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The Best Baby Gifts That Serve an Actual Developmental Purpose

Buying gifts for infants is no easy task. Here's your inspiration.

So you’re exploring baby gift ideas, and of course, you’re stumped. Because here you are, wading through baby gifts that don’t seem to do much besides look cuddly, take up space, and make nervous new parents feel warm and fuzzy about their new addition. While that’s all well and good, you want to invest in baby gifts that actually serve a developmental purpose

“Babies from their birth day to their first birthday are learning all about how this new and amazing world works! Young babies enjoy easy-to-grasp objects they can safely explore with their hands and mouths. Rattles, maracas, or textured teethers are perfect.

Starting at about 6-9 months old, they enjoy toys that give them the thrill of ’cause-and effect’—think about a busy box with buttons to push, a drum or toy piano to bang or plink, or bubbles for you to blow and them to pop,” says Rebecca Parlakian, the director of programs at Zero to Three.

So there you have it. These are the toys and gifts that fit the bill.

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It's a busy box that's soft, colorful, and engaging.

From the same folks that gave us Sophie the giraffe teething toy, here’s a cube that makes a noise when babies shake it and works as a teether, too.

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A fabulous wood drum that babies can bang with their hands; meanwhile, it grows with your kid and becomes a fun toddler toy.

Babies practice their motor skills when they hit this drum. As they grow older, the drum grows with them. When stood, each side of the drum emits a different sound. And when rolled, it flashes lights and plays music.

When babies flip this rattle over, they hear the tinkling sounds of rain.

This rattle is like no other. Instead of a high-volume maraca sound, it offers gentle rain noises; instead of a drop-able hourglass, its unique shape offers an easy grip. The sustainably harvested wood finish is an attractive bonus.

A beautifully simple pull toy that encourages your baby to move around, and can be pulled along when he or she starts walking.

Babies push the toy dog back and forth, boosting their sense of coordination. And once they get more mobile, they can take the dog for a pretend walk. It’s made from FSC-certified sustainably harvested wood.

These silicone teethers soothe sore gums and stimulate baby senses.

These colorful teethers are easy for babies to hold, gum, and chew. The different textures help stimulate sensory awareness.

Because each of these creatures makes its own sounds, babies learn cause and effect when they move them around and hear the noises.

You want baby toys that teach babies that when they do something, something else happens in response. And these very cute animals are pretty perfect.

It's a tricked-out teether that doubles as a fully-immersive baby toy.

It rattles. It has a mirror. And it’s cuddly and colorful AF.

A thoughtful and sweet toy that babies can bend and grab.

The plastic rings move when babies shake this toy, which is made from sustainably-harvested wood.

These weirdly cute figures bob up and down when pushed, helping babies practice their hand-eye coordination.

Plus, seeing these guys go up and down is a great lesson in cause and effect.

This best-in-class play mat and baby gym has removable accessories for stage-based learning and five development zones for your baby, to keep him or her curious and engaged.

This play mat and baby gym turns into a fort when your child outgrows it. But first, it was specifically designed and created to promote cognitive, visual, and motor development in newborns and older babies.

Every product on Fatherly is independently selected by our editors, writers, and experts. If you click a link on our site and buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.