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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 29.
- Bestselling gifts for baby boys and girls
- Best toy gifts for baby boys and girls
- 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 a few buttons.
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.
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.
Best toy gifts for baby boys and girls
Babies love to explore with their mouths and this wood and silicone teether is easy to grasp in bright colors they love.
This high-contrast stuffed animal does double duty as an activity center with crinkling, squeaking and teething accessories.
These gummy rings are delicious for little teethers and can link other toys to something like a high chair for keeping them from falling.
This rattle is easy to hold, responds to a baby’s movements and uses the primary colors they see best.
This rattle responds to a baby’s movements by lighting up in three different colors.
This simple wood toy is a rattle and teether and comes in Baby's favorite bright colors.
Sophie is pliant, she squeaks and she’s easy to wash. She’s also universally delicious to babies.
Crinkly textures and teething spots were made for tiny gums.
Infant eyes are best at seeing contrast and love symmetry (like the human face), so black-and-white patterns are great for stimulating their senses.
Bright colors are also great for baby eyes and easy stacking toys like this one help develop motor skills
At around 6 months, babies love to look at themselves, even though they don’t know who it is in the mirror. A baby-safe mirror is a fun way to explore.
These stacking toys work whether they are in the “right” order or not.
This mobile takes the black and white pattern and adds movement and 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 ivories with his toes.
15. Baby Tree Blocks
Conti loved these baby versions of the tree blocks older kids use in Montessori school.
As Baby starts to crawl and then walk, a pull toy encourages mobility and interaction.
Best books for babies
“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.
“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.
Sweet and whimsical text provides everything your child might need, just in case.
With beautiful die-cuts and spare text, Becker's board book is a tribute to illumination and the light within children.
This board book gives little ones inspiration from groundbreaking women and encourages big dreams for girls.
The pages aren't drool-proof, but the simple, empowering message about persistence gives plenty for a parent and baby to chew on.
This rhyming book starts with babies being too new to do a whole lot, but grows with them through new experiences. It’s a reminder for those who are new at parenting, too.
Finding the perfect present can be a challenge, but Shop TODAY's up to the task. Try our interactive gift finder to sort gifts by price, person and interest. And no matter who you're looking for, we've got gift guides for everyone on your list, including:
- Gifts for 1-year-olds
- Gifts for 2-year-olds
- Gifts for 3-year-olds
- Gifts for 4-year-olds
- Gifts for 5-year-olds
- Gifts for 6-year-olds
- Gifts for 7-year-olds
- Gifts for 8-year-olds
This gift guide was originally published on Nov. 14, 2017.