29 unique baby gifts 2020, according to development experts

The best baby gifts stimulate their senses — and can withstand a good layer of drool.
/ Source: TODAY
By Lisa Tolin

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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.

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

1. Munchkin Mozart Magic Cube

Baby can make all the sounds of a symphony by hitting a few buttons.

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. Edushape Sensory Balls

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

5. Oball Rollin' Rainstick Rattle

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

Best toy gifts for baby boys and girls

1. Wooden Cloud Baby Teether

Babies love to explore with their mouths and this wood and silicone teether is easy to grasp in bright colors they love.

2. Dolce Activity Zebra Plush

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

3. Fat Brain Toys Ringlets

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

4. 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.

5. SmartNoggin NogginStik Developmental Light-up Rattle

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

6. Haba Ring Around Wooden Clutching Toy

This simple wood toy is a rattle and teether and comes in Baby's favorite bright colors.

7. Sophie La Giraffe Teething Toy

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

8. Skip Hop Bandana Buddies Stroller Toy

Crinkly textures and teething spots were made for tiny gums.

9. Wee Gallery Art Cards for Baby

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.

10. Grimm's Rainbow Stacker

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

11. Infantino Discover And Play Activity Mirror

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.

12. Fat Brain Toys Tobbles Neo

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

13. Tiny Love Into The Forest Classic Mobile

This mobile takes the black and white pattern and adds movement and music, which older babies especially appreciate, said educational toys expert Lauren Leisk.

14. Fisher-Price Kick & Play Piano

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.

16. Petit Collage Jumping Jumbo Wooden Pull Toy

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

Best books for babies

1. "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.”

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

Sandra Boynton, the queen of board books, has new box sets to please any young reader.

3. “The I Love You Book,” by Todd Parr

“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.

4. "Just In Case You Want to Fly," by Julie Fogliano and Christian Robinson

Sweet and whimsical text provides everything your child might need, just in case.

5. "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.

6. "Dream Big," by Joyce Wan

This board book gives little ones inspiration from groundbreaking women and encourages big dreams for girls.

7. "Sometimes You Fly," by Katherine Applegate

The pages aren't drool-proof, but the simple, empowering message about persistence gives plenty for a parent and baby to chew on.

8. "You Are New," by Lucy Knisley

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.

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This gift guide was originally published on Nov. 14, 2017.