The Best Toys for 6-Month-Olds, According to Experts
By the time your little one reaches the half-way point of their first year, they’re completely different from that tiny newborn you swaddled in your arms. Six-month-old babies spend their days learning and exploring in a variety of ways, from grabbing, crawling and sitting to even standing. So what are the best toys for 6-month-olds to encourage these emerging skills? Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite developmental toys for 6-month-olds, plus some tips and safety guidelines to keep in mind when shopping for toys for your little one at this age.
What are Good Toys for 6-Month-Olds?
When it comes to the best toys for 6-month-olds, remember that for the most part, baby isn’t going to be very picky yet. It’s great to have a variety of toys that help them meet those all-important 6-month baby milestones. Six-month-olds are just starting to sit independently and get around by rolling or scooting on their bellies, says Lisa Lohiser, EdD, manager of early childhood development research at Fisher Price. “That’s why the best toys for 6-month-olds can be played with while sitting or lying on their tummy. Sit-at toys with lots of textures and activities provide a great core and fine motor workout,” she says.
Their fine motor skills are more developed than they were a few months ago, so your little one can hold and manipulate things more easily now, Lohiser says. “They are surprised and delighted with peek-a-boo activities and drop-through play. They are starting to understand action/reaction activities and that their actions make big things happen.
Six-month-olds are also exploring everything through their senses. “Kids this age are at the stage of full-blown exploration. While it’s still early for problem-solving and logic, it’s time for varied sensory experiences through sounds, colors and textures,” says Mark Coster, PhD, founder and chief editor of STEM Geek, a website dedicated to STEM activities and toys for kids of all ages. “Toys that react to the push of a button, or squishy toys that change their shape when you squeeze them are popular with this age group, as are indestructible books that baby can hold during storytime.” Rattles, balls, cups, bath toys and activity cubes are also great choices for this age group, he adds.
And though you’ll find lots of toys that provide a variety of sensory experiences, there’s no need to overdo it at this age, Coster emphasizes. “Sometimes, a good toy will be incredibly simple, offering a single type of sensory experience, catering to their touch, vision or hearing.” Bonus points if the activities range from simple to complex so the toy can grow with baby as they develop.
How to choose safe toys for 6-month-olds
At 6 months old, you can be sure that every toy you hand your little one will go straight into their mouth. That means you’ll want to keep an eye on the size of the toy, as well as what it’s made from. “BPA-free plastic or wood are good materials for babies of this age,” says Coster. Look for toys that are specifically rated for 6 months, since these are designed with age-based safety concerns and skills in mind. What’s more, your 6-month-old will soon be on the move, whether it’s scooting, crawling or pulling up to stand. “While this impulse to explore is beautiful in its own right, you’ll have to double down on safety around 6 months old,” says Coster. “And that means lots of falling and tumbling! In other words, a playmat or a playpen is a must whenever you can’t directly supervise baby’s playtime.”
Best Toys for 6-Month-Olds
With this in mind, we’ve selected the best toys for 6-month-olds that will engage them without being overwhelming or too difficult for their little hands to maneuver.
LeapFrog My Pal Scout
This plush puppy will quickly become your little one’s favorite friend. It helps encourage baby’s first words, feelings and emotions with a variety of colors, lights and simple learning activities. The programmable toy even allows you to customize the pre-loaded songs with baby’s name, as well as their favorite foods and drinks. With an age range of up to 3 years, baby will be holding on tight to this puppy pal for a while. Age rating: 6 months to 3 years
Sassy Tummy Time Floor Mirror
Six-month-old babies are just beginning to learn about themselves. “Toys that include baby-safe mirrors are excellent educational toys for a 6-month-old, as baby’s sense of self is starting to develop at this time,” says Coster. This standing floor mirror does just that, with some added playful accents to keep them entertained. Age rating: 0 months+
Plan Toys Sensory Tumbling Set
Image: The Tot
These wooden stackable, rollable balls are great developmental toys for 6-month-olds that are honing their hand-eye coordination and motor skills. Each offers a different sensory surprise: The auditory tumbler has a rattle, the texture tumbler features soft fabric and the visual tumbler contains a mirror. They’re made from renewable, non-chemically treated organic rubberwood and non-toxic vegetable dyes. Age rating: 6 months+
Munchkin Float and Play Bubbles Bath Toy
This pack of four BPA-free plastic balls is just right for baby’s bathtime fun. Each ball houses a different colorful character that spins and rattles around inside for endless fascination. They’re each sized perfectly for your little one’s hands to help them learn to reach, grasp and practice hand-eye coordination. Most importantly, the toy features holes for easy drainage, so you don’t have to worry about mold or mildew. Age rating: 4 months+
Skip Hop Explore & More Stacking Toy
