The Only 10 Toys You Need For Your Baby From Birth to 6 Months

July 12, 2020

I'm katie, OTD, OTR/L, NTMTC, CNT & founder of blooming littles

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If you have ever fallen prey to false guilt by thinking you need to buy tons of baby toys to teach your little one to develop certain skills OR if you have a dream of keeping your home clean and not looking like a daycare…

I am SO glad you’re here!

I’m going to share with you the ONLY 10 toys you need for your baby from birth to 6 months.

Yes— only 10 toys.

These are toys that encompass all aspects of development including social, emotional, sensory, cognitive and motor components. I have also included examples of how each item can promote and guide the development of your baby from my perspective as a neonatal occupational therapist (OT).

For the minimalist mama, this is the perfect list for you.

For the mama who is wondering where to start or what to put in your Amazon cart, I’ve got your answer!

Here we go…


What baby doesn’t end up with a rattle? Probably the oldest baby toy known to man, and there’s a reason why. The rattle transitions perfectly from newborn life through the entire first year.

Through my OT Lens

There are so many amazing developmental benefits related to using a rattle. The sound of the rattle teaches your baby to orient to sound and all about cause-and-effect.

“ If this little thing moves, then it makes a funny noise.”

As a newborn, your baby will reflexively grab onto the rattle when it’s placed in their hand or turn their head to look at it as you shake it. At 6 months, your baby may be reaching for it during tummy time, weight-shifting on their forearms so they can shake it back and forth—knowing it’s going to make a fun noise.  

A great toy option for developing motor control, motor planning, auditory exposures, and hand-eye coordination.


Babies LOVE THIS TOY. There is something so satisfying about hearing the crinkle of these “books” and the excitement on your baby’s face, when they realize they are the one who has created the sound.

Not only can you use this as something for your baby to grip with their hands, but also experiment with placing it at your baby’s feet to let them practice kicking those little legs.

Through my OT Lens

What a great opportunity for teaching your baby about their senses through touch and sound while also developing motor control and an understanding of cause-and-effect as they squish the pages between their little hands.

Although this crinkle book could be used for the development of early reading skills and social interactions, most babies simply enjoy the sensory experiences this book provides—allowing them to develop early sensory processing skills.


It’s impossible to only choose one book, because reading books is SO amazing for your baby’s development, so take this item as the TYPE of book. I LOVE a good texture book, and your baby will too.

A texture book offers both the benefits of reading paired with amazing sensory exposures.

It may even develop an early love for reading!

I also really love the Usborne books—especially the ‘touchy-feely’ collection for 0-2 year olds.

Through my OT Lens

Early on, you may think your baby is too young to understand the story as it’s being read, but even as a newborn, your baby is developing language skills, while also developing social emotional responses through reading.  

They are learning to visually focus and scan the book images while listening to the words.

On top of that, at this age, your baby may end up trying to chew on the book, kick it, open and close it, or turn it upside down. No matter what they’re doing, they are learning to coordinate movement, listening to your words, and exploring the book using all of their senses.

What an amazing thing!

This is not the time to get frustrated because your little babe won’t sit still—I’m the worst at following my own advice. Early reading is more than just sitting still and listening to a story. It’s about exploring the experience with all of their senses and developing more controlled motor patterns (and obviously supporting their language and cognitive development too!).


A place to leave your little one beneath some suspended toys, while they entertain themselves and you take your first sip of coffee, yes please!

A play mat is the perfect place to let your little one explore rolling to their sides and batting at toys. This specific play mat offers excellent padding, suspended toys, and a tummy time pillow. Plus, you can easily move it from room to room—making free play on the floor easy peasy. Of course, a blanket also works just fine.

Through my OT lens

Y’all, the developmental opportunities for a play mat are endless.

Aside from providing an open space for your baby to develop gross motor skills like rolling to their side or tummy, a play mat also provides opportunities for your baby to visually scan their environment and practice initially batting at toys.

Your baby needs TONS of free play on the floor, where they can learn to explore their environment and move their arms and legs freely. As a newborn, your baby will bat at the toys suspended above and beside them with uncontrolled movement patterns.

With more time spent practicing and the development of shoulder stability, your baby will develop more motor control and learn to purposefully reach and grasp for different toys.


