Here is my 2021 guide to the best baby toys, ranging from 0-12 months. Many toys are suitable for the entire year, and many toys can be played with well into toddlerhood!
Confession: I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to baby toys. I find the first year of a baby’s life just so exciting as they develop and learn new things every day. I love finding infant toys that really promote sensory exploration, motor skills, and cognitive development.
This is a compilation of the best baby toys that we have owned and loved and other toys that I think look really cool and have great reviews.
I’ve done the research for you, so whether you’re searching for a Christmas present or first Birthday present for your little one, all you have to do is click purchase!
To make it easy, I’ve divided the post into categories: teething toys and rattles, activity gyms/playmats, activity tables, activity centers/jumpers, sensory toys, toys for fine motor skills, and musical toys. So let’s dive right in to the best baby toys of 2021!
*Post contains affiliate links.
Best Teething Toys and Rattles
You have probably noticed that your baby puts everything in their mouth, and there’s a good reason for that!
Babies have more nerve endings in their tongue and mouth than any other part of their body. So when they are putting things in their mouth, they are learning and exploring and finding out what things feel like.
Giving them a variety of teething toys is one of the best ways that you can help them learn how to explore and play!
If you’re wondering if Sophie the Giraffe is worth the hype and money, she definitely is. All of my babies have loved Sophie from about 5 months and up, especially when they are teething. You can check out Sophie here.
The Itzy Ritzy teething rings are one of Beckham’s favorite things. It has a quiet rattle sound that keeps him entertained, plus the silicone and raised texture is fun to explore and soothing to teething gums. The best part is that the wide circle makes it easy for his little hands to grasp without dropping.
These Itzy Ritzy teethers are so cute, it’s hard to choose just one. We have the fox, but Beckham just might get a few more for Christmas because he loves them so much! They are all easy to grip and come in colors and shapes that are fun for babies to look at.
This is another really cute teething toy. The textured grooves and bumps are very soothing for sore gums. It comes in this teal color and pink.
Similar to the Itzy Ritzy teething rings, the teething mitts come in a TON of cute colors and patterns.
The mitt features textured food-grade silicone with bumps and grooves, as well as a crinkle sound to entertain your baby. There’s an adjustable strap so these are perfect for babies who teethe really young and can’t quite hold onto other teething toys.
The Nuby Ice Gel Teether is a classic. My babies have always LOVED any toy keys. The multiple keys offer a variety of entertainment, and they can be placed in the refrigerator to give a comforting effect on sore gums. They’re also easy for tiny hands to hold on to!
We’ve never owned this but I know that my baby Beckham would LOVE it. It is dishwasher safe and can be boiled, and each knob has a different texture. The knobbly design is supposed to make it easy for baby hands to grasp, but I would imagine that it’s not quite as easy as a ring.
If you’re looking for a solid wood teething toy, HABA is a great choice. The HABA is handcrafted from solid beech wood grown in Germany. The colors are gorgeous and gender neutral, making it a perfect gift.
HABA wooden toys are all excellent quality. All of the stains they use are 100% non toxic and handmade from solid beech wood that’s sustainable grown in Germany. While they will be a bit pricier than your average baby toy, they are well worth it for their heirloom quality.
Also made from beech wood from Germany, the Whirlygig is a delightful toy. The wooden beads can twist and turn, and the bell in the center makes it so fun for babies!
This rattle is so bright and colorful, it is an excellent addition to a play mat, or clipped on to a stroller. Made from the same great quality you can expect from HABA, this will stand the test of time.
The sun rays on the Sunni Clutching Toy rattle around and make a delightful sound. There is also a little bell inside that makes a gentle (read: not annoying!) little sound. The rays also make it easy for little hands to hold on to. This is a fantastic little toy for your babe.
Can you tell I’m a fan of HABA baby toys? This Cuddly Rainbow Teether has it all: teething elements, a mirror, bell, and a rattle. It is soft and snuggly and bright and colorful.
Reviews on this toy are more mixed than other HABA toys. Parents either LOVE it or hate it, and it should be noted that it IS made in China, while the HABA wooden toys are made in Germany.
This is another great clutching toy from HABA. This bends and twists as the wooden beads are threaded on heavy duty elastic.
Best Baby Activity Gyms/Playmats
Baby activity gyms are a must-have for babies that can’t move. My babies have all been late crawlers and their play mats have been well-loved and used.
We got the Fisher Price Rainforest Deluxe Activity Gym for our first baby, Theo and also used it for our twins, Josie and Margo.
