The 18 Best Newborn Toys to Engage Your Little One
In their first three months of life, baby is probably asleep more often than not—but don’t be fooled by all that shuteye, your little sleepyhead is going through a lot of physical, social and emotional development. By the three-month mark, you can expect baby to start cooing, recognizing different faces and voices and exploring their surroundings with all five senses. While it’s not all fun and games, play is an important part of helping baby achieve some important developmental milestones. The best toys for newborns tend to feature intriguing textures, high-contrast patterns and easy-to-grasp designs that prompt their brains to build new connections.
Not sure what types of toys are up to the task? Don’t worry—with three kids at home, I’ve definitely accumulated lots of intel on toys. Read on to discover our favorite playthings for the youngest of infants, as well as top tips for newborn toy shopping, inspired by conversations with two pediatricians, Alexis Phillips-Walker, DO and Mona Amin, DO.
We get it—there are so many essentials to keep in mind when you’re bringing a newborn home, from car seats and cribs to burp cloths and baby wipes. Getting acclimated to your “new normal,” with feeding and sleep routines, pediatrician check-ins and rollercoaster postpartum feels is overwhelming to begin with, but throw in the enrichment and early skill-building benefits of play (and the pressure to start)—yes, with your just-hatched honey—and the stress just intensifies. That’s where we come in, to do the bulk of the research, so you don’t have to spend hours trying to figure out what crinkle toy or teething rattle will do the trick for your tiny one. We do this by considering a list of criteria such as developmental, milestone-matching touchpoints, manipulative design, sensory stimulation and, first and foremost, safety. To ensure your baby’s health, welfare and cognitive growth were prioritized above all else, we consulted with a duo of pediatricians and consulted the most up-to-date guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). We also read user reviews, thoroughly analyzed each of our favorite newborn toy options to find out how they worked for real-life families and didn’t consider anything with less than an average four-star rating.
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Looking for newborn toys that stimulate their senses, boost their fine motor skills or spark their imagination (and yes, even at a few weeks’ old, the wheels are starting to turn in their tiny heads)? From stimulating sensory toys to soothing cuddle buddies, we’ve rounded up the best baby toys for 0- to 3-month-olds below. Your newborns’ noggins are in for a treat!
Spark your little one’s curiosity for music with this take-along toy for newborns from Baby Einstein. The plush, smiling star plays six classical tunes and has gentle light features that are sure to keep your infant engaged. Best of all? The musical toy can even be clipped to baby’s car seat or stroller for entertainment while you’re out and about. I had this toy with all three of my children, and it's among the best diaper bag secret weapons around—many a family lunch or dinner out was saved just because we had it at the ready to quell meltdowns.
- Soft star arms are teething-friendly
- Manual volume adjustments
- Battery door requires a screwdriver
- Some parents say the Velcro doesn’t hold well
- No silent mode
Introducing baby to tummy time? Floor mirror toys for newborns keep little eyes and minds engaged while they strengthen their motor skills. Take this pick, for instance. It features a high-contrast design, soft teething elements and a large mirror to help develop baby’s budding social skills. Plus, this newborn toy is portable and can be stored flat for your convenience.
- Fits easily into a diaper bag
- Encourages parent-child play interaction
- Fabric is easy to wipe clean
- Protective film is tough to take off
This infant toy is a beloved classic. The adorable giraffe is flexible and easy for tiny hands to hold on to—plus, it gently squeaks when squeezed. And for your peace of mind, the teether is made from natural rubber and food-grade paints that are BPA-, PVC- and phthalate-free.
- Multi-sensory experience
- Super lightweight silhouette
- Can be mouthed all-over
- Should not be used in the bath
Not sure what to gift the infant in your life? You can’t go wrong with a play kit from Lovevery. This particular option contains a variety of age-appropriate newborn toys designed to stimulate little ones up to 12 weeks old. The high-contrast images and sensory toys will help baby create new brain connections as they become more aware of the world around them. When my 15-month-old was a newborn, we could attach the squishy sensory links to his Play Gym, or bring them with us on errands. My husband would run into the store while I sat in the backseat with my son, squeezing and crunching the caterpillar tubes to his absolute delight. And now that he’s older and starting to communicate, he loves bringing the wooden flip book over to me, turning each page and pointing to the black and white animals while we talk through the unique sounds each makes.
- Comes with a play guide
- Everything is developmentally-appropriate
- Compatible with other Lovevery products
- Black and white cards can bend easily
Next up on our list of the best toys for infants is this too-cute soother. The plush hedgehog plays relaxing music and vibrations to calm baby as they cuddle it. And when this stuffed animal is in need of a bath after going on adventures with your little one, simply remove its electronics and pop it in the washing machine.
