20 Best Infant Toys of 2023, Reviewed by Parents and Experts
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Engaging infant toys encourage new skills and help your baby hit new developmental milestones.
Don't count baby out at playtime. The littlest kids can hit major milestones through playing with toys. They acquire new abilities like reaching, grasping, building hand-eye coordination, learning cause and effect and more. And it starts early. "Play is a skill that begins in infancy. We see a newborn go from unoccupied to enjoying solitary play within about 3 months. This is a big step for our little ones!" says Becky Thomas, founder and teacher at Playgroup and a specialist in infant and family development, early childhood and special education.
In our list, we left out plush animals. You'll likely receive plenty of bears and bunnies as newborn gifts for your baby to love. Instead, our Good Housekeeping Institute parenting pros and early-childhood specialists focused on developmental toys that help with specific skills as well as toys that can be manhandled by your baby and that engage more than one of their senses. You'll be looking at the best gifts for 1-year-olds soon enough, but these are for the really littles!
Toys also give you and your child a chance to engage: you can chat about the toy, make a toy "talk" or just enjoy being silly with each other. "It is in this stage, before the first birthday, that children develop attention and initiation with play materials," Thomas says. So if your child points to a toy, grab it and hand it to them.
At the end of our list, you'll find more on our selection process for infant toys as well as infant play milestones that these toys can help your baby reach. If you need a clear spot on the floor for play, check out our best play mats. And for a baby who has great neck control and is ready to sit and play, you may also be interested in our favorite baby jumpers for activity-center play.
Cups nesting into each other is magic to a baby. And these colorful cups can do more: "Once an infant has developed the skill of grasping them, placing the cups on top of each other to create a tower is a great problem-solving and cause-and-effect form of play which is a precursor for so many skills later on," Thomas says.
You can use these to talk about colors and show your baby the raised numbers on the bottom of each cup. They can also double as tub toys, because holes in the bottom of each cup turn each into a little sieves. Plus, they have nearly 80,000 five-star reviews on Amazon.
These are age-graded starting at 6 months because a baby needs some dexterity and patience to try and stack or nest them. (Knocking them over will be easier!) And your baby is not going to be able to repeat colors or numbers to you until toddlerhood. Still, for pure value — you'll use these for years, your child can learn an array of skills from them and the set is less than $12 — these are hard to beat.
It doesn't get much more classic than a ball — but infants have trouble grasping any smooth sphere. Even plush balls and bumpy balls can be a challenge at first, when a baby is just getting control of their hand-eye coordination. The 4-inch, lightweight Oball has a mesh design with 32 finger holes practically guaranteeing that your young baby will be able to grab on, wave this around and revel in a feeling of accomplishment.
"The Oball can be thrown, rolled, squashed and passed from hand to hand," Thomas says. This colorful toy is not easy for a baby to gum as a teether but expect that they will try and mouth it. Note that it's not dishwasher-safe, you'll want to just wipe it down with a damp, soapy cloth. This is another infant toy that lasts and lasts — we have a staffer with a 4-year-old who still loves this toy.
One of the first things your newborn will do with a toy is track it with their eyes. Dangle these rings, made in eye-catching contrasting colors, and watch your infant learn to follow where they go. Shake the rattle and see if your newborn will turn toward the sound. These are the earliest forms of play!
Once your 3-month-old can reach for the NogginRings and grasp them, they'll love putting them in their mouth (of course) and exploring their shape and sounds. "This can help your infant learn to bring their hands together on an object, then transfer it hand to hand," says Jennifer Rothman, LCSW, a child therapist in New York City. NogginRings will stay fun throughout your baby's first year but then your toddler will outgrow this little rattle.
Babies love to pull at fabric tags, and this tactile toy gives them plenty. Crinkling, squeaking parts, bright patterns, hidden pictures and mirrored surfaces plus a teething fin keep a baby fascinated and exploring. We like this for the prime tummy-time stage from 3 to 6 months when babies can build a lot of core strength by spending some playtime each day on the floor, placed on their tummy with a toy in front of them. Use this toy to encourage your baby to lift their head, then reach and flip the fish fins.
This is also a fun toy for your baby to explore while sitting in their bouncer seat. It's just a little bigger than it looks — just over a foot long — which surprises some parents, so it's not super easy to take around on the go.
