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Editor's Picks: Newborn Toys & Books (0-6mo.)

Updated November 2016

Hello, baby! A newborn doesn’t really need anything in the way of toys or books for the first month or two. But after that, having a few developmentally appropriate toys on hand can certainly be helpful to encourage your baby’s developing vision and gross motor skills.

Here’s a quick guide to the various developmental stages your baby will pass through in the first six months, and what types of toys and books are typically appropriate for each stage:

  • 0-2 months: At the very beginning, it will be more than enough just for baby to practice focusing on your face. However, toward the end of this period, he may be ready to start engaging with some additional stimuli. Around two months, baby will be able to focus on objects that you pass in front of his field of vision. While his visual acuity is still developing and he remains unable to distinguish between similar colors, your best bet is to go with bold, black-and-white / high-contrast items that are most likely to hold his attention.
  • 2-4 months: By two to three months, baby will begin staring quite intently at images and objects that he finds fascinating, and he'll be able to grasp objects that you put in his hands — grasping toys and teething toys are great for this stage. By three months, he'll enjoy batting at toys (e.g. dangling from an activity gym overhead). Babies start to work on distinguishing colors during this period, so it’s appropriate to introduce toys with bright, primary colors (red is the first color your baby will be able to see, followed by oranges, yellows, greens, and lastly blue).
    A 3-month-old baby batting wildly at his beloved activity gym.
  • 4-6 months: Your baby will be better at grabbing and holding objects, and also able to pick up larger objects, by this age. Large blocks and soft objects with fun textures are a good choice. Musical toys are also favorites. It’s also a good time to get an early start on reading with your baby. Soft books (as opposed to board books) often provide a great introduction because they’re soft to the touch and often feature multiple textures to engage the senses.

Below are our editor's picks for best toys and books for 0-6 months by subcategory:

Note: Our editors developed this list by summarizing TotScoop parent favorites and adding a few hand-picked editor favorites and new releases. Our picks are 100% unbiased — we never accept compensation in exchange for coverage. That said, this page may contain affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small commission on any purchases that you make (at no cost to you); see our full disclosure.

You may also be interested in the following related guides:

Best high-contrast toys

High-contrast toys (e.g. black, white, & red) are especially great for the first few months, while baby is working on strengthening his basic visual acuity. Here are a few of our favorites.

Art card pick: Wee Gallery Art Cards for Baby

These black-and-white art cards ($13 at Amazon) feature adorable graphics on thick, high-quality card stock. You can pass them in front of baby's eyes to help him practice tracking, mount them to a mobile over the crib, or affix them to a wall in the nursery. Try putting them above baby's changing table to keep him occupied during diaper changes!

Mobile pick: Manhattan Toy Wimmer-Ferguson Stim-Mobile

This award-winning high-contrast mobile ($22 at Amazon) features stimulating images and colors for early visual and multi-sensory development. Start younger babies out with the black-and-white images, then flip to the color sides after the first couple of months. Clamps onto most cribs.

Mirror pick: Manhattan Toy Wimmer-Ferguson Double-Feature Mirror

This double-sided mirror ($27 at Amazon) is a great product that grows with your baby. It's reversible: in the first few months baby will love staring at the high-contrast images on the back side; then when he gets a little older you can flip to the mirror side and he can gaze narcissistically at his own reflection. The mirror is the best quality mirror we have found — the others on the market all seem to provide distorted reflections and/or are cluttered with objects all around the sides. Use it in the playroom, or use the ribbons to attach them to the side of the crib.

Best grasping toys

Starting from a couple months old, it's nice to have a few grasping toys on hand to encourage baby’s grasping ability. Your baby will work on his early motor skills as he practices holding and shaking them. Since grasping toys almost inevitably end up your baby's mouth, be sure to screen them for BPA, PVC/vinyl, and phthalates. For more info, see our full guide to toy safety.

Value pick: Sassy Ring O' Links Rattle Developmental Toy

We love this ring-and-link-set (MSRP $4, Amazon $3) for its versatility. Attach the nine links to the large ring, and it's an easy to transport rattle filled with different textures to explore. Remove the links, and baby can explore the textures on each link individually, or as part of a chain. You can hang the chain off another object (like a carseat), and even use it to link other toys! BPA free.