- Embroidered facial features (no loose parts)
- Lightweight and easy to pack
- Adjustable volume control
- Batteries included
- Must take out battery pack before washing
- Comes in two colors—teal and pink
Teeny-tiny hands love to explore new textures, which makes this crinkly leaf a top-notch newborn toy in our eyes. Baby can grab, squish and squash these high-contrast leaves to their delight. Plus, the lightweight design makes them ideal travel toys.
- Great tummy time toy
- 100 percent organic cotton shell
- Might be overwhelming for babies < 6-8 weeks
This colorful newborn toy has over 30,000 five-star reviews on Amazon—and we can see why. The captivating teether is made up of various, BPA-free tubes for your child to chew and hold on to. It’s a great toy to encourage your little one to grip and flex (and as baby gets older, it’ll become the first toy they start throwing around the room—before the obsession with balls comes to pass). Plus, the middle contains a rattle for extra auditory fun. If baby is teething, feel free to place it in the fridge before playtime to provide additional comfort and relief.
- Bright and colorful
- Incredibly lightweight and simple to shake
- Surface/spot-clean only
Does your infant keep losing their pacifier? Then this newborn toy is a must-have. The mini stuffed animal will help them keep track of their binky whether they’re playing, cuddling or snoozing. Parents also say that pacifiers are less likely to fall out of their infant’s mouth, thanks to this plushie—I know my daughter wouldn’t go anywhere without her unicorn, lamb and llama. Not only were they absolutely adorable, but they also sported her favorite silicone binkie!
- Rounded nipple can help previously tongue-tied babies
- Free of latex, BPA, PVC and phthalates
- Washable in a laundry bag
- Not all models feature a detachable pacifier
Black-and-white infant toys stimulate developing minds without overwhelming them. This board book is full of high-contrast images of baby animals that your child is sure to love. What’s more, its durable design can withstand being chewed, tossed, stacked and anything else your little busybody has in mind.
- Part of a series of other themed books
- Rounded corners for added safety
- Simple language is repeated in other books
- Pages can warp, some parents say
On the hunt for an adorable activity gym for baby? Look no further than this pick from Skip Hop. Your newborn will love exploring their senses by experimenting with the mat’s textures, sounds and colors. This play gym includes more than 17 activities designed to support baby’s development, as well as five hanging toys for infants, like an avocado-shaped rattle and a musical bunny.
- Watermelon plush tummy time wedge
- Removable arch transforms into a growth chart
- PVC-free, phthalate-free
- Ribbons break easily, some parents say
Like a few other standouts on this list, this Oball Shaker Rattle was legendary with my three babies (during their newborn days and well beyond). We kept one in the playroom, one in our car’s center console, one in the diaper bag and one at grandma’s house; I’m not exaggerating, we needed one in close proximity anywhere we went. Not only is the rattle lightweight and super portable—one of the easiest toys to throw into any diaper bag, tote or backpack—it’s also incredibly baby-friendly. The extra large finger holes and textured handle make easy work for babies under three months. And BPA-free plastic is all the peace of mind parents need when you see your kiddo mouthing it from top to bottom. Once it’s covered in drool, you can spot-clean with a damp cloth and some mild soap, easy peasy.
- Filled with colorful beads providing auditory stimulation
- Wipe clean only
- Soft rattle sound less engaging for older infants
One of the first things that strikes a new parent is how much personality baby has right from the start. Whether you're searching for the perfect baby shower gift or giving yourself and your new sidekick a little treat, the Build A Baby Gift Box from Rookie Humans lets you create a custom present that will be perfectly tailored to your new and unique little loved one. Start by choosing one of seven adorable themes, then fill your box with bedding and matching toys. Needless to say, this newborn gift set is just what the stork ordered.
- Wide range of products
- Can get pricey quickly
Too-cute graphics? Check. Crinkly texture? Check. Age-appropriate activities? Check. This newborn toy has it all. The colorful soft book contains several pages to stimulate baby’s growing awareness of their surroundings. All five of your infant’s senses will be engaged, thanks to the book’s squeaking songbird, teething corner and soft mirror.
- Encourages early cause-and-effect learning
- Hook-and-loop closure for easy transport
- Silicone-textured teething corner
- No words
- Some “fuzzy” pages forfeit lint
On the hunt for a snuggly security blanket for your little joey? The soft and cuddly handfeel on this B. Toys Koala Lovey provides a sense of warmth and familiarity, promoting a soothing and altogether calming environment for your sweet new family member. Koko also sports a special crinkle spot that is both engaging and stimulating for your baby. The sensory element creates a fun surprise for newborns, encourages their curiosity and kickstarts their sensory development. Plus, how cute is that tuft of teal hair up top?
- Lightweight and easy to hold
- Maintains plushness after multiple washes
- Great baby shower gift
- Might not appeal to older babies
Though your newborn can’t stack and sort these blocks just yet, they can still have fun discovering their stimulating colors and textures. A yellow seahorse, smiling sea turtle, soft satin seashell and cascading blue waves are just a few of the delights offered by this infant toy. My baby boy loved reaching for these blocks whenever he was having a tummy time session. We never wanted to exhaust him, but with every week that went by (following his cues, of course), we would move the blocks a bit further out of reach, to encourage him to move, extend his arms and even start pivoting, with time.
