The Best Toys for 9-Month-Olds, According to Developmental Experts
Calling all 9-month-olds for playtime! Your little one is rounding the corner to their first birthday and is quickly embracing all the milestones that will eventually lead to toddlerhood. But for now, play is still the name of the game when it comes to learning. This month, baby may use those crawling skills to pull themself to a stand, or maybe they’ll even start cruising a bit!
The best toys for 9-month-olds encourage them to develop the skills they’ll need as they grow. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of our favorite developmental toys for 9-month-olds, plus some tips to keep in mind when shopping for your little one at this age.
Generally, a good toy is always an educational toy, says Mark Coster, founder and editor-in-chief of STEM Geek, a website dedicated to STEM activities for kids of all ages. But what does education mean for 9-month-olds? The keyword here is sensory, Coster says. “A good toy will stimulate one or more senses. But at this age, it needs to pair sensory stimulation with basic problem-solving.” Nine-month-old babies are reaching some important milestones, like greater mobility and better fine motor skills. Their playtime should support and encourage these important developments. “At nine months, babies are usually confident sitters and are on the move or very close to crawling,” says Lisa Lohiser, EdD, manager of Early Childhood Development Research at the Fisher-Price Play Lab. “This can include pulling to a stance and even cruising. Toys that make moving fun, like activity tables to pull up on and rolling toys that encourage baby to crawl after them, are great for this age,” Lohiser says.
And it isn’t just gross motor skills that are exploding at this age. Nine-month-old babies are experiencing a huge increase in fine motor skills as well, says Lohiser, so the best toys for 9-month-olds have lots of busy activities for development in that area—things like doors, buttons or spinners. Another great feature for this age group? “Toys that have action/reaction activities so baby can learn cause and effect,” Lohiser says.
As always, when you’re shopping for baby toys, pay attention to the age ratings. These will not only help you pick out playthings that are developmentally appropriate (so baby doesn’t get too bored or too frustrated), but they also indicate what’s a safe toy for this age.
Your little one is enjoying their new-found mobility now, which makes a push toy one of the best toys for a 9-month-old. This one from VTech features plenty of lights and colors, and tons of fun activities to keep baby busy for hours. Mobile kiddos can push the toy, while those who prefer to sit or crawl will enjoy playtime using the removable activity panel. Age rating: 9 to 36 months.
Lohiser recommends rolling toys for 9-month-olds, since they can encourage baby to crawl if they haven’t already started. Once you’re able to get your little one’s attention using the toy, roll it gently away from them and watch as they try to navigate toward it. This wooden Montessori-inspired rolling drum contains brightly colored balls that move and bounce inside as it rolls. Age rating: 3 to 18 months.
By now, your little one has the manual dexterity to pick up blocks and similar objects. Help them get a jump on those critical thinking skills with a shape sorter like this one from Melissa & Doug. This two-sided activity toy features a 9-holed shape sorter as well as back crinkle flaps that reveal shaped objects. And thanks to the soft, zippered pouch, it’s ideal for on-the-go play. Age rating: 9 months+
According to Lohiser, pop-up toys are among the best developmental toys for a 9-month-old. “Pop-up toys can help your little one work on fine motor manipulation and object permanence at the same time, making them a great multipurpose toy,” she says. This one from Fisher-Price features colorful friends with oversized buttons that are perfect for strengthening dexterity. Age rating: 9 months+
Learning tables have become one of the most popular toys for 9-month-olds, and for good reason: They’re the perfect way to encourage your little one to practice those early standing skills! “Activity tables naturally encourage babies of this age to pull up and explore all the different activities that are just out of their view from the floor. This can help baby become proactive about standing and cruising,” Lohiser says. And with a music mode that plays songs and sounds of instruments, as well as a learning mode that introduces shapes and colors, they’re sure to have fun in the process. Age rating: 6 to 36 months.
Put baby in the driver’s seat with this cute, engaging toy from VTech. Perfect for encouraging your little one to sit independently (and quietly!) for a few minutes, this steering wheel toy features a ton of sensory inputs, including wheels, buttons and levers. Light-up buttons teach your little one about animals and vehicles, while three play modes with more than 60 songs, sounds and phrases are sure to entertain for hours on end. Age rating: 6 to 36 months.
Parents may dread musical toys, but “anything that allows baby to ‘play’ their own music is a huge developmental win,” says Coster. This wooden rolling drum works in two ways: stand it upright, allowing baby to bang on it and make music, or turn it on its side and encourage baby’s newfound crawling skills. This clever instrument is one of our favorite learning toys for 9-month-olds. Age rating: 6 months+
Lakeshore Learning has long been a great source of learning toys for kids, and this plush sorting box is no exception. It comes with a variety of soft, colorful friends for your little one to take out of the box and put back in while simultaneously using their senses to feel and explore these objects. This developmental toy for 9-month-olds will surely become a favorite! Age rating: newborn to 4 years.
This sweet little wooden piano comes with color-coordinated cards that allow baby to eventually play their very first tunes. But for now, your little one will enjoy banging on the keys for a fun, musical way to learn cause and effect. Age rating: 6 months+
Your little one is putting the finishing touches on fine motor skills like grasping, which is why this cool toy is one of our top picks for the best developmental toys for 9-month-olds. This lightweight box features stretchy bands that allow baby to put the shapes in and take them out again. The chunky blocks feature various textures to further engage their senses. Best of all, parents rave that this is one toy that kids come back to over and over again, even as they grow into toddlers. Age rating: 6 months+
With tons of excellent reviews from satisfied parents, this engaging electronic book is a perfect toy to bring when you’re on the go with baby. The five piano buttons play classic nursery rhymes and introduce colors and instruments, while some pages have twist-and-slide pieces for added entertainment. Featuring easy-to-turn pages and bright, colorful lights, this fun book is one of our favorite learning toys for 9-month-olds. Age rating: 6 to 36 months.
This fun boppin’ pal scores high marks when it comes to checking all the sensory boxes for 9-month-olds, says Lohiser. Loaded with educational content using the company’s SmartStages technology, DJ Bouncin’ Beats teaches numbers and letters in a fun, interactive format while bouncing up and down to a catchy beat. A unique record and playback feature allows your little one to use their imagination and remix their own sounds as they get a bit older. Age rating: 9 to 36 months.
About the experts:
Mark Coster, PhD, is the founder and chief editor of STEM Geek, a website dedicated to STEM activities and toys for kids of all ages. He is an organic chemist with more than 20 years of experience in chemistry research and teaching. Also a father of three, he’s passionate about the power of STEM toys.
Lisa Lohiser, EdD, is a Fisher-Price Play Lab expert, where she provides insights into how kids learn and play and how to best support their development. She has a doctorate in education with a focus on learning and teaching in social contexts, as well as a Master’s degree in creativity and change leadership and a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education.