Babies play differently than big kids do. They gnaw anything in reach. Rather than build with blocks or cradle dolls, they drop toys, pound on them, or throw them. It's how babies explore, and it's why, when American Baby evaluates toys, we pick ones age-graded no higher than 9 months and up, and we use testers ages 12 months and younger. You can be sure that the winners on these pages work especially well for small fry, who are happy to be hard on them in pursuit of fun and learning.
1. Skip Hop Activity Chime Balls These tipsy, melodic animals are irresistible to an infant who's just mastering sitting herself. (from birth, $10; BabiesRUs.com)
2. Hape My First Gym If electronic sounds and flashing lights stress you out, go old school with this wooden arch for infants. Three simple dangling toys encourage your baby to reach and grab. (from birth, $60; HapeToys.com)
3. Tiny Love My Nature Pals Gymini "This is Brooke's new favorite," says Lori Barr, of New York City, whose daughter is 5 months old. "My husband and I like it too. The arches are slim, so we get great photos of Brooke playing." (from birth, $65; TinyLove.com)