Popular pick: Rhino Toys Oball

Your baby will delight in squeezing and manipulating the super flexible Oball (MSRP $4, Amazon $8). Lightweight and squishable, it's very portable — great for the diaper bag. At time of writing it was selling for above retail on Amazon, but it’s also readily available at Target stores. The Oball is made of silicone; is vinyl, PVC and phthalate free; and can be popped in the dishwasher for easy cleaning.

Popular pick: Manhattan Toy Winkel Rattle and Sensory Teether Activity Toy

Babies love the Winkel rattle ($11 at Amazon) for its stunning colors and mesmerizing loop design. It’s easy to grasp, lightweight and rattles when shaken, encouraging and engaging your little one’s motor skills.

Non-toxic pick: CaaOcho Baby Natural Rubber Rainbow Sensory Ball

CaaOcho's rainbow sensory ball ($19 at Amazon) is made of one of the safest materials available for teething toys. It's made of 100% pure natural rubber; is free of BPA, PVC, phthalates, and nitrosamine; and is finished with food-grade paint. It has six different textures for baby to explore and can help with hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and sensory development. It squeaks when squeezed, and is the perfect size for little hands and small mouths.

Best teething toys

Popular pick: Vulli Sophie the Giraffe Teether

Sophie (MSRP $25, Amazon $23) is hardly an undiscovered secret, but why mess with success? No baby's toy box would be complete without Sophie. She's fun to hold, squeak, and chew. Just take care not to get water inside the little air hole when washing her, or she'll lose her squeak! Made of 100% natural rubber and food paint; phthalate and BPA free.

Non-toxic pick: Comotomo Silicone Baby Teether

The Comotomo Silicone Baby Teether (MSRP $6) is made of some of the safest material you can find for a teether: 100% medical-grade silicone. It’s BPA, PVC, and phthalate-free
, and is safe for use in microwaves, boiling water, dishwashers and sterilizers, so it can be cleaned in a snap. Designed for baby hands to grasp and hold, the Comotomo’s four prongs and circle can be held and chewed on, while its nubs help relieve the pain associated with teething.

Non-toxic pick: Haba Kringelring

Once you buy a high-quality wooden toy like this one from HABA, it's a slippery slope and you may never go back! This wooden rattle and teething toy (MSRP $13, Amazon $12) is made of beech wood, is colored with a non-toxic, water-based stain, and has a couple small attached rings that make satisfying sounds when shaken.

Non-toxic pick: Grimm's Natural Wood Teether Hedgehog Grasping Toy

For grasping and teething, the Grimm’s Natural Wood Teether (MSRP $13.50) is designed to stimulate baby’s sense of sight and touch with its hedgehog design that babies will love chewing and a cutout large enough for baby to grab. It’s made of hardwood and has a plant-based oil finish, so it’s completely non-toxic and safe for little mouths. Grimms also makes a number of other styles, including a heart, owl, flower, and more.

Handmade pick: Beckman Woodworks Handmade Wooden Rainbow Rattle Teething Toy

If you’re the type of parent who loves unique and handmade products, then look no further than this wooden teething rattle ($15) from the wonderful Etsy shop beckmanwoodworks. Made of solid wood with an organic beeswax polish, this rainbow colored (in non-toxic dye) rattle will catch your baby’s eye and the ends are just large enough for your baby to chew.

Teething necklace pick: Chewbeads Silicone Necklace

We love the idea that there’s something on the market that looks great on mom and helps baby with teething. This silicone necklace (MSRP $30-39) is non-toxic, BPA-free and soft on babies gums and emerging teeth. It even features a breakaway clasp for added safety. These fashionable beads can be dressed up or down to suit any occasion. They're available in a range of shapes and colors; the large turquoise bead design (pictured) is one of their most popular, but we're partial to the fun rainbow design!

Best soft toys

Soft toys are great for youngest babies because they have no pointy parts! Something designed to be machine washable is ideal, but even many soft toys that don't explicitly say they are machine washable will survive a cold water wash cycle fine (just be sure to air dry). Many parents choose to introduce a lovey, blankie, or other security object from as early as three or four months old. Just make sure you choose something breathable (for safety) and machine washable (for obvious reasons).

First blocks pick: Infantino Discover and Play Soft Blocks

These small soft blocks (MSRP $13, Amazon $10) feature black-and-white and color sides (sporting patterns, images, letters, and numbers), and a number of textures and sounds (e.g. rattles, crinkles, clacks). They're the perfect size for small hands and are great for developing gross motor skills. They are machine washable and are free of BPA, lead, phthalates, and flame retardants.

