Toys are special to children. They not only teach our children about the world and themselves, they also communicate values. Because of this, I try to be very intentional about the toys I give to my children.
A few things to note before getting into my gift guide:
- Less is more. You don’t need any of these toys, but they are the toys my kids have loved and continue to play with for many years, therefore they're timeless and not just for babies.
- My recommendations are chosen to encourage whole child development - categorised into eight collections (inspired by Multiple Intelligence theory). This helps me think about what I already have and what I can add to their existing collection.
- I prefer investing in heirloom toys, which fit with our values of simplicity, quality and sustainability, shared by the artisans who created them.
Here are my recommendations for starting a curated toy collection for babies.
Nature Play. This category is about connecting children to mother nature, so they can explore and experiment in their world.
Pictured here is one of our Haptic lab kites. Whilst it is a kite, it also makes the perfect mobile for a nursery or as a décor piece in the home.
For a baby, a mobile is a must-have for focus, hand-eye coordination, movement, and shape. An alternative to a traditional mobile is a decorative mobile for the baby but also for the whole family to enjoy. Our geometric mobiles are gorgeous and I'll be hanging ours in our playroom, too!
Alternatively, a nice little basket for nature treasures or just storing toys is also perfect.
Music Play. This category is about exposing children to music during early childhood, whether it's through listening, singing, dancing or playing music as even the youngest of babies are able to differentiate tones, frequency, melody, and stimuli from music, just like they do with language.
Both my kids have a modern music box by Siebensachen as they make the perfect new baby gift and doubles as a décor piece for the nursery. They are made from solid beech wood and the 18-note chime plays beautiful classic melodies. Ours will be an heirloom piece that they can treasure forever.
Another brand we love in this category is Green Tones, which are music instruments designed for children. Because these are baby instruments (not a toy), they are of high quality, perfectly pitched and aesthetically pleasing. Best of all, they are also eco and teething friendly with high compliance standards (unlike many others I’ve tried in the market). With these rubberwood instruments, the sound is much more gentle, deeper and even ‘quieter’ than other wooden instruments. We started with shakers and handheld instruments and have added many more pieces to our collection over the years.
Number Play. This category is about early numeracy, logic, questioning and problem-solving skills.
First, I think a classic set of wooden blocks is a must-have for children of any age. I’ve written a blogpost about about block play in the past and I really think this is a must-have for any child. For babies, I’d recommend a simple set of cubes, which are easy to master and are a great set to add to in the future as their skills and interest in building increases. Raduga Grez cube sets are 4x4cm, perfect for little hands and great for starting colour recognition with a number of gorgeous palettes to choose from.
A wooden stacker and a stacking tower are also two classic toys for any open-ended toy collection. They can be used in a variety of ways and great for toddlers and preschoolers when their play is more sophisticated. These toys are investments that will grow with your child. We love the gorgeous range from Raduga Grez. They are not only toys but also pieces of art for your child's space.
Action Play. This category is about action-oriented play that encourages movement and balance.
First are a set of balls, our favourite are these felt wool balls. These are around the size of tennis balls and super soft, lightweight and tactile. Great for using in a variety of ways like rolling, throwing and juggling when they are older.
My kids love their wobbels, and for babies, I’d recommend the wobbel360. Firstly, the curve is much more gentle and because it spins, which is lots of fun for little ones.
Another toy my kids loved is their Wishbone Flip, a ride-on vehicle with 360 swivel wheels. These can be used as a walker, a rocker and as a ride-on vehicle, suitable from babies through to 5 years!
Social Play. This category is about developing early interpersonal skills with pretend play, sharing and interacting. Some simple gender-neutral symbols of another being for a child are great tools for helping young children express emotions, practice nurturing, empathy and role-playing.
A teddy or a cuddly toy is a must-have for any child. Our Senger toys are made from organic cotton, have the sweetest little face and a lovely vintage feel. Most kids seem to have a clear favourite which they take everywhere and to bed. I hear that almost 50% of adults have kept their childhood cuddly!
I also think Wooden Animal figurines are a great investment, which can be played with for many years to come. Chances are your child will eventually build small worlds with their wooden blocks and they will want characters to inhabit them with. Our favourites are Ostheimer and Mr Fox Crafts wooden animals.
Domestic and farm animals are by far easiest to learn, especially because they have such recognisable sounds, which even babies can replicate. Have you noticed that farm animals seem to feature most heavily in baby board books and nursery rhymes?
This Oeuf Crown is a nice-to-have. "Where the wild things are" was one of our favourite books, so this crown has been a great addition to our play.
Picture Play. This category is about early spatial skills such as visualising, drawing, colouring and mapping.
Whilst babies enjoy sensory play, I'm not always keen on the mess. So instead of baby paint, I invested in the Kiko and gg magnetic drawing board, which is brilliant for kids of any age. You can draw, stamp, erase and do it all over again.
I did a lot of drawing for my kids on these and asked them to guess the animal, which was a lot of fun for me and the kids. Toddlers and preschoolers can also use it to practice letters and numbers! So it definitely lasts for a few years!
Otherwise, for beginner art suppliers, crayons are a good relatively mess free and tactile option for babies and toddlers.
In this category are also vehicles. Cars, trucks, boat, etc. Playing with toy vehicles improves hand dexterity, teaches about cause and effect and opens up so many possibilities for imaginative play. The simpler the vehicles the better for babies! I love the fun wooden cars by Raduga Grez.
Word Play. This category is about early language exposure, therefore books. There are lots of classics (think Dear Zoo, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, etc). So I just wanted to pick an heirloom one.
This one we love is called What Do You Do With An Idea? It’s a wonderful book for just about any child, teenager, or adult who’s ever had a big idea and the dream to grow the idea and bring it into the world. This is a book that we will never tire of reading to our kids. This is one of my go-to gifts for friends with kids.
There is part of the What you do matters series, which comes in this lovely Box Set.
Solo Play. This category is about opportunities to reflect and express.
This one is probably more a gift for parents. But there is nothing more special than documenting all your baby firsts, outside of your phones.
And that’s it! These are the eight categories of toys I believe are perfect for starting a natural and sustainable toy collection. For more ideas, shop our Baby Gift Guide collection.
What do you own and what don’t you have? I’d love to hear your recommendations too.
Thank you for reading!