The Best High Quality Baby and Toddler Learning Toys You Didn't Know You Needed
July 21, 2021
Do you have a baby, toddler, or kid? We got your covered with a range of toys and games for all ages that are high quality and great for learning.
How to Pick the Best Baby and Toddler Learning Toys
From the earliest age kids have an almost insatiable curiosity and appetite for play. Aside from your own desire to buy fun toys, you’ll also likely be giving friends and family gift recommendations for birthdays and holidays. No matter your child’s current age, it’s a good idea to start thinking about exactly which types of toys you want to introduce, and when.
Most importantly, you’ll likely want to seek out toys that foster and cultivate a satisfaction with independent, unstructured play. Unstructured play is used to describe non goal-oriented activities that are guided and motivated by the child’s imagination (e.g. art, music, blocks, etc.). When kids practice unstructured play, they develop critical skills like creativity, motivation, and self-guided entertainment. Kids who learn independent, unstructured play are also much less likely to grow tired of classic toys like wooden blocks, playsets, dolls and action figures, train sets and cars.
How can you ensure that your baby has toys that fit their age and interests while helping bolster their development and encourage healthy play habits? To help you narrow down the options, we’ve compiled a thoughtful list of baby and toddler learning toys and a range of other creative suggestions for older kids.
Best Learning Toys for Babies
Child development specialists recommend using toys that don’t overstimulate with excessive noises and sounds, and that help expose babies to basic colors, shapes and textures. This means that it’s best to look for toys that offer visual and tactile stimulation for babies in the 0-12 months category. Physically, your child will be more limited during the first 6-9 months, or even longer depending on how quickly they start to crawl. This means that lightweight toys or stationary systems are great for entertaining babies even when they’re sitting up or laying down. Additionally, these toys can also be great motivational tools for getting your baby to lift their head, kick, rollover or attempt their first crawl!
Activity Mat or Cube
Babies are fascinated by just about anything you put in front of them! Activity mats, cubes or other simple, interactive toys are the best way to get kids engaged with and curious about the environment around them. As your baby gets a little bit older and bigger a portable activity center will be invaluable for entertaining on-the-go or when they want to sit up and play.
Keys, Toy Rings and Rattles
Miscellaneous handheld toys are a mainstay for all nurseries or play rooms. The different textures, sounds, sizes and colors offered by toy rings, rattles and rubber keys will keep your baby engaged and help them develop a healthy sense of curiosity from the earliest age.
Give your little one something soothing to munch on when teething inevitably starts! The varied texture, soft rubber and cool temperatures (when chilled) of teethers will help your baby stay occupied and reduce their fussiness.
The durable construction of board books makes them ideal for small hands that aren’t delicate or clean all the time! Babies love to grab at the individual pages and will be highly engaged with the bright colors and simple images or illustrations.
Best Developmental Toys for Toddlers
During the toddler stage (1-3 yrs.) your baby is developing some key skills, including the ability to crawl, walk and speak. At first (around 1 yr.), you will notice your little one becoming increasingly aware of colors, shapes, mirrors, patterns and textures through tactical and cognitive stimulants. As they get older, your child will become much more interested in standing, running and exploring the environment around them. Toys that help them practice this movement will remain useful and entertaining for years!
Activity Boards & Tables
Get your toddler standing up and moving with an activity center. The new sounds and interactive buttons help them understand cause and effect, pattern recognition, memory recall and motor skills as they stand and play simultaneously.
As kids increasingly try to walk, activity walkers are a great way to keep their interest and attention while also encouraging them to practice forward motion on their feet.
Equal parts entertaining and instructive, puzzles are an essential toy for toddlers, older children and even adults. The best wooden puzzles for toddlers will keep them engaged in play while helping them develop pattern recognition and image identification skills.
Books are a great way to get active kids to settle down and use their imagination, practice image identification, develop language skills and spend time sitting still.
Sand shovels, buckets, sieves and more will help your toddler explore their environment, build and exercise unlimited imagination.
Best Development and Learning Toys for Kids
Young kids (ages 3+) no longer want the simple, stationary activity boards that once captivated all of their attention. Instead, kids want toys that are more physically and intellectually engaging. This age range is particularly fun because you will likely be able to start doing more activities as a family (e.g. biking, enjoying family hikes, playing games or music, etc.). If you focus on getting toys with gender-neutral qualities your kids will be able to share with siblings or other friends.
Let your kids stylishly exercise some independence in the yard or on the sidewalk with safe, battery-powered electric vehicles. Aside from their fun and alluring appeal, these small play vehicles actually help kids develop basic motor skills and practice safety measures while operating a vehicle.
Toy House or Playset
Creative playsets and toy houses are a classic, proven way to keep kids occupied with healthy play for hours at a time. A highly interactive wooden playset that encourages learning, motor skills and movement can be a great toy and family heirloom for years.
Encouraging kids to be expressive musical instruments from a young age is an excellent way to strengthen their self-confidence and help them discover artistic passions. A realistic microphone (with bluetooth karaoke capabilities) is the perfect gift for a young performer who wants to turn the living room into a stage.
Scooter and Bikes
Kids will adapt to more advanced play at all different rates, and toys that support this development are especially useful. The Scoot + Ride Highway Kick 1 is a perfect example of a toy that will help with balance, movement and their overall confidence with self-propelled motion. Do not forget a helmet to provide extra protection!
Advanced Building Toys
Building sets are some of the best learning toys for kids. Children will become more capable of understanding instructions and exercising self-guided play as they get older. Builder sets with plastic or wooden pieces that have both pre-made instructions and allow kids to use their imagination are essential during the post-toddler stage, especially when kids are stuck inside!
Older kids can start to appreciate books that include more interesting stories and characters or moral lessons, including how to share, potty training and treat others with respect.
We’ve listed a lot of toys in this article. If you’re concerned about the practicality of storing all these baby and toddler learning toys, or possibly overwhelming your child with options for unstructured play, we have a few simple suggestions to help create more fruitful playtimes.
Come parents deal with the issue of having too many toys by rotating out different options based on the season, their child’s age or simply by observing that their child has lost interest in one of the toys. For example, if your kids love playing outside in the warmer months, you might find it helpful to save some of their favorite indoor toys for the long fall and winter days where they need more stimulation to help encourage play. By storing an unused or unneeded toy (out of sight) parents can minimize the available options, which helps their child focus more on a few specific toys, and reduce clutter - a constant struggle for all parents.
Lastly, there are many types of toys that adapt with kids as they grow older, maintaining their interests and developmental support through the first few years. These toys are an excellent investment because they last so long and maintain a kid's interest level. Instead of buying, storing and then selling 4 different toys, look for those that have been designed to evolve over time.
For even more ideas on the best baby and toddler learning toys, search the Nini and Loli site by category to find hundreds of curated toy options in categories like STEM, fine motor skills and Montessori.