Introducing a tiny baby to music isn’t about making them smarter any more than it is about starting them down a path towards a headlining set at Jazz Fest 2035 (nor is that a viable retirement plan). The so-called “Mozart Effect” has been long debunked and there’s no guarantee you and your kid will ultimately share the same musical taste, but what has been proven are the myriad benefits of early music lessons — including better academic performance — and they start with your kid’s first tonal toys. Grab a few of these for your kid and maybe pick yourself up some earplugs while you’re at it because while the cognitive and developmental benefits emerge later, the noise is immediate.
If all your kid wants to do is clap and shake to the beat, introduce them to BeatBo. Pressing his buttons activates dance moves and tones ranging from fun songs to educational content including letters, numbers, and colors that age up with your kid through 3 different modes. You can also record your own, although you probably don’t need a toy’s help to ask, “Who’s the cutest?” like a broken record.
Fisher-Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo ($36)
Aside from being really fun to say, a glockenspiel is beautiful to listen to. Specifically this one, which uses a 5-tone scale “specially attuned to children’s aural needs.” Multiple Amazon reviewers note its remarkable clarity of tone, which would seem to justify the premium price tag better than its solid gold (painted) bars.
Auris Glockenspiel 7-Tone Pentatonic ($113)
To the “Why don’t they make simple, wholesome toys anymore?” types, first off, sorry for standing on your lawn. Second, here’s that plastic record player you dragged around as a toddler, in all its primary-colored, 70s glory. It comes with 5 records that play 10 songs you definitely won’t get tired of hearing. Your parents certainly didn’t. Go ahead, ask ‘em.
Fisher-Price Classic Record Player ($15)
If you want your kid to have a long, fruitful musical career without necessarily having the talent to match, here are 2 words for you: backup percussionist. It’s the special teams of band members — all the reward, almost none of the risk. And for those who question, “Aren’t those just rattles?”, here’s a question for you: Do just rattles make 3 different noises?”
Skip Hop Baby Explore And More Musical Egg Shaker Trio ($10)
Not as basic as pounding out a belly beat, but if they can master this, your kid could prove to be the genius who redefined “Mozart Effect.” Pushing each button plays harp, French horn, piano, flute or violin sounds while the “Orchestra” button brings them all together in one of 8 preloaded Mozart masterworks and the sides light up to show tempo. Even if they never get that advanced, hey, at least it has volume control.
Munchkin Mozart Magic Cube ($19)
Once your kid reaches a certain age, every surface in your home becomes a drum. This includes, but is not limited to, high chair trays, coffee tables, windows, the cat, and, if you’re very lucky, your face. This adorable beginner set at least offers the illusion of an appropriate space for drumming. With a little luck, they’ll be the next Ringo Starr. Don’t roll your eyes — he’s still a Beatle, damn it!
Green Tones Beginner Drum Set ($60)
All of the above except right before that certain age, when your kid’s dexterity and motor skills are still too limited for them to hold sticks or reach across the kit for a perfectly-timed cymbal crash. Let them handle a single tom before you spring for the full kit.
Green Tones Tom Tom Drum ($19)
So you want to teach that kid to make music and stack stuff? And you’re super-ass rich? Well, has Naef got the toy for you! The wooden arches are perfect for discovering different tones or building a rainbow in multiple configurations. Either way, it looks gorgeous, unlike that little xylophone on wheels you used to tug around as a kid, which only came in one configuration: Death trap at the top of the stairs.
Naef Rainbow Wooden Musical Toy & Puzzle ($211)