As you’ve surely noticed, the most basic items can entertain your child. For example, my daughter frequently enjoys playing with things like cups, coconut water bottles, boxes, cooking utensils, etc. Kids don’t need the flashy singing toys with 18 different “modes,” English and Spanish options, and a full blown light show to be entertained and educated. In fact, research shows that these types of toys can actually lead to shorter attention spans.
So here are a few pretty basic non-electronic toys, all under $25, that will keep baby’s attention, encourage imaginative play, and develop core cognitive and fine motor skills.
Important Note: I’ve tried to categorize the toys into age groups as best as possible, but as we all know, babies grow and develop at different rates, so I would suggest looking at the age group before and after your child’s actual age to see if you think there are any other toys that might be appropriate for where he or she is at, developmentally.
Take advantage of this time during your child’s life where they want to help out with chores. I’ve heard that doesn’t last…
My daughter frequently uses this set to clean up her spills and messes even without being asked. And 9 times out of 10 she will help me sweep using her own broom instead of trying to “help” me (read: spread the crumbs around even more and whack me in the face) with the big broom I’m attempting to use. I call that winning.
Ava has ever-so-creatively named this toy, “Frog.” Though sometimes her pronunciation doesn’t quite sound like the proper word…
This isn’t so much of a “developmental” toy, but it sure is fun for the kiddos. My daughter especially loves taking it outside on walks (at least for half of the walk, then mommy gets to carry it for the other half…)
3) Baby Doll
Baby dolls offer lots of opportunity for cognitive and fine motor skill development as well as adorable fun! Ava enjoys caring for the baby by changing her diaper (using her own size 6 diapers, until my sister bought her some baby doll diapers), changing her clothes, feeding her, and searching the living room desperately for her much-needed paci. We also use it to learn body parts and the importance of being “gentle.” Still working on that last one…
When Ava was around 12 months old I swapped out our classic stacking ring toys with this stacking toy. It taught the same concepts and skills that the typical stacking rings do, but also taught matching, colors and counting. At first, she would just put the pieces wherever, but soon she started to match them to the correct colors and now we’re learning to count with it!
Age Recommendation Note: The manufacturer recommends this toy for ages 24 mo – 4 years. This is a little strange to me, and seems too old of an age-range. My daughter liked playing with it when she was about 1.
While I tend to gravitate toward wooden toys over plastic, I really love this brand. Green Toys use all recycled, BPA-free plastic, are surprisingly well made still, and are super affordable! We have too many of of these, but both Ava and I really like them. We have the boat, airplane, fire truck, dump truck, car carrier and tea set all of which are played with often, and I would highly recommend any of them.
My daughter doesn’t really like to play with your typical flash cards (other than just dumping them out and putting them back over and over and over… and over…) but THESE! She will sit and name them and answer questions about them (their colors, textures, size, etc.).
There are four things that I think set these flash cards apart from most others: 1) they’re REAL pictures, not cartoons or drawings 2) they are very sturdy cardboard so they hold up when your toddler decides to play hopscotch on them 3) they have different textures on every single one for baby to feel making each one quite interesting and 4) the back of each card has ideas on how to use them, questions to ask, etc. for multiple age groups.
These puzzles are hands down some of the best educational toys we’ve purchased. They’ve directly contributed to Ava’s ability to identify her colors and most of her numbers and letters. And she truly enjoys playing with them!
Also, consider getting this genius puzzle rack invention that keeps your puzzles nice and organized!
When I chose this toy I was looking for some play food that wasn’t plastic, looked at least somewhat like the real thing, and didn’t have 50 pieces that would just end up dumped all over the playroom. This one was an excellent option. My daughter loves cutting the fruit and of course cooking it. Yes, we eat fruit stew on the regular. Don’t knock it till you try it.
A classic building toy great for little hands that aren’t quite be ready for MagnaTiles, Legos or train tracks yet. These are great for helping baby develop creativity, fine motor skills, perseverance and resiliency. Plus, these types of toys generally seem to be fun for mom and dad to get on the floor with baby and play, too!
Books, of course, are always a great gift idea. Here are some of our favorites for this age range:
What am I Feeling?– Helps children name their feelings and teaches them that it’s okay to feel different ways, but our feelings don’t have to control us.
Head to Toe– A fun interactive book that teaches body parts and gets kids moving (clapping like a seal, stomping like a rhino, etc.)
Thank You God, for Mommy– Such a sweet book about the love and care of a mommy (or a daddy in the daddy version), and thanking God for her.
The Wonderful Things You Will Be– Another really sweet book that speaks life into your children by encouraging kindness, inventiveness and individuality.
11) Activity Cube
This one isn’t under $25, but it’s a great toy so I had to include it. From bead mazes, to letters, to zig zag puzzles and doors, this entertainment center is perfect for developing baby’s fine motor skills as well as different cognitive skills.