Colors and textures are abundant with this adorable fox-themed stacking toy, making it a top developmental toy for a 6-month-old. Baby can stack four colorful rings and a fox head on a base that wobbles, or simply explore the rings with their hands and mouth (far more likely at this age!). Along with textures, some of the rings feature rattles and a bead mover to help them with their hand-eye coordination and sensory development. Nothing like some stacking fun to get them learning! Age rating: 6 months+
VTech Busy Learners Activity Cube
While most 6-month-old babies aren’t walking yet, they do enjoy practicing their sitting and crawling skills, which is why an activity cube makes a great educational toy for them. They can enjoy all five sides of it while sitting on the floor, as well as scooting or crawling toward it. This one from VTech is highly interactive, with music, lights, colors and more. Different buttons help familiarize baby with different shapes and animals, while blocks that slide and spin encourage fine motor skill development. With its array of activities, this block will easily keep your little one entertained. Age rating: 6 to 36 months
Adena Montessori Full Size Object Permanence Box
This simple, wooden ball drop toy helps baby learn cause and effect and object permanence. It’s an activity based on the Montessori method of teaching, which focuses on one skill at a time instead of offering your little one a toy that can be overwhelming. Once they drop the ball in the hole, they’ll see it come out of the open side of the box. In keeping with the Montessori principle of using toys made from natural materials, the box and the balls—which are large enough to prevent accidental swallowing—are all wooden. Age rating: 6 to 12 months
SmartNoggin NogginStik Developmental Light-up Rattle
This award-winning rattle from SmartNoggin has won over parents and babies alike. It’s equipped with fun textures to promote tactile learning, a soft rattle for auditory cues and multiple colored lights that encourage visual tracking and attentiveness. These features help with baby’s developmental milestones from day one. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also BPA-, PVC- and phthalate-free. Age rating: 0 months+
Mushie Stacking Cups
Image: The Tot
Along with helping baby practice hand-eye coordination, these developmental toys for 6-month-olds can be used to teach baby about object permanence, the concept that items continue to exist even when you can’t see them. You can hide smaller items under the cups (just watch out for anything that might be a choking hazard) and then make a game of lifting the cups up for the reveal. This Danish-made set is made from 100 percent food-grade PP plastic and is BPA-, PVC- and phthalate-free. Age rating: 6 months+
Manhattan Toy Click Clack Ball
This unique toy comes with all the bells and whistles, so those tiny hands will surely stay busy. With the twist of every one of the ball’s colorful handles, baby is greeted with a click, and with every shake, the beads inside will rattle and roll. This helps refine baby’s motor skills, while the bright colors offer visual stimulation. You can encourage your kiddo to work on crawling by moving the ball slowly away, allowing them to move closer to it. Age rating: 0 months to 3 years
Miniland Sensory Balls
Image: The Tot
Babies this age love mouthing items—but with these developmental toys, you don’t have to worry about what’s going in their mouth. Made from sustainable and non-toxic rubberwood, these sensory balls stimulate baby’s visual and tactile senses and build their shape and color recognition, hand-eye coordination and spatial perception. An extra-nice feature: These don’t have any air holes, meaning you can bring them into the bath without worrying about mold. Age rating: 6 months+
Indestructible Classic Nursery Rhymes
Experts stress the importance of reading to your little one, but at 6 months old, baby can be pretty tough on their books! “Try books made of indestructible paper that you can read to them, and enjoy the magic of their babbling back at you,” says Coster. This set of six nursery rhyme classics with a spin are chew-proof, rip-proof, nontoxic and 100 percent washable, so it’s safe to say baby will stay busy and entertained. Age rating: 6 months+
VTech Spin and Sing Alphabet Zoo Ball
This Spin and Sing Alphabet Zoo ball is another toy that can grow with your little one, providing hours of fun at any age. Six-month-olds working on sitting up can spin the ball and enjoy the colors, while older babies can begin to learn their ABCs and 123s. There are even 26 animal names and sounds for them to become familiar with, as well as a number of songs for them to sing along to. Age rating: 6 months+
Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick ‘n Play Piano Gym
An interactive play mat grows with baby through a number of phases, from laying on their back or tummy to learning to sit up—and this one is all about the music. The mat features five light-up piano keys, a repositionable toy arch and four musical settings to always keep them grooving. And once baby is able to sit up, the piano keys can flip so they’re flat and the jamming out can continue. Best of all, the learning content that comes with the gym can change with baby’s age and stage, with a range of sensory, discovery and exploratory settings. Age rating: 0 to 36 months
Lisa Lohiser, EdD, is manager of early childhood development research at Fisher-Price’s Play Lab, where she provides insights into how kids learn and play and how to best support their development. She has a doctorate in education with a focus on learning and teaching in social contexts, as well as a Master’s degree in creativity and change leadership and a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
Mark Coster, PhD, is the founder and chief editor of STEM Geek, a website dedicated to STEM activities and toys for kids of all ages. He is an organic chemist with more than 20 years of experience in chemistry research and teaching. Also a father of three, he’s passionate about the power of STEM toys.