The 15 Best Newborn Toys, According To A Pediatrician

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by Lauren Moison
Scary Mommy/Amazon

While newborns might spend most of their time eating, cuddling, and sleeping, toys that stimulate their senses can also be beneficial for their development. The best newborn toys are soft, easy to clean, and offer gentle stimulation with contrasting colors and various textures, according to Dr. Denise Scott, M.D., a pediatrician and pediatric endocrinologist for JustAnswer. When shopping for newborn toys, a few guidelines will help you sort between age-appropriate options and ones that are better suited for older infants and toddlers.

The Expert

Oklahoma-based Dr. Scott is a pediatrician and pediatric endocrinologist with nearly 30 years of experience. She completed training at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center with fellowship training at the National Institutes of Health. She also co-founded Kids First, the first after-hours pediatric urgent care clinic in Oklahoma City, which is now part of the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital. At JustAnswer, a platform that connects people with live doctors and other verified and vetted experts, she addresses pediatric medical questions.

What Are The Best Toys For Newborn Development?

First, keep in mind that newborns will likely look at their toys rather than actively play with them, and they can only focus on objects about 8 to 12 inches away. “Newborns (babies from birth to 2 months) do not play with toys,” Dr. Scott tells Scary Mommy. “They may observe them but will not reach for or grab things.” Additionally, Scott says, “They also look more for contrast, so toys that show faces or are black and white or brightly colored are best.” Scott also explains, “Any item a newborn holds should be of a soft material, such as fabric or rubberized, be safe to put in their mouth, and be easy to clean.”

So if you’re looking to introduce items your newborn can gaze at and cuddle with, Scott recommends “high-contrast, soft activity panels, toys, books, and floor mats,” adding “toys that squeak or make noise can also be entertaining.”

What To Avoid When Shopping For Newborn Toys

While squeaky toys can be entertaining for newborns, you’ll want to avoid toys that may cause overstimulation. According to Scott, these include toys “that play loud, fast-paced music, those that have flashing pictures or strobe-type lights, and pop-up toys” — think dancing and talking animals, flashing balls, and loud musical instruments. “Toys made with wood, metal, or hard materials, toys with separate pieces that could come apart, painted objects, and anything too soft or cushiony that a face could get trapped in are ones to avoid,” adds Scott.

At the end of the day, “the best stimulation for a newborn is your face and voice, not toys,” says Dr. Scott. However, with a variety of textures, colors, and fun features to choose from, these highly rated newborn toys make a cute and stimulating addition to playtime — and some can even be used past the newborn stage.

Shop The Best Newborn Toys

In a hurry? Here are five popular newborn toys:

The Expert’s Pick: Fisher-Price Grow-With-Me Tummy Time Llama

This Crinkly Firefly Also Recommended By The Expert: Lamaze Clip & Go Freddie the Firefly

An Editor-Recommended Crinkly Toy: Baby Paper

A Set Of Plush Touch & Feel Books: hahaland Baby Books (2-Pack)

This Organic, Montessori-Inspired Play Gym With Rave Reviews: The Play Gym By Lovevery

The Best Toys For Tummy Time & General Play

The Expert’s Pick

“Once your baby is ready for tummy time, elevating their torso with something such as the Fisher-Price Grow-With-Me Tummy Time Llama helps to keep their head up higher (once they have adequate head control),” says Dr. Scott. “Your baby can then look down at a colorful toy below them.” The plush and supportive wedge provides a cushioned platform for babies to work on strengthening their muscles, and there are 13 different sensory-stimulating components to engage baby’s sight, hearing, and touch. Plus, the cuddly llama can also transition into a toddler toy. It measures approximately 17 inches long and includes a mirror, watermelon rattle, and carrot teether.

One reviewer wrote: “Seriously adorable! Our little one already loves it and she’s only 5 weeks old! She hates tummy time without this.”

Care Instructions: Machine washable | Recommended Ages: 0+ months

A Set Of Plush Baby Books That Crinkle

These cute plush baby books are great for newborns because they feature high-contrast colors and images, washable and tear-resistant fabric pages, and textured animals with 3D tails to feel and explore. The animals on each page feature crinkly and squeaky sounds for extra stimulation, and the books each have a hanging strap for easy attaching to a stroller, car seat, or play gym. Plus, these books have an impressive 4.8-star overall rating from Amazon reviewers.

