Home Toys/Gear

Best Baby Toys 6-12 Months: A Pediatric Physical Therapist’s Advice

August 22, 2016
The best baby toys 6-12 months: Advice from a pediatric physical therapist - everythingbabies.org

Hello, dear readers!

(This post contains affiliate links. See my affiliate disclosure here)

It’s your favorite pediatric physical therapist here to help you pick the best baby toys for 6-12 month olds.

Are you wondering which toys are truly beneficial to your baby’s overall development, now that he is over 6 months old? Are the simple baby toys he used to like no longer holding his interest?  Is he now babbling, playing with his hands, grabbing toys, and putting objects in his mouth? This is a great time to promote healthy developmental milestones for years to come by choosing the right toys and activities now!

Do you believe all the advertisements on TV and the internet, telling you the busy, flashy, noisy toys and electronics will make your baby smarter? It’s just not true! Those toys are over-stimulating and require very little exploration or interaction from babies. Research shows that toys marketed to “stimulate your baby’s brain” are actually interfering with their physical and brain development.

6-12 month olds interact with objects in their environment much differently than babies 0-6 months.

(Read: Best Baby Toys 0-6 Months) The biggest difference is now they are using their sense of sight and touch, which includes exploring objects in their mouths! They should be starting to be mobile on the floor by tummy crawling or rolling by about 6 months.  (If your baby is not, read The Importance of Tummy Time or contact me for more personalized information.) This means baby gets to move about their environment to investigate objects with their hands and mouths, independently! So much brain development at this stage!

At 6-12 months (and older), babies will not learn from a toy if they are not interacting with it or exploring it with their hands and mouths at this age. This is when babies learn about textures, weight, movement, and cause-and-effect. They are processing not just what things look like, but what they feel like, what they do and how they work. Babies this age are way smarter than we give them credit for, and their abilities to process and store new information for learning is unlimited!

As a pediatric physical therapist, I can help guide you toward choosing the right toys that:

  1. are appropriate for 6-12 month-olds;

  2. will promote better physical development (fine and gross motor milestones);

  3. will promote better cognitive (thinking) development;

  4. do not cause over-stimulation or interference with the brain’s natural process of learning.

*Note: One important key to remember is that any amount of TV/screen time is still harmful to development before the age of 2. (Read the AAP Recommendations for screen time here.) In our pediatric therapy practice, we see a significant correlation (connection) between children exposed to too much screen time and attention deficit issues and processing difficulties (required for learning). They have more difficulty with problem solving, emotional/ behavioral regulation, and confidence, too.

Here are my top recommendations for the best toys for babies 6-12 months old:

1. Books

It’s never too early (or too late) to start reading to your kids. They learn about language, connecting words with pictures, how to sit still and be calm, bonding with parents and siblings, and so much more. It was always an important part of the naptime and bedtime routine in my house. In my professional and personal experiences and opinions, kids who were exposed to books from a very early age have a much better attention span, they are more curious, and play alone better than other kids.


2. Blocks

Stacking, sorting, moving blocks help babies learn the ways of the world. Round blocks don’t stack, heavy blocks are hard to move, triangle blocks don’t fit in a star-shaped hole! Big blocks need two hands and can’t sit on top of smaller blocks. If the block goes under the couch, is it gone forever? By far, the favorite toys in our waiting room (besides books)are the puzzle blocks from Melissa and Doug no matter the age of the child.  There are so many different ways to play with them, but you actually have to interact with them to learn all they can do!


3. Balls

Similar to blocks, older babies are interacting more with toys, learning concepts about weight, texture, and movement of objects. A large variety of balls are loved by babies in this age group!


4. Cause-and-Effect

As I mentioned above, this is the best time to introduce cause-and-effect toys. This means the baby does something to the object and there is a direct response. Babies need to interact with everything around them in order to learn how things work and how they influence their surroundings. There are a million toys and household items that can fall into this category, like bath toys and water, tupperware and wooden spoons, balls, cars and musical instruments. The sky’s the limit in this category, all without batteries or screens!


5. Teethers

Babies 6-12 months have better jaw strength, grasp and fine motor skills, so they may enjoy more sophisticated (ha!) teething toys with harder textures. Sophie the Giraffe is still a favorite of mine at this age, though. I like the teethers that babies can get into the back of their mouths without being a “choking hazard.”  If they are gagging and pushing their tongue and the object out of their mouth, the “gag” reflex is still present. Initially, the gag reflex is a way to protect the airway, but it should go away around 4-6 months so they can start eating (swallowing) solid foods.


6. “Bilateral” Toys

“Bilateral” means both hands. Babies need to practice using their hands at midline (at the center of their bodies) and crossing midline (reaching one hand to the opposite side of the body.) These are really important foundational skills, and they are necessary building blocks for future fine motor, gross motor, and brain coordination. (Read: Building Babies Better by Roxanne Small.)

E.B. Gem: Placing toys on a slightly elevated surface like the height of a thick couch cushion will motivate baby to push up onto hands and knees or shift his weight to one arm while he plays using the other arm.

Here are a couple great posts on homemade babies toys if you need more inspiration:   http://kidscraftroom.com/rainbow-sensory-play-bottles-and-homemade-musical-instruments/

Homemade baby guitar instrument with rubber bands by Laughing Kids Learn

Have I given you some good ideas? Did this post help you understand what your baby might enjoy playing with at this age? Do you have any questions or suggestions for future posts? What do you want to learn more about?

Please leave a comment, we’d LOVE to hear from you!!

Thanks for reading!


The best baby toys 6-12 months: Advice from a pediatric physical therapist - everythingbabies.org





You Might Also Like


  • Reply Misty December 16, 2016 at 12:17 am

    You could not have made shopping any easier, thank you! So question and it may sound silly but here it is. I have a water baby and want to utilize all the time we can to help with growth and development. Are there any must haves for bath time that you recommend, and are there any advantages to using water for helping with development?

    • Reply wendy@everythingbabies.org December 16, 2016 at 12:22 pm

      Great question, Misty! I wanted to add bath toys to the list, but had to stay focused! I think alphabet and number foam shapes are the only absolute as far as bath time goes. For playing in water, stacking cups and strainer type toys are great for baby to learn about liquids, gravity, size differences, etc. I like the strainer toys because they can hold them over their heads and let a more tolerable amount of water (without soap) to fall on their head and face. (Getting the face underwater I think is the number one obstacle for getting little ones comfortable with swimming.) I hope this helps! Thanks for commenting! Does anyone else have ideas for educational bath toys for babies?

      Bath foam letters: http://amzn.to/2hXcoyj
      Stacking cups: http://amzn.to/2gJV1Qc
      Rain maker: http://amzn.to/2hXdXfB
      Strainer cups: http://amzn.to/2hXbLVv

  • Reply Misty December 19, 2016 at 12:07 am

    As always you’ve got the perfect answers! I also love that you include links to amazon, so incredibly helpful! Thanks Wendy!

What do YOU think? Did you like this post?

%d bloggers like this: