2022 Holiday Gift Guide-Baby and Toddler Toys

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It’s all about cause and effect, sensory exploration and open-ended materials with this age. I encourage simple wooden toys with little to no lights or noise because it can overstimulate some children. Everything recommended in this section is safe because we know that part of development and exploration at this age means toys end up in the mouth more often than not! When choosing toys for babies and toddlers, it was important that they were easy to grasp and manipulate, provide lots of tactile sensory stimulation and that it encourages the development of fine-motor and visual motor skills, encourages bilateral coordination and early problem solving skills. Below are just a handful of the great toys out there for babies and toddlers. 

  1. Dimpl Billow and BrightI just love these fidget pop-toys made just for little hands by Fat Brain Toys. This two piece set comes with a sun and cloud shape pop-toy and is made out of BPA-free silicone so you don’t have to worry about it going into their mouths (which you know it will!). A nice little bonus feature is that the sun has a mirror in the middle. These fidget toys are ideal for working on developing fine motor skills such as pointing, grasping skills and encourage bilateral coordination and hand-eye coordination. These are great for keeping babies and toddlers entertained in a car seat or stroller.
  2. InnyBinThe InnyBin puts a new spin on the shape sorter which I think is one of the most important baby and toddler toys out there. This is one of my favorite toys for babies to work on cause and effect, encourage sensory and tactile exploration and work on developing fine motor and grasping skills. Instead of having to match the shapes, babies and toddlers push the shapes through and pull them out of the elastic bands of the cube. I sometimes take other things like puzzle pieces or favorite characters in the cube to change things up for them.
  3. Lalaboom Snapbeads-Popbeads are one of the great classic baby/toddler toys and I was so excited when I discovered these ones by Lalaboom. Very similar to the traditional pop beads, these beads offer some really great features that work on building so many developmental skills babies and toddler need in order to acquire higher level skills. These beads not only push together, but each one is two pieces so they can be twisted apart and matched with other ones. They also offer a sensory and tactile experience which makes them different than other pop beads. This particular set is beyond cute allowing kids to make different animals. They are BPA free and safe if they end up in their mouths. Popbeads are great for working on developing grasping and manipulation skills, encourages hand-eye coordination, bilateral coordination and motor planning. They allow for open-ended play which leads to creativity and imagination.
  4. Lovevery Play GymThis play gym is an investment but one well worth it because babies spend a lot of their time on it, especially when they are not mobile, and it will grow with your child for play. It comes with 4 toys that you can take down and let them explore which is great for working on hand-eye coordination, sensory exploration and developing grasping skills. There are 5 different play zones that work on developing different developmental skills. I think one of my favorite features is the part that allows you to swap out different cards that are appropriate for different stages of newborn development. Another great feature is that it comes with an activity book that provides a years worth of activities and ways to play on the play mat. This will engage kids as they move from lying on their backs, to tummy time and eventually to sitting up and crawling.
  5. PipSquigz LoopsI can’t get enough of the whole pipSquigz line of products from Fat Brain Toys and I love how they have come up with a set that is perfect for the little baby and toddler hands. This set of two suction cups to any non-porous surfaces, including their highchair, and are made from BPA silicone making it safe for them to put in their mouths. It’s got several textures which is great for sensory and tactile exploration. They both have little rattles attached to them which encourages grasping, fine motor and manipulation skills. Kids learn about cause and effect as they shake the loops and they noises. These will grow with your children and are great to have in their carseats or strollers.
  6. Plugzy Shape ToyYou’ll see many of the items on this particular gift guide are from Fat Brain Toys and that’s because they have exceptional developmental toys. The Plugzy Shape toy is another great early shape sorting toy but has a lot of unique features that encourages the development of so many skills and it can become increasingly more challenging. It comes with a base and 6 different colored two-piece shapes: a hollow shape and a matching silicone top which both fit into the base with the shapes. Each shape has a different texture for tactile exploration. Kids will work on developing fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, work on developing visual motor, visual perceptual, hand-eye coordination and matching skills while also working on learning colors and shapes. You can even use the shapes for different things like pushing them into play dough!
