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Best Baby Toys

Playing With Baby: Baby Toys
Playing With Baby: Baby Toys

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.

Baby with activity chime balls

Ben Goldstein

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)

Hape My First Gym

Ben Goldstein

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)

Natural animals activity gym

Ben Goldstein

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)

Pirate and mermaid rattles

Ben Goldstein

4. Dandelion Pretend Play Rattle A pirate and a mermaid are just two of the adorable rattles in this eco-friendly line, all hand-crocheted using bamboo thread. They're easy for your baby to hold and shake, and safe to chew on. (from birth, $13 each; DandelionForBaby.com)

Puppy push toy

Ben Goldstein

5. Fisher-Price Stride-to-Ride Puppy Flip up the seat and it becomes a push toy to steady your new walker. Later, riding on this mobile shape-sorter is a blast: The head bobs as the wheels roll! (9 to 36 months, $50; ToysRUs.com)

VTech Alphabet Activity Cube

Ben Goldstein

6. VTech Alphabet Activity Cube "Toys like this one grow with Briggs," says Kate Graham, of Frederick, Maryland, whose son is 11 months old. "Every side has a bunch of things to do." (from 9 to 36 months, $50; ToysRUs.com)

Baby holding teether

Ben Goldstein

7. Green Toys Twist Teether This is the kind of teething toy that's just right for an infant—lightweight, oh-so-chewable, and of course, BPA-free. (from birth, $11; Shop.GreenToys.com)

Firefly mobile

Ben Goldstein

8. Lamaze Freddie the Firefly Musical Mobile "Amelia started to focus on this at about 6 weeks old," says Amanda McPherson, of New Martinsville, West Virginia. "I love that the wings can flip from black and white when she's tiny to colorful patterns when she's a bit older." (birth to 5 months, $50; Amazon.com)

Monkey Fun Photo Adventure

Ben Goldstein

9. Parents Monkey Fun Photo Adventure Babies fixate on people's faces. Fill this book with family photos, and show your munchkin her own cute mug in the mirror at the end. (from 6 months, $20; FatBrainToys.com)

Ballyhoo by B. by Battat

Ben Goldstein

10. Ballyhoo by B. by Battat "I like that this is a quiet toy," says Katy Hildman, of Waukee, Iowa, who watched her 11-month-old, Kyla, take to it. "And that all its parts fit back together." (from 6 months, $20; OneStepAhead.com)

Playskool Rocktivity Sit, Crawl, and Stand Activity Arch

Ben Goldstein

11. Playskool Rocktivity Sit, Crawl, and Stand Activity Arch This plays pop tunes such as "I Like to Move It Move It" along with souped-up kiddie jingles. Instruments entice your rocker to join in. (6 months to 3 years, $90; ToysRUs.com)

Bright Starts Safari Sounds Musical Learning Table

Ben Goldstein

12. Bright Starts Safari Sounds Musical Learning Table When your child can pull up to a stand, this wildly colorful table topped with engaging gizmos will become a go-to play station. (6 to 36 months, $30; Walmart.com)

Baby Einstein Sea Dreams Soother

Ben Goldstein

13. Baby Einstein Sea Dreams Soother Attach this to Baby's crib rails and let the ocean motions, lullabies, and nature sounds transfix him. Turn it on or off via remote without stirring your angel. (from birth, $43; Walmart.com)

Chicco Touch & Spin

Ben Goldstein

14. Chicco Touch & Spin "This is perfect for restaurants—Karley can't throw it!" says Roginia Moore, of Des Moines, Iowa, whose daughter is 8 months old. (from 6 months, $7; ChiccoUSA.com)

Haba Little Sparrow Clutching Toy

Ben Goldstein

15. Haba Little Sparrow Clutching Toy Parents who lean toward classic wooden playthings chirped about this birdie teether with tiny jingling bell feet. Sweet! (from 6 months, $12; Maukilo.com)


Originally published in the November 2012 issue of American Baby magazine.