One reviewer wrote: “My son absolutely loves these! They are soft, yet make the crinkly noise, and have beautiful colors! Anytime he is playing that is his go to toy. They are so easy To clean and we take them everywhere with us. They are really so cute!”

Care Instructions: Machine washable, according to reviewers | Recommended Ages: 0 — 18 months

This Organic, Montessori-Inspired Play Gym With Rave Reviews

This play gym is loaded with features and can adapt with babies as they transition through various stages — helping to justify the higher price. The organic cotton tummy time mat will stimulate newborn senses with five Montessori-inspired development zones that you can reveal or conceal to prevent overstimulation and/or add new fun elements every time baby plays. Later on, the mat can convert into a fort for imaginary play and fun with friends. It also features three removable accessories: a high-contrast ball and a teether (both are made from organic cotton) and a sustainable wood batting ring. You’ll also get four learning card sets (printed with soy ink) that can be displayed at multiple angles. With the play mat zones open, the gym measures 23.9 by 50 by 47 inches (height x width x length).

What’s more, this versatile play gym has been the winner of several awards, including the Parents’ Choice Gold Award, and has earned a practically perfect 4.9-star overall rating after more than 4,000 Amazon reviewers weighed in.

One reviewer wrote: “In a word, wow!! This activity mat is fantastic [...] For our first two kids, we had one of the ubiquitous mats with lights, music and bright colors are over. It was fine; the babies seemed to tolerate it, but I wouldn’t say they enjoyed it especially. This play mat is simple and pleasant to look at. No unnecessary lights and sounds that overstimulate baby. There are five sensory experiences in various forms. The hanging toys are at the perfect height for baby to kick, bat at and grab. We especially love the interchangeable cards which include high-contrast images and mirrors. At almost two months old, our little guy gets very excited to play on that mat, but he also enjoys quiet focus time with the cards. You can tell that a lot of careful thought went into this design. Unlike most activity mats, this one has the potential for longer term use [...]”

Care Instructions: Mat and fabric pieces are machine washable; wipe down other components with a damp cloth | Recommended Ages: 0+ months

This Tummy Time Mirror With A Soft Frame

This tummy time floor mirror helps newborns study their reflection while they build muscle strength. For additional sensory stimulation, the mirror features a bright red ladybug with crinkly leaves and a black-and-white tracker ball, plus a rotating bee that makes clicking sounds. It features a collapsible design for easy storage, measures just 11.5 by 11.5 inches, and boasts over 11,000 five-star ratings.

One reviewer wrote: “Really cute mirror made with bright and high-contrast colors which is great for baby’s development. We love how it looks. It’s also soft and weightless, easy to use and you can grab it with you anywhere you want. We use it for tummy time because our little one isn’t a big fan and this mirror helps us to spend this time with a little bit more fun.”

Care Instructions: Surface clean | Recommended Ages: 0+ months

Editor’s Choice: This Crinkly, Black-And-White Toy

Baby Paper is a deceptively simple toy with high-contrast black-and-white stripes and a crinkly design that newborns love. "I wasn't sure what to make of Baby Paper at first — it was a gift — but it quickly became a favorite for both of my babies,” says Scary Mommy editor Ileana Morales Valentine. “The crinkly center, the black-and-white stripes, and indestructible quality for teething and clutching — this is one toy that has it all for a newborn. And I love that it's lightweight enough to fit in any bag." The 6-inch square toy has a soft exterior that’s machine washable, and though the recommended age isn’t specified, reviewers mention it’s also a hit for kids up to 6 years old.

One reviewer wrote: “My baby loved this from about 3 weeks old and is still loving it at 5 months. He loves the loud crinkle it makes when he grabs it! It’s easily washable and holds up well after many washes. I use a pacifier clip to keep it with him in the car seat. I’ve already gifted it to 3 people and will continue to do so!”

Care Instructions: Machine washable | Recommended Ages: Not specified

A 4-Pack Of Activity Panels

Made with satin and other soft materials, these activity panels feature a variety of textures and colors to stimulate a newborn’s developing senses. One side of each panel focuses on textures and sensory activities, while the other side features high-contrast black-and-white images. The panels can be used separately or hooked together via hook-and-loop closures to create a book, and each panel has a sewn-on handle for easy carrying.

One reviewer wrote: “I am so happy with this "book." It is so fun to watch my 8 week old baby stare at the black and white pictures and mirror, and track them with her eyes. It's one of the few things she interacts with so far, so it's really fun!”

