I have been sharing a few items we use each month in some of my James Monthly updates, but I thought it would be convenient to compile some of our favourite toys and playroom (that we don’t have) items into one post for easy browsing and shopping. Please note that I do use Amazon associate links where appropriate here – and I may earn from your purchases (not much but yeah).
How to choose toys for 0-6 months?
I am not an expert in child development, play or Montessori style learning – but I found an approach that aligned with my views and my kids likes and went with that.
Two pieces of advice I will give: 1) you don’t have to align yourself with any style of play (or parenting for that matter) strictly if that doesn’t work for you. You always need to take an approach that works best for your family and your child. This often means following one “approach” alone won’t work, but you can take the parts you like from that approach and use them in your own way. There is no rule saying “you can only follow a Montessori approach strictly or not at all”. Find what works and build your own “play” system. I often follow some Montessori, some child preference (as they get older this becomes more prominent) and some developmental based finds that align with what I know is going on at that time period. Not all our toys are wooden, but I do like wooden options and have many. Some toys are electronic, like our Tape musical instruments. So we’re not “Montessori” but I definitely borrow ideas for them, especially when building my own activities.
2) be strategic in toy purchases if you can to reduce clutter and duplicates. With Maggie, we had a lot of toys that “did” or “taught” the same thing, which is OK if you’re wanting to bring one version on trips and leave one at home, but not great when you just have a giant toy bin full of many things that serve the same purpose. I find kids will get bored of this. With James, I kept what I knew Maggie had really liked and donated/sold the rest as appropriate. When I add toys to either kids rotations now, I make sure it fills a gap or replaces an older version of something. If there is one style of toy the kids really like (such as puzzles for Maggie) then we have a few different ones – in that situation, it’s appropriate because they’re the “same” but “different”. But we didn’t need 3 different styles of stacking cups for James for example.
In the end – to each their own. If you have unlimited storage space, that’s one thing. I don’t! I rotate toys now with a KALLAX system from IKEA, storing non-used toys at the time in the kids closet. I also keep craft/art material separate – but perhaps I can break this down better for people in another post. For now, lets focus on those 0-6 month toys.
James’ Faves: 0-6 Months
In each of our James Monthly Updates, I’ve referenced developmental milestones. You can refer back to those if needed or visit Pathways.org for the complete list. I’m going to break this down a bit – keep in mind that the month range I place a toy in is often just when we started play with these items. Many carry over for several months, or even the whole 6 months!
TBH, 0-2 month old babies aren’t doing much toy-based playing. Things are very simple – they’re learning about the world around them and probably most of what you’re already doing with them (including ideally, tummy time) is enough. Those early weeks are hard especially if you’re doing it for the first time – so don’t worry too much about toys and structured play. That’s my personal opinion – I didn’t focus on that too much with either kid and at that age. We did tummy time and lots of walks, and even our tummy time wasn’t ridiculously structured. There were a few things we did have to keep James busy when he did start to explore things with his eyes and hands a bit more.
Black and White Books (Contrast Books)
We did have some of these on our baby registry and I did use them during tummy time. It’s nice to give baby something to look at in tummy time – so I’d open the book to different pages and let him enjoy. We also had contrast cards from a small shop that is no longer in business – I definitely used the book more. I found it easier to display for him and then we read it a few times in the early days too (it was very simple).
I retired our contrast books around 4 months in favour of more colourful books as James was starting to show more interest in brighter coloured objects around that time.
Benefit of contrast toys
Babies eye sight is more limited in the early days – they can only see a short distance and they enjoy black and white contrasts. Babies can see colour but it’s not vivid in the early months – this is something that develops over time. Black and white contrast is therefore easy for baby to see and decipher between (light and dark, like in the womb) so it’s a good option in the early months. This page and video by Yale Baby School is very helpful to understand what and how your baby sees in the early months.
You can do contrast for this one (like the one linked above) or just whatever you like or receive on a registry. It’s nice to continue that visual stimulation on walks or in the car seat. Yes, they can look outside but they can’t see well at a long distance in those early weeks, so giving them something closer to look at is great.
Stroller toys continue to be a good distraction if you’re going somewhere that baby just needs to sit in the stroller. We have some colourful clip-on ones from Carters that are favourites still.
The typical and predictable baby toy is the rattle – all your baby dolls probably had it growing up, and it really is a toy babies enjoy. Rattles actually have all sorts of developmental benefits for babies and they’re affordable and readily available. They are both visually and audibly stimulating, and also help with motor skill development. Many are also teethers or can be appropriately used as such by baby.
Another toy both kids have loved that helps with motor and sensory development is the Oball – which is basically a little ball with holes in it that is easy to grab. This is great for grip development in the early days, and some also have a rattle component to them. Somehow – James also manages to put this in his mouth to bite too.