I personally loved (and still do) tugging at the blue octopus tentacle and letting it retreat back. I would touch my little guy’s arm as it vibrated and he’d giggle to no end.
- Soft, cushioned design
- Great tactile stimulation
- Easily wipes clean
- May prove overstimulating for some babies
- Blocks are a little big for babies < 8 weeks
The best toys for newborns are designed to stimulate all five of baby’s senses, and this vibrant learning cube is no exception. The developmental toy for infants features high-contrast graphics to support visual learning and pattern recognition. Plus, the cube will help baby learn cause and effect as they experiment with its various textures and activities.
- Soft, baby-safe construction
- Stimulates cause and effect learning
- Encourages visual activity
- Hand wash-only
Scoop up some sweet sensory fun for your newborn with the Melissa & Doug Ice Cream Take-Along Infant Toy! This scrumptious little travel buddy offers a variety of textures, from smooth cotton to cozy corduroy, all to stimulate your babe's sense of touch. When baby expands the cone like an accordion, they’ll get a taste of four colorful flavors with different emoticon-style expressions. The vibration adds a sprinkle of excitement to soothe and entertain your baby, while the strawberry chewy charm lets them nibble away teething pain and sensitive gums. And with the clip-on design, this toy can go with you anywhere!
- Attaches easily to strollers, diaper bags and car seats
- Delicious colorways promote focus and visual tracking
- Vibration may startle young newborns
- Baby will need to get older to pull cone apart
Last on our list of the best toys for newborns is this sensory key ring from Fat Brain Toys. The Dimpl Clutch consists of three squishy, textured silicone toys for baby’s hands (and mouth!) to explore. Whether you’re playing at home, in the car or anywhere in between, this portable newborn toy will be there to keep baby occupied.
- ABS plastic and 100 percent food-grade silicone
- Chunky and easy to grasp
- Portable and attachable
- Silicone attracts lint, dirt, fibers
- More suitable for older newborns
When shopping for the infant in your life, you’ll want to make sure the newborn toys you pick out are age-appropriate. This way, baby’s developing physical, emotional and social skills will be supported, as they safely discover and make sense of the world around them. Play mirrors, high-contrast flashcards, colorful rattles and textured, cloth activity books are all standout examples of newborn toys that’ll stimulate your little one’s senses. Better yet, these toys promote baby’s fine motor skills, social abilities, pattern recognition and visual development.
Baby can begin tummy time as soon as they come home from the hospital, says Phillips-Walker. To that end, a play gym or activity mat offers a safe space for baby to play on their back or belly from the get go, adds Amin.
As your child approaches the three-month mark, they’ll also begin bringing objects toward their mouths, says Amin, so be sure to have teethers on hand, and avoid giving them anything that could pose a choking hazard.
Last but not least, it’s never too early to begin reading to baby. Phillips recommends black-and-white board books or textured cloth books, which prompt newborns to recognize certain images and aid in speech development. And when storytime is over, baby can explore these infant-friendly books with their hands—and their mouths!
From crinkly books and colorful teethers to activity mats and soft blocks, there are a lot of toys for newborns to choose from. To narrow down your search, keep these features in mind when shopping for your little one:
High-contrast patterns. As your newborn’s eyesight develops, it’s easier for them to see black-and-white or colorful images. Phillips adds that visually stimulating patterns will keep baby’s attention during playtime.
Easy-to-hold designs. Baby is learning how to hold onto objects, so stick to infant toys that are easy for teeny-tiny hands to grasp. Interesting textures also promote tactile stimulation and teach baby about their sense of touch.
Interactive toys. Look for playthings that engage baby’s five senses.Toys with soft sounds, music or squeakers encourage baby to make noise, which is critical in language development, says Phillips-Walker.
Safety. For your newborn’s safety, Phillips-Walker suggests choosing infant toys that are larger than your child’s mouth. Likewise, they shouldn’t have any loose or small pieces that could potentially be ingested.
Remember, almost anything can be a play item at this age. Amin suggests walking around your home, describing what you see and letting your child feel different textures (maybe a soft blanket or a silk scarf) to teach them about their surroundings. What’s more, it’s important for parents to engage with baby, so consider picking out newborn toys that you can use together. After all, playing and learning go hand-in-hand at this stage.
Alexis Phillips-Walker, DO, is a pediatrician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group Pediatrics in Atascocita, Texas. She earned her medical degree from Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens.
Mona Amin, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician based in Florida. She is also the host of the PedsDocTalk podcast. She received her medical degree from ATSU School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona, and completed her pediatric residency at the Bernard and Millie Duker Children’s Hospital in Albany, New York.
Healthy Children (AAP), How to Buy Safe Toys, December 2021
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