational Toys and Gifts for Infants & Toddlers

Updated on November 8, 2014
Original Altered Artwork © 2012-15. Created with Royalty Free images from
Original Altered Artwork © 2012-15. Created with Royalty Free images from | Source

The Best Educational Toys and Gifts are Appreciated by Babies and Parents

If you are shopping for educational toys for babies for a Baby Shower, Birthday, Christmas, Chanukah, or Valentine's Day gift, you've come to the right place. We can help you find the best gift at the best price for your son, daughter, grandchild, niece or nephew.

There are so many toys labeled "educational" available for newborns, infants, and toddlers today that the choice can be overwhelming. It can also be confusing to know what a young child will like and what gifts are best suited for each child's own developmental level.

That is why this gift guide was written in consultation with my partner, who is not only a wonderful parent, but also holds three masters degrees including one with triple certification in Education, and a Ph.D. in Psychology. So for those of you not fortunate enough to be married to an expert, I've provided information from her about what to look for according to developmental level, which may not match calendar age.

The gift items you'll find here were specifically and individually selected by both of us for their appropriateness, educational potential, and economical value.

Manufacturers list ages but calendar age may not match the developmental age of a child because children do not all develop at the same rate.

You want to buy a toy that matches a child's level of development. It should not be too complicated or complex since that will frustrate the child and the toy will be abandoned. On the other hand, if you choose a toy that is below a child's developmental level, the child will find it boring. The right gift should be just challenging enough, encourage mastery and, most importantly, it should be fun.

This gift guide is organized by age, but if the developmental level described at the beginning of each section does not describe your child, it is best to select a gift from the section that does.

Whatever your Child's Age, You Can't go Wrong with Music

Scientists are just beginning to discover the secrets that artists have always known. Music is powerful. It has the ability to communicate beyond language and studies have shown that it even enhances cognitive functioning.

Child's Celebration of Classical Music
Child's Celebration of Classical Music

A Child's Celebration of Classical Music is an interesting mix of silly songs and storytelling sessions with classical music providing background and characterization. According to Gina Boldman's review in the All Music Guide, "The best of these is David Bowie's "Peter and the Wolf" (though, at 27 minutes, some children might not keep interest); the worst is Carol Channing's unbearably perky "Gerald McBoing Boing." The Symfunny Orchestra's "Water Music," Danny Kaye's "Tubby the Tuba" and Bobby McFerrin's "Music Box" add charm to this collection, as does Meryl Streep and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's "Sleeping Beauty."


How to Choose Toys for Infants

Photo from the cover of What’s Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life, by Lise Eliot
Photo from the cover of What’s Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life, by Lise Eliot

The Best Educational Toys and Gifts for Ages Newborn to Six Months

In addition to bonding with their family and developing socially and emotionally, newborn babies are also developing cognitive abilities. Cognitive abilities are the actions or processes of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.

Newborns are learning to focus their vision, reach out, explore, and learn about their surroundings. The right toys can help them develop the skills they need to do this.

When you are shopping for a gift for infants you want to look for things that promote the ability to track objects visually, reach for and (over time) grasp objects, develop hand-eye coordination and that begin to teach basics like the recognition of colors, shapes and sounds.

Our Recommendations for the Youngest Amongst Us

Skip Hop Treetop Friends Activity Gym
Skip Hop Treetop Friends Activity Gym

Adorable, Activity Gym has soft patterned arches and a matching supportive Tummy Time pillow. 13 easy to hang loops and 5 hanging toys offer multi-sensory play for baby at every stage of development. A mirror and sounds on the mat surface add to the fun. Mirror Apple is baby safe with a tuggable stem. Chiming Owl's felt ruffled tummy encourages tactile play. Rattle Birdie has a see-through rattle and crinkle wings for sensory development. Nutty Squirrel is a soft and cuddly squeaker toy. Singing Birdie with a safe wooden teether and crinkle wings, plays sweet sounds.

How Babies Talk: The Magic and Mystery of Language in the First Three Years of Life
How Babies Talk: The Magic and Mystery of Language in the First Three Years of Life

Best Toys for the 6 to 12 Month Old Mover, Shaker, and Doer

The second half of the first year is an exciting time. Babies this age delight in having an effect on their world. They like to make things move and shake, grasp them and drop them, and have started to recognize sounds and voices and to babble in response.

This is the age for playing Peek-a-Boo and banging pots for the sheer fun of being able to make noise! Many babies will have taken their first steps prior to or shortly after their first birthday, although there can be a lot of variation in this milestone achievement.

When selecting toys for this age group, looks for toys the baby can interact with. There should be things to do: buttons to push that result in an action, objects to move and manipulate, and words and sounds to elicit and imitate.

Be careful though -- babies this age still like to put things in their mouths and as they become more mobile it is important to be sure that the house is safely child-proofed and that the toys you choose do not have any small parts that can be choking hazards.

