When you're a soon-to-be parent and are preparing for a new baby, you'll probably be most focused on the baby gear you'll need, from the car seat to the co-sleeper, bottles to diapers. The best baby toys are often last on the list of must-haves before baby arrives.
And that makes sense, because your newborn baby is barely going to have his or her eyes open for very long in the early stages. You'll probably have a stuffed animal or two, usually gifted at a baby shower, but you'll quickly find that those baby toys don't actually hold a baby's attention until they're much older.
I was similarly clueless when my first baby arrived, but by the time she was a few months old, the newborn haze had lifted and I realized I had no idea what baby toys babies should actually be playing with!
If that sounds familiar, or if you're looking for a great baby gift to give a friend or family member, you'll want to head straight for our baby gift guide to the best baby toys for 2020, because that single stuffed animal just isn't going to cut it.
Do Babies Need Toys?
If you're new to the baby toy scene, you might be wondering why on earth babies need toys anyway. The little lumps should be happy sucking on their fingers, right? Wrong. Babies actually use toys to help them hone their motor skills and learn things like cause and effect or even object permanence.
Babies can benefit from having a small range of toys available, even when they're only a few months old. When babies are infants, having toys that feature strong contrasts in colors and textures can help them learn to focus their eyes when their sight is still developing. You'll also want to consider toys that babies can chew on, because exploring with their mouths is one of your baby's main ways to learn about the world when he is tiny.
Even trying to get a toy into their mouths can be helpful to a baby as they work on the motor skills and hand eye coordination that can help them pick up a toy and move it where they want it to go, and of course, that means that you'll need toys that are readily chewable and washable. Again, that stuffed animal isn't going to do much good here, although your baby will definitely try to gum it for her first year of life. Teethers, on the other hand, are gold for young babies from three months on.
Finally, toys with noises, rattles or pieces that can be pulled to make a song play are great for teaching babies about cause and effect. They shake, they get a noise. They pull, they're rewarded with a song. This is a critical skill babies will benefit from learning from a very young age.
Now that you know the kinds of toys babies need and benefit from, it's time for the best baby toys of 2020, that will help your baby learn and grow this year.
1. Baby Toy Rattle Set
This baby rattle set ($23.99 for a set of 10 on Amazon.com) comes with ten different rattles, which might seem like overkill, but the excess can actually be useful when you have a baby at home or on the go. Pop a few of these in your diaper bag, another can stay with the car seat, and you can place one or two around the house to keep your baby entertained with a whole lot of chewing no matter where you are. The great thing about these is that they can be easily disinfected in hot water and the cute colors won't fade. You might want to pick up a set of these pacifier clips from Amazon that can tether the teething toys to your baby's seat because another throwing is another skill your baby will probably be working on!
2. Baby Activity Gym
This baby play gym ($44.99 from Amazon) ranks high on the list of best baby toys for 2020, and for good reason. Many baby play gyms just offer somewhere for your baby to lay and look up. This baby play gym from Bright Starts, on the other hand, gives your baby lots of different options that can grow with them as they develop their motor skills. Your baby can lay flat when he is very little, but as he starts to roll, you can pop the sides up and he can turn and look at the different animals on the sides. This baby play gym also plays songs and turns into a ball pit when your baby gets ready for that level of action.
3. Colorful Stacking Rings
They still sell the colorful stacking rings that we all had when we were infants (the Fisher Price Rock-a-Stack, to be precise), which are pretty fun for nostalgia's sake. But isn't it time those stacking rings for babies got an update? Yes, yes indeed. We're welcoming this update from Fisher Price with its Linkimals Lights & Colors Llama ($25.17 from Amazon), with a new colorway, light-up rings, and a delightful animal head. What's not to love?
4. Stackable Spheres
Stackable cups are the old baby stand-by toy, but how about these stackable spheres called Tobbles Neo from Fat Brain Toys ($26.95 from Amazon). They're delightfully colorful and can grow with your baby into their toddler years, as they work on their fine motor development to get the spheres to stack. When your baby first gets this toy, she's probably just going to enjoy chewing on it, since the shape makes it perfect for teething. But as your baby grows, she'll start to understand the relationship between the size of the sphere and whether she can stack another on top of it, which is a great lesson in cause and effect for babies.
5. Kick Play Piano
If you're looking for your baby to be the next Mozart, you might as well invest in this kick and play piano gym from Fisher Price ($39.99 from Target). The nice thing about this baby toy is that it will grow along with your little one. It has continuous music for when your baby will lay there and barely kick the notes, and then you can move on to short songs for an older baby and even songs that will introduce shapes and numbers to them down the road. And since this kick play piano is portable, this could be your baby's new party trick at the next play date.
6. Baby Keys
It's always helpful to have a portable toy on hand when you're heading out the door, whether you're waiting in a doctor's waiting room and want to keep your baby from chewing on the table edges, or you're hoping to keep your baby happy in the grocery store while you pick up a few things. These VTech Smart Sounds baby keys ($9.97 from Amazon) are perfect. They'll fit in your diaper bag easily, and they have just enough bells and whistles to keep your baby occupied for a little while. The little rattles and buttons are great for younger babies, and older ones will love pressing the buttons and hearing new sounds.
7. Sensory Ball
Fat Brain Toys have some winner options in the baby toy category. This Klickity baby toy ($29.99 from Amazon) is adorable and great for your baby to learn with. The contrasting and bright colors are super for their development, and they'll love the different rubbery textures of the balls that they can push in and pop out. When your little one gets a bit older, make sure you add these twist-together beads for them to learn with as well.
8. Highchair Toy
You might be surprised just how useful a toy that suctions onto a flat surface can be when you have a baby. Taking an airplane to visit grandparents? Stick this thing to the tray table. Trying to get the dishes done? Pop it onto the high chair. The Sassy Wonder Wheel ($7.99 from Amazon) will get quite a lot of use as your baby spins the wheel and makes it rattle. The colors make it engaging for little babies, and the sound it makes will teach them cause and effect.
9. Baby Walker
Our kids got so much use out of their baby walkers when they were inching toward that walking milestone. While we loved this VTech learning walker, the farm song sort of sticks in your brain for months on end. The Little Tikes Light 'n' Go Activity walker ($19.99 from Target) has quite a few more sounds and songs so you can mix it up when you start to feel a little nutty from listening to the same one over and over.
10. Baby Drum
Last but not least, a baby musical instrument that not only functions as a fun toy to crawl around after, but most likely won't make a painful obnoxious sound that will make you want to hide it under a pile of laundry. Hape makes great baby and toddler toys that are made to last for a very long time, and the Hape Baby Drum is no different ($20.89 from Amazon). This Hape pull-along elephant would be even quieter, if you're looking for a nearly silent option instead.