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Here’s a little secret: I love to shop. I will gleefully shop for anything and everything (I even enjoy grocery shopping…is that weird?) but what I really have a weak spot for is baby stuff! Seriously… I could wander through the baby aisles for hours because everything is just so sweet…and if I’m not careful, I’ll end up with cart full of stuff. Seriously: anybody who has been shopping with me will tell you that I always slow down near the baby section and start ooohing and aaahing over all the adorable clothes and stuffed animals and blankets and shoes and well, you get the idea… So when I’m looking for gifts for the babies in my life, I’ve got to narrow it down somehow.
To do that, I make sure the gifts I choose are meant to help babies learn and grow. And I’m not talking about the light-up, noise-making toys that sing songs and generally drive parents crazy. Truth be told, those can be overstimulating for babies. Plus, they’re usually not very open-ended; babies can only play with them in limited ways (push the button and it sings a song, push the other button and it lights up). I’m also definitely not talking about flashcards. Did you know that’s a thing? For babies? Yuck! Please just steer very, very clear of anything like that…
Babies learn best through hands-on discovery and play. That’s why I put together this list of brain-boosting gift ideas for babies from 0-18 months, broken down into categories that are essential for growth and development: ABC’s & 123’s, problem solving, large motor, fine motor/hand-eye coordination, science & art, and my favorite: books! It’s my hope that this list will lead you to the perfect gifts for the babies in your life. Happy shopping!
While babies aren’t quite ready to start identifying letters and numbers, early exposure is important. Being able to see letters and numbers and having adults talk about them will help little ones understand that they’re more than just random shapes. Here are some great gift ideas to get you started:
What an adorable addition to a nursery! Great for newborn tummy time and as baby starts crawling, caregivers can say the letter names whenever they go near.
ABC Block Party by B. Toys
Soft fabric blocks with a letter and a picture of something that starts with that letter on each side, plus some bonus pieces to play with.
Alphabet Plush Ball by eeBoo
Beautifully embroidered ball with a rattle inside.
Bath Tub Alphabet Set by Nuby
Large foam letters and numbers make bath time lots of fun! One of the only brands I could find that was not rated for ages 3+.
Now I Know My ABC’s Board Book Set by PI Kids
My daughter got a similar set for her first birthday and she would spend hours just pulling the books out of the box and stacking them back in. Plus, she would make me read them about 10 times a day. At 18 months old, I discovered that if I said a letter name, she could find the book for that letter! To be completely honest, my son didn’t share the same enthusiasm…but he did play with them frequently.
Beginning right from birth (and probably even before!) babies are trying to make sense of the world around them. As they’re able to sit, crawl, and grasp objects, they start figuring out that they can make things happen. These toys encourage older babies to explore what they can do and how things work:
One Two Squeeze Baby Blocks by B. Toys
It’s never too early to start engineering! Babies can learn how to stack and balance using these squishy blocks.
Tobbles Neo by Fat Brain Toys
Little ones will have to problem-solve to make these colorful, chunky orbs balance on top of one another.
Mix & Match Farm Animals by Lakeshore Learning
Babies will love figuring out how to pull these animals apart, put them back together, and match them up.
First Play Spin & Feed Shape Sorter by Melissa & Doug
The classic shape sorter with a twist – turn the puppy’s nose to show a new shape, then find the block that fits. Tricky!
Hatching Eggs Bath Toys by Sunny Jean
Bring the learning to the bath tub and let your baby work out how to make the egg float, hatch, squirt, and sprinkle.
Probably the biggest thing babies are learning as they go through the first 18 months is how their bodies work. The amount of physical growth they undergo is astounding! Here are some gift ideas that will help foster large motor skills for babies:
Tummy Time Milestone Activity Gym by Sassy
I’m in LOVE with this infant mat because it has monthly developmental info and suggestions for use printed right on it. Plus the colors are simple and inviting. Definitely my top pick for babies!