Learning Activity Toys for Ages 6 Months +

Recommended by Parents and Professionals

Skwish Interactive Baby Toy
Skwish Interactive Baby Toy

Skwish from Imagine Toys

The colorful Skwish is one of the best learning toys for babies and toddlers. This squishy, bouncy, bendy learning toy appeals to a baby’s visual and tactile curiosity and helps develop motor skills, offers visual stimulation, and encourages exploration. Made from rubber wood with non-toxic water based finish. For ages 0 months+.

Imagine Toys Skwish $15.97


Eco-Friendly Shape Sorter
Eco-Friendly Shape Sorter

Eco-Friendly Shape Sorter

My First Shape Sorter
from Imagine Toys

The classic shape sorter with an eco-friendly spin from Green Toys has cutouts on the top and bottom for baby to slide the 8 shapes into. It opens with a simple twist to retrieve the shapes for more play or to put away for later.

This shape sorter helps develop shape and color recognition, hand-eye coordination, problem solving and motor skills. Made in the USA from food-safe, 100% recycled plastic milk jugs, Green Toys helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save energy while providing truly educational toys for tots. For ages 6 months and up.

Order Your Green Toys Shape Sorter Now

For Ages 9 Months +

Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn & Move Music Station
Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn & Move Music Station

Interactive Musical Toy Connects to the TV where baby's favorite characters come to life to encourage active learning. Baby can explore real instrument sounds and learn about colors, counting, animals, greetings and more. Five colorful piano keys and 3 'fun' inputs activate animations, music and learning via the TV, encouraging baby to be active while playing along to a wide variety of musical genres and having a lot of fun! Ages 9 month to 3 years. 36 months with 2 levels of play. IR device included.

 Teach Your Baby to Sign: An Illustrated Guide to Simple Sign Language for Babies
Teach Your Baby to Sign: An Illustrated Guide to Simple Sign Language for Babies

Best Educational Toys for 1-to-2-year-old + Children

The explorers, talkers, and walkers

The one-year-old can begin feeding herself, knows what she wants and can point to it, may have started saying a few words, and loves to "pretend" by copying what others in her world do.

Although it varies greatly, most babies will be able to stand up and get around the room by holding on to things or even walking about now.

During their second year, babies are learning to sort things into groups, put together things that go together, and recognize identifying characteristics of things. Memory is improving and babies this age enjoy interacting with adults and repetitive play.

When looking for toys, it is important to know that the one to two year old has increasing muscle control and loves turning knobs, pushing buttons, stacking things, making simple puzzles and looking at pictures in books. By the end of this year, she will have learned approximately 100 words and be able to begin communicating in baby sentences. He will be able scribble with a crayon or pencil, push and pull a toy, climb onto low furniture, run, and walk backwards.

Chicco Toys Smart Driver (Spanish / English)
Chicco Toys Smart Driver (Spanish / English)

The award-winning Chicco Smart Driver is a bilingual (English/Spanish) educational toy that helps develop language skills in a playful and stimulating way. Your child can discover a world of sounds, words and phrases that encourage language skills. Discover lovely new songs and friendly voices in another language. The Smart Driver features many realistic car sounds.Requires 2 AA 1.5 Batteries (Included).For Ages: 12 months & up.

Three Little Pigs Playset
Three Little Pigs Playset

Melissa & Doug Three Little Pigs Play Set

Storytelling playset includes three numbered soft fabric nesting houses with velcro type closures and a chimney for the wolf to "fall-through", three soft pigs that squeal when squeezed and a wolf that blows, plus a story card.

Perfect introduction to counting, color matching, imaginative play, storytelling, and more. Unbreakable, lightweight, and compact, this toy is easy to take along in the car, to a restaurant, or on longer trips. As children get older, they will love acting out the story and performing it for an audience of loved ones.

Easy grasp figures wipe clean. Ages 18 months+.

Order the Melissa & Doug 3 Little Pigs Play Set Now

Step2  Naturally Playful Lookout Treehouse
Step2 Naturally Playful Lookout Treehouse

The elevated Step2 Naturally Playful Lookout Treehouse features large, easy-to-climb steps and a fun slide. 19" high platform. Periscope (through roof) pivots 180 degrees. For ages 18 months - 5 years. Free Shipping.


Gifts that Encourage Exploration, Imagination and Physical Activity

For Babies Age 1 to 2 and Beyond

These toys encourage the development of motor skills and imaginative play, fostering creative exploration with cause and effect learning.

Step2 Naturally Playful Sand & Water Activity Center | Kids Sand & Water Table with Umbrella
Step2 Naturally Playful Sand & Water Activity Center | Kids Sand & Water Table with Umbrella

This sand and water table has one side for water and one for sand. Includes two bridges, ramps, cups, and boats. The included umbrella keeps the play table safely shaded from the sun, and the cover fastens on securely at night for protection against the elements. The lid also doubles as a track for cars! 21"H x 26"W x 46"D. For ages 2+.