Care Instructions: Surface clean | Recommended Ages: 0+ months

A Soft Rattle With 7,000+ 5-Star Reviews

It’s easy to underestimate the power of a simple rattle for newborns, but this one boasts a bunch of features, including multiple textures, high-contrast patterns, and an easy grip design. It has a soft fabric surface, knotty antennae for chewing, and makes both rattle and crinkle sounds. Plus, it can be worn as a bracelet for fewer drops to the floor, and according to reviewers, it will continue to be a favorite as your baby grows.

One reviewer wrote: “I bought this when my daughter was just a few weeks old and it immediately caught her eye. She is now 2.5, almost 3 months, and still loves this rattle. She is always playing with it.”

Care Instructions: Surface clean | Recommended Ages: 0+ months

A Soft, Colorful Book You Can Use For Years

This soft, interactive book comes recommended by a Scary Mommy staff member and is backed by an overall 4.7-star rating on Amazon. The sensory-stimulating book features colorful sea creatures with plush legs and crinkly claws and tails, and there’s a safety mirror so babies can study their reflection. The book also has a built-in teether for babies to chew on. Plus, it’s easy to attach to a stroller and toss in the washing machine when it needs a cleaning, and it’s suitable for newborns, toddlers, and preschoolers.

One reviewer wrote: “The crinkly sounds made when touching this book fascinated my 2 month old granddaughter. She reached for the fish, the crab and the octopus’s tentacles. So happy I bought this for her.”

Care Instructions: Machine washable | Recommended Ages: 0 — 4 years

These Cute Rattling Socks And Bracelets

These adorable rattling socks and bracelets feature soft butterflies, ladybugs, and other critters to engage your newborn. The characters feature both bells and rattles inside, have contrasting colors for sensory appeal, and are made of breathable cotton and nontoxic materials. The wrist rattles attach using a simple hook-and-loop closure, and both the wrist and sock rattles are washable.

One reviewer wrote: “My 1 month old loves these! He's always kicking and waving his arms around and it adds an extra thing for him to play with.”

Care Instructions: Hand washing recommended | Recommended Ages: 0 — 3 years

A Set Of Black-And-White Flash Cards With Cute Animals

Featuring high-contrast black-and-white artwork of adorable animals, these matte laminated flash cards are a great addition to tummy time and interactive play with your newborn. Each set includes six dual-sided, 5-by-7-inch cards, and the cards have rounded edges for safety. They’re also sturdy, printed with eco-friendly ink, and easy to wipe clean as needed. Choose from eight different sets with various animal designs.

One reviewer wrote: “My baby really enjoys these cards. The colors and patterns really get his attention. He is currently 12 weeks and has spent time looking at them since he was 7 weeks without getting bored; however, there is a lot of interaction to keep his attention. We usually use them at tummy time or I hold them about 8-10 inches above his face to while he is laying in his crib or at his activity gym. Depending on his mood, he favors certain pictures more than others, but he always makes faces, smiles, and coos at the pictures. The cards are also very well made and durable. I can tell they will hold up through all the drool and being handled by tiny hands.”

Care Instructions: Surface clean | Recommended Ages: 0 — 24 months

A Fun Mobile With Contrasting Colors

This classic mobile toy features contrasting colors and large shapes and patterns to stimulate a newborn’s visual development. What really sets this mobile apart is that it includes 10 interchangeable double-sided cards that feature 20 different graphics (labeled by age) that vary from simple to more complex, so you can create new, interesting patterns as your child grows. Additionally, it has an adjustable cord that allows you to change the distance of the cards as your baby’s vision develops, also keeping the cards safely out of reach.

One reviewer wrote: “This is a streamline and simple mobile that fascinated my newborn for 3 months. Bigger musical mobiles overstimulated her, but this one had perfect shapes and colors to keep her cooing without reaching a sensory limit. The shapes can be changed with her eye development which was fun to watch. Give it a little tap and it will spin, and wow is that fun!”