Cheap, fun, and it fits in your purse. This ball full of holes is incredibly easy for your baby to grasp, as they are learning to hold onto objects and exploring how those little hands work together. I think this makes the list of every therapist’s favorite toys for babies.

Older babies may learn to push this across the floor, reach for it on their tummy, or put it in a container and take it out.

Through my OT Lens

This is the ultimate toy for learning grasping skills and hand-eye coordination. It sets your baby up for success, since it’s incredibly lightweight and easy to grasp in their little hand. Your baby will eventually get more advanced in their motor planning and motor control skills, as they gain more stability in their muscles and gain more experience.

This O ball isn’t just for the newborn who doesn’t know how to grasp yet. It’s also for babies learning to transfer objects hand-to-hand,  weight-shifting while reaching in tummy time, or babies learning to place items in containers and take them out. 


Trust me when I tell you that you can never have too many of these! These things are like the barrel of monkeys…they can connect and keep going.

Use them to hang different objects from your play mat or attach things to your diaper bag. They are easy to grasp onto and can connect to anything. Also, these are perfect for teething and easy for your babe to bring to their mouth.

NICU moms, these work wonders for attaching toys to your little one’s hospital crib, so they can easily reach and grasp for toys.

Through my OT Lens

Like the O ball, these are amazing for helping your baby succeed with early reaching and grasping skills. Connect the links together to give your baby less challenge, as they rake their hand across the play mat in an attempt to pick up the links in front of them. These are perfect for developing motor control, hand-eye coordination, and motor planning.

As your baby gets better at reaching for toys, link fewer of these together to make things a little more difficult for them. It is a lot harder for your baby to learn to coordinate the movement to pick up one of these than reaching to pick up a cluster of connected links.


“Mirror mirror on the floor, who’s even cuter than before? {insert your little one’s name here!}.”

Babies adore faces, and this little floor mirror is perfect to use during tummy time so your little one is encouraged to lift that head up. Sit behind them, and let them look at you through the mirror—you may even get a little chuckle out of them as they see you peek up from behind them in the mirror.

Through my OT Lens

Whew! Did you know that your baby actually has to go through the process of learning where their arms and legs are in space? Mirrors are great for developing body awareness in your baby, supporting their visual skills as they scan their environment, and developing visual-spatial awareness.

When you interact with your baby through the mirror, they’re getting an extra boost. Your baby will learn social and emotional skills, imitation, and cognitive development as you point out their body parts, talk, and make faces at them.

A floor mirror is also a great way to help your baby tolerate more tummy time. Babies are often very interested in their reflection (it IS all about them anyway, isn’t it?). They may be more motivated to lift their head up and rotate their head while they’re on their belly, if they’ve got a cute face staring back at them.

Give this a try if you’re having tummy time woes.


The perfect thing to grab that little one’s attention.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not that babies only see in black and white that makes black and white pictures the pictures of choice. Instead, it’s the stark contrast between black and white that makes focusing easier for your baby.

Prop this book up (or use printed pictures from online!) and witness your baby’s eyes widen as they focus and visually scan their new surroundings. Too much high contrast visual input may be overstimulating for your baby, so pay attention to whether your baby needs a break from these types of images.

Through my OT Lens

Vision is the last of your baby’s senses to develop.

When they’re in your belly, they can feel the sensation and pressure of your uterus and their own body parts (you may have seen your baby touching their face or feet in an ultrasound picture…soooo cute!). They are tasting amniotic fluid and they are sensing movement as they twist and turn in your tummy. As your baby breathes and tastes your amniotic fluid, they will even be getting familiar with its scent.

Around 18 weeks gestation, your little one has heard their first sounds and is listening to the sound of your blood flow, along with sounds of your voice or music.

Your baby is practicing their sensory regulation and learning tolerance to sensory input even before they enter the world.

The only thing your baby isn’t doing when they are in your belly waiting to enter the world, is looking around!

This black and white book focuses on contrast—which makes visual focus and scanning easier for your babe as their vision develops. Even more fun than high contrast pictures, your baby will love developing their visual skills by focusing on your face!


I love these blocks! Your baby won’t be able to stack blocks by themselves at this age yet, but you can build a tower and knock it down so they can watch. You can even help them use their hand to help knock it over or feel the texture.

