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Best baby toys 2021: The best toys for your newborn baby

Joe McGrath Victoria Woollaston
17 Nov 2021

We've selected our favourite toys to keep your newborn engaged, entertained and occupied - so you can have a well-deserved rest

Baby toys tend to be the last thing new parents think of when they’re preparing to welcome a little bundle of joy into their lives. It’s hardly surprising: newborn babies need a huge amount of stuff, from nappies, wipes, bibs and muslins to Moses baskets and clothing.

While it is very true that newborn babies do little more than eat, poop, sleep and repeat in those first few weeks – all while struggling to see further than a few centimetres from the tip of their tiny nose – research suggests that playtime is a significant part of their development in the early weeks and months.

The cognitive, physical, social and emotional development of your baby can all be assisted through play, and the best thing is that there’s no age limit, so adults can join in the fun and benefit, too.

Below, we’ll take you through the fundamentals of choosing the best toys for your newborn. Further down, you’ll find our pick of the best baby toys we’ve tested.

How to choose the best toys for your newborn baby

How much should I spend?

Toys that will be fun for your newborn while also assisting in their development vary in price from a few pounds to eye-watering amounts.

We’ve listed options that range from roughly £10 to £60: while you can spend much more than that on a single toy, you shouldn’t need to. Generally, the more you spend, the more complex the toy will be, so keep in mind what you need; are you looking for a cute ten-minute distraction or a battery-powered play mat that’ll keep your baby entertained for hours?

What kind of toys should I buy my baby?

It’s easy to buy something simply because it looks appealing; because it has been marketed well; or because you’ve seen other parents with the same toy. But it’s crucial you buy a toy that suits the developmental needs of your child.

Toys for babies between the ages of zero and one are focused on stimulating the senses, whether that’s by developing head/eye movement, touch, hearing or sight. There are also toys that purport to help with sleep, meaning you can attempt to catch some much-needed shut-eye without feeling guilty. You’ll find lots of crinkly, shiny, noisy (sorry!) toys on our list, plus play mats for enhancing the all-important tummy time.

Are there any safety considerations?

If you want peace of mind, check that the product you plan to buy conforms to EU regulations and safety standards. Check for the CE symbol that confirms that the toy is intended to be sold within the EU, and meets its manufacturing standards – not to be confused with the CE symbol that indicates only that the product was exported from China. You can find out more about this here.

For extra confidence, look for BS EN-71 certification – a British standard that declares that any toy (or other items) intended for under-14s won’t choke, poison or otherwise harm your child through careless design.

Most importantly, though, use common sense. Steer clear of toys that might obviously pose a choking hazard or toys with sharp parts or long cords.

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The best baby toys to buy

1. Ollie the Owl: The best baby toy for sleeping

Price: £30 | Buy now from Amazon

In those early weeks and months, one of the main things on the minds of parents is sleep – getting it, keeping it and repeating it most nights in a routine. Babies, of course, have other ideas, and in the first few weeks of their lives need comfort and some shushing during the night to reassure them that everything is okay. Ollie the Owl is the perfect toy to help with this as it has four different built-in sounds, a nightlight and a cry sensor that automatically turns on a sound when it hears your baby wake. It is also very soft and huggable, so you don’t need to worry about your baby coming into contact with a plastic toy during the night.

Another great feature is its hanging loop, which means you can keep the baby’s basket or cot empty – as per the advice from the Lullaby Trust on safe sleeping. Plus, if you don’t like owls, then you can opt for Pip the Panda or Bennie the Bear.

Key specs – Size: 14 x 25 x 21cm; Weight: 238g; Ages: From birth; Power supply: 4x AA batteries

2. Sweet Dreamers, Ewan Baa Baa Blankie: The best baby toy for soothing

Price: £14 | Buy now from Amazon

From the ‘Ewan the dream sheep’ collection, the Baa Baa blankie is perfect for cuddling and snuggling at bedtime or naptime. The blankie is light grey, made of soft fleece with a silk edge, and features Ewan’s face. This soft comfort blanket will be the perfect companion for any baby to cuddle whenever and wherever they feel sleepy.

Key specs – Size: 38 x 30 x 5 cm(LWD); Weight: 90g; Ages: From birth; Power supply: None

3. Foot Finders & Wrist Rattles: The best baby toy for hand-eye coordination

Price: £14 | Buy now from Amazon

These adorable rattles can be worn on the hands or feet and help to develop hand-eye coordination Each one is adorned with a colourful bug and will encourage your little one to touch, grab and look at them. The cute wrist rattles gently wrap around your baby’s wrist and fasten easily, while the socks slip on to their feet. They can be used at home for sensory play or to entertain your baby while in the car or pram.