Care Instructions: Surface clean | Recommended Ages: 0 — 5 months

This Pacifier With A Stuffy Attached

Serving as both a soothing pacifier and a cuddly toy, this WubbaNub has earned a near-perfect 4.9-star rating from Amazon reviewers. The adorable baby fawn measures 6 inches long and gives newborns something to feel, explore, and cuddle while they enjoy the soft, medical-grade, BPA-free silicone pacifier. The eyes of the fawn are embroidered instead of glued-on so there are no small pieces that might fall off, and many reviewers love how the attached stuffy makes the pacifier easier to find when dropped. Plus, you can place the WubbaNub in a mesh laundry bag and machine wash it on a gentle cycle. Just keep in mind that the toy is not recommended for use during unsupervised sleeping, according to the brand.

One reviewer wrote: “Perfect size for 0-6mos. Super soft and much easier to keep track of than just a regular pacifier! My little one loves to hold and snuggle the lovey attached.”

Care Instructions: Machine wash, air dry | Recommended Ages: 0 — 6 months

The Best Car Seat & Stroller Toys

A Pediatrician-Recommended Crinkly Firefly

Dr. Scott recommends this Lamaze Clip & Go toy because it’s “full of different colors, textures, and soft noises” to encourage tactile, auditory, and visual development. The soft and colorful velour body has a hidden squeaker and various textures, crinkles, and features to engage baby’s senses. The flexible mirror helps baby to practice focus and tracking skills, and the clip at the top makes it easy to attach to a stroller or carrier. Plus, there are five fun animals to choose from, including Captain Calamari and Walla Koala.

One reviewer wrote: “Our newborn baby loved this toy from the moment her eyes could focus on it. She loves the bright colors. Now, she reaches for it and loves the crackly noise in the wings.”

Care Instructions: Surface clean | Recommended Ages: 0 — 24 months

A Spiral Stretch Toy That’s Perfect For Car Seats

This spiral plush toy with contrasting colors and stimulating patterns can be curled around a car seat handle for entertainment and stimulation while on the go, and you can wrap it around the side of the crib at home. It features three hanging toys, including a chick that squeaks when squeezed, a little round mirror, and a snail that rattles. It’s made of soft cotton and nontoxic, BPA-free materials and can be machine washed in a garment bag when dirty, making it a winner when it comes to no-fuss baby toys.

One reviewer wrote: “This is one of the best toys! My daughter loves this and it helps keep her distracted during car rides. It can also be moved to the crib or any other place with a bar to be wrapped around. Definitely our most used toy that we didn’t even realize we needed.”

Care Instructions: Hand wash or machine wash gentle cycle in a garment bag | Recommended Ages: 0 — 12 months

This Jiggly Bee With Ribbon Feet

For a portable newborn toy that’s perfect for entertaining while out and about, this soft, velour bee with smooth ribbon feet offers plenty to explore. When you pull the bee away from the clip, it jiggles and vibrates as it works its way back up. It has crinkle paper wings, an internal rattle, and a convenient C-clip for easy attachment to most strollers, carriers, and cribs.

One reviewer wrote: “Our baby LOVES this toy. The high contrast is perfect for keeping her attention! The satin wing has a crinkly feel to it (it's one sided), and when you pull down on the bee and release, the whole toy shakes. We attach it to the braces over her playmat and she loves it! She enjoys it so much that we purchased a few other toys from the same company (an octopus, a little green monster, a narwhal) and the quality has been consistently great across the board!

Care Instructions: Surface clean | Recommended Ages: 0 — 2 years

Also Nice: A Baby Swing That Plays Songs And Soothing Sounds

While this portable swing might not be a traditional baby toy, it features eight melodies, three nature sounds, and five swing speeds to keep a little one content and entertained. It includes two hanging plush toys for baby to watch and has a five-point harness with comfy shoulder pads to keep them safe. Plus, the seat pad and headrest are removable and machine washable for easy cleaning. It runs on four D batteries (not included) and features battery-saving technology to help them last longer, or you can plug it in using the included USB cord. The swing can be set on a timer for up to 60 minutes and automatically turns off after 90 minutes. Best of all, it measures 22 by 23.5 by 23 inches and folds up for convenient portability and storage. There are also six other styles to choose from, though most of them do not include the option to plug in via USB.

One reviewer wrote: “I purchased this swing for my newborn [...] She would sleep in her bouncer that I had to manually rock with my foot for her to bounce front and back. I decided to try a front and back swing and it is a game changer!! [...] She sleeps in it after a few mins and a nice bottle!!”

Care Instructions: Machine washable seat pad and headrest | Recommended Use: 0 — 9 months; 6 — 20 pounds


Dr. Denise Scott, JustAnswer pediatrician