As you introduce solid foods, it's nice to have toys that can keep your baby sitting happily in the high chair, waiting to be served or digesting for a bit while you clean up. Make the time educational with this set of five silicone fidget toys for infants that can stick to a flat surface, then pull off with a popping sound. "These are versatile and can continue to be played with as your child grows older and experiments with creative play," Rothman says. Thomas agreed, adding, "Babies eventually figure out that they can plug pieces together and problem-solve as they create a construction plan. They'll stick them to different vertical surfaces."
This toy was a favorite with the daughter of Marisa LaScala, Good Housekeeping's Senior Parenting & Relationships Editor. She was obsessed — but so was LaScala and her husband. "We'd use them as fidget toys for ourselves!" LaScala says. You can also wash them in the dishwasher. They're a little pricier than most baby hand toys, but we think they're worth it.
Rather than a shape sorter, start off a baby who's just beginning to crawl and cruise with a toy that lets them stuff things in and take them back out. "There's a stage of infant development when they begin to collect and this toy is so perfect for not only collecting the pieces it comes with, but any toy that can fit inside," Thomas says. "Fitting materials inside of the InnyBin requires strong fine-motor skills and problem-solving for size, fit and shape. This is a great toy for practicing determination and developing resilience through focus."
Prime time for this toy is 10 months to age 3, as a baby develops better spatial reasoning and gradually gains control over the pieces shaped like a cube, sphere, flower, diamond, happy face and triangle (not shown). If this frustrates your baby, first be sure they're in the age window. Second, demonstrate by showing how you pull a toy out or stuff one in. Third, let them experience the possibly maddening period of learning how to do it themselves. "They're building frustration tolerance," Rothman says. The payoff will be your baby beaming with pride.
If you give a baby a real box of tissues, you can bet they will learn how to empty it. This toy is more fun and more educational, with the opportunity to talk about colors built in. It comes with 10 tissues, some of which crinkle and some of which are satiny, so you can talk about how they look, feel and sound. The box itself is decorated in high-contrast colors to entice your baby over to it.
Your infant will learn to pull these out and empty the box before they're developmentally ready to stuff them back in and fill the box, so they'll need you to assist for awhile. But this is a toy that will still be fun into toddlerhood, when they learn to hide not just the tissues but other toys inside the box.
Sometimes it seems as if every baby in America owns this toy. If yours has not yet met Sophie The Giraffe (real name: Sophie La Girafe, she's French), you might want to introduce them to this popular teething toy made of soft yet durable rubber that's been around since 1961.
There are a lot of theories as to why Sophie is a babe magnet. She's sized right and provides a bit of bumpy texture for infants, with their clumsy grips, to hold onto. "The shape of the toy offers so many ways to grasp it and it's long enough for an infant to easily bring to to their mouth," Thomas says. Sophie's dark eyes and big brown spots stand out on her white body, and babies love that contrast. Finally, she squeaks when squeezed, a cause-and-effect bonus that tots find hard to resist. "Both my babies tried other teethers but loved Sophie," one tester told us. "And seriously, every kid has a Sophie."
A downside is that it can't be sterilized, run through the dishwasher or submerged in water. In order to clean it, the brand recommends wiping it with a damp cloth.
This brand makes one of our go-to kids' subscription boxes, but you can buy this play gym à la carte. "I love that it's not visually overstimulating, like many baby play mats," Rothman says. "Plus, this is easy for a baby and mamma to use together." That's one of the things we like most — and it comes with an excellent play guide with stage-based tips and activities for you to try. (Because, let's face it, most of us do not actually know how to play with a baby!)
The high price is made more palatable by the fact that this can easily transform from a play gym into a toddler fort and last for years. We consider this one of our favorite high-quality baby toys because it comes with simple Montessori-style toys like a wooden batting toy and organic cotton ball as well as 14 high-contrast pictures on sturdy cards for your baby to study. The mat itself has different areas of color, pattern and texture to keep things interesting.
One way to get a baby lying on their tummy to lift their head and look up is to offer them a glimpse of something cute: "Babies love looking in the mirror so this helps you extend tummy time," says Rothman. It was definitely a favorite for both daughters of Lexie Sachs, Good Housekeeping Institute's Textiles Lab Executive Director who oversees much of the baby-product testing. "So vain, they loved to see themselves," Sachs joked. (Actually babies don't know it's them in the mirror until they're about 18 months old.) "They also loved reaching for the two sensory toys on the top and bottom."