Rattle pick: Apple Park Teething Rattle

Most toys go straight into baby's mouth at this age, which is why we love this line of organic teething rattles (MSRP ($10) from Apple Park. The outer material is 100% organic cotton, it's filled with corn fiber, and it's machine washable.

Hanging toy pick: Lamaze Clip & Go Toys

These deluxe plush hanging toys from Lamaze ($11-14 at Amazon) are fantastic — larger and higher quality than the hanging toys that come with most activity gyms. They are colorful and feature lots of interesting textures, sounds, and mini-activities to engage baby. You can attach them to your stroller, carseat, or activity gym. Freddie the Firefly seems to be the most popular, but we also love Jacques the Peacock and Mortimer the Moose. See the entire line on Amazon. BPA, PVC, phthalate, lead, and flame retardant free.

Hanging toy pick: Skip Hop Hanging Toys

Skip Hop also makes a range of hanging/stroller toys. For youngest babies, we love simple Wise Owl ($9 at Amazon) from their Treetop Friends line. He's cute and high quality, and features a chime to engage baby. You can hang him from an activity gym, or attach him to a stroller bar or car seat handle. All Skip Hop products are free of flame retardants.

Lovey - popular pick: Angel Dear Blankie Lovey

These popular loveys ($11-13 at Amazon) are incredibly soft, available in a wide variety of characters, and perfect for snuggling and soothing. They're made of 100% polyester microfiber, and are machine washable. Also check out the line of similar loveys available from Jellycat ($20).

Lovey - all-natural pick: Apple Park Organic Farm Buddies Blankie Lovey

If your tastes skew toward the organic and all-natural, we'd like to nominate one of Apple Park's adorable farm buddy loveys (MSRP $13) to be your little one's new bedtime companion. They're made from 100% organic cotton and contain corn fiber filling, and wash well.

Best interactive toys

Simple interactive toys are great for encouraging motor skill development and for teaching your baby cause-and-effect.

Developmental pick: Noggin Stik Baby Toy

It lights up, rattles and is just the right size for little hands. The Noggin Stik Baby Toy ($20) is encourages tracking, illuminates with your baby’s movements, and has a textured grip that babies love.

Musical pick: Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes

We've never met a baby that did not absolutely LOVE this electronic music box (MSRP $11, Amazon $7). When baby pushes the big button in the middle, it plays a classical-inspired tune (and they’re not too irritating, so you'll be able to stand it too) — teaching baby cause and effect. It also has a bunch of blinky-blinky lights to hold baby’s attention. Don't even think about it — just get it.

Car seat/stroller pick: Tiny Love Take-Along Arch

The Tiny Love Take-Along Arch ($19 at Amazon) has a flexible arch and angle adjustment as well as universal clips to fit any car seat or stroller. With crinkle, motion and mirror attachments, this sensory stimulating arch will provide your baby with hours of entertainment (and you hopefully with hours of enjoying meals or other social activities!).

Best first books

High-contrast books are great for developing your baby's vision in the first few months. A bit later, soft books are great for really young babies because they have no pointy parts, and also often have fun interactive features such as squeakers and rustling pages.

High-contrast pick: Look, Look! by Peter Linenthal

Look, Look! ($4 at Amazon) is a staple black-and-white/high-contrast book for newborns. The illustrations are beautiful, and babies can't help but stare raptly at the pages. It's a board book, so you can read it to baby in the traditional way, or prop it up alongside him in the crib, etc.

Soft activity book pick: Lamaze Cloth Books

This line of Lamaze cloth books ($12-15 at Amazon) is chock full of different colors, sounds, and textures for baby to explore. Two of them are rated for birth to 6 months: Panda's Pals, chock full of high-contrast, black-and-white and color images; and How Do I Feel?, which features more color and introduces basic emotions. These books are great for keeping baby occupied during tummy time or a car ride; also, because they are soft, you don't need to worry about baby hurting himself with it.

Soft activity book pick: Skip Hop Treetop Friends Soft Activity Book

Can't get enough of the Skip Hop Treetop Friends line? Neither can we! This well made soft activity book ($11 at Amazon) features an owl that pops out of a felt egg and a leaf-shaped plastic bookmark/chew toy, among other features.