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The Best Baby Gifts, According to Child Development Experts

They help infants make sense of their brave new world.

While developmental milestones vary wildly, from the moment they’re born, babies are learning about the crazy, bright, loud new world around them. They focus their vision and track objects. They reach out. They touch and grasp things. They coo and repeat sounds. So when choosing the best baby gifts, pick ones that that aren’t merely cute but help babies make sense of what they see and hear. The best newborn gifts aren’t dry clean-only cashmere receiving blankets, but rattles and teethers that encourage babies to learn about colors and sounds and textures. 

“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.

Made with soft yarn from organically grown and sustainably harvested bamboo trees, this sweet rattle is cuddly and makes a gentle noise when your baby shakes it. And it's machine-washable.

Babies can throw these cups. They can hold them. They can shake them. Or stack them. They start to work on their motor skills, and hand-eye coordination.

Sweet and simple, these sensory blocks teach babies about colors, shapes, and the foundations of balance.

Gloriously simple, this rolling ball, with another ball inside, entertains babies as they push it back and forth.

This colorful, engaging rattle is made from chemical-free rubberwood trees and helps babies develop their fine motor skills.

This beautiful carrot, tomato, corn, and eggplant set is made of organically grown bamboo yarn. Each rattle is soft and washable, and easy on your baby's gums.

Made from rubber, this teether is easy for little hands to grab and maneuver. It's soft, and has multiple textures to give babies a rich sensory experience.

When babies push a button, they hear a sound, thereby learning about cause and effect. You'll have a musical prodigy in no time.

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. When positioned upright, each side of the drum emits a different sound. And when rolled, it flashes lights and plays music.

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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.

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

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.

Sweet and soft, this cotton rattle is cuddly and engaging.

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.

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