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The best gifts for babies stimulate their senses. Babies might not look like they’re doing much besides eating and sleeping, but the first year of life is full of seismic shifts in development. And even before they can hold a toy, babies are ready to play.
If you're looking for the best baby gifts, the best baby toys engage them, focusing on the contrast they are able to see or the sounds and movements they can make themselves.
“Infants are really learning about their place in the world, so the best toys give them some sense of feedback,” said Tovah Klein, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of “How Toddlers Thrive.” She cited the classic baby rattle as a good example. “'I hit this and it moves’ is the beginning of having a sense of their place in the world.”
Babies also explore with their mouths, so look for toys that aren’t choking hazards (obviously) and might be interesting to a tiny tongue. And keep it simple.
“We tend to shy away from toys that are technological or lighting up and flashing, just because of the overstimulation that they provide,” said Marie Conti, the head of The Wetherill School in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, and a board member of the American Montessori Society.
These are the best gifts for baby boys and girls in 2020, according to child development experts.
To quickly jump to the category you're looking for, click on the links below or keep scrolling to see all 38.
- Bestselling gifts for baby boys and girls
- Best sensory toys for baby boys and girls
- Best teething toys for babies
- Best activity toys for infants
- Best books for babies
When we release our 2020 gift guides, we make sure all prices are current. But prices change frequently, so there’s a chance the prices are now different than they were the day of publication.
Bestselling gifts for baby boys and girls
Baby can make all the sounds of a symphony by hitting just a few buttons on this toy.
Babies love looking at faces, and the material of these books allows them to withstand chewing, ripping and whatever other havoc only a baby could create.
Babies and toddlers love to feel different textures, so “taggies” toys or blankets with tags sewn around them are perfect, Conti said.
With beautiful die-cuts and spare text, Becker's board book is a tribute to illumination and the light within children.
This rattle responds to a baby’s movements by lighting up in three different colors.
Best sensory toys for baby boys and girls
Colorful beads can be twisted, turned and gummed for extra interest.
These are easy to grab and come in bright colors and spiky shapes that feel great on the hands or tongue.
The holes in this rattle make it easy for tiny hands to grab.
These wood blocks use nontoxic paint and stimulate all of the baby's senses.
The sensory tags and colorful accents give added interest to this cuddly friend.
This high-contrast stuffed animal does double duty as an activity center with crinkling, squeaking and teething accessories.
This rattle is easy to hold, responds to a baby’s movements and uses the primary colors they see best.
These beribboned sensory blankets have different textures and crinkle sounds, and a portion of proceeds go to Starlight Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit for seriously ill children.
Crinkly, colorful, chewable and portable — Freddie can attach to a stroller and go anywhere baby does.
Crinkly textures and teething spots on this toy were made for tiny gums.
Best teething toys for babies
Babies love to explore with their mouths and this wood and silicone teether is easy to grasp in bright colors they love.
These gummy rings are delicious for little teethers and can link other toys to items — like a high chair — to keep them from falling.
Sophie is pliant, she squeaks and she’s easy to wash. She’s also universally delicious to babies.
Best activity toys for infants
Bright colors are also great for baby eyes and easy stacking toys like this one help develop motor skills.
This dump truck is also a shape-sorter for all kinds of play for years to come.
Infant eyes are best at seeing contrast. They love symmetry (like the human face), so black-and-white patterns are great for stimulating their senses.
Wrist rattles help babies learn that those crazy finger things on their arms belong to them, and they can move them with intention.
These stacking toys work whether they are in the “right” order or not.
This pull toy rewards baby's effort with music, which older babies especially appreciate, said educational toys expert Lauren Leisk.
Tie this to the side of the crib and let your baby tickle the musical buttons with their toes.
Give baby their own boom box with this little musical toy that can travel with them.
As baby starts to crawl and then walk, a pull toy encourages mobility and interaction.
Best books for babies
There’s no better time to let children know they matter, even if they’re lost or if everyone is too busy to help, than now.
A father and daughter set the foundations of a life together, with plenty of spaces to shelter and avenues for adventure.
This die-cut beauty shows colors combining to layer and create something new. “Babies are still developing their color sight, so pictures with really high contrast and even black and white are really helpful,” said Nina Lindsay, president of the Association for Library Service to Children.
This sweet bedtime story takes a turtle's pace: nice and slow.
This new touch-and-feel book from the author of countless classics ends with a mirror — a baby's favorite.
What do you do when the storm comes? In this soothing read, you pull together with friends and family.
Lyrical text explores colors through changing seasons that baby will soon come to see.
“Babies love looking at faces of other babies,” said Lindsay, adding that it’s particularly important to look for diverse faces because kids learn bias from a very young age. “It’s really important for all children to see children like themselves and different from themselves in books on a regular basis.”
Sandra Boynton, the queen of board books, has new box sets to please any young reader.
Still looking for the perfect gift? Be sure to check out Shop TODAY’s 2020 Gift Guide to shop for everyone on your list, including:
- 36 fun toys and books your 1-year-old will love this holiday season
- The 36 best gifts for 2-year-olds, according to experts
- 37 entertaining gifts your 3-year-old won’t want to put down
This gift guide was originally published on Nov. 14, 2017 and has been updated with new products.