The mirror is baby-safe and unbreakable, so it's a little more distorted than a regular glass mirror. Be sure to peel off the plastic film that comes on for more clarity.
Kids love this for the lights and music. Parents appreciate the tunes, since it plays seven classical melodies by Mozart, Vivaldi, Chopin and more. It's pleasant for everyone, and there's volume control if you need it to be a bit louder in the car or softer at home.
We like this to throw in the diaper bag for outings because it's so small but so stimulating — if you need to soothe or distract your baby at a restaurant, in the supermarket or while doing a diaper change in an unfamiliar bathroom, this can be little lifesaver. It's also easy to wipe clean. It comes with the two AA batteries needed to get started but online reviews caution that you'll want more on hand if your baby really loves this toy and uses it often.
Infants love how these C-shaped rings clack together and fall all around the main circle ring, which is done up in contrasting black and white. Sassy's O Links are differently textured rings in rainbow colors and the toy, about 5 inches tall, is easy to take anywhere. Pull off any one ring for your infant to grip and gum or keep them all together as a rattling distraction toy as you travel around in the stroller or car seat.
If the toy lands on the ground, feel at ease knowing that it is dishwasher-safe. Some parents say they also use the black and white ring to attach to other toys for taking things along — the main ring pulls open enough to link a toy on, or to clip it to something like the stroller harness. It's a small purchase, not a big giftable kind of toy, but one that you and your baby will probably both turn to more than you'd expect.
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Your baby can crawl around and also sit inside this awesome infant play center. Like other toys in this line, it's got a lot to teach through songs, phrases and more — there are more than a hundred different tunes and recitations of shapes, colors, letters and numbers. There are three learning levels, so you can start your infant at level 1 and move up to levels 2 and 3 during toddlerhood.
We like that your baby can practice gross motor skills by crawling around, sitting in and standing by this fun car. They can also work their fine-motor skills by sending the three balls down a ramp and placing the shapes in the shape sorter. Inside, there's a horn to honk, a key to turn and a radio to switch on, though those might appeal more to a toddler ready to imitate grown-ups. The car is stationary, which might make some kids mad if they expect to be able to drive it around. It requires about 20 minutes or so of set-up and three AA batteries, not included.
Wait, did I just do that? When wearing a wrist rattle or a sock rattle, a baby's own motion can entertain them, leading to exciting discoveries like finding their own feet. Eventually your baby will have the dexterity to pull the booties off and hold them in their hand. At about 4 months to 6 months old, they might also be able to hold and chew on the spinning flower toy with its rattling beads.
Some sensitive babies might get overwhelmed by the rattling after a bit so be sure to keep an eye on your baby and remove the wrist and sock rattles if looks as if they're agitated or grown tired of them.
A baby able to sit up and grasp, usually after 6 months, will enjoy fitting the 10 coins into this smiling piggy bank — and it hones their hand-eye coordination and fine-motor skills. The toy rewards their persistence with songs and phrases, offering words in Spanish and lessons in colors and counting. Once your infant has heard all of the Stage 1 lessons plenty of times, you can switch to Stage 2 for new lessons for your toddler.
We like that it comes with the batteries included and that the coins can all store inside the bank. You can turn off the music and sounds, but there is no volume control.
Before their clumsy little hands are even ready to turn the pages of a board book, your baby can play with all the tactile features on this soft cloth baby book. Infants can pull on the dangling tails (remember, they love to pull tags and pieces of fabric) and follow them to the colorful pictures of the animals inside as you call out each one's name. This is the jungle version but the brand also has books of fluffy tails and more.
The pages crinkle for added interest. This is a book you can explore together, but to help your baby's vocabulary grow, you should also read aloud from regular books. See our Kids Book Awards for some good suggestions.
We're showing the firefly, but Lamaze makes a herd of bright, dangling creatures that include a moose, a squid and even a jellyfish. Boasting more than 37,000 five-star Amazon reviews, this clip-on toy can attach to the stroller and not be thrown overboard, which you'll learn from experience, is a real problem with many other toys. Hook it around the stroller harness so your baby can hold this in their hand and explore the layers of textures and fabrics, little mirrors, clacking rings and more.