These Books are Suitable for Pre-Readers and Early Readers

Infants will be soothed listening to a familiar voice read to them and showing them the pictures will help strengthen their eye muscles and coordination. One year olds will like to look at picture books by themselves as well as with an adult or older sibing.

Reading to young children will help them bond with the reader as well as help them learn to identify elements in the pictures and develop language skills. Turning the pages builds coordination.

Babies this age also enjoy repetition and will listen to and/or look at their favorites over and over again. Have patience. This is an essential part of their development and fosters mastery too. As your baby grows to toddler-hood, pre-K age and beyond, familiarity with books will provide a foundation for reading skills and success.

Alhough Kindle and electronic readers have a place in baby's learning and development, they cannot replace the tactile benefits and physical qualities of books for developmentally appropriate learning for the young child.

Board Books Can be "Read" by Babies Beginning about Age 12 Months

Board Books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Corduroy, Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?, Goodnight Moon, and The Snowy Day. Find these and more at
Board Books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Corduroy, Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?, Goodnight Moon, and The Snowy Day. Find these and more at | Source
The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask: The Best Answers to the Toughest, Smartest, and Most Awkward Questions Kids Always Ask
The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask: The Best Answers to the Toughest, Smartest, and Most Awkward Questions Kids Always Ask

Educational Toys and Games for the 3-to-4 year old

Three-year-olds have longer attention spans, are beginning to understand notions of time (past, present, future) and space (near, far). They are starting to differentiate between real and pretend.

Three and four-year-olds understand the difference between less and more, and big and small. They are learning to share, take turns, and love to learn new things. Their vocabulary is growing faster than you can keep track of, but the word they use most frequently seems to be "Why?"

They enjoy riding tricycles, playing with friends, drawing and painting, modeling with play dough and imaginative pretend play.

Melissa and Doug Standing Easel and Accessories

A Sturdy and Versatile Favorite of Kids and Parents

A sturdy high quality easel for ages 3 and up. Colorful, adjustable and easy to clean up, Melissa and Doug creative products are inspirational, long lasting, and inspirational. A variety of accessories are also available, from aprons and smocks to paints and markers.

Order Now: Melissa and Doug Educational Products

VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch, Blue (Discontinued by manufacturer)
VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch, Blue (Discontinued by manufacturer)

Other colors available. Eligible for Free Shipping.


The Best of the Latest Tech for Today's Tots

VTech's first portable camera watch will create an entirely new play experience for kids 3 and older. Photo and video fun for little photographers on-the-go. Includes 3 mini learning games with the ability to download more, including a how to tell time game. Clock display, animated stopwatch/timer and alarm explore time concepts. Recommended Ages: 3-7 years

LeapFrog Scribble and Write Tablet
LeapFrog Scribble and Write Tablet

Children trace lights to learn to write letters and numbers. Engineered to grow with your child, Scribble & Write delivers challenges targeted to a range of writing abilities from Level 1 where scribbling is encouraged to Level 2 where writing for accuracy is the goal. Teaches proper stroke order and correct letter shapes through verbal feedback and the opportunity to try again. Appropriate for children ages 3 years and older. Eligible for Free Shipping.


Learning Tablet for Ages 3+

Kid Tough & Kid Smart tablet features front and back cameras/video recorders, eReader, music player, motion sensor, 5" touch screen and 4GB memory.

Includes Customizing package (10 Sticker Skins, 11 Digital Wallpapers), USB Cable, Quick Start Guide, and Parent Guide.

Works with LeapFrog's educator-approved library of 800+ games, eBooks, and videos.

LeapPad2 Custom Edition includes 9 apps (onboard and downloadable): Photo Lab, Art Studio, Pet Pad, LeapFrog Learning Songs and more.

LeapFrog LeapPad2 Kids' Learning Tablet (Custom Edition), Green
LeapFrog LeapPad2 Kids' Learning Tablet (Custom Edition), Green

For ages 3-9. Other colors available. Eligible for Free Shipping.


The Pre-K Set is Active and Always in Motion

They love riding toys and bikes

Balance Bikes help children prepare to ride a two-wheeler by teaching balance.

Most have an adjustable seat and handle bars, soft tires and an ergonomic lightweight frame. The perfect gift for ages 3 to 4 years old.

More About Balance Bikes

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Have More Shopping to Do?

Save Time, Money, and Gas

And avoid the crowds and traffic!

These are a few of our other gift guides for your shopping convenience.

Why not take care of your entire gift list and use the time you save to bake a pie or some cookies, spend time with your family, or do something you love?

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