Key specs – Size: 18.3 x 13.3 x 4.6 cm (LWD); Weight: 60g; Ages: From birth to 12 months; Power supply: None

4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar activity caterpillar: The best baby toy for colour stimulation

Price: £25 | Buy now from JoJo Maman Bebe

This toy is based on the popular book Very Hungry Caterpillar and features lots of activities to entertain your little one, with rattles, crinkles and squeaks. It also plays ‘You are my sunshine’, a lovely tune to keep your baby smiling. This is great for developing your little one’s senses and to help them discover the world around them.

Key specs – Size: 40 x 6 x 5cm (LWD); Weight: N/A; Ages: From birth to 12 months; Power supply: None

Buy now from JoJo Maman Bebe

5. Disney Baby Mr Ray Ocean Lights Activity Gym & Play Mat: The best baby toy for all-round development

Price: £60 | Buy now from Smyths Toys

Play and activity mats are a great way to keep little ones entertained while you grab a hot drink, but also have features that will aid their development as many have music, bright colours and different textures. The Disney Baby Finding Nemo Mr Ray Ocean Lights Activity Gym comes with 6 toys that detach for playing and easy cleaning. Dory doubles up as a finger puppet, which is great for storytelling, while the clamshell mirror allows your baby to see its reflection and learn more about the world.

Key specs – Size: 81 x 91 x 46cm (LWD); Weight: N/A; Ages: From birth; Power supply: 3 x AA batteries

Buy now from Smyths Toys

6. My First Baby Multi Textured Sensory Soft Balls: The best baby toy for sensory play

Price: £9.99 | Buy now from Amazon

While newborn babies have little in the way of grip or, really, the ability to hold a sensory ball like these, the bright colours and different textures are brilliant for their ongoing development. This box of different sensory balls will be useful for most of your baby’s first year as they learn that things around them are different colours and shapes, and start to explore how things feel.

Key specs – Size: 29 x 23 x 23 cm (LWD); Weight: 320g; Ages: From birth; Power supply: None

7. Farm, Sit Me Up Baby Seat: The best baby toy for self-contained play

Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon

Some newborn babies demand to be held for most of the day, and some parents love to relax and hold them for as long as needed. However, for those that would like to put their baby down for a little while, the Sit Me Up Baby Seat is a great thing to have as it combines a soft resting area with a self-contained play environment. Around the playnest are eight sensory features that help develop your baby’s sense of touch, sight and sound. There is a bonus for the parents, too: this playnest is machine washable which means you can keep it fresh from the baby spit-ups and milk spills.

Key specs – Size: 37 x 7.49 x 28.19 cm (LWD); Weight: 710g; Ages: 0 and up; Power supply: None 

8. Tummy Time Water Mat: The best baby toy for strengthening neck muscles

Price: £16 | Buy now from Amazon

Tummy time is really important for strengthening babies’ neck muscles. It’s recommended that your baby spends 10 minutes or so each day on their tummy as it also helps strengthen their legs and arms, and helps when they’re a little older and preparing to crawl. This water play mat makes that experience more interesting for your baby, enhancing their hand-eye coordination.

Key specs – Size: 20.2 x 18 x 6.8 cm (LWD); Weight: 580g; Ages: 3 months and up; Power supply: None 

9. Sophie La Girafe - Giraffe So Pure Teething Ring: The best baby toy for soothing sore gums

Price: £11 | Buy now from Early Learning Centre

When used from birth, this Sophie La Girafe teething ring is a soothing sensory toy. As your baby gets older and those tiny teeth start poking through their gums, leading to lots of dribble and pain for them, this adorable teether will help provide some much-needed relief. It is made from 100% natural rubber and is decorated with food-grade paint – so you can do your bit for the environment and your teething baby.

Key specs – Size: 1.52 x 7.11 x 25.91 cm (LWD); Weight: 99.79g; Ages: 0-24 months Power supply: None

Buy now from Early Learning Centre

10. Sensory Flashcard Collection - Baby Development Cards: The best baby toy for stimulating vision

Price: £12.99 | Buy now from Priya and Peanut 

Studies have shown that, for the first six months, a baby’s vision is blurry, their field of vision small and that black and white are the strongest recognised colours. These flashcards are great at stimulating your baby’s retina and their brain. They will capture your baby’s full attention and help to mature their sight until they can process colours post six months.
Key specs – Size: A6; Ages: Suitable from birth to six months; Power supply: None

Buy now from Priya and Peanut

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