If your infant is still young and not reaching, just looking, you might hook it to the stroller canopy like a mobile. Some parents also hook one to the diaper bag so it's always available as a distraction during on-the-go diaper changes or if you're out running errands and your baby starts to fuss. Any toy that travels with you can get dirty, but note that this toy should be spot-cleaned only; it's not recommended for machine washing.
You can practically hear your baby's brain whirring as they play with these nine differently sized rings in varying colors and textures. The clear ring even makes a rattling sound. The rings can be stacked in any order, which decreases frustration when stacking. Join in the play and show your infant the difference in size between the large black and white ring and the small one. Then count from 1 to 9 as you put the rings on the pole one at a time.
Stacking the rings helps hone hand-eye coordination. In fact this has been lauded as an early STEM toy that can help kids learn sorting, counting, sequencing and recognizing what is the same or different about two objects. We like that the rings are easy for an infant to grab and manipulate. They will outgrow this, however, and be ready to move on to building blocks by age 2.
Shake it up! Toys that play music for your baby are not as richly educational as something like these egg-shaped shakers that let your child make the sounds. We love that they're each shaped like an adorable animal to catch your baby's attention, that there are textures to explore on their bellies and that each one makes a slightly different noise when shaken. They're a bit chunky but if your baby can't grip one at 3 months, they may be able to hold and shake them by 6 months.
Note that the sounds these make are pretty soft. We like that they're not cacophonous but if your baby is shaking them while you play music, they might be hard to hear.
Once your baby pulls to a stand and takes tentative steps, they're no longer your infant anymore — you're entering toddler territory. Help them along with a push toy your baby can use for balance as they stand and walk. This toy, which has more than 77,000 five-star Amazon reviews, is much safer than a baby walker that a child sits inside, where they are essentially trapped. Your baby can let go from a push walker like this anytime they need to.
Your little one can first sit in front of this to play with all the toys on the activity panel, or the panel can be removed and used as a floor toy. They'll stay busy and hone fine-motor skills with the light-up piano keys, a play phone, gears that spin and buttons that, when pressed, deliver fun songs and vocabulary words. When your baby is ready to pull to a stand and work large-motor skills, the toy has a wide base for stability. Your baby can easily grab the green handlebar and push this four-wheeled walker.
The two AA batteries needed to get this started are included. The lights and sounds can get a little overstimulating but fortunately there are both high and low volume settings or you can turn it completely off.
Jessica (she/her) is a freelance writer with several decades of experience writing lifestyle content and evaluating home and parenting products. A mom of two teens and two cats, her previous work can be seen in American Baby and Parents.
Rachel Rothman (she/her) is the chief technologist and executive technical director at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she oversees testing methodology, implementation and reporting for all GH Labs. She also manages GH’s growing research division and the analysis of applicants for the GH Seal and all other testing emblems. During her 15 years at Good Housekeeping, Rachel has had the opportunity to evaluate thousands of products, including toys and cars for GH’s annual awards programs and countless innovative breakthroughs in consumer tech and home improvement.
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Our Honest Review of Peach Skin Sheetsplacing the cups on top of each other to create a tower is a great problem-solving and cause-and-effect form of play32 finger holes practically guaranteeing that your young baby will be able to grab on32 finger holesDangle these rings, made in eye-catching contrasting colors, and watch your infant learn to follow where they goCrinkling, squeaking parts, bright patterns, hidden pictures and mirrored surfaces plus a teething finset of five silicone fidget toys for infants that can stick to a flat surfacetoy that lets them stuff things in and take them back outthe opportunity to talk about colors built inpopular teething toy made of soft yet durable rubber Babies love looking in the mirrorplays seven classical melodies by Mozart, Vivaldi, Chopin and moredifferently textured rings in rainbow colors and the toy, about 5 inches tall, is easy to take anywhereRelated:crawl around and also sit insidewearing a wrist rattle or a sock rattle, a baby's own motion can entertain themsongs and phrases, offering words in Spanish and lessons in colors and countingplay with all the tactile features on this soft cloth baby book clip-on toy can attach to the stroller and not be thrown overboardrings can be stacked in any order,egg-shaped shakers that let your child make the soundspush toy your baby can use for balance as they stand and walk