Soon, your baby will imitate you and start doing it themselves. These are perfect for fostering creativity, and can be used long after 6 months old.

Through my OT Lens

The best toys are rich in opportunities to foster critical thinking and imagination. Blocks of any kind help your child develop their motor control and motor planning skills, as well as object manipulation—learning how to hold onto different shaped objects.

Before 6 months, your babe will not be building any crazy towers yet, but they’ll be learning to reach for the blocks in supported sitting or while pushing up on their tummy.

Your babe will also learn early cause-and-effect relationships as you build a tower before their very eyes, and they learn they can knock it over with one swipe.


“Toes, toes, toes, and you’ve got them on your nose!”

Help your baby learn to find their toes and acknowledge the lower half of their body with some foot rattles. They will encourage your baby to kick their legs back and forth, develop an understanding of cause-and-effect, and motivate them to reach for their toes.

With time and practice, they will be reaching down to pull those foot rattles off of their feet and gain the ability to roll from their back to their belly through the new rounded position they’ve learned.

Through my OT Lens

These foot rattles help develop flexor (tucking position) tone needed to initiate rolling and develop body awareness. For babies, developing a balance of the muscles on the front and backs of their body will help them reach a ton of milestones—we want an equal balance of those flexing and extending muscles.

These foot rattles are motivating and provide the earliest opportunities for critical thinking as your little one realizes they kick to make fun noises and actually reach down to get to the fun shaking noise themselves.

Along with cause-and-effect, these stimulate their sensory processing, cognitive development and motor skills.


Honestly, I couldn’t keep it to 10, so this is my honorable mention and practical “toy” of the list.

Y’all, 0 to 6 months is when your babe is going to put everything in their mouth, and if your little one is anything like mine, teething will enter your world like the Tasmanian Devil.

Attach a teether to your baby’s pacifier clip, so it won’t fall on the floor every two seconds, and let your little one go to town! Also, go ahead and stick it in the fridge for a little while before giving it to your baby…the cold can help ease the pain for some babies (it didn’t work for mine, but maybe you will have better luck!).

Through my OT Lens

Two major developmental benefits of teethers…oral exploration and self-regulation.

Your baby is going through a major oral exploration stage right now, and teethers offer tons of opportunities, as they learn to manage pain and regulate their sweet little bodies during this tough stage of development (if you’re a mama who can’t even tell when your little is teething, whew…lucky you!).

You can find a teether in any and every texture, size, and pattern you could ever imagine—you may need to try a couple different ones before finding the one that works best for your babe.

These are the 10 toys I bought for my newborn baby, and he has played with them well beyond 6 months. That doesn’t mean he isn’t getting more advanced in his play skills, it means he is learning to use and interact with his toys in new and more advanced ways.

As a newborn, your baby will wave their arms uncontrolled at the O ball hanging from his activity gym, and 6 months later he will be banging the O ball and rattle together and working on transferring the toys hand-to-hand.


  • Most of these toys are small and can be easily cleaned—making them perfect for hospital use.
  • If your baby is several weeks or months past their due date, medically stable, and showing signs they are ready for interaction, then you may be able to start some age and medically appropriate playtime with them while they are still in the hospital (**please consult your baby’s bedside nurse or neonatal therapist first as there are a lot of exceptions)
  • Be sure to watch for signs of overstimulation with your baby whenever you first introduce toys to your NICU baby.
  • Some noisy toys like rattles may be too overstimulating for your little one to start out. It can be better to start with a low stimulation toy, like an O ball, links, or reading a book.
  • As your little one gets used to interaction and has better tolerance for playing, then you can start to introduce toys that offer more stimulation.

These toys will grow with your baby as they develop more refined motor skills, and most are small enough to fit in your diaper bag— making them perfect for appeasing your little one when you’re out and about.

Everyone thinks you need lots of toys to help your baby develop, but that is not necessarily true. Not only does that get expensive as your baby grows, but more is not always better.

Mama, don’t get overwhelmed or guilted into thinking you need the newest, greatest, developmental toy—all you need are these 10 toys for the first 6 months of your baby’s life (and beyond!).

Is there a special toy you love that you would add to this list?

I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Play on, Mama!

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