It was bright and colorful and had the option to play music and flash lights, which we didn’t use very often. The toys that it came with were all excellent for sensory development and exploration.
When we moved, we gave away our play mat, so we got this one when we had our fourth baby, and it has been a HUGE hit. Beckham really loved this starting at around 4 months.
The high contrast colors and different textures keep his attention and it comes with a guide printed on the map so you can see what activities are suitable for your baby’s age.
If you want to invest in THE best play mat, this is for sure the one you want. I debated getting this for Beckham (it wasn’t around with my other babies) but just couldn’t justify the price for my fourth baby. I know several people who have it and absolutely love it, as it grows and adjusts with your baby as they grow. I definitely think it’s a worthwhile investment!
If you’re looking for a simple, wooden baby gym, you will love this one. It comes with 6 hanging wooden toys and is made out of high quality wood.
Best Baby Activity Tables
I don’t like to overstimulate my babies with too many toys that have lights and music, especially when they’re younger. Once they are a bit older and harder to entertain, or going through a fussy phase, I will break out these toys.
Tip: I have pretty much always purchased toys like this second-hand. Since they are made out of hard plastic, it is extremely easy to completely clean and sanitize them.
I love that you can take the legs off of this activity table so that babies can play with it before they can pull to stand or when they’re learning to crawl. My twins LOVED this and used to fight over it all the time.
This is another toy that my twins used to fight over! It is also great for teaching them to stand. It’s also super fun for toddlers to push around the house, so the play value on these is pretty long.
Best Baby Activity Centers and Jumpers
An activity center differs from an activity table in the fact that they actually contain your baby. If you’re limited on space and budget, I would definitely recommend an activity center (and more specifically, a jumper!) over an activity table!
And though they both have their pros and cons, my babies have always been really happy and entertained in their jumpers, even when they’re having grumpy days.
This is the walker that we currently have for Beckham and he absolutely loves it. It does have music and lights, but most of the time we don’t turn it on for him and he has so much fun just jumping and playing with the toys. It’s adjustable and he’s been going in it since he was about 4 months old.
This is another fun jumper that has lights and music. It is bright and colorful and adjusts to fit your baby as they grow.
This Skip Hop Jumper is so cute! I really like the look and design of Skip Hop products. They are a bit more aesthetically pleasing, while also being bright and colorful for babies. This jumper is also adjustable and has music and lights.
This Skip Hop Activity center has a little window so babies can see their feet playing the piano. It has over 25 developmental activities and it can convert to a play table as they grow.
Best Sensory Baby Toys
Sensory toys are a must have for baby development. I’ve included our favorites that Theo, Josie, and Margo loved, as well as a few that Beckham will probably be getting for Christmas!
This Infantino set is SO CUTE. It comes with 8 different textured balls, 8 soft and colorful blocks, and 4 soft animals. It is an excellent gift for baby’s first Christmas.
This is a soft toy that crinkles and squeaks. There are different pictures hidden under the flaps, giving your baby endless entertainment.
This toy is seriously genius. Each little toy has a different sensory activity, such as a crinkle, rattle, or squeak. They are soft and my babies have all loved squishing and chewing on them when they’re young.
As they get older, they like to play with the cars on the mat. We just brought this out for Beckham, and my 6 and 4-year-olds still have fun playing with it. The best part is that the mat turns into a little bag to store the cars in.
I happened to read some of the reviews when I was grabbing the link for this and was surprised to see that some people didn’t like this toy. I thought it would be helpful to add what people didn’t like about this toy. The play matt is pretty small and some people didn’t like that it was so small and also felt like the cars should have wheels.
Theo LOVED balls when he was a baby, and these were one of his favorite things ever. They are fun bright colors and babies love the knobby, spiky texture.
This is a tried and true classic teething rattle that we’ve had since Theo was a baby (almost 7 years ago!). It’s flexible so it’s easy to grasp and a great texture for teething.
I purchased these little rattles for Beckham when he was around 3 months old and he was so so cute with them. I lay them down so he could look at them during tummy time and he immediately started cooing at them. He loves looking at their little faces and they have suction cups so they make a great high chair toy. He likes to chew on the suction part, and each animal has a different rattle sound. They’re SO cute!
This is a musical light-up toy and is the perfect size to throw in a diaper bag for on the go. The textured ropes are great for sensory discovery and the lights will definitely entertain your baby.
This rattle is great quality! We got it when Josie and Margo were babies and they loved it, as does Beckham. It is a classic rattle and is perfectly safe for teething. The ball is squishable and bendable and I love that the colors are bright without being neon.
