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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 and baby gifts aren’t dry clean-only cashmere receiving blankets, but everything from rattles and teethers to board books — whatever encourages 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.

This soft, sweet little critter rolls around, encouraging your baby to start crawling after it. The ears crinkle and are easy to grab, and high-contrast colors are engaging.

The best baby activity center you can buy, this one eschews music, lights, and blasting sounds in favor of a removable ball and teether, a batting toy, and cards that stimulate baby senses. The gym helps the littles learn about shapes and colors, and encourages sensory exploration.

A rattle that's soft, colorful, and washable: What a concept! This one, made from organic cotton, is easy for babies to hold, shake, and move around.

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.

Margaret Wise Brown's timeless tale of parental devotion belongs in every library. As a little bunny describes all the ways in which he plans to run away from home (by becoming a fish and swimming away, by climbing high into the mountains or turning into a flower), his mother reassures him that she will come find him ('I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you').

You can probably recite the short and sweet rhythm of Margaret Wise Brown’s classic from heart. But in case you haven’t read this book a million times, it’s the story of a sleepy rabbit saying goodnight to everything in his great green room, including your kid. Although even a toddler has to ask, why does a bunny need both a comb and brush?

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

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.

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.

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.

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

You probably remember the ‘Very Hungry Caterpillar’ from back when you were a kid. However, you might not remember the ‘hole’ story. That freaky little caterpillar eats a lot! On the last day he tears through cake, ice cream, a pickle, cheese, salami, a sausage, a cupcake … basically he has a normal evening for a pregnant lady.

Pat the Bunny is the OG of the touch-and-feel genre, offering kids a sensory experience within a very loose narrative. Actually it isn’t so much a narrative. It's more a list of commands for the kid to interact with the various pages. Said pages are decked out in in things like fake rabbit fur and even sandpaper to mimic your 'scratchy face.' So maybe stop shaving with a sharpened rock already.

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.

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