  7. Pop Up PuzzleThis simple cause and effect toy gives babies and toddlers so many opportunities to work on developing a variety of skills. There are different ways to play with this toy, becoming more challenging as babies/toddlers get older. Babies can push the wooden pegs down and watch them fly, place the pegs into the their places and eventually match the pegs by color. This simple toy is wonderful for developing grasping, fine motor and manipulation skills, encourages hand-eye coordination and a great way to work on grasping and releasing of items.
  8. Jaq Jaq Bird Reusable PaperThis was one of my favorite discoveries during remote therapy in the early days of the lockdown. I was so tired of how much paper I was wasting and I know a lot of the families I worked with felt the same way. This reusable paper is great for introducing little ones to drawing because you don’t have to feel guilty of wasting paper. It’s lightweight and good to take on the go and is easily washable with a wipe or a damp paper towel. They can be used with gel crayons or the Butter Stix or Wishy Washy markers that Jaq Jaq Bird sells. For little hands, I prefer something a bit chunkier like Kwik Stix. For slightly older kids, please be sure to check out the Color It & Go Erasable Book collection. These books will keep your toddlers entertained and learning at the same time!
  9. Tegu Magnetic BlocksI still have our Tegu blocks that I got when my now 12 year old daughter was a toddler and I truly believe they were one of the best investments I made. These colorful, magnetic wooden blocks are another one of those investment toys that will grow with your children. One of the things I like most about the Tegu blocks is that kids can have success even if they have motor coordination difficulties. Because they are magnetic, it’s easier for them to stack, build and create with. Tegu blocks work on developing fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, encourage hand-eye coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills and encourage creativity and imagination through open-ended play.
  10. TuglAnother simple but fabulous toy for babies and toddlers (but my big kids have been drawn to it as well) that works on developing fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills. The 6-sided cube has different colored silicone bubbles with a little tab for fingers to pull and push in and out. It makes a fun popping noice which makes my little ones giggle with delight. In addition to working on fine motor skills, this is a great toy to encourage hand-eye coordination, bilateral coordination, problem solving skills and learning colors.
  11. Wooden Stacking RingsAnother classic toy that I believe should be in every baby and toddler’s playroom. This simple toy works on so many developmental skills and will grow with your toddler. I know we are used to the bright and colorful plastic one of our childhood but this wooden set will last forever. Stacking rings help develop grading and manipulation skills, develops hand-eye coordination, bilateral coordination and works on problem solving and organization skills. As kids get older, it works on concepts such as size, sequencing and color recognition.
  12. Multi-Activity Baby Walkera well-built, sturdy walker, without lots of lights is the best kind of walker for a baby that’s beginning to walk. Janod is known for their incredibly well-built wooden products and their walker is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Wooden walkers tend to be heavier and more sturdier than the plastic ones out there and I like that this one comes with an invisible, removable brake that lets you control the speed of the walker as the child becomes a more safe walker. I also like that there is a space to put blocks in that you can weigh down a bit with heavy objects if your child could use a bit more grounding. In addition, I like how the activities that are included on this walker work on developing fine motor skills, a shape sorter and lots of features that encourage sensory and tactile explorations.

Choosing baby and toddler toys is really important to me because these are the toys that will encourage the building blocks of their development. As already mentioned, toys at this age should be open-ended in order to encourage sensory exploration, cause and effect and help in developing fine motor, visual motor and manipulation skills. Children who participate in open-ended play are more creatOne of the most important things about toys chosen for this age group is that everything is multi-sensory, safe if it might go into the mouth and that they don’t have small pieces that can come off and be a potential choking hazard.

I want to encourage all of my readers to check their local toy and bookstores for baby and toddler gifts. I tried really hard to link my favorite small business stores in this post because when my daughter was little, it was all about going to my local toy stores (Norm and Jules, Little Things, Lulus Cuts and Toys, Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store and Stationary and Toy World are a few of my favorites here in NYC) and finding out from them what were the best sellers and what they thought was best for her at different stages of development. You’d be surprised how much knowledge they have. If you are looking for specific toy suggestions for your baby or toddler, don’t hesitate emailing me at otmeghan@gmail.com.

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