The Manhattan Winkle is another classic rattle that we’ve had since the twins were babies. The soft, BPA free teething tubes make it the perfect toy for teething babies.
Any toy that has different textures and fabrics is so good for sensory development in babies. The bumps on this ball produce different sounds such as crinkles and rattles. There’s so much for your baby to discover!
This little mirror is made of plastic, so it’s perfectly safe for babies. It comes with high contrast cards that have really entertained my babies during tummy time (well, except for Theo. He hated tummy time no matter what).
Babies love admiring themselves in the mirror and looking at the different pictures on the cards, which also can be attached to a high chair, stroller, or car seat. This is a game-changer for tummy time!
This Pelican is a toy that we don’t own but one that Santa will bring for Beckham this year. The Pelican comes with 4 little sea creatures that he can eat. The creatures all squeak, rattle, or crinkle and the Pelican has an opening in his belly so the creatures can be taken out and put in over and over again.
The Jellycat fabric book is great for sensory development. Each page crinkles and has bright colors and different textures to keep your baby entertained. It also is the perfect car seat or stroller toy with a velcro handle.
This little toy by Fat Brain is a sensory delight. They are made from high quality, food-grade silicone and can be pulled, twisted, and tugged. They have suction cups that stick together and pop apart and the textures and colors will be sure to capture your baby’s attention.
Best Baby Toys for Fine Motor Skills
Working on fine motor skills is will help your baby with essential skills such as feeding themselves and turning the pages of books. It’s never too early to start working on these skills with your baby!
This toy is great for fine motor skills as they figure out how to make each bug pop up, and cognitive development as they learn cause and effect. Beckham is currently 7 months, and even though he can’t yet make the little bugs pop up, he still loves to look at it and bang it around. It’s a great little toy that they can grow into!
These little cars are specially made so that they’re easy for babies and toddlers to operate. It takes very little effort for them to zoom across the floor. They’re soft and sturdy, and go well over hardwood floors and low pile carpet. These are great for older babies as a first vehicle toy.
These blocks are bright and colorful and have different animals, shapes, and numbers on them. They come in a resealable bag (mom win!) and the texture is perfect as a teething toy for babies.
This is such a cool toy for fine motor development for older babies (around ten months and up). It is a unique shape sorter that comes with 6 little shapes for your baby to push into the box. Your little one will love pushing the little pieces into the box and working to get them out. This will provide endless entertainment for your baby.
Stacking toys are one of the best toys for both fine and gross motor skills, hand eye coordination, and problem-solving. While your baby won’t be able to stack the rings immediately, it is toy for them to grow into. The rings on the B Toys are a different colors and textures and make great teething toys while your baby is learning how to stack.
I love the color and design of these stacking cups that are made in Denmark from plastic that is 100% BPA, BVA, and phthalate-free. They have holes in the bottom that are in really cute patterns and shapes for water play. Reviews mention that some babies have gotten their finger stuck in the hole in the little swirl cup, so if Santa brings these for Beckham, I will remove that one until he’s older.
The Green Toys Stacking Cups are another really great stacking toy. Green Toys are made in the United States from 100% recycled milk jugs, meet the FDA food contact standards, and are dishwasher safe. The cups are numbered and are such a fun shape!
I still remember the first time that my very first baby, Theo, put a ball down the swirling ramp. These toys are so fun and entertaining for older babies! We just brought it out for Beckham (7 months) and while he definitely cannot put the ball down the ramp yet, he LOVES to watch us put it down and shake the balls that make a rattling sound.
The Green Toys Stacker is unique in that it is a stacking and nesting toy that does not have a center piece. Each piece has a bump on the inside to help stack it and make it easy for your little one to grab and hold on to.
Best Musical Baby Toys
I really prefer baby toys that don’t light up and make noise, as I think that they can be overstimulating for babies and make them dependent on lights and sounds with their toys. So, I was very hesitant to use this with Theo when he was a baby.
However, this is like baby crack, I kid you not. My babies have all been completely obsessed with this toy. We would keep it put away and bring it out when they were teething, or we needed a distraction such as at the doctors office.
This was on Beckham’s Christmas List for 2020! This little penguin is so cute. It is a roly-poly toy that wobbles when you push it, but doesn’t fall over. Reviews say that the bell makes a gentle, twinkling sound and isn’t too overwhelming or loud. When it waddles, it’s arms also shake! It doesn’t move on it’s own, so until your baby is old enough to do it themselves, you will have to play with it with them.
I hope this post of best baby toys was helpful to you and brings you and your baby countless hours of fun! If you have a favorite baby toy that I’ve left off the list, be sure to let me know!