This really silly toy is a big hit with babies. You drop the five colorful balls onto a track, where they tumble down and then pop up through the middle so baby can start the whole thing over again. The Busy Ball Popper appeals to a baby's desire for repetition, and the fun, lively music adds excitement, as well. Not only have I seen babies play with this toy for long stretches in person, I've had several parents email me to say that their babies and toddlers loved it, too.
Part rocker and part ride-on toy, the Howdy Cow from Trumpette is a perfect toy for babies to experiment with around a year old. The cow is inflatable and is made of a sturdy material that is squishy to the touch and comfy to sit or bounce on. As baby learns to balance, bounce and scoot, the Howdy Cow only becomes more fun. There's no upper age limit on this toy, so it can be enjoyed for as long as it fits into a child's imaginative play. For less than $40, that's a pretty impressive lifespan!
The high-quality wooden playthings from Plan Toys are worth every penny. They hold up well and are made with eco-friendly materials. Not only is this pull-along snail toy adorable and fun, it's also made from recycled wood that isn't treated with any chemicals. At one year old, toddlers are at the perfect age for pull-along toys. They're learning to walk, and they love to watch a little toy friend move along with them. This snail wiggles up and down as it strolls along, too. About $20.
As the name indicates, this cool toy allows baby to bounce up and down, as well as spin around, while riding a colorful zebra. I like this toy because it encourages active play, instead of just sitting in one place. It also encourages imaginative play, which is important as your baby enters the toddler years. The Bounce & Spin Zebra has lights, music and animal sounds that make this toy even more fun for toddlers. It can be used from about one year old up to age three.
A tricycle that can grow with a toddler is a great choice for a gift. The Smart Trike has a secure infant seat that holds a younger child onto the trike while a parent pushes with the built-in handle, so this gift can be enjoyed right away. As your toddler grows, you can switch the seat into modes for larger kids, and the push handle can be removed so that this becomes a regular tricycle. There's even a detachable sun shade to keep baby cool. This tricycle will be fun for baby from about a year old all the way through the toddler years. The big bucket on the back is awesome for toddlers to carry around their treasures. $70-$150, depending on accessories.
Fisher-Price has updated this classic baby toy to include battery-operated sounds that babies will love. The set includes the familiar barn and several animal pals, as well as a farmer figurine. Babies will enjoy practicing their animal sounds and exploring life on the farm with this fun activity set. The whole barn closes up, housing all of the accessories inside, so you can easily store it when play time is over.
Wheely Bugs are a fun update to the classic ride-on toy for babies and toddlers. Available in ladybug, cow or bee patterns, these ride-ons have swivel wheels that allow baby to move back and forth, side to side, or any which way. The soft seat is comfortable and easy to wipe clean if necessary. The padded handlebar is nice, too. The toddlers who tested this toy for me were instantly in love with the Wheely Bug. It's a sturdy and entertaining toy that should last for several years. The small size is best for smaller toddlers. A larger size is available for ages 3 and up.
I can still remember playing with a basic set of blocks from an early age. A classic set of blocks gives a baby or toddler lots of playtime options, from the favorite "build a tower and knock it over" game to creating wooden roads for toy cars and more elaborate games. This 26-piece blocks set has several shapes and sizes to help baby be creative. The colorful designs on the blocks are eye-catching, too. Some of the blocks have bells or shimmery stickers on them. The paint is all non-toxic.
The classic ball gets an upgrade in the OBall, a lightweight, flexible ball that's full of holes. The first thing kids notice about OBall is that it's really fun to squish and stick your fingers through. After that, the possibilities are endless. You can roll it around on the floor, toss it in the air, bowl with it, or whatever else baby can come up with. Since it's lightweight, it's a great car or stroller toy, and can easily be clipped to a toy tether so it doesn't get lost. The light weight and flexibility also means it won't do much damage if it gets thrown a little too hard. About $7.
This toddler-size guitar has three modes for fun and learning. Your baby can practice counting, listen to animal sounds, or jam to Old McDonald with the Learn & Groove Animal Sounds Guitar from LeapFrog. You can also switch between English and Spanish, so your child can get a head start on a second language. Lots of buttons to push and fun sounds as rewards make this a great toy for young toddlers.