A good play, smaller mat is nice in the early days when baby is more of a potato – a larger play mat in the home is ideal when baby starts rolling and crawling. You could just jump right to a larger option, but I liked having a smaller one for portability – I could bring it with us places. I was lucky to receive an Itzy Ritzy from our registry – it was perfect for the early days and came with two attached toys. It’s no longer available, but they have one with a different design here.
We also have a wooden play gym we got from our registry with Maggie. With Maggie, we used this for quite a long time – basically up until she started crawling. It serves in the early days as a mobile, and then later becomes more interactive when baby is reaching. Maggie even played with it sitting up! James was a bit too rough so once he sat up, it went away pretty quickly since he’d pull the thing down on himself SO quickly. It has good longevity though and I love the simple design. You can set it up over a small play mat and ta da! Looks super cute in a nursery too – and can also be set up over your Snuggle Me Organic (which we used obsessively with Maggie and barely at all with James).
Depending on the baby, around 2-3 months you may start to notice some changes. Baby is suddenly a bit more active and wanting to explore with their eyes and hands. James even started rolling in this period, so we did a lot more tummy time.
From contrast books to just general soft books, with colours! Babies will start to show more interest in bright colours in this time period and soft books are a sensory experience too. You can combine both visual and sensory stimulation in one here. The one I linked we received in our 123 Baby Box and James still plays with it now at 8 months! Notably, this book also has crinkle paper so it meets more than one need.
We were lucky that our Itzy Ritzy mat came with a mirror toy – and that we have a mirror on almost every floor of our home! James got lots of mirror time because of this, but if you don’t have those options a soft mirror toy like the one I linked above is perfect! Great for visual stimulation and tummy time entertainment. There are contrast images on this one but also colour so it’s perfect for this age range.
SO. Many. We have a lot of favourites in this category – but I’ll add that almost any baby toy eventually becomes a teether.
But on tough teething days (or just for mouth exploration which is happening at this stage too), we love the Banana Brush or any of Nuby’s teethers (we started with the 3-Step Teether set). You can pick based on your own preferences for materials and style.
James also really likes pop its! Maggie has a ton, and they’ve slowly become a shared toy. They’re a great sensory toy for all ages and also make a great teether.
Rolling Bell or More Rattles (or the Oball!)
I know, repetitive. But if you didn’t get a rattle or Oball before, this is another great opportunity. Baby wants to explore and grab, and both these can help to promote those skills.
If you want to go more Montessori, you can try a Rolling Bell like this one which is a great price at under 15$ CAD.
Sometime in this period, baby should be rolling (maybe both ways) and they may even start sitting up! That means play changes too because baby can interact with the world in a different way and from different perspectives.
If you’re into Montessori, this is another great Amazon find that is like the spinning rainbow from the Lovevery kit for this age group. Good for tummy time to sitting and crawling, so it has longevity for play. This one also has a mirror on one side – so you could actually purchase this earlier on. Oh, and it makes a rattling noise when spun so this is like a 3-in-1 option meeting so many baby needs.
Used these with Maggie and (what we had left) with James. I keep meaning to order a new set because these are such a great toy – ball play is actually really important to many stages of motor development. If you read through Pathways, you’ll see how balls start to be incorporated into so many stages. At this stage, they’re great for exploration (hands and mouth). They’re also visually stimulating and have auditory stimulus too if squeezed. This set also comes with a rattle ball. You can also get something like this fabric ball which also provides many of the same benefits.
Sit Up Toys
If baby is starting to sit up, toys that can be engaging while they’re sitting are great to start introducing now. We have an IKEA stacking tower and two different shape sorters including the Fisher Price one in this set. The set comes with a stacking tower and xylophone so it’s a great combination. The other shape sorter we have is from Melissa and Doug and Maggie still loves it. It is a great quiet time activity before bed.
Stacking toys can be good to start introducing now as a sit up toy. We have stacking cups from IKEA and these stacking blocks which are soft and good for – you guessed it, teething.
Montessori style shelving has really helped us! I highly recommend the IKEA KALLAX options for affordability. I put Maggie’s toys on upper shelves and James’ on the lower ones and he is able to take them off himself now. In earlier times, I kept James toys in a basket (the photo is before I had put his toys on the bottom, it was all Maggie’s stuff before!).
Any toys of Maggie’s that are not appropriate for James now (since he can stand and pull up) I keep for nap times (there is basically only one toy that has small pieces that she has). Otherwise, most toys are “shared” or can be.
This is just an overview – but I keep my Amazon Storefront updated for baby stuff. I have a few sections for baby and toddler toys; Montessori toys; and just general baby gear! Check it out here. We’ve added a lot more toys to are retinue lately since James is more active + standing up – but I’ll share those in my next round up.