Just this week, my almost-4-year-old son diligently went through the toys in his playroom, filling up a garbage bag of items to donate to charity. The incentive? Along with “doing good,” and hoping, of course, that Santa is watching, he also knows that he’ll have to make room for the inevitable stream of toys that will be coming his way come Christmas time.
When it comes to babies, the number of toys is typically just as plentiful, if not more. Family, friends, parents, grandparents, and, of course, Santa, are excited to get the little ones something that’s both fun and educational.
That said, if you’re shopping for a baby in your life, here are some of the hottest baby toys from this year that are worth considering adding to your list.
As noted, when it comes to toys and babies, you want to get something that’s educational as well as fun. Luckily, because pretty well everything is educational to a little one who’s just getting familiar with the world, this is fairly easy to accomplish.
One of the simplest yet most fun gifts you can get for a baby is a set of stacking blocks. As they say, you can get a baby the most expensive gift and he’ll have more fun playing with the cardboard box it came in! A set like the Melissa & Doug Match & Build Soft Blocks enhances the experience with colours, patterns, numbers, and images. Babies can learn not only how to stack and knock down blocks, but also counting, object identifiers, and putting together simple, two-piece puzzles: you’ll find a panda’s top half on one block and the bottom on another, for example. Because they’re soft, babies can have fun throwing them around as well, practicing their best baseball pitches.
What child doesn’t like trains? Melissa & Doug’s Mickey & Friends Stacking Train Toy is another good option. Ideal for babies who are a bit older, it features a series of wooden pieces that fit together to form a movable train. Kids can stack them in different ways, practicing hand-eye coordination, sort them, and have fun zooming the train along the floor once they graduate to the toddler stage. (Check out my review of this train.)
To this day, my 4-year-old still loves playing with his foam letters in the bathtub. When he was a baby, we’d play identifying games, where I’d ask him to locate the letter D, for example, or the number 3. The Munchkin Bath Letters and Numbers come in a pack of 36, and in bright colours. They all float, and are made of soft, non-toxic foam that sticks to the wall when wet. Babies can have fun marvelling at how they stay put, while older kids can start spelling words on the bathtub wall.
I also have a bathtub toy basket like this Munchkin one that helps keep the bath toys neat and tidy when they’re not in use, and makes it easy to scoop everything up out of the water once bath time is over. It comes with a hanging bracket so you can attach it to the tub wall using the adhesive strips for easy, convenient, out-of-the-way storage.
Take any toddler to an indoor play place, and chances are that the ride-on toys are the first ones to which they gravitate. It’s fun, after all, to get seated in a mock vehicle, close the door, and put-put across the floor as if you’re really driving. One like the Little Tikes Cozy Truck is ideal for kids at least 18 months old, letting them use their feet to move the truck along, honk the horn, and even steer. Open the trunk in the back to store essential toys for the ride.
My son has loved puzzles, since he was a baby. And I loved him playing with them, as they can help develop a number of skills, from hand-eye coordination, to dexterity, colour and shape identification, and more. He had this sorting cube from Melissa & Doug that helped him learn to recognize shapes (and eventually name them), and problem-solve to figure out how to get each through its respective hole. We also played games with colours. And, as he got older, he enjoyed stacking them and watching them topple over for some good ol’ fun.
If you’re looking for something simpler and geared toward younger babies, check out Melissa & Doug’s Large Farm Jumbo Knob Puzzle, which includes eight pieces, seven of animals and one of Mr. Farmer.
Every baby goes through the inevitable (and painful) step of teething. And a teether can provide some much-needed relief. They can also make great toys if you choose the right one. I like the AppeTEETHERS Chicken Wing Teether because not only will it help ease baby’s pain, but mom and dad can get a kick out of watching baby knaw at a faux piece of meat. It’s made of food-grade silicone, and is BPA, PVC, and lead-free. There are other designs if you prefer, from one that resembles a piece of watermelon, to a slice of pineapple.
A playmat is a great way for baby to have some essential tummy time, while also having fun. The Baby Einstein Nautical Friends Play Gym offers a cool, blue surface so baby can feel like he’s floating in water. Overhead are some fun toys for exploration and to stimulate baby’s senses, including a crab bead chaser, sand dollar teether, plush baby Neptune rattle, baby-safe mirror, flash cards, and a detachable 3-in-1 starfish that you can use on-the-go, or in baby’s crib, as well. Top it off with dancing lights and tunes. The mat even comes with a whale-shaped pillow to help with tummy time.
Working in the tech industry, I introduced my son to technology (in limited amounts, of course) from a very early age. So I was excited when he got his first “laptop,” which was one like the VTech Touch & Teach Elephant. While I typically frown upon any gifts that make noise (as I’m sure most parents do), this one is worthwhile for the education component alone. There are 16 interactive pages where babies can begin to learn about the letters of the alphabet, shapes, animals, and more. There are 150 songs, sounds, and phrases, and light-up buttons to keep them busy.
Check out the wide selection of baby toys available at Best Buy Online.