How to Choose Developmental Toys for Baby

Allie Ticktin, OTR/L - January 29, 2021

Walk down any toy aisle or open Amazon and you will see a plethora of baby toys. It is easy to get lost in all of the options, and sometimes hard to choose the toys that your baby actually needs. Of course, grandparents, family and friends also add to the toy collection, leading to playrooms and nurseries filled with toy boxes, lots of mess and more options than your little one would ever need.

The truth is, starting as babies, kids really need very few toys. Many fewer than you would think and no more than a few shelves worth. So let’s talk about what type of toys you really need!

Choose open ended toys:

  • Instead of buying multiple toys, pick toys that can be used in multiple different ways. This will allow you to get more use out of one toy, and need far fewer toys.
  • Open-ended toys allow your child to decide how to play with the toy, helping them build their creativity and develop new ideas (vs. an automatic toy that is meant to be played one way and does not allow space for creativity)
  • Open ended toys will grow with your kids and they will be able to play with them for many years. For example, as a baby, your little one can pull on and swat silk scarves, and as a child, these scarves can become a tutu for dress up.

Go for wood and natural textures over plastic: 

  • It is important that our little ones are able to explore texture in order to develop their tactile sense and be able to tolerate different textures. It is necessary that your little one is able to tolerate different textures for eating a variety of foods all made of different textures and playing in the sand, on the playground, in art and so much more.
  • They are higher quality and last much longer.
  • They are more eco-friendly! It is fairly easy to find FSC-certified wooden toys (like our Animagnets).

Repurpose household items: Do you remember being a child and making a box into an airplane? You then went on adventures around the world with your siblings and neighborhood friends. This not only pushed your imagination, but it gave you a sense of pride because you made something from scratch.  It both reduces waste and saves money!

  • Take silk scarves and put them inside an empty tissue box and let your baby pull them out.
  • Use couch cushions to create a mini mountain your baby can climb up and over

Beware of chemicals and make sure the toys are safe if mouthed:

  • It is always important to know what materials are used to make your toys. Avoid plastics made of PVCs and BPAs which can be harmful to your little one’s health (especially when the toy is mouthed).
  • Always pick toys that have been safety tested, are durable and are safe to be mouthed.

Avoid toys that light up or make noises:

  • Toys that light up and make loud noises are not only overstimulating (and a bit annoying) for you, but also for your baby.
  • When a toy makes a noise or moves, your child doesn’t have to make a noise or move the toy while playing pretend. We want our little ones to bark for the dog or push the race car along the track. We want them to use a skill called ideation – or their ability to come up with the idea. This is lost on toys that only require a push of a button. Electronic toys play for your child instead of allowing your child to use their imagination to play with their toys.

Bonus: Pick toys that you won't mind looking at: 

  • The aesthetics of simple wooden toys will make the mess in your playroom much more bearable. Pick toys that you enjoy looking at while on the shelf. If style is a piece of who you are, there is no need to let that go on toys.

The most important thing to remember is that when your little one is an adult, they won’t remember their toys but instead the time they spent playing. Give them toys that allow them the space to get creative and create memories. This list is by no means an all or nothing way to approach toys, and it is ok to have a few plastic toys, but trying to focus on quality over quantity will help curate your playroom into a space where your little one can grow from tummy time to an astronaut traveling the moon or a dolphin trainer swimming the sea – all with the same set of toys.

If you have any playroom questions join our office hours (through the online studio!) and if you are looking for the perfect gift for a baby in your life check out our Mix-Up Animagnets!



What's In Your Child's Toys? (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2021, from

Hook-Sopko, A. (2020, July 09). Are plastic toys safe? How to avoid a common chemical in most plastic toys. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from