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40 best baby gifts and baby toys to buy in 2021

The best baby gifts stimulate their senses — and can withstand a good layer of drool.
Cute little boy playing with a railroad train toy
Cute little boy playing with a railroad train toyRawpixel / Getty Images / iStockphoto
/ Source: TODAY

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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, 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 40.

Don’t forget to check out Shop TODAY’s Gift Guide to find the perfect present for everyone on your list!

Bestselling gifts from this article:

Bestselling gifts for baby boys and girls

1. Munchkin Mozart Magic Cube

Baby can make all the sounds of a symphony by hitting just a few buttons on this toy.

2. "Indestructibles: Baby Faces," by Amy Pixton and Kate Merritt

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.

3. Taggies Little Leaf Elephant Lovey Soft Toy

Babies and toddlers love to feel different textures, so “taggies” toys or blankets with tags sewn around them are perfect, Conti said.

4. "You Are Light," by Aaron Becker

With beautiful die-cuts and spare text, Becker's board book is a tribute to illumination and the light within children.

5. SmartNoggin NogginStik Developmental Light-up Rattle

This rattle responds to a baby’s movements by lighting up in three different colors.

Best sensory toys for baby boys and girls

1. Manhattan Toy Classic Baby Beads

Colorful beads can be twisted, turned and gummed for extra interest.

2. Edushape Sensory Balls

These are easy to grab and come in bright colors and spiky shapes that feel great on the hands or tongue.

3. Oball Rollin' Rainstick Rattle

The holes in this rattle make it easy for tiny hands to grab.

4. PlanToys Sensory Blocks

These wood blocks use nontoxic paint and stimulate all of the baby's senses.

5. Sigikids Cat Soft Toy

The sensory tags and colorful accents give added interest to this cuddly friend.

6. Dolce Activity Zebra Plush

This high-contrast stuffed animal does double duty as an activity center with crinkling, squeaking and teething accessories.

7. Manhattan Toy Skwish Classic Rattle

This rattle is easy to hold, responds to a baby’s movements and uses the primary colors they see best.

8. The Learning Lovey

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.

9. Lamaze Freddie the Firefly

Crinkly, colorful, chewable and portable — Freddie can attach to a stroller and go anywhere baby does.

10. Skip Hop Bandana Buddies Stroller Toy

Crinkly textures and teething spots on this toy were made for tiny gums.

11. Magifire Tummy Time Baby Water Mat

You baby will love watching the sea critters float around while they enjoy tummy time.

Best teething toys for babies

1. Fox Teether

This cute teether is easy for your baby to grab on to. It's BPA-free and comes in olive, gray or peach.

2. Fat Brain Toys Ringlets

These gummy rings are delicious for little teethers and can link other toys to items — like a high chair — to keep them from falling.

3. Sophie La Giraffe Teething Toy

Sophie is pliant, she squeaks and she’s easy to wash. She’s also universally delicious to babies.

4. Calmies Teether for Babies Without BPA

Babies put just about everything in their mouths, but you won't mind when they chew on this. The teething toy is made from sustainable, natural rubber without BPA.

Best activity toys for infants

1. Granpa Penn Rainbow Stackers

Bright colors are also great for baby eyes and easy stacking toys like this one help develop motor skills.

2. Green Toys Shape Sorter Dump Truck

This dump truck is also a shape-sorter for all kinds of play for years to come.

3. Skip Hop Explore & More Activity Table

With squeaky, spinning and rolling elements, this activity table starts on the floor before the legs pull it to stand, just like baby will soon.

4. Wee Gallery Art Cards for Baby

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.

5. Bright Starts Rattle and Teethe Wrist Pals

Wrist rattles help babies learn that those crazy finger things on their arms belong to them, and they can move them with intention.

6. Fat Brain Toys Tobbles Neo

These stacking toys work whether they are in the “right” order or not.

7. Fisher-Price Kick & Play Piano

Put your baby down on the mat for tummy time and let them tickle the musical buttons with their toes.

8. Baby Einstein Take-Along Musical Toy

Give baby their own boom box with this little musical toy that can travel with them.

9. Hape Elephant Wooden Pull Toy

As baby starts to crawl and then walk, a pull toy encourages mobility and interaction.

Best books for babies

1. "Goodnight Moon," by Margaret Wise Brown

Nostalgic for parents and perfect for babies, you can never go wrong with this classic book.

2. "You Matter," by Christian Robinson

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.

3. "What We'll Build: Plans for Our Future Together," by Oliver Jeffers

A father and daughter set the foundations of a life together, with plenty of spaces to shelter and avenues for adventure.

4. "My Favorite Color," by Aaron Becker

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.

5. "Turtle Walk," by Matt Phelan

This sweet bedtime story takes a turtle's pace: nice and slow.

6. "You're My Little Baby," by Eric Carle

This touch-and-feel book from the author of countless classics ends with a mirror — a baby's favorite.

7. "Dear Baby," by Paris Rosenthal and Holly Hatam

From the co-author of "Dear Girl" and "Dear Boy" comes this letter to a new little one, about how to approach the world with gratitude.

8. "When the Storm Comes," by Linda Ashman and Taeeun Yoo

What do you do when the storm comes? In this soothing read, you pull together with friends and family.

9. "Green on Green," by Dianne White and Felicita Sala

The lyrical text explores colors through changing seasons that baby will soon come to see.

10. "Global Baby Bedtimes," by Maya Ajmera

“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.”

11. "Big Box of Boynton," by Sandra Boynton

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 Gift Guide to shop for everyone on your list, including:

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This gift guide was originally published on Nov. 14, 2017 and has been updated with new products.