Can I tell you a secret? A secret you can share with a new mom. In fact, promise me you’ll share this with another mom.
You don’t need fancy toys to entertain a baby.
Say it again with me, YOU DON’T NEED FANCY TOYS TO ENTERTAIN A BABY!
First of all, newborns only care about three things: milk (from your boob or a bottle), snuggling and cuddling with a warm body, and having their diaper changed. When it comes to entertainment, newborns love being outside, they love looking at trees and leaves, and they love looking at faces. Guess what, all these things are free!
Now, here’s when life gets tricky. Babies evoke ALL THE FEELS in us. Utter happiness, misery, sleeplessness, joy, pain, you name it. We also all want what’s best for our babies, so we tend to over shop. Families too.
My list here is a combination of things you can find at home and simply elegant toys. They are not battery operated, they are not over-colored willy nilly junk, these are toys that benefit their development without overwhelming them (and you).
A word of warning. A lot of Amazon listed toys today come from unbranded/off brand companies from China. They’re Chinese companies selling plastic and wood toys at a fraction of the price. Do your research. Amazon does not check compliance for meeting toy safety standards for the US or the EU (in the same they don’t check for copyright infringement and fake books)
Make sure you, family, and friends understand the need to purchase quality, well known brands (more on popular brands coming soon in a post) because of counterfeiting, evasion of toy safety standards, and in some cases, poor human rights records.
If you want an easy list of good retailers, check out my Cyber Monday list supporting small businesses.
Now on to the good stuff! The 0-12 month period for a baby
Tupperware, pots and pans, wooden spoons, kitchen utensils – Notice something here? They’re all things you can find in the kitchen! Look no further than your cabinets to entertain a crawling/sitting baby.
Teething? No problem. Give them a wooden spoon or a silicon straw.
Want to make noise? Fill a tupperware with dry beans and seal it shut with tape (avoid the choking hazard). Give them a few pots and a few wood spoons and let them bang on them. They will probably bang on your cabinets, the floor, you, and themselves, but guess what? You can teach them about density and materials composition? “Ohhh, I see you found the tile floor. How does the wooden spoon sound when you bang on it? Your kiddo won’t answer btw, but probably giggle. “Look at that! A metal spoon on a metal pot, that’s pretty loud!”
Want to teach them colors and food? Grab a bunch of different dry beans and pastas and put them in containers. Seal them with tape and hand them to baby. You can talk about colors, sizes, shapes, whatever you want.
Now for toys you can buy. These are developmentally appropriate, foster thinking and curiously, and lack the flashy beeps and bops of traditional battery operated toys.
LOVEVERY Play Subscription – Go on autopilot with this nice collection of curated toys for newborns to two years old. Easy for family to pitch in and you get just a few toys every month. Some of the toys are inspired by Montesorri ideas (like the Imbucare box, circles), others are Waldorf inspired (e.g. blocks).
Grimms Pebbles – Are they rocks? Are they plastic? No, they’re wood! Light and soft, the Grimms pebbles are fun for stacking, matching colors, and even a little chewing. As your baby gets older, the pebbles can be used in imaginary play as grass, water, sand, and whatever your child conjures.
Jellycat Tails books – I never knew the magic of crinkle books until I was gifted the Jellycat tails books. Rainbow tails, farm tails, jungle tails, the series is a hoot. Babies love the books to chew on, crush with their fingers, and throw. The whole series is fun, so pick one you like.
Plan Toys Baby Key Rattle – Just like the plastic counterpart from popular brands, this sweet wood key rattle is perfect for teething babies. And babies who want throw stuff (which, by the way, are all babies). Good for 4 months old and up.
Stacking bowls and boxes – Stacking blocks, stacking bowls, stacking cubes, stacking cups, stacking pacifiers, you name it and a toddler will stack it. I love the black and white Grimms stacking bowls and nesting cubes. Yes, they are pricey, but they will last several years. They are durable and are multi-functional. Babies, toddlers, and even young children love stacking filling containers and moving them around.
Pounding toy – $12.99 on amazon – What better way to bash stuff than to give your young toddler a toy that *can* be bashed! The Melissa and Doug pounding toy is great for those little hands. Good for babies 10 months+, this toy hits its stride with 15 months and up. Make sure to supervise baby so they don’t pound their fingers (or remove the ‘hammer’ and let them use their hands to press the pegs in).
Manhattan Toy Skwish – $13.99-$16.99 depending on color on Amazon – My baby received the Skwish when he was 10 months old. He didn’t really know what to do with it except throw it around. By 12 months old, he loved it! Throwing it, squishing it, stretching it; this was clearly a hit! Having never seen one in my life until then, I eventually ended up three Skwishes (other parent friends getting rid of them). Again, super fun. E
Even when my toddler was 3 years he would play with it. I’d tell him to step on it and stretch it as if he were angry – win on the expressing feelings front!
Teethers – Not just a gift, but to also protect your insanity once baby begins teething and chewing on everything like a wild golden retriever. Freezing teethers can be frozen – your kiddo will have a love/hate relationship but they are worth it because they will last a few years as your little one goes teething nuts. Then they are jelly like keys, wood teethers, silicon based beads, the famous Sophie la Giraffe for babies to chew on. You will want 4-5 of teething items because they get lost easily and your baby will go in phases of what they love. Have them on hand now.
Toothbrush + Toothpaste – You probably can’t believe it, but by the time your newborn becomes a one year old, they will sprout some of teethy fangs. Create good habits with daily brushing. At this time you need a teeny tiny bit of fluoride free toothpaste ( Jill and Jack toothpaste creates eco friendly packaging and products) and a soft toothbrush. You can use a finger toothbrush, a bamboo toothbrush, or a silicon toothbrush. Whatever works for you and baby.
Bonus: for a luxury item, the LOVEVERY play gym.
As always, babies must be supervised when playing.