Take a walk down the baby toy aisle at most mass-market stores and it probably won’t take you long to experience sensory overload. Many of the playthings marketed for infants are made of brightly colored plastic and feature flashing lights, electronic sounds, cartoon characters — and batteries that need to be replaced so often you’ll start to wonder whether it’s worth the effort.
These toys aren’t just annoying for parents; they’re also not that engaging for children. Electronic toys with push buttons tend to have limited function as playthings. As Jean Piaget, Maria Montessori and Fred Rogers all observed, play is the “work” of childhood — and while beeping, flashing, motorized electronic toys can be diverting, they take a lot of the effort of playing out of a child’s hands. Many of them break easily, and even the best ones usually appeal to a limited range of ages. What’s more, researchers have observed that while electronic toys may grab babies’ attention, they discourage the exchanges that are important for babies’ verbal development.
During tummy time, your baby is exploring the world from a new perspective. They’re learning to use their senses and beginning to navigate independently. Simple, open-ended playthings can help foster your baby’s natural curiosity during tummy time. What’s even better is that by shopping wisely, you can invest in tummy time toys that can be used for imaginative, creative play for years as your baby grows into childhood.
What are the best toys for tummy time? Read on to learn what to look for in a tummy time toy and where to find some of our favorites!
The best toys for tummy time are safe for babies.
Babies explore the world around them in a few different ways, including with their mouths! It’s pretty safe to assume that any object you give to an infant will eventually end up in the baby's mouth, so when we’re shopping for tummy time toys, we want to do so with an eye on safety.
There are two kinds of safety we want to keep in mind. First, there’s the immediate: Any toys we give a baby to play with at tummy time (or anytime) need to be developmentally appropriate. For babies, this means no small parts, long strings/ribbons, or sharp edges. Baby-safe toys may be soft or hard, but they need to be carefully selected to avoid any choking, strangulation or suffocation hazards. Look for sturdy toys that won’t come apart into small pieces that could end up posing a threat.
Second, let’s think about long-term safety. The more we learn about environmental toxins, the more aware we are of just how much it matters that we try to avoid baby toys that are made with potentially harmful materials. Substances that are not necessarily dangerous in minute amounts can build up in the body over time, and they may be found in paints and plastics that are used to make baby toys. Look for toys made with nontoxic materials and baby-safe inks and paints.
The best toys for tummy time are toys that will grow with your baby.
Many of the “baby toys” on the market are just that — toys that appeal strictly to babies and toddlers and don’t have much to offer older children. But if you’re going to make an investment in high-quality, well-made toys, you want them to last beyond the baby stage.
When shopping for tummy time toys, think beyond babyhood. Ask yourself: How will this toy grow with my child? How might they play with it when they are 2, 3, 4, even 10 years old? Many of the wooden toys that are used in Waldorf and Montessori settings are designed for open-ended play and can be used for age-appropriate fun for babies, toddlers and older children alike.
The best toys for tummy time are fun!
Ultimately, tummy time toys are like any other toys: The best ones are the ones that actually get played with. For babies, this means selecting toys that engage their senses (touch, sight and hearing), attract their attention, and are accessible while still posing enough of a challenge to keep their interest. You don’t need a lot of tummy time toys, but you’ll find that you will want some variety to keep them engaged. Babies tend to respond to simple visuals and toys that they can grab, push, pull and move from hand to hand or in and out of containers.
Our Favorite Toys For Tummy Time
These gorgeous blocks are baby-safe and beautifully made. We love that they’re available in multiple languages, such as Hebrew, Cherokee and Swahili — wonderful for bilingual families (or those that aspire to be).
Made to comply with Europe’s strict safety standards, these rainbow village blocks are fun for all ages. Today, tummy time; tomorrow, creative building play!
Many toy cars aren’t appropriate for babies because the wheels can pose a choking hazard, but there are plenty of fun options out there that are tummy time-safe and remain well loved as little drivers get bigger! We are partial to Plan Toys’ Chicken Racer and Indigo Jamm’s Charlie Car.
Often made of sturdy beads and shapes strung together, clutching toys like this Haba color snake or Skwish rattle are great to toss into a diaper bag for tummy time on the go.
Often seen in Waldorf classrooms, multicolored peg dolls are a perfect grow-with-me toy, from supervised tummy time to toddler sorting to imaginative fantasy play.
Wooden ball-and-hammer toys are fun for toddlers and preschoolers, but you can also use the balls for tummy time activities until your baby is old enough to hammer away!
Make sound a part of your baby’s tummy time play with a soft friend. We love this friendly peapod rattle doll and sweet strawberry chime toy.
These charming chonks come in a variety of assortments or as individual animals, and they’re as fun for bigger kids as they are for infants.
Looking for more toy recommendations? Click here to read more about our favorite wooden toys!