SoftZone Climb & Crawl Activity Playset by ECR4Kids
Great for little ones who are crawling and pulling themselves up – you can add a little bit of challenge without sacrificing safety.
Oball Classic by Oball
This ball is perfect for babies because it’s so easy for them to catch! My kids had one and I loved it. It’s a great beginner ball to roll and throw to your little one.
Turtle Ball Pit by Melissa & Doug
Adorable and versatile. Babies can pull the balls out and play with them, crawl and climb over the turtle, or sit inside and play.
Pewi Elite by YBike
A sturdy walker/ride-on combo with a cool design. A great investment since it can be used in multiple ways as babies grow from pushing to walking to riding!
While those big muscles are doing big things, the little muscles in the fingers and hands also need some attention. Not only do infants need to be able to grip and squeeze, but they also need to learn how to make their eyes and their hands work together to get things done (like getting toys into their mouths!). Help them gain fine motor and hand-eye coordination skills with these super fun gift ideas:
Grimm’s Beads Grasper by Grimm’s Spiel und Holz Design
Colorful, mesmerizing, and made from wood & non-toxic stain, babies will love grasping and chewing on this toy. A great alternative to the traditional plastic and rubber teethers.
Whoozit Cosmic Spinner Rattle by Manhattan Toy:
Interesting design with lots of fun textures for gripping and exploring.
Spoolz by Fat Brain Toys
Brightly colored and really inviting, these stackers will help work those little finger muscles.
Fill & Spill by Melissa & Doug
The picnic basket is pictured, but you can also choose from bug jug, tool box, fish bowl, purse, or sports bag. Babies will love grabbing the adorable plush toys and putting them into the container. Bonus for also encouraging pretend play!
Snuggle Pods by Manhattan Toy
Soft, squishy, and super sweet! Little ones will work their fine motor skills as they put the baby in its pod and take it back out.
Science for babies? Absolutely! Although they won’t be memorizing the periodic table or studying properties of matter, they can explore simpler concepts like color, sorting, the five senses, and cause & effect. Give these gift ideas a try:
Veggie Based Finger Paints by Veggie Baby
Why wait to expose them to art? They can explore color safely with these edible finger paints.
Spin & Sprinkle Water Lab by Yookidoo
Turn bath time into a science experiment with this fun play set that encourages measuring, pouring, dumping, and splashing!
Color Discovery Boxes by Lakeshore Learning
An introduction to sorting and classifying. Objects can be sorted by color or by other attributes – each box includes a fruit, an animal, a crayon, and a ball.
Textured Multi Ball Set by Infantino
Babies can explore the sense of touch with this set of squishy balls that come in different sizes and textures.
Little Hands Music Makers by Lakeshore Learning
Chunky instruments that make different sounds. Babies can easily grasp them and discover the concept of cause and effect.
Babies are never too young for books! You can read them anything and everything – even if they don’t know what you’re saying, they love the sound of your voice. But you can’t just put any book in their hands because it will get destroyed! Fortunately, there are plenty of books that are made just for babies – check out some of my favorites:
Indestructibles by Workman Publishing
Oh. My. Goodness. Where were these books when my kids were little?!?! I am OBSESSED! They are chew-proof, drool-proof, tear-proof, and washable! And there are so many to choose from!
Hello, Baby Animals by duopress
Great high-contrast board book for young babies whose eyesight isn’t fully developed. Super cute and simple illustrations.
Magic Bath Books by HABA
Soft vinyl books that change color when they are put under water! Fun and safe for babies to play with and read.
Never Touch a Monster by Make Believe Ideas, Ltd.
A sturdy, touchy-feely book with great colors and textures. Plus there are lots of other books in the series!
Whose Feet? by Melissa & Doug
A fabric book that is oh-so-adorable. I mean, just look at those little feet dangling out the bottom…what baby wouldn’t love that?!?!
So there you have it…my favorites for babies! I hope this list has been helpful for you as you shop for that special little someone in your life. Now hop over to this post to get some inspiration for the toddlers in your life: