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Gift Guide for Babies - 8 Ideas with Years of Play Potential

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Many baby toys are designed for one specific area of development or for one small stage (ie tummy time or crawling). Babies are changing and growing so quickly, it can be hard to find toys that are engaging for more than a couple of months! Here are some of my favorite toys that inspire play for babies - and beyond!

I've included Amazon links and small shop links when applicable - as well as 2 homemade toys. Toys don't need to be fancy or expensive for them to have loads of play potential.

Note: for the purposes of this gift guide, "baby" refers to the first year or so of life. However, these toys are perfect for children who are learning to grasp, play while sitting up, and are starting to pull up to stand. These toys will have loads of play value long after your child has turned one!

Remember: when shopping for toys and gifts for our children, our goal should be to find toys that are open ended and encourage play and exploration. The best learning happens when our little ones are actively engaged in things they love - we don't need to spend our money on fancy "learning toys" or toys that light up, sing, or perform for our children.

Simplifying Play is a participant of the Amazon Affiliate Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are Amazon links.

Stacking cups are one of my favorite first toys. Babies can explore cause and effect by banging them together, knocking over towers you've built, or reaching for them as they roll on their sides. The play doesn't end there, though! Stacking cups are perfect for toddlers to practice spatial awareness as they build and nest the cups. We use ours in sensory play, in the bathtub, and even for color sorting. I love this basic set (and you can't beat the price!) because it has lots of colors!

Infantino Sensory Balls: Every child needs access to balls, and this set is perfect for little hands. Grasping, rolling, teething, and even throwing is possible with these! As your children get older, the washable balls can be used to paint with (so fun!), or pair them with a big mailer tube for some chute exploration. I love that these are soft enough to be safe for throwing in the house, too.

Rain Stick: While rattles are great toys for babies to explore early cause and effect (if I shake it, it makes noise) and grasping, noise making toys like rain sticks can be played with well into preschool. They are super portable and a see through one like the Hape Rain Stick makes a great travel toy.

Pop up toy: Here is another long-time favorite at our house, perfect for little ones that are nearing one year old. The little people pegs are the perfect size for little hands and babies love to try to put the pegs into the holes at the top of the toy - and watch you make the peg spring up! A toy to enjoy for years! We bought ours from the small shop Merci Milo.

Pip Squigz: These are one of my favorite gifts to give new parents - a toy that can be used during tummy time, at the high chair, to be chewed on, and on the go! These super fun suction cups are great for fine motor building in toddlers and make great bath toys for older kids! Buy these as the small shop Hopscotch Store!

Our other favorite Fat Brain Toys for baby:

Hape Toddler Fruit Basket: Why am I putting a toddler toy in the baby list? Because these sensory, soft fruits are perfect for baby hands to explore - and they'll lead to tons of toddler pretend play down the road. Plus, the tiny basket is ADORABLE and scratches that baby/toddler need to fill and dump over and over again. Hape also makes a vegetable and bread basket version. This Melissa and Doug Fill and Spill Market basket looks adorable, too!

Radio Flyer Push Wagon: this wagon is the perfect weight for little ones who are just learning to stand and attempting to take those first steps. Many walker-toys are too light and move too quickly for little ones to have success with, but it's easy to add things to the Radio Flyer wagon to weigh it down. Bonus - you'll be ready for the toddler year obsession with collecting as many toys as possible and dragging them all over the house!

Melissa and Doug Go Tots School Bus: This little bus is perfect for cause and effect baby play! It rolls and comes with 3 disc "people" to drop inside. The door opens to access the little discs or they can roll out the back of the bus. The discs are interchangeable with the entire Go Tots line - including an adorable barn, a city with a cool ramp, and a playground!

And two homemade options for the baby in your life!

When I was an infant teacher, I made sensory bottles all the time - they were always such a hit with all of the little ones. I've made tons for my daughters, as well - a simple google search will bring up so many creative ideas, but I like to keep the bottles small, colorful, and simple! This tutorial from The Kavanaugh Report is excellent.

Another great homemade gift idea is DIY fine motor toys from recycled materials. The Imagination Tree shares 4 different ideas in this post! I love saving any heavy duty cardboard container with a metal bottom (think bread crumbs or oatmeal) - they make the best sound when toys are dropped into them!

Looking for more gifts? See the rest of the gift guides here!

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